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This Week in PNAS: Mar 29, 2011

In the PNAS Early Edition this week, Stephen Quake and his colleagues at Stanford University report their development of a universal, non-invasive approach to monitor the health of transplanted organs that uses high-throughput shotgun sequencing to detect donor cell-free DNA circulating in recipients' blood. Quake et al. say that "cell-free DNA can be used to detect an organ-specific signature that correlates with rejection, and this measurement can be made on any combination of donor and recipient."

An international team led by investigators at the University of South Denmark shows that miR-138 modulates human mesenchymal stem cells' osteogenic differentiation. In particular, the team validates focal adhesion kinase "as a bona fide target of miR-138," and also shows that the microRNA "attenuates bone formation in vivo." Further, the team suggests that antimiR-138 therapy might be an efficient strategy to enhance bone formation.

Using comparative transcriptiomics, researchers at Louisiana State University show that Atlantic killfish, Fundulus heteroclitus, show non-neutral patterns of gene expression divergence between freshwater and brackish populations, especially at those loci "that are putatively involved in physiological acclimation" to salinity-induced stress. Contrary to the previously held thought, the authors write, "it is not the well-known effectors of osmotic acclimation, but rather the lesser-known immediate-early responses, that appear important in contributing to population differences" in F. heteroclitus.

Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Florida "demonstrate that gene therapy can prevent retinal degeneration in a mammalian BBS [Bardet-Biedl syndrome] model." The Baylor-UF team developed an adeno-associated viral vector that "rescues rhodopsin mislocalization, maintains nearly normal-appearing rod outer segments, and prevents photoreceptor death in the Bbs4-null mouse model," it reports online in PNAS this week.

The Scan

Study Reveals New Details About Genetics of Major Cause of Female Infertility

Researchers in Nature Medicine conducted a whole-exome sequencing study of mote than a thousand patients with premature ovarian insufficiency.

Circulating Tumor DNA Shows Potential as Biomarker in Rare Childhood Cancer

A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found that circulating tumor DNA levels in rhabdomyosarcoma may serve as a biomarker for prognosis.

Study Recommends Cancer Screening for Dogs Beginning Age Seven, Depending on Breed

PetDx researchers report in PLOS One that annual cancer screening for dogs should begin by age seven.

White-Tailed Deer Harbor SARS-CoV-2 Variants No Longer Infecting Humans, Study Finds

A new study in PNAS has found that white-tailed deer could act as a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 variants no longer found among humans.