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This Week in Science: Jun 1, 2012

Researchers at the University of York, along with their collaborators at GlaxoSmithKline, present a transcriptomic analysis of noscapine — "an antitumor alkaloid from opium poppy that binds tubulin, arrests metaphase, and induces apoptosis in dividing human cells," they write in a paper published online in advance this week in Science. In its analysis, the team uncovered the "expression of 10 genes encoding five distinct enzyme classes in a high noscapine-producing poppy variety, HN1."

Radoje Drmanac, founder and CSO at Complete Genomics, calls whole-genome sequencing "the ultimate genetic test" in this week's Science. "Instead of handling different types of partial data sets or making decisions without genetic data, once comprehensive and ultimate genetic information provided by WGS [whole-genome sequencing] is broadly accepted, many health-related industries can standardize their approaches around WGS data," Drmanac says.

In a separate, but related, article in this week's issue, the University of British Columbia's Liam Brunham and Michael Hayden say that while "WGS has been used with great effect in specific settings to clarify molecular diagnosis and even to guide therapy," it is not yet ready for primetime. "We simply do not have sufficient numbers of trained individuals to meaningfully translate these results," Brunham and Hayden say. "The exponential advances in sequencing technology have exposed major obstacles to personalized medicine on any large scale."

Over in Science Translational Medicine, a team led by investigators at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute presents TAm-seq, a method for tagged-amplicon deep sequencing, which it applied to identify TP53 mutations in circulating DNA from 46 plasma samples from advanced ovarian cancer patients. Our sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News has more on this study.

The Scan

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.

Study Tracks Outcomes in Children Born to Zika Virus-Infected Mothers

By following pregnancy outcomes for women with RT-PCR-confirmed Zika virus infections, researchers saw in Lancet Regional Health congenital abnormalities in roughly one-third of live-born children.

Team Presents Benchmark Study of RNA Classification Tools

With more than 135 transcriptomic datasets, researchers tested two dozen coding and non-coding RNA classification tools, establishing a set of potentially misclassified transcripts, as they report in Nucleic Acids Research.

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.