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This Week in PLoS: Sep 5, 2011

In PLoS Genetics this week, researchers at the University of Montreal report on their investigation of “age-dependent recombination rates in human pedigrees,” in which they found a previously unreported “significant decrease in recombination rates with advancing maternal age.” The Montreal team says this effect seems to be localized, and may be in part “responsible for the higher rates of aneuploidy in older women.”

Over in PLoS One, a public-private team — including investigators at Merck Research Laboratories, Massachusetts General Hospital, Pacific Biosciences, and elsewhere — this week shows “in a genotyped obese human population that the number of cis eQTLs [expression quantitative trait loci] obey precise scaling laws as a function of sample size in three profiled tissues … omental adipose, subcutaneous adipose, and liver.” Moreover, the team suggests its study shows that “genes with strong cis acting regulatory elements can be identified with relatively high confidence in smaller populations,” though increasing the sample size allows for the “better detection of weaker and more distantly located cis-regulatory elements.”

Elsewhere in the journal, a team led by investigators at the University of Oregon reports its use of “fully sequenced bacterial genomes as a scaffold to enable inference of phylogenetic relationships among metagenomic sequences from multiple phylogenetic marker families.” When the researchers applied this approach to assess diversity and community assembly along an oceanic depth gradient, the team observed most bacterial diversity at “intermediate depths beneath [the] ocean surface,” though they found evidence to suggest that taxonomic diversity shows no relationship to depth. Overall, the researchers suggest that their approach “opens up the possibility of using metagenomic data to study microbial diversity in a phylogenetic context.”

An international team led by investigators at the Science for Life Laboratory in Sweden this week reports in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases “the short non-coding transcriptome of the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi.” In an effort to “further understand alternative RNA pathways operating in this organism,” the team deep-sequenced “a size-fractioned cDNA library from the [its] epimastigote life stage.”

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.