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Addiction and microRNA
Hollander J, Im H, Amelio A, Kocerha J, et al. (2010). Striatal microRNA controls cocaine intake through CREB signaling. Nature. (466): 197-202.

Scripps Research Institute's Jonathan Hollander and his colleagues show that miR-212 plays "a key role in determining vulnerability to cocaine addiction" in rats. Specifically, miR-212, which is "upregulated in the dorsal striatum of rats with a history of extended access to cocaine," amplifies the effects of the drug on cAMP response element binding protein signaling via increased Raf1 activity. This results in a surge in the expression of TORC, a CREB co-activator, which in turn limits cocaine intake. The authors say their "findings indicate that striatal miR-212 signaling ... provides an entirely new direction for the development of anti-addiction therapeutics based on the modulation of non-coding RNAs.

Taking Part
Eriksson N, Macpherson JM, Tung JY, Hon LS, et al. (2010). Web-based, participant-driven studies yield novel genetic associations for common traits. PLoS Genetics. 6(6): e1000993.

Investigators at 23andMe describe their "novel research framework that facilitates the parallel study of a wide assortment of traits within a single cohort" based on "the interactivity of the Web both to gather data and to present genetic information to research participants." The authors report that they've replicated associations for 22 traits, including hair and eye color as well as freckling, and identified novel associations for various traits. "By centralizing many studies, we have the ability to avoid publication bias by reporting statistics on a large collection of independent association studies, including both positive and negative results," the authors write.

Human Impact
Chariton AA, Court LN, Hartley DM, et al. (2010). Ecological assessment of estuarine sediments by pyrosequencing eukaryotic ribosomal DNA. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. (8): 233-238.

Investigators at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation report their use of next-generation pyrosequencing "to identify and enumerate eukaryote species assemblages in the context of assessing the impacts of human activity on ecosystems." Specifically, they establish the applicability of next-gen sequencing to assess eukaryotic diversity present in biota in estuarine sediments from Sydney Harbor. Upon filtering their sequence data, the investigators were left with more than 316,600 reads representing 10,091 unique rRNA gene sequences, and used the metagenomic data to determine ecosystem health. They found "marked declines in taxon richness in the presence of elevated concentrations of contaminants."

Tapeworm Genomes
Jia W, Yan H, Guo A, et al. (2010). Complete mitochondrial genomes of Taenia multiceps, T. hydatigena, and T. pisiformis: additional molecular markers for a tapeworm genus of human and animal health significance. BMC Genomics. (11): 447.

An international research team reports the complete sequences of the mitochondrial genomes of three species of the tapeworm genus Taenia. When analyzed in conjunction with the collection of published mtDNA sequences for four additional Taenia species, Jia et al. were able to interrogate seven complete mitochondrial genomes. The investigators created phylogenetic estimates for the genus and developed "novel molecular markers as part of an extended mitochondrial toolkit." The team designed new primer pairs capable of amplifying fragments of variable DNA in the nad1, rrnS, and nad5 genes, which the authors suggest could enhance comparative mitogenomic analysis of Taenia species.

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.