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This Week in PLoS: Nov 14, 2011

In PLoS One this week, investigators at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and elsewhere report their generation of an "efficient vector system to modify cells genetically." The team tagged genetically modified cells with a surface biotinylation label by co-transfecting them with a biotin ligase, BirA. "The modified cells can be quickly isolated for downstream applications using a simple streptavidin bead method," the authors write, adding that this approach can also be taken "to screen cells expressing two sets of genes from separate vectors."

In the same journal, researchers at Australia's University of Adelaide show that "plant DNA barcodes can accurately estimate species richness in poorly known floras." In a case study, the Adelaide team demonstrates the "potential of plant DNA barcodes for the rapid estimation of species richness in taxonomically poorly known areas or cryptic populations revealing a powerful new tool for rapid biodiversity assessment." Overall, the team says it shows that "although DNA barcodes fail to discriminate all species of plants, new perspectives and methods on biodiversity value and quantification may overshadow some of these shortcomings by applying barcode data in new ways."

Over in PLoS Genetics, the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Evan Eichler and his colleagues discuss the "relative burden of large CNVs on a range of neurodevelopmental phenotypes." Eichler et al. report data that suggest a "large CNV burden positively correlates with the severity of childhood disability."

And researchers at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences this week report on six SNPs associated with gestational diabetes mellitus in a Chinese population. Writing in PLoS One, the team says "the effects of these SNPs on GDM might be through the impairment of beta cell function and these risk loci contributed additively to the disease."

The Scan

Not as High as Hoped

The Associated Press says initial results from a trial of CureVac's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine suggests low effectiveness in preventing COVID-19.

Finding Freshwater DNA

A new research project plans to use eDNA sampling to analyze freshwater rivers across the world, the Guardian reports.

Rise in Payments

Kaiser Health News investigates the rise of payments made by medical device companies to surgeons that could be in violation of anti-kickback laws.

Nature Papers Present Ginkgo Biloba Genome Assembly, Collection of Polygenic Indexes, More

In Nature this week: a nearly complete Ginkgo biloba genome assembly, polygenic indexes for dozens of phenotypes, and more.