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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

Transcriptomic, Epigenetic Study Appears to Explain Anti-Viral Effects of TB Vaccine

Researchers report in Science Advances on an interferon signature and long-term shifts in monocyte cell DNA methylation in Bacille Calmette-Guérin-vaccinated infant samples.

DNA Storage Method Taps Into Gene Editing Technology

With a dual-plasmid system informed by gene editing, researchers re-wrote DNA sequences in E. coli to store Charles Dickens prose over hundreds of generations, as they recount in Science Advances.

Researchers Model Microbiome Dynamics in Effort to Understand Chronic Human Conditions

Investigators demonstrate in PLOS Computational Biology a computational method for following microbiome dynamics in the absence of longitudinally collected samples.

New Study Highlights Role of Genetics in ADHD

Researchers report in Nature Genetics on differences in genetic architecture between ADHD affecting children versus ADHD that persists into adulthood or is diagnosed in adults.