Skip to main content

Still Looking for the Gene That Makes Pandas Cute, Though

Jingjing, a 3-year-old female giant panda, has gotten her genome sequenced, researchers report in Nature. The draft panda genome was generated using Illumina's Genome Analyzer and the 2.25 gigabases covers about 94 percent of the panda genome — the gaps appear to contain repeats specific to carnivores. Indeed, the researchers point out that pandas appear to have all the genes necessary for eating meat and though they also have a mutation in the umami taste gene called T1R1 though may prevent them from detecting an amino acid common in meat. Furthermore, the panda bamboo diet may reflect the traits of its gut microbiome.

"Giant pandas have long been a biological curiosity, owing in part to their strict bamboo diet and low rate of reproduction," adds this Scientific American article.

As an aside, the National Zoo's giant panda cub, Tai Shan, is scheduled to head to China in January.

The Scan

Not Kept "Clean and Sanitary"

A Food and Drug Administration inspection uncovered problems with cross contamination at an Emergent BioSolutions facility, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Resumption Recommendation Expected

The Washington Post reports that US officials are expected to give the go-ahead to resume using Johnson & Johnson's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

Canada's New Budget on Science

Science writes that Canada's new budget includes funding for the life sciences, but not as much as hoped for investigator-driven research.

Nature Papers Examine Single-Cell, Multi-Omic SARS-CoV-2 Response; Flatfish Sequences; More

In Nature this week: single-cell, multi-omics analysis provides insight into COVID-19 pathogenesis, evolution of flatfish, and more.