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This Week in Science: Sep 14, 2007

Researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Arizona State University in Tempe found that the human adaptation for eating starch came about through a change in gene copy number. By surveying the amylase gene in people who eat a lot of starch, those who do not, as well as chimpanzees and bonobos (who eat less and less starch); the researchers concluded that the starch eaters had the most — seven — copies of AMY1, the non-starch eaters five copies, the chimps two and the bonobos, a mutation barring any amylase production. This gene, they say, may have played a key role humans' differentiation from other apes.

John Bohannon, writing in the style of gonzo journalism, explores the world of geek camps for grown-ups. Over the summer he attended IdeaCity in Toronto for three days of lectures, talking about the barriers between artists and scientists, hearing Richard Dawkins on religion, and, of course, a camp-wide talent show.

Stanford University School of Medicine researchers report on the function and evolution of cis-regulatory elements. Using the Ciona sea squirt as their model, Arend Sidow and his colleagues mutagenized 19 muscle cis-regulatory elements and then assayed expression in whole embryos and determined the architecture of the elements. They found that how the regulatory function is governed is flexible but, once evolutionarily established in an element, it becomes constrained.


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.