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Nature Papers Present Smartphone Platform for DNA Diagnosis of Malaria, Mouse Lines for Epigenomic Editing

A smartphone-based platform for the multiplexed DNA diagnosis of malaria is reported in Nature Electronics this week, representing a low-cost tool for infectious disease detection and surveillance in resource-limited settings. Despite the existence of rapid, point-of-care diagnostics for malaria, many remote, low-resource communities lack access to such tests. At the same time, results reporting in such locales remains a challenge. Aiming to overcome these problems, a team led by scientists from the University of Glasgow developed a system that combines a paper-based microfluidic diagnostic test with a smartphone app that uses deep learning algorithms to provide local decision support such as results analysis. The platform also includes blockchain end-to-end connectivity to enable local healthcare staff to securely interpret and report the outcomes of diagnostic readouts. The platform was validated in field tests in rural Uganda, where it correctly identified more than 98 percent of tested cases, the researchers report.

The generation and characterization of two conditional transgenic mouse lines for epigenome editing with CRISPR-based systems is described in this week's Nature Methods. CRISPR-Cas9-based epigenome editing has become increasingly common, with the fusion of chromatin-modifying domains to nuclease-deactivated Cas9 (dCas9) enabling targeted epigenome editing in both cultured cells and animal models. Still, the delivery of large dCas9 fusion proteins to target cells and tissues remains an obstacle to in vivo studies. In the study, a Duke University-led team developed two Cre-inducible transgenic mouse lines for targeted activation or repression of promoters and non-coding regulatory elements in vivo or in primary cells ex vivo, including in the liver, T cells, fibroblasts, and neurons. "These mouse lines are convenient and valuable tools for facile, temporally controlled, and tissue-restricted epigenome editing and manipulation of gene expression in vivo," the scientists write.

The Scan

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.

Gut Microbiomes Allow Bears to Grow to Similar Sizes Despite Differing Diets

Researchers in Scientific Reports find that the makeup of brown bears' gut microbiomes allows them to reach similar sizes even when feasting on different foods.

Finding Safe Harbor in the Human Genome

In Genome Biology, researchers present a new approach to identify genomic safe harbors where transgenes can be expressed without affecting host cell function.

New Data Point to Nuanced Relationship Between Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder

Lund University researchers in JAMA Psychiatry uncover overlapping genetic liabilities for major depression and bipolar disorder.