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This Week in Science: Nov 16, 2007

Science this week has a special section on robotics. Go there to check out robots that convince cockroaches to seek ill-suited shelters, robots that try to make it through cross-town traffic, bio-inspired robots, the drive for self-replicating robots and so much more.

A news story suggests that Merck's failed HIV vaccine might have helped the virus infect a small subset of their participants. The trial subjects who began the study with high levels of antibodies to adenovirus 5 were more susceptible to HIV. The trial vaccine was comprised of three HIV genes attached to an Ad5-baed vector, but how the preexisting immunity fueled susceptibility is not known.

In New Jersey, voters shot down a bond measure to give an additional $45 million to stem cell research each year for the next 10 years. Polls right before the vote showed high approval for the bill but it lost at a margin of 53 to 47 percent.

A team from Harvard led by Andrew Chess used a genome-wide approach to study allele-specific transcription of human genes. In clonal cell lines, they examined about 4000 genes to find that more than 300 were randomly expressed as monoalleles. The related Perspectives article notes, "The mammalian genome employs random, monoallelic expression more extensively than thought. This may be to generate diversity in expression patterns on an unprecedented scale, which has important implications for the ontogeny of human diseases. "

A group of researchers led by Bert Vogelstein catalogued the genetic changes that take place during tumor formation. They studied 11 breast and 11 colorectal tumors' DNA and sequenced genes in the Reference Sequence database and then analyzed the exons. The scientists say that the genomic landscapes of these cancers are characterized by a few commonly mutated genes and a lot of other genes that become mutated at a lower rate. "For the first time, there is evidence that most of the mutations that drive cancer ... are spread across heterogeneous gene hills," says the accompanying Perspectives article.

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.