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This Week in Nature: Jan 8, 2009

A news story in Nature this week looks at how the biotech industry will hold up in the downturn. While it's managing to weather the storm, it's not immune to the economic crisis. However, even though the "cash-hungry" industry struggles with shelved projects, layoffs, and bankruptcies, a recent survey of 400 US venture capitalists showed optimism. Ninety-two percent predicted that venture investment would slow this year relative to 2008, but a quarter of respondents thought that investment in the life sciences would increase in 2009.

HHMI scientists used an in vitro bacterial translation system to find an additional way that the ribosome ensures high fidelity protein synthesis. They found that even after peptide-bond formation, the ribosome can detect mismatches and stop protein synthesis. A related News and Views article says that the work "reveals a facet of quality control in protein synthesis that depends on an unanticipated level of complexity in the workings of the ribosome."

French researchers found that in benign liver tumors, activity of the interleukin (IL)-6 signaling pathway is increased. Sequencing candidate genes, they linked this increased activity to somatic gain-of-function mutations in the IL6ST gene, which encodes the signaling co-receptor gp130. They also showed that rare gp130 alterations are always accompanied by beta-catenin-activating mutations.

WashU scientists applied a thermodynamic model of genome-wide cis-regulation to the analysis of synthetic promoter libraries in S. cerevisiae. Their findings suggest that "the information encoded by combinations of cis-regulatory sites is interpreted primarily through simple protein-DNA and protein-protein interactions, with complicated biochemical reactions – such as nucleosome modifications – being downstream events," they write.

The Scan

US Booster Eligibility Decision

The US CDC director recommends that people at high risk of developing COVID-19 due to their jobs also be eligible for COVID-19 boosters, in addition to those 65 years old and older or with underlying medical conditions.

Arizona Bill Before Judge

The Arizona Daily Star reports that a judge is weighing whether a new Arizona law restricting abortion due to genetic conditions is a ban or a restriction.

Additional Genes

Wales is rolling out new genetic testing service for cancer patients, according to BBC News.

Science Papers Examine State of Human Genomic Research, Single-Cell Protein Quantification

In Science this week: a number of editorials and policy reports discuss advances in human genomic research, and more.