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This Week in Science: Apr 22, 2016

In Science this week, a team of Swedish and US scientists present a genomic analysis of species of finches from the Galapagos Islands, identifying the genetic locus associated with the differences in sizes observed by Charles Darwin, contributing to his principle of character divergence — a process of morphological divergence that reduces competition for limited resources. The researchers sequenced the genomes of six species of Darwin's finches that differ in size and related traits. They identified a locus of interest, HMGA2, and confirmed that it is highly associated with beak and body size. They further analyzed the genomes of one species of finches that survived a major drought in the Galapagos in the early 2000s, finding that birds with two sets of the small-beak variation of HMGA2 were more likely to have survived compared with birds carrying the variation for large beak size. GenomeWeb has more on this here.

And in Science Translational Medicine, a multi-institute team of US researchers discusses how advances in next-generation sequencing have "fueled a wave" of new precision diagnostic tests, yet the regulatory science behind such technologies have slowed their adoption in the clinic. They review President Barack Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative and present nine areas of potential regulatory science that should be addressed by regulators to make precision medicine a reality.

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.