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This Week in Nature: May 15, 2014

In this week's Nature Genetics, a multi-national team of investigators reports on the results of a genome-wide association scan focusing on human blood metabolism. Comprising more than 7,800 adults from two European population studies, the effort revealed genome-wide significant associations at 145 metabolic loci and their biochemical connectivity with more than 400 metabolites in human blood. The resulting in vivo blueprint was integrated with information of gene expression, heritability, and overlapped with known loci for complex disorders, inborn errors of metabolism, and pharmacological targets. "Our observations suggest widespread genetic control over a large range of different pathways and functions and support the notion of human metabolism as a complex continuum governed by genetic effects of variable intensity, complex regulatory influences and non-genetic effects," the group says. The team also developed a database and web-based resources for data mining and results visualization.

And in Nature Nanotechnology, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-led research group described the development of low-weight polymeric nanoparticles capable of delivering RNAi molecules into endothelial cells. The nanoparticles are made of polyamines and lipids, and are capable of delivering siRNAs to endothelial cells with high efficiency, the researchers say. Notably, the scientists were able to use the siRNA-loaded nanoparticles to silence multiple genes simultaneously in endothelial cells in vivo, while avoiding hepatocytes or immune cells, even at high dosages.

The Scan

Hormone-Based Gene Therapy to Sterilize Domestic Cat

A new paper in Nature Communication suggests that gene therapy could be a safer alternative to spaying domestic cats.

Active Lifestyle Linked to Type 2 Diabetes Prevention in People at High Genetic Risk

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that an active lifestyle goes a long way in type 2 diabetes prevention.

Beneficial, Harmful Effects of Introgression Between Wild and Domesticated European Grapes

A paper in PNAS shows that European wild grapevines were an important resource for improving the flavor of cultivated wine grapes.

Genetic Ancestry of South America's Indigenous Mapuche Traced

Researchers in Current Biology analyzed genome-wide data from more than five dozen Mapuche individuals to better understand their genetic history.