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This Week in PLoS: Mar 7, 2011

In a PLoS One paper published this week, an international research team led by investigators at Wageningen University in the Netherlands reports on the genome of Akkermansia muciniphila, a human gastrointestinal tract microbe "associated with the protective mucus lining of the intestines." In mining 37 GI tract metagenomes, the team found A. miciniphila at a relative abundance between 0.01 percent and 4 percent in all assembled reads. By sequencing and annotating the anaerobic microbe's genome, the team found it "to contain numerous candidate mucinase-endocing genes, but lacking genes encoding canonical mucus-binding domains."

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital discuss the sensitivity of MRI biomarkers of tumor edema, vascular permeability, blood volume, and average vessel caliber to the VEGFR inhibitor cediranib in this week's PLoS One. "A significant increase in the tumor volume and relative vessel caliber index and a slight decrease in the water apparent diffusion coefficient were observed for both control and cediranib-treated animals," the authors write, adding that their results contrast with those obtained in a previously reported clinical study, in which investigators "observed a significant decrease in tumor rVCI, ADC and volume with cediranib therapy." The team suggests that its results necessitate further study into "therapy-induced chances in the tumor physiology."

Investigators at Denmark's Aarhus University work through an estimation of the divergence between the Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, for which investigators recently reported genome sequences in Nature, based on data from the Orangutan Genome Project. The team approximates "the speciation time between to the two sub-species to be 334 [plus- or minus-]145 thousand years ago," and also report a "negative correlation between chromosome size and ancestral effective population size."

In PLoS Computational Biology this week, a trio of researchers at the National Center for Biotechnology Information identify genes differentially expressed in cancer cases versus controls, with which they investigation potential pathways for genomic alterations through a network of molecular interactions. By "applying our method to sets of genomic alterations and gene expression profiles of 158 glioblastoma multiforme patients, we uncovered candidate causal genes and causal paths that are potentially responsible for the altered expression of disease genes," the NCBI team writes, adding it identified putative causal genes that may play a role in the disease.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.