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This Week in Science: Dec 12, 2008

In the news section, one story focuses on the relief of many researchers that President-elect Obama will overturn the Bush Administration's restrictions on stem cell research. "Gone will be onerous requirements to keep federally funded ES cell research separate from privately funded research using non-approved lines," says the article. Another story says that the recent Biosummit held in Washington, DC plans to draw up a white paper to get the Obama Administration to focus on the life sciences. Finally, NIH plans to tighten conflict-of-interest regulations in the wake of Senator Chuck Grassley finding that three NIH-funded Harvard psychiatrists did not report their outside income.

University of Michigan researchers say that the loss of one or both loci encoding microRNA-101 leads to the overexpression of EZH2 and the dysregulation of epigenetic pathways. That then results in cancer progression, particularly in human prostate cancer which was their model.

Researchers led by Peter Fraser show how the noncoding RNA Air might work to epigenetically silence transcription. Air is paternally imprinted and, in mice, silences the cis-linked Slc22a3, Slc22a2, and Igf2r genes. They show that Air interacts with the Slc22a3 promoter chromatin and the H3K9 histone methyltransferase G9a in placenta and that it accumulates at the Slc22a3 promoter, though not if it is in a truncated form. They conclude that Air silences through targeting histone-modifying activities by interacting with certain chromatin domains.

Another paper shows through a genome-wide association study that five percent of the Lancaster Amish are heterozygous carriers of a null mutation in the APOC3 gene and thus express half the amount of APOC3. People with the null mutation had higher HDL and lower LDL cholesterol levels and lower levels of subclinical atherosclerosis than noncarriers, indicating that the APOC3 deficiency is cardioprotective. According to the BBC, the researchers think the first person with the mutation was born in mid-1700s.


The Scan

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.

Circulating Tumor DNA Linked to Post-Treatment Relapse in Breast Cancer

Post-treatment detection of circulating tumor DNA may identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse, a new JCO Precision Oncology study finds.

Genetics Influence Level of Depression Tied to Trauma Exposure, Study Finds

Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.