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This Week in Science: Dec 4, 2015

In this week's Science, a multi-institute team of researchers reports the discovery of several genetic mutations that underlie the high risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in newborns with congenital heart disease. The researchers sequenced the exomes of more than 1,200 children with CHD and found that those who also had neurodevelopmental disorders had a significantly higher burden of damaging de novo mutations, especially in high heart expression genes, compared with those with only CHD. The finding suggests that many mutations affecting a developing heart also affect a developing brain, and may lead to tools for earlier identification of CHD patients at the greatest risk of neurodevelopmental disorders. GenomeWeb has more on this study, here.

Also in Science, a group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology describes a modification of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to minimize off-target effects. By changing the positively charged residues within a groove of Cas9 that binds to non-target DNA to neutral alanine, the investigators were able to lower cleavage at off-target DNA sites while maintaining robust target cleavage. GenomeWeb also covers this paper, here.