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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

Close Panel Vote on Califf Nomination

The New York Times reports there was a close committee vote to advance the nomination of Robert Califf to lead the US Food and Drug Administration to the full Senate.

Task Force Reports on Scientific Integrity

Nature News writes that that a new task force report recommends that the US establish a cross-agency scientific integrity council.

Across the Hall

Genetic testing, closed-circuit cameras, and more show how a traveler, without any contact, infected others at a New Zealand quarantine facility, CNN reports.

Science Paper Examines Influence of Chromatin Modifications on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

In Science this week: genes regulating chromatin modification may contribute to OCD risk.