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This Week in Science: Feb 25, 2011

In Science this week, investigators at The Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine in Israel show that specific E. coli mRNAs "are targeted to the future destination of their encoded proteins, cytoplasm, poles, or inner membrane in a translation-independent manner." The Hebrew University team says that contrary to the common belief that "transcription and translation are coupled in bacteria," its results show that post-synthesis, some mRNAs in E. coli "are capable of migrating to particular domains in the cell where their future protein products are required."

Joseph Nadeau and Aimée Dudley at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle discuss why they believe "systems genetics is now poised to address ... fundamental questions in biology in medicine." Though the overarching goal in biology to decipher "how genetic and phenotypic variants interact to create the functional diversity of organismal biology has not changed since Mendel" and his pea plant experiments, Nadeau and Dudley says that technological and computational advances to date are sufficient to allow researchers to model interactions and solve "previously intractable problems."

The Broad Institute's Eric Lander called the Human Genome Project "biology's Manhattan Project, biology's Moon Shot, biology's Superconducting Supercollider particle accelerator" in an essay that appears in this week's Science. Lander says that to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the human genome, he couldn't think of a better gift than listening to "young scientists brimming with vision about predicting all the ways in which tumors can become resistant to a therapy, unraveling the molecular basis of psychiatric diseases, characterizing the entire human immune response to stimuli, mapping the complete genomic landscape of all transcription factors through development, creating a comprehensive catalog of all cellular circuitry, and devising general methods to speed the development of new therapeutics," as he did at three recent meetings he has attended.

And Mary-Claire King at University of Washington in Seattle tells the story of a woman, "K," who has three brothers with severe developmental delays, who wished to have a healthy son with her husband. King says that targeted X-exome sequencing on the woman's affected brothers revealed a nonsense mutation in a mental retardation-implicated gene. From there, massively parallel sequencing showed that the woman indeed carried the mutant allele. "Armed with knowledge of the mutation, K and her husband undertook pregestational diagnosis, which involves in vitro fertilization of their egg and sperm, then genotyping of embryos via the polar bodies, and implanting a normal embryo in the mother's uterus," King writes, adding that the couple now has a healthy baby boy. "Genetics is a way of thinking. Genomics is a set of tools," King says. Taken together, genetics and genomics have thus far shown that "one healthy infant at a time is not a bad way to begin."

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.