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Some Guarded Hope

Families with children with rare genetic diseases are cautiously hopeful that CRISPR-based gene editing will someday mean a treatment, but the Deseret News writes that the technique still needs to be refined and comes with some ethical concerns.

It reports that the parents of Henri Bigelow, a 7-year-old with muscular dystrophy, are cautiously optimistic that CRISPR tools could be used to edit the genes of someone like their son to fix a mutation. If such an approach works, the University of Utah's Dana Carroll tells the Deseret News that "that patient will have a cure for that disease for the rest of their life."

But, the paper notes, the technology isn't quite there yet and has to be further vetted to make sure its cuts are precise and it can be delivered to the cells where it is needed. In addition, it notes that editing the genomes of children like Henri who were born with a genetic disease raises little debate, but uses that involve the human germline or that involve more aesthetic alterations have raised concerns.

The Bigelow family, though, isn't getting its hopes up too high, says the Deseret News. "You want to have the hope but, at the same time, it's scary," Henri's mother Alexis Bigelow says. 

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.