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This Week in Science: Dec 6, 2013

In this week's Science, a team led by researchers at the Rockefeller University and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York report on the discovery that a single microRNA that is highly expressed in the brains of humans and mice is capable of controlling neuron excitability. The scientists created mice that expressed the small, non-coding RNA at different levels in their brains and found that underexpression of MiR-128 led to fatal seizures. Overexpression decreased motor activity and prevented drug-induced seizures. The findings suggest that the microRNA may be developed as a therapeutic target for severe cases of epilepsy.

Meanwhile, three groups of investigators published reviews on advances made in studying single-cell activity and function. In one, a scientist from ETH Zurich discusses recent progress profiling the metabolomes of single cells including the development of new tagging methodologies. In the second, California Institute of Technology scientists consider the challenges in understanding how regulatory sequences in our genomes control gene expression in all cells, and touch on the importance of studying transcription on a cell-by-cell basis. Finally, Harvard researchers discuss single-cell genetic circuits and their impact on cell function.

In Science Translational Medicine, Stanford University researchers report data showing how high-throughput DNA sequencing can be used to detect signs of residual cancer in skin and blood cells from lymphoma patients. The approach proved highly sensitive to even the smallest amounts of malignant T cells and could potentially be developed as a tool for managing skin lymphoma in patients following therapeutic allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation.