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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.

The Scan

Polygenic Risk Score to Predict Preeclampsia, Gestational Hypertension in Pregnant Women

Researchers in Nature Medicine provide new mechanistic insights into the development of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, which may help develop therapeutics.

New Oral Nanomedicine Strategy Targets Gut-Brain Axis to Treat IBD

A new paper in Science Advances describes a platform to design polyphenol-armored oral medicines that are effective at treating inflammatory bowel disease.

Phylogenetic Data Enables New Floristic Map

Researchers in Nature Communications use angiosperm phylogenetic data to refine the floristic regions of the world.

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.