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This Week in Science: Oct 10, 2008

This week's edition of Science has a special section on clinical trials, and how they're figuratively ill. "The clinical trial itself is facing an epidemic -- of rising costs and blurred objectives," says the opening article. One story addresses the fact that the big randomized trial, a staple of the clinical trials process, might be in danger of being priced out of reach by "technical complexity, poor management, and paperwork." Another looks at ways of making Western trial data more accessible, while another explores gender imbalances in trials participants.

A consortium of scientists has released the Global Mammal Assessment, a project involving more than 1,700 collaborators in 130 countries. Their work compiled standardized data, which is freely available, on the distribution and conservation status of all 5,487 mammal species. One thing it revealed is that one in four land species and one in three marine animals are under threat of extinction.

In early online publication, Shinya Yamanaka's lab has generated mouse iPS cells without viral vectors. By transfecting a single plasmid containing the cDNAs of Oct3/4, Sox2, and Klf4, together with a c-Myc expression plasmid, into mouse embryonic fibroblasts, they produced iPS cells "without evidence of plasmid integration," says the abstract.

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have sequenced DNA taken from a South African gold mine 2.8 kilometers deep, and reconstructed the genome of a thermophilic microbe, Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator. This bacterium can fix its own nitrogen and carbon by using machinery shared with archaea.