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Last Week in Science

An international committee led by Elias Zerhouni, and which included Harold Varmus and Peter Agre, suggested that France overhaul its life science research by creating one funding institute, rather than having many as it does now, and giving the universities autonomy. The plan, however, is being contested by researchers' unions, says this news story.

Science also reports from the American Society of Human Genetics meeting that took place in Philadelphia, saying many researchers are now trying to understand the role of copy number variations and if they are related to disease. To that end, CNV maps are underway at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and at the Broad Institute; recent research shows that CNVs may have a role in psychiatric disease. "We're still really in a learning curve," says Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children's Stephen Scherer.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists report the cells responsible for relapses of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia are ancestral to the primary leukemia cells. The relapse cells also contained different copy number abnormalities than the primary leukemia cells, though they were present in the first samples as small subpopulations. The researchers add that this study has also identified pathways against which therapeutics could be developed.

Scientists led by Gregory Hannon say that small RNAs can play a role in epigenetics. They crossed Drosophila strains with a transposon that produce sterile offspring if the transposon is paternally inherited. In these models, female offspring have different numbers of piRNAs that target the transponsons and also dependes on the parent from which it was inherited. They write: "Thus transmission of instructive piRNA populations, shaped by both genetic and environmental factors, may provide a previously unknown mechanism for epigenetic inheritance."


The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

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.