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This Week in Nature: Jan 8, 2009

A news story in Nature this week looks at how the biotech industry will hold up in the downturn. While it's managing to weather the storm, it's not immune to the economic crisis. However, even though the "cash-hungry" industry struggles with shelved projects, layoffs, and bankruptcies, a recent survey of 400 US venture capitalists showed optimism. Ninety-two percent predicted that venture investment would slow this year relative to 2008, but a quarter of respondents thought that investment in the life sciences would increase in 2009.

HHMI scientists used an in vitro bacterial translation system to find an additional way that the ribosome ensures high fidelity protein synthesis. They found that even after peptide-bond formation, the ribosome can detect mismatches and stop protein synthesis. A related News and Views article says that the work "reveals a facet of quality control in protein synthesis that depends on an unanticipated level of complexity in the workings of the ribosome."

French researchers found that in benign liver tumors, activity of the interleukin (IL)-6 signaling pathway is increased. Sequencing candidate genes, they linked this increased activity to somatic gain-of-function mutations in the IL6ST gene, which encodes the signaling co-receptor gp130. They also showed that rare gp130 alterations are always accompanied by beta-catenin-activating mutations.

WashU scientists applied a thermodynamic model of genome-wide cis-regulation to the analysis of synthetic promoter libraries in S. cerevisiae. Their findings suggest that "the information encoded by combinations of cis-regulatory sites is interpreted primarily through simple protein-DNA and protein-protein interactions, with complicated biochemical reactions – such as nucleosome modifications – being downstream events," they write.

The Scan

UK Pilot Study Suggests Digital Pathway May Expand BRCA Testing in Breast Cancer

A randomized pilot study in the Journal of Medical Genetics points to similar outcomes for breast cancer patients receiving germline BRCA testing through fully digital or partially digital testing pathways.

Survey Sees Genetic Literacy on the Rise, Though Further Education Needed

Survey participants appear to have higher genetic familiarity, knowledge, and skills compared to 2013, though 'room for improvement' remains, an AJHG paper finds.

Study Reveals Molecular, Clinical Features in Colorectal Cancer Cases Involving Multiple Primary Tumors

Researchers compare mismatch repair, microsatellite instability, and tumor mutation burden patterns in synchronous multiple- or single primary colorectal cancers.

FarGen Phase One Sequences Exomes of Nearly 500 From Faroe Islands

The analysis in the European Journal of Human Genetics finds few rare variants and limited geographic structure among Faroese individuals.