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This Week in Science: Oct 31, 2008

In the news section, Science says the PNAS paper from Jean-Marc Elalouf's group on the mitochondrial genome isn't the first report of full cave bear mtDNA. Science says Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology's Michael Hofreiter published the  complete mtDNA of the cave bear and the extinct American short-faced bear in BMC Evolutionary Biology last July. As the groups argue over priority, Science says the bears are the winners. "But for the bears, this means that two sets of data now illuminate their family tree," it says.

In the education forum, researchers write about their experiences as founding members of the Genomics Education Partnership. They say that a curriculum in genomics can teach students to think like scientists, and that genomics is an area that interests students. In GEP, the students involved collaborated "across institutions to improve DNA sequence quality and to generate hand-curated gene models" and their work has been included in publications.

MIT researchers report that aneuploidy affects fitness on both the organismal and cellular levels but that it is still uncertain if aneuploidy is a cause or an effect of cancer. In the trisomic mouse lines they made, cell proliferation slowed and cellular metabolism changed; they say immortalization is prevented by that slowdown though other findings argue the opposite. A Perspectives piece notes, "The work of Williams et al. contributes to the notion that tumorigenesis is an integrative process to which aneuploidy by itself has a rather debilitating contribution. But it seems that tumor cells may be operating under Friedrich Nietzsche's general premise that what doesn't kill them (aneuploidy) may make them stronger."


The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.