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Damaged Telomere Elongation Analysis Points to Potential Cancer Treatment Target

In a paper appearing in PNAS this week, a University of Lisbon team describes diminished telomere integrity in the presence of cancer-related alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT), which could be combated by targeting a related telomeric repeat-containing RNA. The damaged telomere elongation occurs via a break-induced replication, the researchers explain, noting that cell line experiments, fluorescence in situ hybridization analyses, qRT-PCR, gene expression profiling, and other approaches suggest ALT activity can be dialed down by reducing transcription of a telomeric, long non-coding RNA known as TERRA. Based on these and other results, the authors conclude that ALT "has to be kept under control to allow telomere elongation and indefinite cell proliferation without excessive telomere loss," and suggest that "TERRA transcription represents an exceptionally versatile target for ALT cancer therapy; indeed, both increasing and decreasing TERRA transcription should hinder cancer cell proliferation by compromising telomere maintenance."

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.