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This Week in Science: Jan 27, 2017

In Science this week, an international research team reports sequencing the whole genomes of 398 modern, heirloom, and wild tomato varieties in an effort to identify the gene's responsible for the fruit's original flavor, which is lacking in many modern varieties. By combining these data with the results of a consumer taste test, the team was able to identify 13 chemical compounds associated with flavor that were significantly reduced in modern varieties relative to heirloom varieties and find the genes associated with the flavor. Among their findings is that smaller tomatoes tend to have greater sugar content, suggesting that selection for fruit size compromised taste. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.

And in Science Translational Medicine, a group of British scientists publish promising results from a new cancer treatment for infants involving genetically modified T cells. So-called chimeric antigen receptor T cells have proven effective for B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), but require engineering a patient's own T cells. Because of that, it is not feasible for patients lacking sufficient quantities of healthy T cells such as very young children. To overcome this problem, the researchers used "universal" transcription activator-like effector nuclease — or TALEN — gene-edited T cell capable of eliminating cancer from any patient's blood, and tested it on two infants diagnosed with B-ALL. Both babies went into complete remission within 28 days after treatment and have remained disease-free for 10 months and 16 months, respectively. The Scan also covers this here.