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This Week in Nature: Oct 8, 2015

In Nature this week, an international team of researchers presents an analysis of the genome sequences of 198 living bird species, offering an in-depth look at the evolutionary relationships of modern birds. The researchers analyzed more than 390,000 bases of genomic sequence data from each of the species, which represent all major bird lineages plus two crocodilian subgroups. The findings are consistent with the fossil record, supporting a major radiation of birds follow the Cretaceous-Palaeogene mass extinction about 65 million years ago, and point to the presence of five major bird groups.

And in Nature Immunology, researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine present data implicating a microRNA in emphysema. The researchers found that microRNA-22 is overexpressed in the lungs of smokers, as compared with non-smokers, and that mice exposed to cigarette smoke or particles that mimic soot experience an increase in the miRNAs expression. In in vitro experiments, the group demonstrated that miR-22 inhibits the expression of a specific enzyme that mediates the recruitment of inflammatory-response cells, whose activation contributes to the loss of lung function. When mice were modified so that they cannot express miR-22, they did not develop lung disease after exposure to smoke or carbon nanoparticles, suggesting that the miRNA could be a target for treating emphysema and other inflammatory conditions.

The Scan

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.

Study Links Evolution of Stony Coral Skeleton to Bicarbonate Transporter Gene

A PNAS paper focuses on a skeleton-related bicarbonate transporter gene introduced to stony coral ancestors by tandem duplication.

Hormone-Based Gene Therapy to Sterilize Domestic Cat

A new paper in Nature Communication suggests that gene therapy could be a safer alternative to spaying domestic cats.