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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.


The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.