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This Week in PLoS: Jul 27, 2009

Scientists at Roche have used computational methods to screen for small molecule kinase inhibitors (SMKIs) that bind to more than one kinase and cause damage to chromosomes. Using a competitive binding assay, they tested the binding affinity of 113 SMKIs against a representative subset of all 290 kinases. They were able to identify kinases that correlate with chromosome damage, "providing a basis for rational drug design away from genotoxicity," they say. Their paper was published in PLoS Computational Biology this week.

Willie Swanson was lead author on work published this week in PLoS Genetics that looked at the co-evolution of egg and sperm proteins by resequencing sperm lysin and its interacting egg coat protein, VERL, in two species of abalone. He and his team discovered "two coevolutionary signatures," one being an association of variants between the egg and sperm genes and the other that both genes changed at correlated rates over millions of years of evolution, they say in the author summary.

Institute for Systems Biology scientists employed numerous techniques to study heterogeneity in cell populations. Their method used flow cytometry, parallel cDNA synthesis, and qPCR to measure gene expression of many genes in different single-cell samples, allowing them to detect about 30 mRNA molecules per cell. They also found that there was "unexpected heterogeneity in the expression of 5 immune-related genes in sets of single macrophages activated by different microbial stimuli." Their work appears in PLoS One this week.

Daniel Fletcher and other UC Berkeley researchers have created a mobile phone-mounted light microscope for use in clinical diagnosis in the developing world. Their paper was published last week in PLoS One. They used it to image malaria parasite and sickle red blood cells in brightfield, as well as to capture fluorescence images of cells infected with the tuberculosis bacterium. They hope the technology can be used in the developing world and rural areas where there are few labs but a lot of mobile cell phone networks.

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.