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This Week in Science: Jun 28, 2013

In Science, researchers from Newcastle University report new details on the termination of transcription. Although much is known about the initial phase of transcription by RNA polymerase III, how the process stops has been less clear. The investigators show that the extensive structure of Pol III-synthesized transcripts controls the release of elongation complexes at the ends of genes. "The poly-T termination signal, which does not cause termination in itself, causes catalytic inactivation and backtracking of Pol III, thus committing the enzyme to termination and transporting it to the nearest RNA secondary structure, which facilitates Pol III release," the researchers write.

Also in Science this week, Duke University's Arti Rai and Robert Cook-Deegan offer their perspective on the recent US Supreme Court ruling that genes and other natural DNA are not patentable, noting that decision has weakened the diagnostic services monopoly model of a few molecular diagnostic companies, and will force them to compete in areas like turnaround time and quality of testing. Still, the court ruling is likely to have "only a modest effect" as many of the patents in question have already expired or soon will, and researchers are likely to find ways to alter useful DNA to make it patentable. They also highlight that while the court decision was focused on balancing patient claims and innovation, there was "no mention of patient access, price, or control over medical practice."