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The Case of the Disappearing Ear Holes

It may sound like a Nancy Drew Mystery, but the case of the disappearing ear holes is the true story of Wistar Institute researcher Ellen Heber-Katz, who accidentally "stumbled onto" a gene that could aid in wound-healing, according to Scientific American. Heber-Katz, who reported her findings in PNAS, says she first became aware of this potential gene in 1995 while working with mice to model lupus. She had been poking small holes in their ears to distinguish them from one another, but noticed that the holes kept closing without leaving any scars. After confirming that holes in the ears of mice never close naturally, she began examining the cells filling the holes. She saw that the healer cells from the lupus mice de-differentiated, were multinucleated, and expressed stem cell markers. But when compared to their non-healing counterparts, Heber-Katz found that they did not express p21. To confirm her theory, Heber-Katz used p21-deficient knock-out mice; when she punched holes in their ears, the puncture wounds disappeared. But there's still much research to be done, she says, to determine p21 regulation, and how to effectively block its expression — in an effort to regenerate tissue — without disturbing the cell cycle.

The Scan

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.

Team Presents Cattle Genotype-Tissue Expression Atlas

Using RNA sequences representing thousands of cattle samples, researchers looked at relationships between cattle genotype and tissue expression in Nature Genetics.

Researchers Map Recombination in Khoe-San Population

With whole-genome sequences for dozens of individuals from the Nama population, researchers saw in Genome Biology fine-scale recombination patterns that clustered outside of other populations.

Myotonic Dystrophy Repeat Detected in Family Genome Sequencing Analysis

While sequencing individuals from a multi-generation family, researchers identified a myotonic dystrophy type 2-related short tandem repeat in the European Journal of Human Genetics.