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This Week in Science: Dec 5, 2008

Science this week has a special section spotlighting organs, including the role of stem cells in organogenesis, generation and regeneration of organ cells with a focus on cardiogenesis, and more.

A news focus looks into exon skipping as a treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Japanese researchers began exploring this technique as a treatment in the 1990s and now researchers who gathered at Cold Spring Harbor in October say the challenges could be overcome. "We successfully get skipping in human and mouse cells and in vivo in mouse," says Leiden University's Gert-Jan B. van Ommen.

In the Policy Forum, Washington University researchers investigate if there is a gender gap in NIH grant awards as a means to understand the attrition of female researchers along the career path from graduate school (where there is gender parity) to faculty members (31 percent of assistant professors are women). By comparing funding rates of women and men for early-career grants, they found "that funding success rates for nearly all grants were essentially equal for men and women, regardless of degree" and say that the data suggest that women are choosing to leave the NIH-funded career path. "We therefore hope that these data will provide an impetus for the NIH and academic leaders to develop more effective strategies to retain women at the critical juncture between postdoctoral training and independent careers," add the researchers.

Over at Science Express, MIT's Phil Sharp and colleagues report that divergent transcription can occur at protein-encoding gene promoters, not just unidirectionally. Transcription start site–associated RNAs nonrandomly associate with active promoters as do other transcription initiation-related elements. "It looks like we have a polymerase that binds as we thought, but we also see a polymerase that appears to be pointing in the wrong direction, going upstream from the transcription start site," co-author Amy Seila says in a press release.

And as the holiday season is nearly upon us, Science includes a book-buying guide for the budding scientists on your list. They recommend books that cover animal siblings, a book on smells, parasites, climate change, and even a "lively" guide on how to use a microscope (microscope sadly not included).


The Scan

Fertility Fraud Found

Consumer genetic testing has uncovered cases of fertility fraud that are leading to lawsuits, according to USA Today.

Ties Between Vigorous Exercise, ALS in Genetically At-Risk People

Regular strenuous exercise could contribute to motor neuron disease development among those already at genetic risk, Sky News reports.

Test Warning

The Guardian writes that the US regulators have warned against using a rapid COVID-19 test that is a key part of mass testing in the UK.

Science Papers Examine Feedback Mechanism Affecting Xist, Continuous Health Monitoring for Precision Medicine

In Science this week: analysis of cis confinement of the X-inactive specific transcript, and more.