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This Week in Science: Sep 12, 2008

Science curricula in the UK have changed multiple times during the last decade to encourage students to continue studying science in their last years at school. A new report from the Royal Society says that the changes have come so quickly that they can't really gauge how or if they've affected what students chose to study, but what they can see doesn't bode well. In Scotland, where changes weren't made, 12 percent of 17-year-olds studied physics, while 3.6 percent of English students whose curricula did change continued with physics.

In the Policy Center, researchers from the Hastings Center discuss whether synthetic biology merits its own subsection of bioethics. They say that the ethical challenges that synthetic biology brings up are not too distinct from those of genetic engineering or nanobiology. They conclude, "Although creating such a subfield might be in the short-term self-interest of bioethicists, in the long run, further balkanization of bioethics would be a mistake."

University of California, Riverside, researchers report that microRNA turnover is needed for plants to develop properly. Taking a candidate gene approach in Arabidopsis, the researchers uncovered enzymes needed for miRNA metabolism, especially homologs of yeast 3'-end processing exoribonucleases. They identified a family of exoribonucleases encoded by the small RNA degrading nuclease that degrades mature miRNAs in Arabidopsis. When all three SDN genes are knocked down, the plants exhibit pleiotropic developmental defects.


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.