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This Week in PLOS: Apr 1, 2013

University of Colorado at Boulder researchers Jonathan Leff and Noah Feirer took stock of the microbial communities found on fresh fruits and vegetables for a PLOS One study. The pair used 16S ribosomal gene sequencing to canvass microbial community members on 11 types of fruit and vegetables purchased at Boulder grocery stores (including organic and non-organic representatives, in most cases). Some fruit and vegetable microbiomes showed similarities when researchers considered the most prevalent bacterial families. Even so, investigators saw that each type of produce carried distinguishable microbiomes, as did the organic and conventionally farmed versions of these fruits and vegetables.

In PLOS Genetics, members of the Collaborative Oncological Gene-environment Study, or COGS, initiative describe their search for ovarian and/or breast cancer risk modifiers in individuals carrying alterations in the BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genes.

In the first of these, COGS members considered almost 12,000 individuals with BRCA1 mutations, including 5,920 individuals with breast cancer and 1,839 individuals with ovarian cancer. Through a multi-stage genome-wide association study involving these and other women, they narrowed in on a chromosome 1 locus that appears to mediate breast cancer risk in those with BRCA1 mutations as well risk loci on chromosomes 4 and 17 that modify ovarian cancer risk in those with risky BRCA1 gene glitches. A similar GWAS involving thousands of individuals carrying BRCA2 mutations — 3,881 with and 4,330 without breast cancer — turned up a new breast cancer risk modifier on chromosome 6.

Meanwhile, a third COGS paper, also in PLOS Genetics, looks at the interplay between genetic contributors to breast cancer and environmental risk factors for the disease. Findings from that analysis "provide [the] first strong evidence that the risk of breast cancer associated with some common genetic variants may vary with environmental risk factors," its authors conclude.

All three cancer studies were part of a 13-paper collection published by COGS researchers last week.

The Scan

Renewed Gain-of-Function Worries

The New York Times writes that the pandemic is renewing concerns about gain-of-function research.

Who's Getting the Patents?

A trio of researchers has analyzed gender trends in biomedical patents issued between 1976 and 2010 in the US, New Scientist reports.

Other Uses

CBS Sunday Morning looks at how mRNA vaccine technology could be applied beyond SARS-CoV-2.

PLOS Papers Present Analysis of Cervicovaginal Microbiome, Glycosylation in Model Archaea, More

In PLOS this week: functional potential of the cervicovaginal microbiome, glycosylation patterns in model archaea, and more.