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Multiple Genomes

Rather than having one genome, people likely are made up of a number of different genomes, writes Carl Zimmer at the New York Times. This, he adds, may have medical implications.

“There have been whispers in the matrix about this for years, even decades, but only in a very hypothetical sense,” Alexander Urban, a geneticist at Stanford University, tells Zimmer. Urban adds that recent work has brought this idea out of the realm of the hypothetical.

Zimmer writes that not only do people contain DNA from their parents, they may also be chimeras and have contributions from a twin and, in the case of mothers, their children. Additionally, people may be mosaics and have tissues that developed from cells that acquired mutations early on during development and passed those changes on.

While most instances of chimerism or mosaicism appear to be benign, researchers are beginning to investigate their possible roles in diseases like schizophrenia.

A challenge, though, will be for genetic testing, Zimmer points out. If tests are run on a blood sample, that may not tell doctors and genetic counselors what variants there are, for example, in brain tissue.

The Scan

Foxtail Millet Pangenome, Graph-Based Reference Genome

Researchers in Nature Genetics described their generation of a foxtail millet pangenome, which they say can help in crop trait improvement.

Protein Length Distribution Consistent Across Species

An analysis in Genome Biology compares the lengths of proteins across more than 2,300 species, finding similar length distributions.

Novel Genetic Loci Linked to Insulin Resistance in New Study

A team reports in Nature Genetics that it used glucose challenge test data to home in on candidate genes involved in GLUT4 expression or trafficking.

RNA Editing in Octopuses Seems to Help Acclimation to Shifts in Water Temperature

A paper in Cell reports that octopuses use RNA editing to help them adjust to different water temperatures.