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This Week in Science: Dec 20, 2013

In this week's Science, a group of international researchers reports on new details about the genome of Amborella trichopoda, the oldest of all angiosperms. In one paper, the team published the plant's comprehensive nuclear genome, offering insights into the diversification of flowering plants. In a second paper, the scientists present the complete mitochondrial genome of Amborella, showing that much of it was acquired by horizontal gene transfer with other organisms such as mosses. In the final paper, the group discusses the use of next-generation sequence technologies, fluorescent in situ hybridization, and whole-genome mapping to assemble a high-quality genome sequence for the plant. "As the only extant member of an ancient lineage, Amborella provides a unique window into the earliest events in angiosperm evolution," the team notes.

GenomeWeb Daily News has more on these papers here.

Also in Science, the journal named clinical genomics as an area to watch in 2014, stating that, in the coming year, more and more doctors will request patients' genomic sequences — either in their entirety or partially — in order to diagnose diseases and guide treatments. "Several studies will explore whether sequencing should become part of newborn screening and even guide the medical care of healthy people," while there will be increasing discussion about whether incidental results from sequencing should be revealed to patients, Science says.

Science also notes that its predictions for 2013 did OK, generating some mixed results. It gives itself a thumbs-up on calling out single-cell sequencing and connectomes as some of this year's trends.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.