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This Week in Nature: Mar 16, 2017

In this week's Nature, a University of Cambridge-led team reports the calculation of 3D structures of individual mammalian genomes using data from a new chromosome conformation capture procedure. The technique enables genome folding to be examined at a scale of less than 100 kb, and allows chromosome structures to be validated. The researchers used the approach to study genes regulated by pluripotency factor and nucleosome remodeling deacetylase, showing how "the determination of single-cell genome structure provides a new approach for investigating biological processes."

And in Nature Genetics, a group of French scientists publishes their reconstruction of the most recent common ancestor of flowering plants, using their findings to estimate that angiosperms emerged about 214 million years ago. The work, they say, provides a starting point for deciphering the reticulated evolutionary plasticity between species, subgenomes, genomic compartments, genes, and functions — the key mutational forces driving the success of polyploidy in crops. It also provides a resource for dissecting major agronomic traits in translational genomics studies, they add.

Finally, in Nature Communications, researchers from the National Eye Institute report using the genome-editing technology CRISPR to prevent retinitis pigmentosa in mice. The disease is characterized by the degeneration of the rod cells, which in turn causes the death of cone cells. Rather than address the genetic mutations that cause the condition, the researchers used CRISPR to disrupt a gene that determines rod cell identity, causing them to adopt features of cone cells, which are more resistant to the disease-causing mutations. The treatment was shown to prevent retinal degeneration and improve vision in mouse models, suggesting it may be useful to treat retinal degeneration conditions regardless of the underlying genetic causes.