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This Week in Nature: Jan 29, 2009

A news feature by Jonah Lehrer takes a look at Jeff Lichtman's imaging work on creating a connectome, or a complete map of neural wiring in the mammalian brain. Having such a map, researchers argue, would lend insight into diseases like autism and schizophrenia. "The brain needs a connectome, just as modern genetics needed a genome," says Thomas Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

A group of scientists has sequenced the genome of Sorghum bicolor, an African grass related to sugar cane and maize and known for its tolerance to drought. Sorghum is grown for food and fuel, and it's the second cereal species to be sequenced. "Research into the genomic basis of sorghum's adaptation to adverse environmental conditions and its photosynthetic efficiency should prove informative," says a related News and Views article.

Several technology features look at the field of glycobiology. One explores the barrier to entry for studying sugars and how technology -- like HPLC -- is helping to make the field more high throughput. Another takes a look at advances in glycan arrays to better detect binding events, such as pathogens like the flu virus.

In early online publication, Greg Hannon has published results from the ENCODE Transcriptome Project. Using deep sequencing of small RNAs from human HeLa and HepG2 cells, Hannon found a diverse set of 5'-modified long and short RNAs. "The studies presented here expand the catalogue of cellular small RNAs and demonstrate a biological impact for at least one class of non-canonical small RNAs," says the abstract.

The Scan

Could Cost Billions

NBC News reports that the new Alzheimer's disease drug from Biogen could cost Medicare in the US billions of dollars.

Not Quite Sent

The Biden Administration likely won't meet its goal of sending 80 million SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses abroad by the end of the month, according to the Washington Post.

DTC Regulation Proposals

A new report calls on UK policymakers to review direct-to-consumer genetic testing regulations, the Independent reports.

PNAS Papers on Mosquito MicroRNAs, Acute Kidney Injury, Trichothiodystrophy

In PNAS this week: microRNAs involved in Aedes aegypti reproduction, proximal tubule cell response to kidney injury, and more.