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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

mRNA-Based Vaccine on the Way in China

China may soon have its own mRNA-based vaccine, according to Nature News.

Arranged Killing, Fraud Alleged by Prosecutors

The Wall Street Journal reports that prosecutors allege that the co-founder of a biotech arranged to have a business associate who threatened to expose him as a fraud killed.

Whirlwind Decade of CRISPR

The New York Times looks back at the 10 years since the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues published their CRISPR paper.

PNAS Papers on Blue Cone Monochromacy Structural Variants, HIV-1 Mutant, T-ALL

In PNAS this week: structural variants linked to blue cone monochromacy, HIV-1 variants affecting the matrix protein p17, and more.