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This Week in Nature: Mar 6, 2014

In this week's Nature, researchers from the University of Chicago report on the discovery that a single gene, and not a cluster of linked genes as previously thought, can affect the entire wing pattern of butterflies to make them resemble that of a toxic species. In some butterflies, the female is capable of mimicking the wing pattern of another, toxic insect, which offers a survival benefit. While this was thought to be the result of a supergene — a cluster of genes at a single locus on a chromosome — the scientists show that in one butterfly species, a single gene called doublesex controls supergene mimicry.

Meanwhile, in Nature Biotechnology, scientists from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital provide a review of CRISPR — clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeat — technology for gene editing. They describe how it is being used to modify genes in cell types that have traditionally been difficult to manipulate genetically, and offer thoughts on its potential as a human therapeutic modality. " The simplicity, high efficiency and broad applicability of the RNA-guided Cas9 system have positioned this technology to transform biological and biomedical research," the authors say. "The ease with which researchers can now make changes in the sequence or expression of any gene means reverse genetics can be performed in virtually any organism or cell type of interest."