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This Week in Nature: Aug 1, 2013

In Nature this week, researchers from Harvard University and the MD Anderson Cancer Center report on the creation of a new technique for measuring temperature in living cells. The so-called nanothermometer is based on the manipulation of nitrogen vacancy color centers in diamond nanocrystals, which have specific fluorescence properties that are dependent on temperature. With the approach, the investigators showed that they could detect temperature variations as small as 1.8 millikelvin and that they can measure the local thermal environment at length scales as low as 200 nanometers.

Meanwhile, in Nature Methods, a University of Washington School of Medicine team publishes details of a new sequencing-based method for the rapid and high-throughput genotyping of duplicated genes. To demonstrate the technique, they used it to genotype the members of two gene families, SRGAP2 and RH, among a diversity panel of 1,056 people. The approach could accurately distinguish copy number in paralogs having up to around 99.6 percent sequence identity, identify small gene-disruptive deletions, detect single-nucleotide variants, define breakpoints of unequal crossover, and discover regions of interlocus gene conversion. "The ability to rapidly and accurately genotype multiple gene families in thousands of individuals at low cost enables the development of genome-wide gene conversion maps and 'unlocks' many previously inaccessible duplicated genes for association with human traits," the researchers add.