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Turns Pink

Researchers have developed a test to detect traces of cancer from within patients' blood, the Guardian reports. The test, which it notes is still in development, only takes about 10 minutes, but cannot determine what type of cancer is present.

"Our technique could be a screening tool to inform clinicians that a patient may have a cancer, but they would require subsequent tests with other techniques to identify the cancer type and stage," the University of Queensland's Laura Carrascosa tells the Guardian.

The test Carrascosa and her colleagues developed relies on detecting the epigenetic reprogramming that occurs in cancer cells. Epigenetic reprogramming of cancer genomes affects their physicochemical properties in comparison to normal genomic DNA, including how they act in solution and interact with metals like gold. This formed the basis of their test, which changes color if cancer is detected, as the researchers report in Nature Communications this week.

To assess its potential clinical applications, the researchers examined 72 epigenomes from 54 breast, eight prostate, and 10 lymphoma cancer samples and 31 epigenomes from the same tissue types obtained from healthy individuals to find their approach had high specificity for detecting cancer.

"The test is promising, but it really needs to be applied from some carefully collected and characterized samples in order to be able to judge its potential usefulness as a diagnostic test," adds the University of Cambridge's Paul Pharoah, who was not involved in the work, at the Telegraph.

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.