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This Week in PLoS: Apr 16, 2012

In a paper appearing in PLoS Genetics this week, a large team led by investigators at the University of Colorado at Boulder estimates that "the odds of schizophrenia increase by [around] 17 percent for every 1 percent increase in genome-wide autozygosity," based on its analysis of genome-wide SNP data from 9,388 cases and 12,456 controls. "This association is not due to one or a few regions, but results from many autozygous segments spread throughout the genome, and is consistent with a role for multiple recessive or partially recessive alleles in the etiology of schizophrenia," the authors write.

Elsewhere in the journal, researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and their colleagues discuss having performed whole-exome sequencing on 16 individuals with autism, revealing "validated homozygous, potentially pathogenic recessive mutations that segregated perfectly with disease in 4 [out of] 16 families." In addition, the Boston-led team presents "a multidimensional strategy for filtering whole-exome sequence data to find candidate recessive mutations in autism, which may have broader applicability to other complex, heterogeneous disorders."

Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and at Rice University sought to discern "how a cell population's growth rate and its subpopulation fractions emerge from the molecular-level kinetics of gene networks and the division rates of single cells." To do so, the researchers "developed and quantitatively characterized an inducible, bistable synthetic gene circuit controlling the expression of a bifunctional antibiotic resistance gene in Saccharomyces cerevisiae," they report in PLoS Computational Biology this week. Then, applying a computational approach "to predict cell population fitness and subpopulation fractions in the combination of these environments based on stochastic cellular movement in gene expression space and fitness space," the team "found that knowing the fitness and non-genetic (cellular) memory associated with specific gene expression states were necessary for predicting the overall fitness of cell populations in combined environments."

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.