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This Week in PNAS: Mar 19, 2013

Researchers with Cornell University and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research report on a new virus that appears to contribute to Theiler disease, an acute form of hepatitis in horses that's transmitted via blood products. The team performed metatranscriptomic sequencing on blood serum samples from horses involved in a Theiler disease outbreak and on a plasma product given to horses before they became ill. Analyses of the data revealed a new, highly divergent member of the hepatitis C virus-containing Flaviviridae family, dubbed "Theiler disease-associated virus." The team's subsequent epidemiological screen — which involved dozens of horses, including animals from other farms — indicated that TDAV infection coincided with acute, serum-associated hepatitis in those horses as well.

Our sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News has more on the study.

An international team led by investigators in France and the US presents a scheme for sorting through genetic information from individuals with a particular condition to uncover key genetic contributors. The gene network — known as the human gene connectome, or HGC — considers connections between genes based on their biological distance from one another, the researchers explain. In their PNAS study, for instance, the investigators used an analysis of inborn errors of Toll-like receptor 3 immunity to illustrate ways in which HGC and a related functional genomic alignment approach can expedite searches for players in Mendelian disease. "We demonstrated that the existing methods are more suitable for polygenic studies," they write, "whereas HGC approaches are more suitable for monogenic studies."

Researchers with Illumina in San Diego describe a scheme for quickly and cost-effectively generating long-range haplotyping information on a whole genome or portions of it. The method involves DNA dilution, multiple displacement amplification, and multiplexed sequencing of barcoded samples, they explain. It proved useful first for haplotyping a Duchenne muscular dystrophy region on the X chromosomes of two pooled male genomes, the group notes, and for haplotyping two complete human genomes — the genomes of a Yoruban male and a European female.