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Level of Transparency

An expert panel in the US is weighing whether more transparency is needed surrounding federally funded gain-of-function viral research efforts, Nature News reports.

In 2014, the White House suspended federal funding for certain gain-of-function research projects involving the influenza, SARS, and MERS viruses while it conducted a review to assess the potential risks and benefits of such research. Concerns arose regarding gain-of-function studies in 2011 when researchers from the US and Europe sought to publish how they modified the H5N1 bird flu to be more easily transmitted. This led the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to ask the groups to redact some of the details of their work so that it didn't fall into the wrong hands.

This moratorium was lifted in 2017 as the National Institutes of Health developed a framework for assessing gain-of-function studies, including determining whether the labs where the researchers work are equipped for such a project.

But Nature News notes that part of this assessment is shrouded from public view, as there is no public explanation of why a study is approved, who was on the panel that gave it the OK, or when the research is to start. Others, though, argue that these disclosure might make such research more difficult, it adds. NSABB is now reviewing the current guidelines.

The Scan

Genetic Ancestry of South America's Indigenous Mapuche Traced

Researchers in Current Biology analyzed genome-wide data from more than five dozen Mapuche individuals to better understand their genetic history.

Study Finds Variants Linked to Diverticular Disease, Presents Polygenic Score

A new study in Cell Genomics reports on more than 150 genetic variants associated with risk of diverticular disease.

Mild, Severe Psoriasis Marked by Different Molecular Features, Spatial Transcriptomic Analysis Finds

A spatial transcriptomics paper in Science Immunology finds differences in cell and signaling pathway activity between mild and severe psoriasis.

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.