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This Week in Science: May 19, 2017

In this week's Science, a multi-institute team reports the identification of gene variants in certain African subpopulations that confer resistance to severe malaria. By sequencing the genomes of 765 individuals from 10 ethnic groups from throughout Africa, and by analyzing thousands of additional genomes from the 1000 Genomes Project and a database of severe cases of malaria, the researchers discovered gene variants that alter GYPA and GYPB — the receptors that the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum uses to enter red blood cells. One particular variant was found to reduce the risk of severe infection by 40 percent. GenomeWeb has more on this study, here.

And in Science Translational Medicine, an international group of investigators publishes a study suggesting that vitamin and mineral deficiencies can alter the gut microbiome. The scientists introduced artificial microbiomes composed of 92 known strains from the human gut into germ-free mice, which were put on a complete and tightly controlled diet. The researchers then switched the mice to diets lacking adequate levels of key nutrients, returning them to a balanced diet three weeks later. They found that vitamin A deficiency had a particularly profound effect, increasing the number of Bacteroides vulgatus bacteria — a species that has been associated with stunted growth following periods of malnutrition in humans. The researchers looked into the possible mechanisms for vitamin A's influence on B. vulgatus, and suggest that their approach could be used to "develop mechanistic insights about the effects of, and more effective treatment strategies for micronutrient deficiencies."

The Scan

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.

Sequencing Analysis Examines Gene Regulatory Networks of Honeybee Soldier, Forager Brains

Researchers in Nature Ecology & Evolution find gene regulatory network differences between soldiers and foragers, suggesting bees can take on either role.

Analysis of Ashkenazi Jewish Cohort Uncovers New Genetic Loci Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

The study in Alzheimer's & Dementia highlighted known genes, but also novel ones with biological ties to Alzheimer's disease.

Tara Pacific Expedition Project Team Finds High Diversity Within Coral Reef Microbiome

In papers appearing in Nature Communications and elsewhere, the team reports on findings from the two-year excursion examining coral reefs.