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This Week in Science: Jun 17, 2016

This week's Science features a focus on RNA, with four articles discussing RNA-based therapies, mRNA modification, mRNA translation, and the role of microRNAs in stem cell differentiation. In one review, Duke University researchers look at the hurdles facing the therapeutic use of RNA and new technologies to overcome them, as well as the initial results of ongoing clinical studies testing RNA therapeutics in humans. In a second review, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team covers the role and extent of mRNA modifications and expected breakthroughs in the field that will be driven by new technologies. In a third review, Canadian and US researchers examine how mRNA translation is regulated by the 5' untranslated region, and how new technologies are enabling comprehensive examinations of the 5' UTR, its functions, and its potential role in human disease. Lastly, in a Perspective piece, Harvard and MIT researchers discuss new data suggesting that microRNAs may drive variability in differentiating stem cells, but also highlight the additional work that remains in the field.

In Science Translational Medicine, a University of Pennsylvania researcher discusses the importance of biomarkers in precision medicine, which relies on effective disease diagnosis to match patients to specific therapies and predict their responses. He also calls for the creation of common standards for evaluating and regulating biomarkers, and the development of a national resource for data on biomarker tests.

And in Science Advances, a group of Chinese and US researchers publish a study on the use of a new, highly sensitive sequencing method for microRNAs that they applied to mouse egg cells and embryos. The method requires less than 50 oocytes, eliminating the need for large-scale embryo preparation, and allowed the team to track miRNAs past fertilization. In addition to shedding new light on the activity of miRNAs in mouse oocytes and early embryos, the work opens the door for similar research in other organisms. GenomeWeb has more on this here.

The Scan

Foxtail Millet Pangenome, Graph-Based Reference Genome

Researchers in Nature Genetics described their generation of a foxtail millet pangenome, which they say can help in crop trait improvement.

Protein Length Distribution Consistent Across Species

An analysis in Genome Biology compares the lengths of proteins across more than 2,300 species, finding similar length distributions.

Novel Genetic Loci Linked to Insulin Resistance in New Study

A team reports in Nature Genetics that it used glucose challenge test data to home in on candidate genes involved in GLUT4 expression or trafficking.

RNA Editing in Octopuses Seems to Help Acclimation to Shifts in Water Temperature

A paper in Cell reports that octopuses use RNA editing to help them adjust to different water temperatures.