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This Week in PLoS: Jan 20, 2009

Researchers led by Kári Stefánsson say that Icelandic mitochondrial DNA underwent rapid genetic drift in the last 1,100 years since the region was settled. The scientists compared mtDNA from 68 early medieval Icelandic skeletal remains to that from modern Icelanders as well as modern inhabitants of Scotland, Ireland, and Scandinavia. From this, they found that ancient Icelanders' mtDNA is more closely related to that of modern Scots, Irish, and Scandinavians than to that of modern Icelanders.

Northeastern University researchers have come up with a new computational methodology that predicts protein functional sites from that protein's three-dimensional structure. This approach, called Partial Order Optimum Likelihood, "identifies the active constraints and then simply combines the corresponding data values into 'pools' to be assigned probability estimates according to the proportion of positives in that pool," the researchers say in their PLoS Computational Biology article.

A group of scientists led by Takaaki Nakaya used 454 sequencing to detect viruses from nasopharyngeal and fecal samples taken during flu and norovirus outbreaks in Osaka, Japan. Sequencing the nasal swabs resulted in 20–460 flu reads and the fecal samples in 84–15,260 norovirus reads. "Although its cost and technological availability make it unlikely that this system will very soon be the diagnostic standard worldwide, this system could be useful for the earlier discovery of novel emerging viruses and bioterrorism, which are difficult to detect with conventional procedures," the authors write.

Joseph Madri and his colleagues used a proteomics-based approach to study congenital heart defects in mouse models. They exposed murine embryos to high glucose levels and, by mass spectrometry, identified proteins differentially expressed in embryos with defects. These proteins were then validated and found to be involved in adhesion and migration, differentiation, transportation, and insulin signaling pathways. The authors say that, eventually, the proteins could be used to identify fetuses at risk of congenital heart defects.

The Scan

Vaccine Update Recommended

A US Food and Drug Administration panel recommends booster vaccines be updated to target Omicron, CNBC reports.

US to Make More Vaccines for Monkeypox Available

The US is to make nearly 300,000 vaccine doses available in the coming weeks to stem the spread of human monkeypox virus, according to NPR.

Sentence Appealed

The Associated Press reports that Swedish prosecutors are appealing the sentence given to a surgeon once lauded for transplanting synthetic tracheas but then convicted of causing bodily harm.

Genome Biology Papers on COVID-19 Effector Genes, Virtual ChIP-seq, scDART

In Genome Biology this week: proposed COVID-19 effector genes, method to predict transcription factor binding patterns, and more.