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This Week in PLoS: Jan 4, 2010

This week in PLoS ONE, a pair of New Zealand researchers attempted to predict co-variation between genes based on phylogeny. The duo applied generalized linear models to try to determine the functions of genes in a handful of prokaryotic organisms using gene tree branch length information. Though the accuracy varied with gene ontology group, the researchers reported that the approach was especially accurate for some genes, including those involved in translation.

Australian and American researchers did a meta-population genetic analysis of promising potential malaria vaccine antigens. After assembling and comparing more than 4,500 Plasmodium falciparum antigen sequences, the team found haplotype sub-groups of varying diversity — and concluded that current malaria vaccines are based on a low prevalence haplotype from a single sub-group.

Unspliced HIV-1 RNA levels may help predict an individual's outcome following combination anti-retroviral therapy or cART, Vladimir Lukashov and his team report. They used semi-nested real-time PCR-based methods to measure proviral HIV-1 DNA, unspliced RNA, and multiply spliced RNA in blood samples from 26 cART-treated individuals with undetectable viral levels in their blood plasma. "Use of this quantitative assay in the standard laboratory practice could aid in monitoring the course of cART and facilitate the early detection of drug-resistant escape mutants before the actual failure of the therapy," they write.

In PLoS Computational Biology, Jos Jonkers and team described their computational methods for finding networks of copy number changes that occur together in tumor cell lines. By distinguishing co-occurring gains and losses from passenger and single mutations, they found a network of alterations affecting known cancer genes and other functionally informative genes. "Our findings suggest that large-scale, low-intensity copy number alterations may be an important feature of cancer development or maintenance by affecting gene dosage of a large interconnected network of functionally related genes," the researchers write.

The Scan

US Booster Eligibility Decision

The US CDC director recommends that people at high risk of developing COVID-19 due to their jobs also be eligible for COVID-19 boosters, in addition to those 65 years old and older or with underlying medical conditions.

Arizona Bill Before Judge

The Arizona Daily Star reports that a judge is weighing whether a new Arizona law restricting abortion due to genetic conditions is a ban or a restriction.

Additional Genes

Wales is rolling out new genetic testing service for cancer patients, according to BBC News.

Science Papers Examine State of Human Genomic Research, Single-Cell Protein Quantification

In Science this week: a number of editorials and policy reports discuss advances in human genomic research, and more.