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Removal Inquiry

The US National Institutes of Health is looking into the removal of SARS-CoV-2 data from a gene sequence database it oversees, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In June, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Jesse Bloom reported in a preprint posted to BioRxiv that he was able to reconstruct from Google Cloud data some early SARS-CoV-2 sequences that had been deposited in the Sequence Read Archive but later removed. Bloom, as Science reported then, suggested that the sequences had been removed from the database to "obscure their existence."

The New York Times further reported at the time that the researchers who added the sequences to the database had asked the SRA to remove them as they were being updated and would be deposited to a different database. The Times reported in August that those sequences were now housed at a database maintained by China National Center for Bioinformation and that the researchers attributed their removal request to a misunderstanding.

As the Journal reports, the episode concerned three lawmakers in the US, who wrote to NIH Director Francis Collins to seek further explanation. It adds that, in response, Collins said a review at NIH was underway to examine "whether appropriate steps were taken to assess this withdrawal request."

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.