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This Week in Nature: Jan 3, 2013

In Nature Genetics, two independent teams report on the use of genome-wide association analyses to offer clues to the biology of gout and colorectal cancer, respectively. In the first paper, to which a host of scientists from the US and Europe contributed, an analysis of data from more than 140,000 people with European ancestry revealed 18 new loci associated with serum urate concentrations, which is elevated in gout patients. "New candidate genes for serum urate concentration highlight the importance of metabolic control of urate production and excretion, which may have implications for the treatment and prevention of gout," the investigators wrote.

In the second paper, genome-wide data from 2,098 East Asian colorectal cancer patients and 5,749 controls are analyzed by a team from Chinese and US research institutes, uncovering four SNPs linked to the disease. Three of the SNPs were replicated in a study conducted in more than 26,000 individuals of European descent, offering new colorectal cancer susceptibility loci and giving clues about the genetics of the disease.

Over in the news section, Nature reports that an international survey of researchers indicates that they "may have a false sense of security about the safety of their laboratories." The survey, commissioned by the University of California, Los Angeles' Center for Laboratory Safety and conducted in conjunction with safety compliance software firm BioRaft and the Nature Publishing Group, found that while 86 percent of respondents think their lab is a safe place to work, 46 percent of them have been injured at least once in the lab. The majority of those injuries were lacerations, cuts, or bites that did not need stitches.

The survey also reveals that safety standards are not always followed, and that there were differences between US and UK respondents in assessing risk — two thirds of UK researchers use their institute's risk assessment form while only a quarter of US researchers do, Nature says. It adds that "the biggest barriers to improving safety in the lab were 'time and hassle' and 'apathy,' scientists said."

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.