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This Week in Science: Aug 16, 2014

In this week's Science, researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center show how the gene-editing technology CRISPR/Cas 9 can be used to prevent muscle degeneration in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The investigators removed embryos from pregnant mutant mice, injected them with CRISPR molecules designed to target and correct the dystrophin mutation, and then transferred the embryos back into wild-type female mice. The newborns showed restoration of normal gene expression and normal skeletal muscle function even when only 17 percent of their cells were gene-corrected. GenomeWeb Daily News has more on this here.

Also in Science, a team from the Weizmann Institute of Science described the creation of programmable on-chip DNA compartments that act as artificial cells. The two-dimensional DNA compartments were fabricated in silicon and proved capable of metabolism, programmable protein synthesis, and communication. Gene expression in the DNA compartment reveals a "rich, dynamic system that is controlled by geometry, offering a means for studying biological networks outside a living cell," the researchers say.

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.