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This Week in Science: Aug 5, 2016

In this week's Science, a team of Japanese scientists reports a modified version of the genome-editing technology CRISPR that can perform DNA substitutions without cleaving DNA. CRISPR functions by inducing double-strand DNA breaks followed by DNA repair. However, this process can result in unwanted genetic insertions and deletions in genomic DNA. By fusing a sea lamprey enzyme called activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) — which can create a mutation on a single strand of DNA — to a mutated version of CRISPR, the researchers were able to use the system to edit DNA without cutting it, resulting in few off-target effects than with traditional CRISPR systems.

Also in Science, two researchers from Harvard University and Brown University discuss the implications of legislation that banned funding for germline editing. Specifically, the law prevents funds being using by the US Food and Drug Administration to review a drug or biologic in which a human embryo is created or modified to include a heritable genetic modification. The authors note that this law prevents gene editing that could be used to treat rare disorders, and suggest workarounds that could limit genetic modifications to non-heritable ones. They also argue that as a result of the law, the US may lose its scientific lead in this area to other nations.

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.