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This Week in Science: Dec 19, 2014

In Science this week, researchers from the California Institute of Technology report data showing that variability in gene expression between genetically identical cells arises in predictable ways that are based on promoter architecture. The team created a set of promoters in Escherichia coli in which promoter strength, transcription factor binding strength, and transcription factor copy numbers were systematically varied, and used mRNA fluorescence in situ hybridization to watch how these differences affected gene expression. A comparison of the results against model predictions without parameters revealed that the "molecular details of transcription dictate variability in mRNA expression," and that transcriptional noise is tunable.

Also in Science, researchers from the University of Toronto detail a new computational model that can predict how strongly difference genetic variants affect RNA splicing, which is mutated in a variety of diseases. They analyzed more than 650,000 genetic variants in both coding and non-coding regions of the human genome and found widespread patterns of how these mutations can cause splicing errors. The model was able to identify many known splicing mutations in a variety of diseases, as well as several new genes potentially related to autism.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.