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On-Demand Gene Therapy Approach Shows Promise for Epilepsy

A gene therapy approach for brain circuit disorders that tamps down the excitability of overactive neurons is reported in Science this week. Many neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric circuit disorders are characterized by intermittent episodes of pathological activity. Experimental genetic therapies hold potential for such conditions but are limited by their inability to distinguish between neurons involved in the pathologies and other regions of the brain. In this week's study, a group led by University College London researchers describe a novel strategy based on a transgene that decreases neuronal excitability in hyperactive neurons but becomes inactive once the cells return to normal. The researchers demonstrate the technique in a mouse model of epilepsy, showing that it suppress seizures without affecting normal behaviors. Given that epilepsy is just one of a number of diseases characterized by brain circuit hyperactivity, this approach has wide clinical potential, the study's authors write.

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.