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This Week in Science: Nov 26, 2010

In a review in this week's Science Javier DeFelipe at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid writes about the challenges of figuring out the structures of the brain. Determining the connectome can be done at three different levels: at the macroscopic level, at the resolution of a light microscope, and at the level of an electron microscope. Combining each of the levels, he says, can help researchers understand the layout of the brain. In addition, studying the synaptome through serial reconstruction or FIB-SEM can also add information about the brain. "Despite the technical difficulties, by adopting appropriate strategies with the tools now available coupled with the beginning of huge international projects like the Human Connectome Project or the Blue Brain Project, it should be possible to make spectacular advances in unraveling brain organization, even in humans," he writes.

A pair of papers in Science Translational Medicine from Italian researchers reports on how adducin- and ouabain-related gene variants affect how the anti-hypertension drug rostafuroxin works and how the variants of those genes can be used to predict drug response. In the first paper, the researchers found that "rostafuroxin disrupted the interactions between the Src-SH2 domain and mutant α-adducin or the ouabain–Na,K-ATPase complex and blunted Src activation and Na,K-ATPase phosphorylation, resulting in blood pressure normalization in the hypertensive rats." They also studied rostafuroxin in cell-free systems and human cell cultures. In the second paper, the researchers looked at how gene variants involved in adducin and ouabain activity could be used to predict rostafuroxin response in never-treated people. "The genetic profile defined by these variants predicted the antihypertensive effect of rostafuroxin ... but not that of losartan or hydrochlorothiazide," the authors write.

And in an editorial, Alan Leshner, the executive publisher of Science, writes that the US "science and engineering community must mobilize now to stave off these funding cuts, which could be decided very soon," referring to the 5 to 10 percent cuts to R&D allocations that are being considered for 2011 and 2012. If those reductions occur, Leshner says "the consequences would be severe" and he adds that "these kinds of budget cuts work against the ultimate national goals of restoring the US economy and its international prowess."

The Scan

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.