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This Week in Science: Mar 29, 2014

In this week's Science, a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers reports the first synthetic eukaryotic chromosome, which was developed from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The eukaryote's genome includes 12 million nucleotides, and the scientists focused on yeast chromosome III, which contains more than 2.5 percent of those nucleotides. After using software to amend certain portions of the chromosome, the researchers built a version of it from individual nucleotides. When the artificial chromosomes were introduced into living yeast cells, they functioned normally, suggesting that yeast can be manipulated for medical or commercial applications, such as producing more ethanol than natural yeast or growing under unfavorable conditions. The work also sets the stage for designer eukaryotic genome biology, the researchers say.

In Science Translational Medicine, scientists from McGill University and the University of Leuven offer an overview of the state of whole-genome sequencing in newborns, which expands the range of detectable disorders beyond what is possible with traditional screening methods. They highlight the social, legal, educational, and ethical issues associated with expanding newborn screening programs to include whole-genome sequencing, emphasizing the importance of pediatric health in the decision-making process. "In short, when addressing WGS and newborn screening, it is important to consider not only the therapeutic and prevention benefits for the child but also the associated ethical, legal, and practical issues," they add.