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This Week in Nature: Sep 11, 2008

Gary Ruvkun's lab at Harvard has used RNAi to find that two pre-mRNAs are trans-spliced to form a functional mRNA, eri-6/7. The ERI-6/7 protein is a superfamily I helicase that both negatively regulates the exogenous RNAi pathway and functions in an endogenous RNAi pathway.

Two papers use GWAS to find genetic variation in schizophrenia. In one, a large consortium identified 66 de novo CNVs associated with the disease, with three particular deletions at 1q21.1, 15q11.2 and 15q13.3 being significant. Another, led by the International Schizophrenia Consortium, used a GWAS to find that rare CNVs (observed in less than 1 percent of the sample) increased risk. A related News and Views article says that these studies "show that genome-wide studies of thousands of patients not only can confirm the association between previously identified genetic loci and the disease, but can also identify new loci."

Scientists used a genome-wide RNAi screen to find 305 host proteins that affect West Nile virus infection in humans. Some important pathways they found are ubiquitin ligase CBLL1 in WNV internalization, the endoplasmic-reticulum-associated degradation pathway in viral infection, and the monocarboxylic acid transporter MCT4 as a viral replication resistance factor.

A news feature checks in on the battle between Sigma-Aldrich's proprietary zinc-finger protein technology and a competing academic platform that would make designer zinc-finger proteins accessible to everyone. More than 700 different zinc-finger proteins -- transcription factors which bind to specific DNA sequences to switch genes on and off -- have been identified, and their use extends from basic to clinical research as a way to knock down gene expression.


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.