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This Week in Science: Oct 17, 2009

In Science today, there's a special section on neuroscience methods. A news story checks in on the new data and plans to produce even more in the effort to develop biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease, while others look at the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative and ways to perform massively parallel imaging of the fruit fly brain.

While the debate over cell therapy for Parkinson's disease continues -- a news focus talks about a new fetal cell transplant trial in Europe -- a trial published in the journal Science Translational Medicine proves that gene therapy could be successful in getting dopamine into patients' brains. "Researchers injected three genes involved in dopamine production into the brains of the monkeys," says a blog post at Tech Review. "The gene therapy restored concentrations of dopamine in the brain, corrected movement problems, and prevented dyskinesias -- without any severe adverse side effects. An early stage human clinical trial using the same dopamine gene therapy approach is now underway."

Research led by Cal Tech's Anne Dekas and Victoria Orphan discovered that deep-sea methane-oxidizing bacteria fix nitrogen, too, contributing to ocean nitrogen cycling. They used single-cell–resolution nanometer secondary ion mass spectrometry images. The work "reveals a link between the global carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles," they say.

Scientists used a "combination of tissue engineering and stem cell biology" to study heart cell differentiation. Led by Harvard's Kenneth Chien, they performed transcriptional profiling of the different progenitor cell populations in mice to find "a committed ventricular progenitor cell in the Islet 1 lineage that is capable of limited in vitro expansion, differentiation, and assembly into functional ventricular muscle tissue," the write in the abstract.