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A Frustration

Adaptive Complexity’s Michael White writes that the big questions in biology — such as what makes us human — are difficult to answer using molecular biology. He writes that scientists can associate genes with a process, but not at going from the molecular biology level back up to the organismal level. “In other words, we're good finding causal links between traits and genes. And thanks to genomics, we know the molecular function of many of those genes. … We can then explain the molecular effects: mutating a gene at a particular point results in a protein that does x,” White writes. “This is where things tend to dead-end: on the smallest scale. The chain of explanation is never brought back to the initial trait that set off the research.”

The Scan

Researchers Compare WGS, Exome Sequencing-Based Mendelian Disease Diagnosis

Investigators find a diagnostic edge for whole-genome sequencing, while highlighting the cost advantages and improving diagnostic rate of exome sequencing in EJHG.

Researchers Retrace Key Mutations in Reassorted H1N1 Swine Flu Virus With Avian-Like Features

Mutations in the acidic polymerase-coding gene boost the pathogenicity and transmissibility of Eurasian avian-like H1N1 swine influenza viruses, a PNAS paper finds.

Genome Sequences Reveal Evolutionary History of South America's Canids

An analysis in PNAS of South American canid species' genomes offers a look at their evolutionary history, as well as their relationships and adaptations.

Lung Cancer Response to Checkpoint Inhibitors Reflected in Circulating Tumor DNA

In non-small cell lung cancer patients, researchers find in JCO Precision Oncology that survival benefits after immune checkpoint blockade coincide with a dip in ctDNA levels.