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The Surprising Variability of Mitochondrial DNA

Researchers led by Johns Hopkins' Nickolas Papadopoulos found that different versions of the mitochondrial genome can be found in different organs in the same person. As they report in Nature, the researchers used next-gen DNA sequencing, and were able to find single-letter DNA changes that occur in as few as one in 10,000 mitochondria. And when the researchers tried to see if the variations were limited to cancer cells, what they found is that the mitochondrial DNA in healthy colon tissue can also vary. The implications for forensic science are clear — if mitochondrial DNA taken from a crime scene doesn't match a DNA sample taken from a suspect, that doesn't necessarily mean that the two samples aren't from the same person. And as for cancer detection, the researchers say that mutations specific to colon tumors can be found in tiny blood samples, and that those mutation signatures vanish after the tumor is removed.

The Scan

Not Yet a Permanent One

NPR says the lack of a permanent Food and Drug Administration commissioner has "flummoxed" public health officials.

Unfair Targeting

Technology Review writes that a new report says the US has been unfairly targeting Chinese and Chinese-American individuals in economic espionage cases.

Limited Rapid Testing

The New York Times wonders why rapid tests for COVID-19 are not widely available in the US.

Genome Research Papers on IPAFinder, Structural Variant Expression Effects, Single-Cell RNA-Seq Markers

In Genome Research this week: IPAFinder method to detect intronic polyadenylation, influence of structural variants on gene expression, and more.