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This Week in Science: Mar 6, 2015

In this week's Science, a Yale-led research group reports the results of an epigenetic comparison of the cerebral cortexes of humans, rhesus monkeys, and mice, which reveal changes in gene regulation that may be linked to the evolution of the human brain. By examining patterns of DNA expression in tissues from the three, the reseachers identified promoters and enhancers that have gained activity in humans, particularly in modules of co-expressed genes in the cortex that function in neuronal proliferation, migration, and cortical-map organization. To test the findings, a human enhancer was expressed in a mouse brain, triggering an alteration in gene expression. GenomeWeb has more on this study here.

Also in Science, a team of investigators from China and Germany describe how a defect inside of a diamond could be used to detect an electron spin resonance signal from a single protein at room temperature. The researchers used a diamond defect called single nitrogen vacancy center as a sensor to measure the spin in a labeled protein, and further showed that they could drive the spin at the protein, "which is a prerequisite for studies involving polarization of nuclear spins of the protein or detailed structure analysis of the protein itself."

The Scan

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.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.