In Science this week, researchers from the University of Washington focused on autism spectrum disorders describe the development of a new, low-cost method for targeting and sequencing multiple genes in large populations. While exome sequencing studies have identified many de novo mutations associated with autism, re-sequencing those genes in large groups of people is expensive. To address this, the team developed a modified molecular inversion probe approach that enables "ultra-low-cost candidate gene resequencing in very large cohorts." The method, which they used to identify recurrent mutations in six genes that contribute to autism spectrum disorders, can be applied to the study of any condition caused by random, disruptive mutations.
Also in Science, a team from Technical University Munich and the University of Michigan report on the creation of a DNA-based nanostructure that mimics ion channels. The structure comprises a stem that penetrates and spans a lipid membrane, as well as 54 parallel DNA double helices that form a barrel-shaped cap that adheres to the membrane. In single-channel electrophysiological measurements, the investigators found "similarities to the response of natural ion channels, such as conductances on the order of 1 nanosiemens and channel gating." Meantime, single-molecule translocation experiments revealed that the synthetic channels can be used to discriminate single DNA molecules.