Week in Review: April 13–17

Sequencing tumors and normal tissue; gut microbes, metabolism, and circadian clock; oxytocin and mother mice; WHO calls for data-sharing

Tracy Vence
Apr 16, 2015

Identifying cancer-linked mutations

SONYA PARPART-LIResearchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Baltimore-based firm Personal Genome Diagnostics have shown that sequencing a patient’s tumor samples alone may not be enough to identify cancer-associated mutations. By also sequencing the patient’s non-tumor tissue, the researchers could separate germline mutations from tumor-specific ones. Their results were published in Science Translational Medicine this week (April 15).

“This paper really emphasizes how important it is to compare an individual patient’s tumor [DNA] to that individual patient’s [normal sequence],” said oncologist George Demetri of Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who was not involved in the study.

“One of the most basic aspects of any scientific approach is to have an analysis and a very good control,” said study coauthor Victor Velculescu of Johns Hopkins, “and this fundamental rule is being violated essentially by a lot of folks doing this type of analysis.”

Gut microbes, metabolism, and circadian clock

WIKIMEDIA, RAMAMicrobes in the guts of mice produce metabolites in diurnal patterns that align with the animals’ circadian clock, scientists from the University of Chicago and their colleagues showed in Cell Host & Microbe this week (April 16). And a high-fat diet can disturb these diurnal metabolite production patterns, affecting the mice’s metabolism. In their paper, the team also proposed that “disturbances of host-microbe circadian networks may promote diet-induced obesity.”

“The finding that our microbiome also exhibits diurnal rhythms is interesting since virtually every cell in the body has a circadian clock, and it is therefore likely that a coordinated diurnal change in the microbiome could be complementary to the circadian rhythms in metabolism in peripheral tissues,” Joseph Takahashi of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who was not involved in the work wrote in an e-mail to The Scientist.

Other news in life science:

Oxytocin Trains Mouse Mom Hearing
The hormone activates neurons that trigger female mice to respond to the distress calls of lost pups.

How a Popular Probiotic Works
Eating a type of bacterium encourages the activity of other gut microbes, according to a small study.

WHO: Share Trial Data
The World Health Organization again calls upon researchers to register clinical trial details in freely accessible databases before initiation of the study.

Bias in Hiring Female STEM Faculty
Women applying to faculty openings in science or engineering have a two-fold better chance of getting the job than men, according to a hiring simulation.

Mother’s Genes Influence Baby’s Bacteria
A breast milk–associated gene mutation impacts the establishment of a newborn’s gut microbiome, a study suggests.