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This Week in Nature: Oct 2, 2008

Dave Bartel's lab at MIT has checked in on the origins of small RNAs, finding miRNAs and piRNAs from animal phyla that diverged before the emergence of the Bilateria, including the starlet sea anemone and the sponge. The anemone has many miRNA genes, two classes of piRNAs, and a complement of proteins specific to small-RNA biology comparable to that of humans. The Amphimedon queenslandica, or sponge, also possesses miRNAs, both classes of piRNAs, and a full complement of the small-RNA machinery.

Using advances in computational proteomics, including stable-isotope labeling by amino acids in cell culture (SILAC) quantification, MPI's Matthias Mann has compared the proteomes of haploid and diploid yeast. He found that key members of the pheromone pathway and several retrotransposon-associated proteins were specific to haploid yeast.

Harvard's Doug Melton's lab has used three transcription factors, Ngn3 (also known as Neurog3), Pdx1, and Mafa to reprogram differentiated pancreatic exocrine cells in adult mice into cells that closely resemble beta-cells. The process, called transdifferentiation, allows one cell to differentiate into another without the need to first convert it to an ES cell-like state. A news story elaborates on the potential of the process.

Finally, a set of articles tackles metabolomics. One looks at the field in general, including some current methods used to isolate different molecules, including gas chromatography, liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Another looks at applying the field in enology, or the study of wine.


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.