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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

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.