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This Week in PLOS: Sep 17, 2013

A University of Manchester team has cast doubt on the notion that insects trapped in amber could help to resurrect extinct creatures — or even discern parts of their DNA sequence. As they report in PLOS One, the researchers attempted to sequence DNA from a decades old stingless bee sample and from another stingless bee sample more than 10,600 years old. Both had been entombed in copal, a precursor of amber. While the group was able to get a limited number of reads from the insect that perished relatively recently, most of those sequences appeared to match microbes rather than the insect itself. The outcome was even more discouraging for the ancient sample, which yielded only apparent sequencing artifacts. Check out our sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News for additional details.

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from the UK and the Netherlands outline the genome-wide association study meta-analysis plus gene-set enrichment approach they used to search for genetic factors influencing individuals' relative dexterity with their right and left hands. Using a GWAS meta-analysis involving 728 individuals with dyslexia and more than 2,600 without, the team tracked down variant with significant ties to handedness in dyslexic individuals. The SNP fell in an enzyme-coding gene implicated in right-left asymmetry, prompting investigators to look for enrichment of less significantly associated handedness SNPs across genes contributing to left-right asymmetry in mice — a search that led to handedness-linked variants within genes from several such pathways. GWDN has more on the study, here.

Researchers from the University of Maryland and elsewhere used high-density microarrays to track gene expression patterns in human blood cells following 24 hours of exposure to Lassa virus or to an attenuated form of the Lassa virus, called ML29, developed through re-assortment with the non-pathogenic arenavirus Mopeia virus. Blood cells exposed to the Lassa and ML29 viruses displayed expression differences involving genes from coagulation, inflammation, signaling, apoptosis, and interferon-stimulated pathways, prompting the study's authors to argue that such genes may prove useful for understanding Lassa virus pathogenesis, gauging the effectiveness of potential treatments, or anticipating individuals' disease outcomes.

The Scan

Could Cost Billions

NBC News reports that the new Alzheimer's disease drug from Biogen could cost Medicare in the US billions of dollars.

Not Quite Sent

The Biden Administration likely won't meet its goal of sending 80 million SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses abroad by the end of the month, according to the Washington Post.

DTC Regulation Proposals

A new report calls on UK policymakers to review direct-to-consumer genetic testing regulations, the Independent reports.

PNAS Papers on Mosquito MicroRNAs, Acute Kidney Injury, Trichothiodystrophy

In PNAS this week: microRNAs involved in Aedes aegypti reproduction, proximal tubule cell response to kidney injury, and more.