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This Week in Nature: May 24, 2018

In Nature Genetics this week, a group led by researchers from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health presents data revealing a shared genetic architecture for asthma and allergic diseases. The researchers performed a genome-wide cross-trait analysis of SNP data for asthma and allergic diseases in 33,593 cases and 76,768 controls of European ancestry from the UK Biobank, and find a strong genome-wide genetic correlation between the conditions. They identify 38 genome-wide significant loci, including seven novel shared loci, while computational analysis shows that shared genetic loci are enriched in immune/inflammatory systems and tissues with epithelium cells. The work is expected to help "advance understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying co-morbid asthma and allergic diseases," the researchers say.

And in Nature Microbiology, an international research team publishes the genomes of members of the Laverania subgenus of the Plasmodium genus of parasites — which includes the malaria-causing P. falciparum — providing a new means to investigate the disease's virulence. By generating and analyzing multiple genomes from all known Laverania species, the investigators conclude that interspecific gene transfers and convergent evolution were key to the evolution of these species. Additionally, having a complete genome sequence of the closest ancestor of P. falciparum allowed the team to estimate the timing of the beginning of speciation to be between 40,000 years and 60,000 years ago, followed by a population bottleneck around 4,000 years to 6,000 years ago. "Our data allow us also to search in detail for the features of P. falciparum that made it the only member of the Laverania able to infect and spread in humans," the authors write. GenomeWeb has more on this study, here.

The Scan

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.

Sequencing Analysis Examines Gene Regulatory Networks of Honeybee Soldier, Forager Brains

Researchers in Nature Ecology & Evolution find gene regulatory network differences between soldiers and foragers, suggesting bees can take on either role.

Analysis of Ashkenazi Jewish Cohort Uncovers New Genetic Loci Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

The study in Alzheimer's & Dementia highlighted known genes, but also novel ones with biological ties to Alzheimer's disease.

Tara Pacific Expedition Project Team Finds High Diversity Within Coral Reef Microbiome

In papers appearing in Nature Communications and elsewhere, the team reports on findings from the two-year excursion examining coral reefs.