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This Week in Science : Apr 15, 2011

In a paper published online in advance in Science this week, researchers at the University of Liverpool in the UK and the University of South Bohemia in the Czech Republic report on the mutational origin of industrial melanism in the peppered moth, or carbonaria. "We have genetically mapped the carbonaria morph to a 200 kb region orthologous to a segment of silkworm chromosome 17, and show that there is only one core sequence variant associated with the carbonaria morph, carrying a signature of recent strong selection," the authors write.

Researchers at Arizona State University describe an approach "to design and construct self-assembling DNA nanostructures that define intricate curved surfaces in three-dimensional space using the DNA origami folding technique." While the team says it generated in-plane curvature using concentric rings of DNA, it created out-of-plane curvature "by adjusting the particular position and pattern of crossovers between adjacent DNA double helices." In its Science paper, the ASU team describes the series of DNA nanostructures with high curvature — including a "nanoflask" — that it created using this technique.

As the founder effect dictates that "human genetic and phenotypic diversity declines with distance from Africa," the University of Auckland's Quentin Atkinson this week examines the number of phonemes used in a global sample of 504 languages to evaluate whether such an effect "may operate on human culture and language." Indeed, Atkinson writes he found genetic and linguistic diversity to support "an African origin of modern human language."

And in an editorial published in Science Translational Medicine this week, Stanford University's Justin Sonnenburg and Michael Fischbach at the University of California, San Francisco, consider therapeutic opportunities in the human microbiome. "It is now clear that this microbial community is essentially another organ that plays a fundamental role in human physiology and disease," Sonnenburg and Fischbach write, adding that researchers are increasingly interested in learning how they might "manipulate it to benefit human health."

The Scan

Could Cost Billions

NBC News reports that the new Alzheimer's disease drug from Biogen could cost Medicare in the US billions of dollars.

Not Quite Sent

The Biden Administration likely won't meet its goal of sending 80 million SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses abroad by the end of the month, according to the Washington Post.

DTC Regulation Proposals

A new report calls on UK policymakers to review direct-to-consumer genetic testing regulations, the Independent reports.

PNAS Papers on Mosquito MicroRNAs, Acute Kidney Injury, Trichothiodystrophy

In PNAS this week: microRNAs involved in Aedes aegypti reproduction, proximal tubule cell response to kidney injury, and more.