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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

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.