In this week's Science, an international research team reports using advanced genomic technologies to identify the genetic modifications underlying the domestication of wheat. Using 3D genetic sequencing data and specialized software, the scientists reconstructed the 14 chromosomes of wild tetraploid wheat, Triticum turgidum. Using this resource, they identified mutations in genes of domestic wheat that control spike shattering — a key domestication trait — that bear the signs of selection under domestication. The authors say that their reference assembly will help accelerate genome-assisted improvement of modern wheat varieties. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.
Also in Science, a group of Washington University School of Medicine researchers discusses the use of microbiota-directed foods as therapeutics and the challenges the US Food and Drug Administration faces in how to evaluate and classify such treatments within the current regulatory framework. They touch on the possible outcomes of classifying these products as conventional foods, dietary supplements, medical foods, or drugs, and suggest ways to address these issues. Ultimately, "consumers and health care professionals need an evidence-based framework to inform decisions," they write. "Wider consideration should be given to how policies that address these issues can be applied and harmonized across national boundaries."