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This Week in PLOS: May 1, 2017

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from the University of Washington, the University of North Carolina, and elsewhere present red blood cell-related genetic findings from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos. The team performed a genome-wide association study involving more than 12,500 individuals with ancestry from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central America, the Dominican Republic, or South America, who had been genotyped with a custom array and had available red blood cell measurements such as hemoglobin levels, red blood cell counts, and so on. Information at directly genotyped and imputed SNPs led to new and known SNPs and copy number changes associated with red blood cell traits that were subsequently validated using data for nearly 7,100 more Hispanic or Latino individuals from three other study cohorts.

A Baylor College of Medicine team tracks skin microbiome patterns prospectively in 15 preterm infants born before 32 weeks gestation or a paper in PLOS One. Based on 16S ribosomal RNA sequences found in swabs from the infant's forehead, inner elbow, and baby butt skin, the researchers saw ties between gestational age and microbial community richness at the skin sites, though skin microbiome composition was relatively consistent from one site to the next in each infant. Investigators say the findings "will spur the development of interventions that aim to optimize the neonatal cutaneous microbiome (skin-targeted prebiotic or probiotic therapies), which may prevent pathogen colonization and subsequent systemic infection in an extremely vulnerable population."

Finally, researchers from Uganda and the US take a look at tsetse fly population structure across northern Uganda for a study appearing in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Using microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA profiles, the team profiled genetic patterns in Glossina fuscipes fuscipes tsetse flies from 42 populations in northern Uganda, a region where the flies carry Trypanosoma parasites appear to be involved in both chronic and acute forms of human African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness. The analysis revealed four genetic clusters and provided clues to tsetse fly interactions, migrations, and control. "Our results suggest that ecological and geographic features, especially the river systems in northern Uganda, play a major role in keeping G. f. fuscipes populations connected — a fact that should be taken advantage of when designing control," the authors note.

The Scan

Polygenic Risk Score to Predict Preeclampsia, Gestational Hypertension in Pregnant Women

Researchers in Nature Medicine provide new mechanistic insights into the development of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, which may help develop therapeutics.

New Oral Nanomedicine Strategy Targets Gut-Brain Axis to Treat IBD

A new paper in Science Advances describes a platform to design polyphenol-armored oral medicines that are effective at treating inflammatory bowel disease.

Phylogenetic Data Enables New Floristic Map

Researchers in Nature Communications use angiosperm phylogenetic data to refine the floristic regions of the world.

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.