In this week's Nature, investigators from Imperial College London report on the discovery of 75 genetic regions associated with human red blood cell phenotypes, offering new details about blood cell production and function. The team conducted a genome-wide association study of hemoglobin concentration and related parameters in more than 135,000 individuals and, in addition to identifying the genetic loci, pinpointed 121 candidate genes enriched in functions relevant to red blood cell biology. The findings are expected to “underpin a deeper knowledge of the biological mechanisms involved in hematopoiesis and red blood cell function.”
Also in Nature, a team from Italy's International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology describe the discovery of 40 different microRNAs that increase the proliferation of cultured rodent heart muscle cells. Two of the small, non-coding RNAs, when injected into the hearts of mice that experienced heart attacks, were able to reduce infarct size and trigger a near-complete recovery of heart function. The results point to the potential of microRNAs in human regenerative therapies.
Meanwhile, in Nature Genetics, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute researchers published the discovery of genetic variants associated with coronary artery disease following a large-scale association analysis of nearly 64,000 patients and more than 130,000 controls. The researchers identified 15 genomic regions associated with the cardiovascular condition, bringing the total number of susceptibility loci to 46 and adding to the overall understanding of the genetic basis of coronary artery disease.