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This Week in Science: Sep 21, 2018

In Science this week, a Japanese research team describes the generation of human reproductive cells entirely in vitro, marking a key technological advance in reproductive biology. While human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) have been induced into primordial germ cell-like cells (hPGCLCs), further differentiation into mature germ cells has never been achieved. The researchers, however, show that hPGCLCs differentiate progressively into oogonia-like cells during long-term in vitro culture in xenogeneic reconstituted ovaries with mouse embryonic ovarian somatic cells. The investigators find that the hPGCLC-derived oogonia undergo proper epigenetic reprogramming including genome-wide DNA methylation and imprint erasure, and "acquire an immediate precursory state for meiotic recombination," they write. "These findings establish the germline competence of hPSCs and provide a critical step toward human in vitro gametogenesis."

And in Science Translational Medicine, an international group of researchers discusses the hallmarks of successful cancer immunotherapy, which can be expensive and toxic, but highly effective in the right patient. They highlight the need for robust predictive biomarkers, and cite the importance of understanding the overall genomic configuration of malignant cells in addition to specific mutations that can compromise immune system responses. Additionally, "the type, density, localization, and functional orientation of the immune infiltrate have a prominent impact on anticancer immunity, as do features of the tumor microenvironment linked to the vasculature and stroma, and systemic factors including the composition of the gut microbiota," the authors write. Ultimately, however, the implementation of truly personalized immunotherapeutic protocols will require the development of "multiparametric assessments with superior informational value," they conclude.

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.