Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

This Week in Science: Jan 24, 2009

In Science, Bruce Alberts discusses what "science education" should entail. Beyond emphasizing rote memorization -- which is important -- he says a focus should also be placed on learning how to see the world from a scientific perspective. For the US, he proposes that a national project be developed to assess the understanding of science.

A US federal appellate court is weighing the question of whether a gene's sequence is obvious, and therefore is unable to be patented. The case, in re Kubin, was brought after the Patent and Trademark Office rejected an application from Immunex (now part of Amgen) for the gene encoding the protein NAIL because finding the gene only took "routine skill." In an amicus brief, the Biotechnology Industry Organization argued that disallowing gene patents would "threaten the development of new drugs, diagnostic tests, and other biotechnology-derived products."

International infectious disease experts are following the outbreak of Ebola-Reston in pigs in the Philippines. Previously, the virus had only been known to sicken monkeys and infect, but not cause symptoms in, their human handlers. Experts are now looking into how easily Ebola-Reston spreads among pigs, how it causes illness, and the implications of genetic difference in this strain of the virus.

Max-Planck-Institut für Infektionsbiologie's Mark Achtman and his colleagues analyzed the distribution of the human gut parasite Helicobacter pylori to trace human migration in the Pacific. The researchers looked at 212 bacterial isolates from Taiwan and Australia aboriginals, New Guinean highlanders, and Melanesians and Polynesians in New Caledonia and compared their haplotypes to those from other populations. Their results indicate two migration waves into the Pacific. First, the hpSahul strain from Asia migrated to New Guinea and Australia about 30,000 years ago, and later the hspMaori strain came from Taiwan to Polynesia about 5,000 years ago. In a related Perspectives article, Cambridge's Colin Renfrew discusses the intersection of archeogenetics and linguistics for studying human population history.

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.