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This Week in Science: Dec 22, 2017

In Science this week, two separate research teams report the identification of peptides used by the fungal pathogen that causes wheat stem rust disease to overcome resistance by the crop plant. In one study, scientists used comparative whole-genome sequencing to pinpoint a stem rust gene that encodes a peptide that increases in abundance over the course of plant infection. Further, they found that mutated forms of the peptide are able to evade detection by the plant’s immune system. In the second study, investigators identified a fungal peptide that binds to a plant receptor for a rust-resistance gene. The studies may help develop methods to identify wheat that requires additional protection from this devastating disease. GenomeWeb has more on these studies, here.

And in Science Advances, a University of California, Berkeley-led team reports on the use of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in a mouse model of the disease. They delivered CRISPR molecules targeting the mutant form of a gene called SOD1 — which is responsible for a percentage of the familial form of the disease — into newborn mice using a vector that could enter the spinal cord and reach affected motor neurons. Treated animals exhibited 50 percent more motor neurons, a 37 percent delay in disease onset, and a 25 percent increase in survival compared to controls. The findings may not only point to a new therapeutic option for ALS, but for other central nervous system orders as well, the authors write. The Scan also covers this, here.

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.