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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.

The Scan

Hormone-Based Gene Therapy to Sterilize Domestic Cat

A new paper in Nature Communication suggests that gene therapy could be a safer alternative to spaying domestic cats.

Active Lifestyle Linked to Type 2 Diabetes Prevention in People at High Genetic Risk

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that an active lifestyle goes a long way in type 2 diabetes prevention.

Beneficial, Harmful Effects of Introgression Between Wild and Domesticated European Grapes

A paper in PNAS shows that European wild grapevines were an important resource for improving the flavor of cultivated wine grapes.

Genetic Ancestry of South America's Indigenous Mapuche Traced

Researchers in Current Biology analyzed genome-wide data from more than five dozen Mapuche individuals to better understand their genetic history.