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This Week in Science: Sep 16, 2016

In this week's Science Advances, a team of Japanese researchers describes a new technique that can genetically modify pigs for biomedical research more quickly and safely than the current somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) method. While SCNT is effective, it is time-consuming and requires a high level of precision. The newly reported technique — called gene editing by electroporation of Cas9 protein, or GEEP — involves exposing zygotes to electricity to open pores through which CRISPR/Cas9 molecules can be delivered quickly and easily. Additionally, GEEP-treated genetic modifications can be successfully inherited, making it an attractive alternative to SCNT, according to the authors.

And in Science Signaling, a group led by Scripps Research Institute investigators reports new details about how dimethyl fumarate (DMF), a drug long used to treat autoimmune disorders, works to suppress the immune system. Although effective in most cases, DMF can, in rare instances, cause a deadly brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). To pinpoint how DMF works and why it may be toxic to some patients, the researchers used a quantitative, site-specific chemical proteomic platform to identify several proteins targeted by DMF in human and mouse T cells. One of these proteins is critical for T cell activation, and the team found that the drug disrupted its ability to bind to a T cell co-stimulatory receptor, disrupting T cell activation. The findings may help in the development of next-generation immunosuppressive agents with lower risks of side effects.