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This Week in PNAS: Sep 1, 2009

In PNAS, there's no shortage of clinically oriented research. This paper from senior author Jeremy Nicholson and team use pharmacometabonomics to identify metabolic interactions in humans that depend on their microbiome; they urge an assessment of these microbial communities as "an integral part of pharmaceutical development and of personalized health care." Ian Wilson offers a commentary.

Meanwhile, this paper links mutations in the BLK gene to maturity-onset diabetes of the young after an effort to resequence 732 kb of genomic sequence in six affected families, and this paper suggests that "chromosome 14 harbors tumor suppressor genes associated with [nasopharyngeal carcinoma] and that a candidate gene, MIPOL1, is associated with tumor development."

Eric Brouzes from Harvard and RainDance Technologies is lead author on a paper about using a droplet microfluidic platform for high-throughput screening of single mammalian cells. The research was validated "by conducting a droplet-based cytotoxicity screen," the authors write.

Scientists used genome-wide location analysis to demonstrate that the yeast ortholog Sub1 is important for optimal transcription using RNA polymerase III; in another paper, researchers studied the S. cerevisiae genome and found that phosphorylation of the RNA polymerase II C-terminal domain by TFIIH kinase is surprisingly not essential.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.