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This Week in Science: Feb 5, 2010

In Science this week, a Japanese research team reports that multiple copies of genes coding for ribosomal RNA helps protect the yeast genome following DNA damage. By comparing four Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains with 20 to 110 copies of rDNA genes, the researchers found that low-copy strains were more sensitive to a DNA damaging chemical or ultraviolet light than high-copy strains. Their experiments indicate that rDNA gene sequences contribute to recombination repair and sister chromatid cohesion. For more information, check out a related news story in our sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News.

A trio of authors from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the University of California at San Diego, and the World Anti-Doping Agency present an ethics paper on the state of gene doping in sports. Researchers must take care in conducting and presenting gene therapy research, they say, and "be aware that some athletes and coaches will be tempted, prematurely and unwisely, to take advantage of results packaged by some as performance enhancement 'breakthroughs.'" As CBC News reports, WADA is hot on the trail of potential gene dopers and is funding research aimed at uncovering this gene doping in Olympic and other athletes.

National Cancer Institute researcher Tom Misteli and his team describe how histone modifications influence alternative splicing in the early, online edition of the journal. They report that histone modification signatures directly affect human gene splicing patterns by mediating the interactions between splice sites and regulators. "Histone marks affect splicing outcome by directly modulating the recruitment of splicing regulators via a chromatin-binding protein," they write.

In Science Translational Medicine, a pair of researchers from the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University address the promise and potential problems associated with direct-to-consumer genetic testing, touching on everything from the reliability of the information that these tests provide to physicians' interpretation of test results. "Despite the many challenges raised by DTC genomic testing, we are reminded that commercial interests have sometimes acted as a disruptive force or a technology that drives non-conventional approaches to difficult problems," they write.