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PLOS Papers on SARS-CoV-2 Diversity in Delaware, Metastatic Breast Cancer, Adiposity GWAS

As they report in PLOS One, Nemours Children's Hospital Delaware researchers report on findings from a genomic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 isolates circulating in Delaware during the pandemic. Based on sequence data for almost 1,500 samples collected in the state through late 2021, the team tracked down 88 viral lineages falling into 16 clades, while flagging more than 2,200 coding mutations that distinguish Delaware isolates from the original SARS-CoV-2 strain. "These data reveal not only the specific SARS-CoV-2 strains infecting the population and the mutations they harbor," the authors write, "but also how those have changed over time as the genetic diversity of the viral genome has grown."

For another paper in PLOS One, a team from Iran and the US considers gene expression and protein-protein interaction patterns in cell lines generated from metastatic breast cancer tumors, comparing these to gene expression and protein interaction profiles in tumors from individuals with primary breast cancer. From the genes that were differentially expressed in the metastatic tumors, the researchers narrowed in on a handful of network hub genes and functional pathways that were shared in metastases present at both lung and brain sites. "Our study provides a new deeper insight into [a] better understanding of these hub genes and the pathways involved in tumor progression," they write. "The obtained data have depicted that certain hub genes are correlated with brain and lung metastases from breast cancer, suggesting that they can potentially be used in novel therapeutic strategies."

At least 13 genetic loci appear linked to adiposity traits such as body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, body fat percentages, and wait-to-hip ratios in individuals in Taiwan, according to a paper in PLOS Genetics by a Taipei Medical University-led team. Using SNP profiles for nearly 22,000 Taiwan Biobank participants between 30 and 70 years old, the researchers uncovered more than a dozen loci with genome-wide significant ties to adiposity features — a set that included seven BMI-linked loci, two waist circumference-associated loci, three loci with ties to body fat percentage, and a single locus associated with waist-to-hip ratios. Even so, the authors note that "[a] heritability analysis revealed a slightly lower than expected variance of adiposity traits that could be explained by genetic predispositions, suggesting the importance of behavioral interventions to improve adiposity."

The Scan

Call for a Different Tack

Experts weigh the value of recent experiments testing genetically modified pig kidneys using brain-dead individuals, according to Nature News.

Wastewater Warning

The New York Times reports that wastewater surveillance in some parts of the US point to a possible surge.

Can't Get in the Program

Due to the Northern Ireland protocol dispute, the European Union is preventing UK researchers from joining the Horizon Europe research program, the Times of London reports.

Science Paper on Spatial-Controlled Genome Editing

In Science this week: approach to enable a CRISPR-Cas13a-based system to be used as a cancer therapy.