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This Week in Science: Apr 4, 2008

Researchers from Johns Hopkins wrote a policy case study on personalized medicine and claims made by pharmacogenomic testing companies, particularly direct-to-consumer companies. The authors analyze statements from company websites and found that "some Web sites make explicit claims about the utility of CYP450 testing for particular drugs, such as the claim by Genelex that pharmacogenetic testing is 'required to effectively prescribe Paxil.'" (Genelex issued a press release stating that "Genelex’s website is prejudicially quoted out of context.") The study authors advocate for an overhaul of regulations to protect the public from misinformation. In a related news story, Wired magazine advises people to "think twice before you act on the recommendations of a genetic test."

Helicos has a paper in Science today that reports that they sequenced the M13 virus without using amplification. Instead, they used a "sequencing-by-synthesis scheme" in which a DNA polymerase adds labeled nucleotides, stepwise, to a primer template affixed to a glass surface. With this method, they sequenced M13 virus to an average depth of 150 x and with 100 percent coverage. The authors conclude, "The simplicity of the methods described here … opens a path to very high throughput sequencing."

Over at SciencExpress, researchers report on their analysis of mitochondrial DNA from fossilized, apparently human, feces found in Oregon. Their analysis places people in North America 14,000 years ago -- before the Clovis people, who have been thought to be the earliest people in the Americas. Their data also shows that the mtDNA found in the feces corresponds to Native American founding haplogroups A2 and B2. Author Dennis Jenkins told Science, "We may not know much about the first Americans, but if we are going to search for [them], we need to be working beyond the 13,000-year Clovis barrier."