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What Makes Us Human (Besides 'To Err')?

The May issue of Scientific American includes an article by Katie Pollard, who may be best known for her work elucidating HAR1 in David Haussler's lab and who is now a biostatistician at the University of California, San Francisco. The article focuses on how comparative genomics is highlighting DNA that appears to occur only in humans, and Pollard recounts her and Haussler's reaction to learning about HAR1: "We yelled, 'Awesome!' in unison when we saw that HAR1 might be part of a gene new to science that is active in the brain."

Later in the article, she sums up, "These rapidly evolving, uniquely human sequences do point to a way forward. The story of what made us human is probably not going to focus on changes in our protein building blocks but rather on how evolution assembled these blocks in new ways by changing when and where in the body different genes turn on and off."

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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.