On the cover of this week's issue of Nature, Japanese researchers have bred monkeys who've inherited a transgenic GFP gene from their parents. While some say it's a great first step toward being able to breed animals with diseases for future research, animal rights activists, says a story in the LA Times, as well as bloggers, are kind of creeped out – targeting Parkinson's, Huntington's, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is already being considered. The work used marmosets, which "could establish marmosets as a model research organism to rival the more commonly used rhesus macaque, and usher in a new era of primates as human-disease models," says a news story.
In an essay, Robert Gatenby, who is part of the departments of radiology and integrated mathematical oncology at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida, proposes a radical cancer treatment: control tumors rather than try to kill them. Gatenby says that cancers are more like invasive species and trying get rid of all cancers cells only makes the ones that survive more resistant to treatment. "What we’ve discovered from our mathematical models is that the best management strategy for a non-curable cancer is not one where you kill the maximum number of cells possible but when you kill the minimum necessary," he says in a Q&A over at SciAm's 60-Second Science.
Two GWAS studies from CHOP's Hakon Hakonarson reveal much about autism. In one, his team found the first common variants for autism spectrum disorders, six SNPs on chromosome 5p14.1 between the cadherin 10 and cadherin 9 genes that were strongly associated with the disease in cohorts of Europeans. These genes encode for neuronal cell-adhesion proteins. In a second, a whole-genome CNV study revealed CNVs enriched in ASD cases that "target genes involved in neuronal cell-adhesion or ubiquitin degradation, indicating that these two important gene networks expressed within the central nervous system may contribute to the genetic susceptibility of ASD," they write in the abstract.
In early online, scientists have looked at six Candida genomes to study the evolution and pathogenicity of this species of pathogen. Comparing them to related and non-pathogens, they found "significant expansions of cell wall, secreted and transporter gene families in pathogenic species, suggesting adaptations associated with virulence." Surprisingly, they say, key components of the mating and meiosis pathways were missing from several species.