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This Week in Science: Sep 7, 2007

This week's Science hosts a special section of news and research on social cognition, exploring how living in groups has affected our evolution. Evolutionary anthropologists at the Max Planck have performed a wide study looking at the social cognitive skills of humans and their two closest relatives, chimpanzees and orangutans. Several papers examine why humans have evolved to support such large brains:  in one, British scientists theorize that it was the computational requirements imposed on primate brains during pairbonding that was a critical factor. Along with larger size comes augmented function; Harvard psychologists look at the seemingly unique human experience of being able to simulate future events.

In news, researchers reported this week that an imported virus, found through a metagenomic survey, may be associated with the colony collapse disorder that wreaked havoc on bee populations early this year in the US. Most of the affected colonies tested positive for a pathogen called Israel acute paralysis virus (IAPV), which they believe came from Australia.

deCODE genetics' Kari Stefansson has performed a whole-genome association study in Iceland and Sweden and found that exfoliation glaucoma was associated with SNPs on the LOXL1 gene, a member of the lysyl oxidase family of proteins. Genetic risk for getting the disease is more than 100 times greater for individuals with two particular SNPs in exon 1 of the gene.

University of Minnesota researchers, among a consortium, have sequenced the genome of Fusarium graminearum, a fungal plant pathogen of wheat and barley. They have found more than 10,000 SNPs, which suggests that variability and pathogenicity are related.


The Scan

mRNA-Based Vaccine on the Way in China

China may soon have its own mRNA-based vaccine, according to Nature News.

Arranged Killing, Fraud Alleged by Prosecutors

The Wall Street Journal reports that prosecutors allege that the co-founder of a biotech arranged to have a business associate who threatened to expose him as a fraud killed.

Whirlwind Decade of CRISPR

The New York Times looks back at the 10 years since the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues published their CRISPR paper.

PNAS Papers on Blue Cone Monochromacy Structural Variants, HIV-1 Mutant, T-ALL

In PNAS this week: structural variants linked to blue cone monochromacy, HIV-1 variants affecting the matrix protein p17, and more.