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This Week in Nature: Feb 16, 2012

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania show in Nature this week that miR-34 "regulates age-associated events and long-term brain integrity in Drosophila." In its analysis, the team uncovered evidence that "miRNA-dependent pathways may have an impact on adult-onset, age-associated events by silencing developmental genes that later have a deleterious influence on adult life cycle and disease." The Penn team adds that miR-34 may be important in those processes.

An international team led by investigators at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto shows in both mouse and human medulloblastomas that "the metastases from an individual are extremely similar to each other but are divergent from the matched primary tumor." The researchers say that "clonal genetic events in the metastases can be demonstrated in a restricted subclone of the primary tumor," which suggests to them that "only rare cells within the primary tumor have the ability to metastasize."

In two separate papers on mutations in isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 published online in advance in Nature this week, a team led by investigators at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center shows that "2HG [2-hydroxyglutarate]-producing IDH mutants can prevent the histone demethylation that is required for lineage-specific progenitor cells to differentiate into terminally differentiated cells," and another MSKCC-led group shows that "IDH1 mutation is sufficient to establish the glioma hypermethylator phenotype."

Over in Nature Genetics, researchers at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China and their collaborators show that altered phosphate homeostasis plays a role in the etiology of familial idiopathic basal ganglia calcification. Further, the team shows that "mutations in SLC20A2, encoding the type III sodium-dependent phosphate transporter 2, in IBGC [idiopathic basal ganglia calcification]-affected families of varied ancestry, and ... observed significantly impaired phosphate transport activity for all assayed PiT2 mutants in Xenopus laevis oocytes."

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.