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This Week in Science: Jul 6, 2018

In Science this week, two international research teams publish genomic studies of ancient animals, uncovering new details about their evolution and domestication. In the first study, researchers use DNA from modern and ancient dogs to investigate domesticated dogs that lived in the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans. They find that these animals are most closely related to a 9,000-year-old ancient breed of sled dogs from Eastern Siberia and that they were not domesticated in the Americas but rather introduced by Beringia settlers. In the second paper, investigators focus on the domestication of goats in the Fertile Crescent using genetic data from specimens from Paleolithic through Medieval periods throughout the Near East. They find evidence that multiple divergent ancient wild goat sources were domesticated in a dispersed process that resulted in genetically and geographically distinct Neolithic goat populations. They also detect early selection for pigmentation, stature, reproduction, milking, and response to dietary change as early as 8,000 years ago. GenomeWeb has more on these studies, here and here

And in Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the US National Institutes of Health, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and others report data showing how certain mutations drive rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the muscle that primarily affects children, and how another cancer drug may be used to treat the condition. Using genome-wide approaches, the researchers show that mutated RAS proteins in rhabdomyosarcoma prevent muscle cell differentiation by inhibiting the expression of the protein MYOG. High-throughput drug screening revealed that MEK inhibitors can reverse MYOG inhibition and induce cancer cell differentiation. One MEK inhibitor in particular — the melanoma drug trametinib — was found to restore MYOG expression, slow tumor growth, and improve survival in RAS-mutated rhabdomyosarcoma mouse models when used in combination with an IGF1R inhibitor.

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.