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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

Two J&J Doses

Johnson & Johnson says two doses of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine provides increased protection against symptomatic COVID-19, CNN reports.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Response in Kids

The Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in a lower-dose format appears to generate an immune response among children, according to the Washington Post.

Chicken Changes to Prevent Disease

The Guardian writes that researchers are looking at gene editing chickens to help prevent future pandemics.

PNAS Papers on Siberian Dog Ancestry, Insect Reproduction, Hippocampal Neurogenesis

In PNAS this week: ancestry and admixture among Siberian dogs, hormone role in fruit fly reproduction, and more.