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This Week in Nature: Feb 20, 2009

In early online publication, Josh Mendell led work that looks into the mechanism behind altered glucose metabolism in cancer cells. Using a blend of proteomics and RNAi, he shows that the c-Myc transcription factor shuts down expression of miR-23a and miR-23b in several cancer cell types, resulting in increased mitochondrial glutaminase and up-regulation of glutamine catabolism.

A news feature delves into the idea of conservation in the post-genomic age, specifically the case of the American bison. Most bison have cattle genes due to years of interbreeding, and some conservationists, like geneticist James Derr, thinks it's time to change conservation to include genomes and not just population dynamics. "Species conservation is more than skin deep," Derr, who is profiled, says. "It is more than how they look, it is how they are -- that's the genome."

A series of commentaries takes on the recession and science. One checks in with ten leading thinkers, who give their ideas on what role science can play in recovery. Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, says we should invest in infrastructure in the developing world, while another story instructs scientists who need funds to be more convincing. Scientists also need to be nation builders, startups need to trim their sails, and researchers need to cooperate.

Three papers reveal the ever-expanding diversity of non-coding RNAs. One from Greg Hannon's lab at CSHL used deep sequencing to find a new class of 5'-modified long and short ncRNAs. Two groups look genome-wide at stable unannotated transcripts (SUTs) and cryptic unstable transcripts (CUTs) in S. cerevisiae, finding that both SUTs and CUTs display “distinct patterns of distribution at specific locations” and that "bidirectionality is an inherent feature of promoters." Says a related news story: "On the basis of some direct and indirect evidence, the two teams propose that CUTs, and indeed SUTs, might be broad regulators of transcription in yeast." The story also goes into more ncRNAs: promoter upstream transcripts (PROMPTs), promoter-associated short RNAs (PASRs), PALRs, TSSa-RNAs, and NRO-RNAs.

The Scan

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.