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This Week in Science: Jun 5, 2009

In this week's issue of Science, Swiss scientists checked into how the Hox genes might be regulated by epigenetics. They showed that the temporal, colinear activation of these developmentally important genes is "closely associated" with progressive chromatin changes. The results, they say, suggest that "chromatin modifications are important parameters in the temporal regulation of this gene family," and moreover, that the so-called Hox clock could be controlled by epigenetics.

Miami Institute of Molecular Imaging and Computation researchers used a genetically encoded molecular bioprobe in Drosophila to study patterns of Cdc42 activation within cells and tissues. Their study revealed that Cdc42 GTPase remains inactive within Drosophila embryos during the first two-thirds of embryogenesis and that at the level of both organism and cell, "Cdc42's endogenous activation patterns in the wild type allow predictions of where loss-of-function phenotypes will emerge in cdc42/cdc42 mutants," they say in the abstract.

In early online, Scripps's Jiahuai Han led work that used microarrays and RNAi with siRNAs to find a protein that acts as a switch between two different types of cell death. The protein kinase RIP3, they found, acts as molecular switch between TNF-induced apoptosis and necrosis in NIH3T3 cells and is required for necrosis in other cells, they say. Importantly, they saw that certain metabolic enzymes affect RIP3’s ability to promote necrosis.

Finally, Jeffrey Mervis writes that a new report by the US National Academies says that women are, actually, treated fairly by major research universities when it comes to hiring, promotion, and access to resources; however, they choose to be passive, thus damaging their chances. "Too many scientifically trained women are rejecting academia in favor of other career paths," he writes.

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.