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This Week in Nature: Sep 15, 2016

In Nature Chemical Biology this week, a team from the Genome Institute of Singapore reports on the development of a new CRISPR/Cas9 system that can be switched on or off in human cells chemically, enabling rapid and reversible gene editing. The system uses a variant of Cas9 — the enzyme that causes targeted double-strand breaks in CRISPR genome editing — that is activated in with 4-hydroxytamoxifen. According to the investigators, the variant can be toggled on and off repeatedly and more quickly than other chemical-inducible methods.

And in Nature Genetics, an international group of researchers presents a large-scale meta-analysis identifying rare and common genetic variants associated with blood pressure and hypertension, providing new insights into the pathophysiology of these chronic cardiovascular disorders. Using data from 51 studies involving roughly 350,000 individuals, the investigators genotyped rare, low-frequency, and common genetic variations. They identified 30 new blood pressure- or hypertension-associated genetic regions in the general population, including three rare missense variants with greater effects than common variants. The findings, the authors write, "highlight the contribution of rare variants in the etiology of blood pressure in the general population," and point to potential new targets for clinical intervention. GenomeWeb has more on this and related studies 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.