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PLOS Papers on Ovarian Cancer MicroRNAs, Cerebral Ataxia in Dogs, Dengue Fever Markers

MicroRNAs in blood serum may help identify early-stage ovarian cancer cases, according to a team from Italy and Brazil. As they report in PLOS One, the researchers used droplet digital PCR to assess miRNAs in blood serum samples from 72 individuals with untreated stage I to IV ovarian cancer and from more than 100 unaffected control individuals, identifying almost four dozen miRNAs that appeared to have altered expression in samples from gynecological cancer patients. They went on to develop a predictive model based on two miRNAs and two existing protein markers that showed promise for distinguishing blood samples from individuals with early-stage ovarian cancer from healthy control samples. "The clinical utility of the miRNA model should be validated in a prospective cohort in order to investigate their feasibility as an ovarian cancer early detection tool," the authors write.

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from the University of Bern, the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, and Germany's Laboklin describe a SELENOP gene deletion that appears to contribute to a form of inherited cerebellar ataxia in Belgian Shepherd dogs. Using linkage and homozygosity mapping on four affected pups, along with genome sequence data on one case and hundreds of control dogs, the team searched for parts of the genome associated with hereditary cerebellar ataxia, focusing on dogs with central nervous system (CNS) atrophy symptoms. The analysis led to a chromosome 4 deletion that lopped out SELENOP, which codes for a selenoprotein P implicated in selenium transport and storage, while follow-up experiments pointed to lower-than-usual selenium levels in blood samples from affected pups with the mutation. From these and other results, the authors suggest that "deletion of the SELENOP gene in dogs cause[s] a defect in selenium transport associated with CNS atrophy and cerebellar ataxia."

A Guangzhou Medical University and Wuhan Polytechnic University team presents proposed dengue fever biomarkers for a paper in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. By analyzing array-based expression data from three Gene Expression Omnibus datasets, the investigators identified sets of genes with distinct expression profiles in individuals with or without dengue virus infections, narrowing in on dozens of genes that were consistently upregulated or dialed down in the dengue fever cases. That set included 12 hub genes, they report, prompting a series of analyses into related regulatory microRNAs, protein interactions, and over-represented pathways. "Our study may have potential implications for future prediction of disease progression in symptomatic dengue patients," the authors conclude, "and has important significance for the pathogenesis and targeted therapy of dengue."