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This Week in Nature: Jul 23, 2015

In Nature this week, a team of Spanish researchers publishes data suggesting that one type of blood cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, makes alterations to the non-coding regions of patients' genomes that influence disease outcomes. The scientists studied samples from more than 500 patients and discovered around 60 genetic mutations that occurred in multiple samples. They also found a number of recurrent mutations in non-coding genomic regions, including one that was associated with more aggressive disease.

Also in Nature, a group led by Harvard Medical School reports the results of a study indicating that some Amazonian Native Americans descended from a founding population related to indigenous Australasians. By analyzing genome-wide data from 30 Native American populations in Central and South America, as well as 197 non-American populations globally, the investigators found that native populations from Amazonia derive a small part of their ancestry from a population most closely related to indigenous Australians, New Guineans, and Andaman Islanders than to present-day Eurasians or Native Americans. They also note that other present-day native populations from North and Central America appear to lack this genetic profile. GenomeWeb has more on this and a related Science study, here.

And in Nature Genetics, researchers from the University of Cambridge describe the use of whole-genome sequencing to uncover new details about Barrett's esophagus and a cancer, called esophageal adenocarcinoma that it often develops into. By analyzing 23 paired samples from both conditions, as well as one in-depth Barrett’s esophagus case study sampled over time and space, they discovered certain genetic aberrations that may contribute to the progression from one disease to the other. GenomeWeb also covers this and related work here.

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.