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Close Cousins


About a year ago, I went to a conference in San Diego and got there a little bit early, so I decided to head down to the zoo. At any zoo, the primate exhibit is one of my favorites — I'm also partial to prairie dogs and stingrays. That day, I spent a bit of time watching a bonobo drag a blanket around, much like human children do. It seemed almost human.

While humans have much in common with their closest living relatives, there is also much that sets them apart. Drawing on newly sequenced non-human primate genomes and 'omics tools, researchers are examining what makes humans different from other primates. But as this month's cover story notes, there are a number of challenges to working with non-human primate genomes, not the least of which is the often draft-quality level of those genomes.

Elsewhere in the issue, Adam Bonislawski examines how chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled with sequencing has come to be the dominant tool for studying protein-DNA binding. Though as data generated by ChIP-seq has mushroomed — leaving analysis platforms struggling to keep up — Adam writes that it is the older issue of antibodies that causes the most headaches. A number of vendors, though, he adds, are tackling the problem.

The chromosomal microarray market is taking off, especially for prenatal and cancer testing, writes Justin Petrone. Due in part to a push from the International Standards for Cytogenomic Arrays consortium, chromosomal microarrays are being adopted as first-line tests for patients with certain conditions, like unexplained developmental delay. Vendors, he adds, are coming out with a number of new products aimed at cytogenetics.

And, for this month's Q&A, Tony Fong speaks with the National Cancer Institute's Stephen Hewitt about the challenges of adapting formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues to 'omics studies, especially the lack of standard operating procedures that govern the fixation and embedding processes.