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Innovations in Protein Folding

In the Pipeline's Derek Lowe says [email protected] — a distributed-computing approach to working out protein folding problems run from David Baker's lab at the University of Washington — seems to have made progress on a project developing proteins designed to bind to the surface of flu viruses. "It looks like they have one with tight binding to an area of the virus associated with cell entry, so the next step will be to see if this actually prevents viral infection in a cell assay," Lowe says. However, he questions what would come after such an assay and says it wouldn't be easy to turn the results into any sort of therapy for the flu. Lowe quotes Baker, who says, "Being able to rapidly design proteins which bind to and neutralize viruses and other pathogens would definitely be a significant step towards being able to control future epidemics. However, in itself it is not a complete solution because there is a problem in making enough of the designed proteins to give to people." Baker also says that his researchers are working on designing new vaccines, but that the flu virus binder isn't a vaccine, but a virus blocker. Lowe suggests that [email protected] is more likely to make broad contributions to science's knowledge of protein folding, and specific contributions to vaccine design, and cautions that the sorts of proteins the project is developing could have a low probability of success.

The Scan

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.

Study Tracks Outcomes in Children Born to Zika Virus-Infected Mothers

By following pregnancy outcomes for women with RT-PCR-confirmed Zika virus infections, researchers saw in Lancet Regional Health congenital abnormalities in roughly one-third of live-born children.

Team Presents Benchmark Study of RNA Classification Tools

With more than 135 transcriptomic datasets, researchers tested two dozen coding and non-coding RNA classification tools, establishing a set of potentially misclassified transcripts, as they report in Nucleic Acids Research.

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.