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This Week in Science: Mar 17, 2017

In this week's Science, two University of Western Australia researchers discuss the various genome-editing technologies that are being used to improve crops. While there have already been some successes in this area, they note that challenges remain, such as the need for a better understanding of plant gene function and behavior. Sociopolitical hurdles need to be overcome as well, including government regulation, public acceptance, and adoption by smaller producers. "Coordinated efforts to help provide improved varieties to smallholder farmers and accelerate their adoption are also crucial to increase food security, particularly in developing countries," they write.

Also in Science, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre scientist Mark Dawson reviews the growing field of cancer epigenomics, which aims to treat the disease by targeting the epigenetic regulators and mechanisms that contribute to its development. He discusses data linking human cancer to global alterations in DNA methylation and/or mutations in chromatin remodeling complexes, which has fueled efforts to develop drugs targeting enzymes involved in DNA methylation and histone modification, and touches on therapies designed to exploit cancer's so-called transcriptional dependencies. He highlights epigenetic drugs in the clinic, noting that drug resistance has become a problem, and suggest that a combination of epigenetic drugs plus other kinds of treatments may be more effective.

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.