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The Uncertainty of Stem Cell Work

Embryonic stem cell researchers are weighing their career options and dealing with the worry that they may not be able to continue their work, says the New York Times' Amy Harmon. In August, federal judge Royce Lambeth ruled that federal money could not be used to fund embryonic stem cell research. The researchers, who have been operating with federal funding for the past year, may see their money dry up completely if an appeals court doesn’t overturn Lambeth's ruling. Jason Spence at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center checks Google News everyday for any tidbit of stem cell information, Harmon reports. Other researchers say that instead of concentrating on their work, they obsess over how the Supreme Court might rule in the case (if it gets that far) and how the results of the midterm Congressional elections could help or hurt their cause, Harmon adds. But other researchers are looking for alternative sources of funding — some are looking for financing from private foundations and others are considering switching to the private sector or even leaving the country. "Born in China, Dr. [Yi] Sun said she was now renewing efforts to collaborate with well-financed stem cell biologists there," Harmon says.

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.