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Physics Meets Biology

In a multidisciplinary research effort, University of Michigan astrophysicist Katherine Freese and her colleagues are working with Harvard geneticist George Church and his colleagues to detect dark matter with DNA, reports Wired UK's Olivia Solon. As they write in a new paper available at arXiv, the researchers have created a directional dark matter detector. Dark matter can't be seen, so the team says it can detect these particles, called weakly interacting massive particles or WIMPs, using DNA strands hanging from a thin gold sheet. "The theory is that a particle of dark matter will smash into the heavy gold nucleus, pushing it out of the gold sheet and through into the DNA 'forest', knocking the strands out as it travels," Solon says. "These strands fall onto a collection tray. Each of them has a unique identifier showing where they were located on the gold sheet, so researchers can reconstruct the path of the gold particle with incredible precision." This will allow for detection with nanometer resolution, which is orders of magnitude more accurate than current detection methods, she adds.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.