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This Week in Science: Oct 26, 2013

In this week's Science, a team from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reports on the genetic factors that influence the shape of the human face and skull. Looking to expand upon previous studies in mammals that showed that transcriptional enhancers influence the shape of different body structures, the researchers combined epigenomic profiling, in vivo characterization of candidate enhancer sequences in transgenic mice, and targeted deletion experiments to better understand the role of distant-acting enhancers in craniofacial development. They found "complex regulatory landscapes consisting of enhancers that drive spatially complex developmental expression patterns" and help define face shape and skull morphology, all of which suggests that enhancer sequence variation contributes to the diversity of human facial morphology.

Meanwhile, in Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the Stanford School of Medicine publish data revealing a remarkable level of diversity among natural killer T cells, both between individuals and within an individual. Using mass cytometry, they looked at these cells in five sets of monozygotic twins, as well as in twelve unrelated donors, and discovered an estimated 6,000 to 30,000 phenotypic populations within an individual and more than 100,000 phenotypes in the donor panel. In the twins, genetics were found to influence inhibitory receptor expression, while the environment influences the expression of activating receptors. Overall, the findings point to the possibility of discrete natural killer cell subpopulations that could potentially be harnessed for immunotherapeutic strategies.

The Scan

Pfizer-BioNTech Seek Full Vaccine Approval

According to the New York Times, Pfizer and BioNTech are seeking full US Food and Drug Administration approval for their SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

Viral Integration Study Critiqued

Science writes that a paper reporting that SARS-CoV-2 can occasionally integrate into the host genome is drawing criticism.

Giraffe Species Debate

The Scientist reports that a new analysis aiming to end the discussion of how many giraffe species there are has only continued it.

Science Papers Examine Factors Shaping SARS-CoV-2 Spread, Give Insight Into Bacterial Evolution

In Science this week: genomic analysis points to role of human behavior in SARS-CoV-2 spread, and more.