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This Week in Science: Sep 21, 2013

In this week's Science, a team of Danish researchers report on the discovery of an epidermal microRNA involved in neuronal migration. They found that the Caenorhabditis elegans miR-79, an ortholog of mammalian miR-9, controls sugar-chain homeostasis by targeting two proteins in the proteoglycan biosynthetic pathway. Loss of miR-79 causes neurodevelopmental defects through gene dysregulation in the epidermis, triggering a partial shutdown of heparan sulfate biosynthesis that "impinges on a LON-2/glypican pathway and disrupts neuronal migration," the researchers say.

In Science Translational Medicine, Duke University researchers report that a gene expression signature can differentiate bacterial and viral respiratory infections. Drawing on two cohorts infected with the flu, they developed a RT-PCR TaqMan low-density array. They then tested the array using nearly 150 adults presenting at an emergency department with fever and healthy volunteers. From this, they report that the test could detected true respiratory viral infections about 89 percent of the time, with 94 percent specificity. "[W]e have established a 'proof of concept' that host expression of a relatively small set of genes, as measured by RT-PCR from blood RNA, can be used to classify viral respiratory illness in unselected individuals presenting at an emergency department for evaluation of fever," the researchers say. Such a test, they add, could limit the use of antibiotics to treat viral disease.

GenomeWeb Daily News has more on this study here.