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This Week in Science: Aug 17, 2012

In this week's Science, researchers from Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins University describe how DNA can be used to store information at greater densities than digital media. Even though the ability to store messages in DNA was first shown in 1988, the largest project to date encoded a mere 7,920 bits, reflecting the "difficulty of writing and reading long perfect DNA sequences." Using a novel approach based on next-generation DNA synthesis and sequencing technologies, the researchers now encoded an html-coded draft of a 53,000-word book with 11 JPG images and one JavaScript program in a 5.27 megabit bitstream. With continued technological advances, they noted, DNA could some day become a cheap and effective data-storage medium.

Also in Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill investigators and their colleagues proposed a new scheme by which intestinal inflammation promotes colorectal cancer. In addition to directly altering physiology to facilitate tumor growth, inflammation was shown to modify the microbial composition in colitis-susceptible interleukin-10-deficient mice, reducing the overall number of species while boosting the growth of Escherichia coli. The result is the production of a genotoxin that appears to contribute to cancer independently of inflammation.

Over in Science Translational Medicine, a team led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers detail the development of tumor-penetrating nanocomplexes capable of carrying therapeutic RNAi molecules deep into tumors. The delivery vehicles are comprised of siRNAs targeting the ovarian cancer oncogene ID4 that have been complexed with a tandem tumor-penetrating and membrane-translocating peptide. When delivered to mice, the nanocomplexes entered the tumor parenchyma, the siRNAs silenced their target, significantly suppressing tumor growth.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.