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This Week in Science: Jul 27, 2007

Drug companies are setting up R&D arms in China, staffing them with local scientists or expat-trained Chinese scientists, to encourage innovative drug research in the country. The GSK R&D center in Shanghai will have a first-year operating budget of $40 million, and AstraZeneca’s Innovation Center China was set up in June 2006 to develop drugs for gastric tract and liver cancers that are prevalent in China.

Former Science editor from 1985 to 1995, Daniel E. Koshland Jr., passed away on July 23 after suffering a massive stroke. He was known for developing the “induced fit” theory of protein conformational change, and made Science the internationally renowned scientific journal that it is.

University of Illinois biologists found that there is a “spring-loaded” mechanism that NS3, a helicase for replication of hepatitis C virus, uses to unwind DNA. They found that NS3 unwinds DNA in steps of three base pairs, but that the NS3 binds at several points, allowing it to both hydrolyze one triphosphate molecule at a time while remaining anchored to the DNA chain. As the enzyme moves forward, it snaps off the three base pairs, resulting in a perceived spring-loaded unwinding.

Researchers at the Public Health Research Institute Center of the New Jersey Medical School showed that noise in gene expression can lead to alternative phenotypic states. In the soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis, they found that the seemingly random nature of phenotypic expression in cells to become either vegetative or competent (able to incorporate DNA from their environment) can be linked to differing expression of one protein, ComK.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.