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This Week in Science: Jul 20, 2007

A news piece in this week's Science reports that ECell International (ESI), a Singapore-based company, is stopping research work on human embryonic stem cells due to increasing lack of investor interest. The time lag from lab to clinic is too long, investors say, but several companies, including Geron and ACT, are not giving up, claiming they have products in the pipeline.

This news article is about the 10-year-old National Plant Genome Initiative, which, after sequencing the genomes of three plants, will significantly increase its sequencing efforts and bioinformatic tools. Having spent $780 million so far to sequence Arabidopsis, rice, and poplar, the initiative hopes to start sequencing two dozen more species in the immediate future.

Joe Ecker and colleagues at the Salk Institute looked at genetic variation among different strains of Arabidopsis thaliana to see how evolutionary forces shape genetic change in the same species. After resequencing 20 different strains, they found more than 1 million SNPs, representing about 4% of the genome. Many genes were disabled in different strains, and there were high levels of variation among gene family members involved in disease resistance.

Researchers at Hebrew University have shown that human cytomegalovirus uses expression of miRNAs to evade host immunity. One specific miRNA, hcmv-miR-UL112, down-regulates MICB, a ligand that activates natural killer cells, thereby decreasing these cells ability to fight off the infection. Bryan Cullen writes about how herpesviruses, and human cytomegalovirus in particular, can turn down the immune response of cells using noncoding RNAs.

The Scan

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.