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DNA, RNA, Epigenetics, and the Battle for a Baby's Brain

If you're going to pass up the New York Times science section sometime, don't let today be the day. The paper delivers an homage to all things DNA and RNA with a series of articles.

Carl Zimmer's feature covers the world "beyond the genome," noting that the importance of elements beyond DNA is just now coming to light. "On the eve of the gene’s 100th birthday," Zimmer writes, "the gene ... is in an identity crisis." And this column follows up with the realization that "genes, per se, are simply too feeble to accept responsibility for much of anything." The article focuses on how noncoding regions are seen as more significant than was once the conventional wisdom, and that RNA is "doing complicated things it wasn't supposed to do" as well.

Here's a story on RNAi and how biotechs in particular are banking they can build drugs around it. (But if you cringe at the phrase "a powerful new approach" to describe RNAi, then you should skip this one.)

In what's certainly the most attention-grabbing story in the section, this article spells out a new theory from researchers who argue that autism and schizophrenia may be the result of "an evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father's sperm and the mother's egg [that] can, in effect, tip brain development in one of two ways." In short: when Mom's genes win, the child has increased risk of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. When Dad's genes are the victor, the kid is more likely to tend toward autism. The theory draws on the researchers' "powers of observation and a creative reading of recent genetic findings," the article reports.

The graphics department was also in on the fun: here's a graphic guide to RNA and a crash course in epigenetics.


The Scan

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.