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This Week in Science: Apr 11, 2008

After eight years at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Thomas Cech is stepping down. While Cech led HHMI, its endownment grew by 60 percent and it established its own research campus, Janelia Farm. Cech will be returning to his lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder, to continue his work into telomerase.

In the 1990s, an experimental treatment for Parkinson's disease patients was to implant fetal cells, dopamine-producing neurons to be exact, into the patients' brain to replace the damaged ones. The therapy never caught on because it used cells from aborted fetuses and two clinical trials found little benefit or a side effect of involuntary movements. A decade later, some of those patients who received the experimental treatment died and researchers found that some of the implanted fetal cells have taken on Parkinson's characteristics.

In the Policy Forum, Sheril Kirshenbaum and her colleagues write about the ScienceDebate2008 initiative. In the paper, they say that reliable scientific information is crucial to any policies on the environment or on medicine and health-related issues. "It has been widely argued that climate change and economic competitiveness as they relate to science and technology are among the most critical challenges facing the United States," the authors write. No candidate has thus far agreed to a date for the debate.

German researchers report a new technique for optical imaging at the nanoscale. They used stimulated emission depletion microscopy to image fluorescently labeled synaptic vesicles in a visual field 2.5 by 1.8 micrometers. Their vesicle data support the stick and diffuse model in which vesicles bind to cellular components and then diffuse away. "High-resolution microscopy will also transform the way interactions are probed in living cells, because it provides a much higher confidence level to determine if two molecules are very close to each other (and thus are potentially interacting with one another)," says a related Perspectives article.


The Scan

Gone, But Now Reconstructed SARS-CoV-2 Genomes

In a preprint, a researcher describes his recovery of viral sequences that had been removed from a common database.

Rare Heart Inflammation Warning

The Food and Drug Administration is adding a warning about links between a rare inflammatory heart condition and two SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, Reuters reports.

Sandwich Sampling

The New York Times sent tuna sandwiches for PCR analysis.

Nature Papers Describe Gut Viruses, New Format for Storing Quantitative Genomic Data, More

In Nature this week: catalog of DNA viruses of the human gut microbiome, new dense depth data dump format to store quantitative genomic data, and more.