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This Week in Nature: Dec 3, 2015

In Nature this week, the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna and Harvard Medical School's George Church weigh in on the gene-editing debate, discussing the implications of using technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9 to modify heritable human genes. Doudna maintains that the science and its possible consequences are too unclear to allow the human germline to be edited, but she falls short of calling for a complete ban on related research. Meanwhile, Church notes that there are already restrictions on using unproven medical technologies, so that researchers should work on gene editing as much as possible under existing guidelines. GenomeWeb has more on these opinion pieces here.

Meanwhile, in Nature Neuroscience, a team of UK and Canadian researchers describes how genetic variation influences DNA methylation — a process hypothesized to be important in schizophrenia — in the developing brain. In the study, the investigators found that genetic variants associated with schizophrenia were enriched for changes that affect DNA methylation in the developing brain. Notably, some genetic risk factors for the disease were associated with differences in DNA methylation as early as the first and second trimester. The results suggest an epigenetic component to the developmental origins of schizophrenia, according to the researchers.