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This Week in Nature: Nov 30, 2017

In Nature this week, members of the Anopheles gambiae 1000 Genomes Consortium present a genomic analysis of A. gambiae and A. coluzzii mosquitos — the two primary malaria hosts in Africa. The researchers sequenced 765 specimens of the two species from 15 locations across eight African countries featuring a range of ecologies. They found that the genomes of individual mosquitoes carry between 1.7 million and 2.7 million variant alleles, confirming that they are among the most genetically diverse eukaryotic species. The team also discovered strong signals of recent selection in insecticide-resistance genes. Based on the findings, the scientists say that new tools for mosquito control should take into account the high levels of genetic diversity in natural mosquito populations. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.

Also in Nature, collaborators from the Scripps Research Institute and Synthorx describe a semi-synthetic bacterium capable of storing and retrieving man-made genetic information. The team previously produced a semi-synthetic strain of the Escherichia coli that incorporated an extended genetic code containing two unnatural nucleotides in addition to the four natural nucleotides of pair to form DNA. While that bacterium could maintain and reproduce the altered genetic code, it was unclear whether the added nucleotides could be used to encode protein. In their latest effort, the scientists were able to engineer a bacterium that could efficiently transcribe and translate the unnatural nucleotides in order to synthesize protein containing unnatural amino acids. The work, the authors state, may serve as a platform for the creation of new life forms and functions.

The Scan

Topical Compound to Block EGFR Inhibitors May Ease Skin Toxicities, Study Finds

A topical treatment described in Science Translational Medicine may limit skin toxicities seen with EGFR inhibitor therapy.

Dozen Genetic Loci Linked to Preeclampsia Risk in New GWAS

An analysis of genome-wide association study data in JAMA Cardiology finds genetic loci linked to preeclampsia that have ties to blood pressure.

Cancer Survival Linked to Mutational Burden in Pan-Cancer Analysis

A pan-cancer paper appearing in JCO Precision Oncology suggests tumor mutation patterns provide clues for predicting cancer survival that are independent of other prognostic factors.

Australian Survey Points to Public Support for Genetic Risk Disclosure in Relatives of At-Risk Individuals

A survey in the European Journal of Human Genetics suggests most adult Australians are in favor of finding out if a relative tests positive for a medically actionable genetic variant.