This Week in Science

August 14, 2009

In this week’s issue of Science, there’s an interview with Margaret Hamburg, the new FDA Commissioner, about her views on the organization’s changing roles as well as her thoughts on how to bolster confidence in the agency. She says, “I hope a hallmark of my tenure as FDA commissioner is to establish that FDA is a science-driven agency and that, as we make critical regulatory decisions, we welcome and foster the input of all of our scientists and outside experts.”

San Francisco State University’s Michael Goldman reviews DNA: Promise and Peril, in which Linda McCabe and Edward McCabe talk about both the ethical issues and the potential of genomic medicine. Goldman is skeptical that the McCabes, medical geneticists at UCLA, aren’t against genetic determinism, as they say they are, because of the focus on epigenetics. “That simply pushes the problem one step back, by suggesting that when we can analyze the methylation and chromatin state or transcriptional activity of every gene, then we will be able to predict the future of each individual,” he writes. “It is not necessarily so.”

A policy forum article looks into consent issues surrounding biobank samples and information from children. The authors argue that when possible, access to this data should be preceded by their consent as adults. A story in our sister publication, GenomeWeb Daily News, has more.

A group led by Max Planck’s Matthias Mann used high-res mass spec to examine the extent of lysine acetylation across the entire human proteome. They identified 3,600 lysine acetylation sites on 1,750 proteins, finding that it “preferentially targets large macromolecular complexes involved in diverse cellular processes, such as chromatin remodeling, cell cycle, splicing, nuclear transport, and actin nucleation,” they say. They also found that acetylation can influence susceptibility of proteins to phosphorylation.

In other work, researchers studied the genetic basis of sleep duration, or how many hours a person needs a night. In the process of performing candidate gene resequencing, they identified a mutation in a transcriptional repressor, hDEC2-P385R, that is linked to shorter daily sleep times. Says a related perspective, “Molecular genetic approaches remain our best hope to find, without a priori assumptions, molecules that regulate the complex phenotype of sleep.”

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