Week in Review: January 18–22

Historical account of CRIPSR criticized; ApoE as a transcriptional regulator; Ebola-induced human monoclonal antibodies; yeast mate in wasp guts; PubPeer’s anonymity appeal presses on

Jan 22, 2016
Tracy Vence

Credit for CRISPR, revisited

WIKIMEDIA, H. NISHIMASU ET AL.Should Cell have disclosed Eric Lander’s potential institutional conflict-of-interest (COI) as head of the Broad Institute—a CRISPR patent-holder—when publishing his perspective piece on the history of the gene-editing techinque? Critics this week voiced a resounding ‘yes.’ Some argued Lander’s role led to a biased account of the contributions to one of biology’s most celebrated technical achievements—one for which intellectual property claims are still being disputed and that has been discussed as a contender for top prizes in the field.

In following up on the controversial piece, The Scientist discovered discrepancies between the fact-checking processes described by Lander and Cell and those described by Jennifer Doudna, George Church, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, who have all claimed the commentary contains inaccuracies.

“We are currently evaluating our COI policy to determine if we should extend it to include institutional COIs going forward,” Cell Press spokesperson Joseph Caputo wrote in an email to The Scientist. “I can’t comment on whether there will or won’t be changes to Dr. Lander’s piece.”

(See “Credit for CRISPR: A Conversation with George Church,” The Scientist, December 29, 2015; “Who Owns CRISPR?The Scientist, April 3, 2015.)

Widespread expression influencer?

WIKIMEDIA, PROTEIN DATA BANK/J. DONG ET AL.Apolipoprotein E (ApoE), known to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, may be a transcriptional regulator that interacts with around 1,700 genes, according to researchers from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging who published their findings in The Journal of Neuroscience this week (January 20).

The authors “have provided evidence for a novel—in fact, radical—idea: that ApoE somehow gains access to the nucleosol and acts as a conventional transcription factor, influencing the expression of a large number of genes,” Steven Barger of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences who was not involved in the research wrote in an email.

Protective Ebola antibodies

SCRIPPS RESEARCH INSTITUTE; CHARLES MURIN, ANDREW WARDHuman monoclonal antibodies derived from the blood of people who survived Bundibugyo ebolavirus infection successfully protected mice and guinea pigs that were infected with other strains of Ebola, scientists from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and their colleagues reported in Cell this week (January 21).

 “The key [result] is that the human immune system does produce protective antibodies,” said study coauthor Alexander Bukreyev of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. “We just need to choose the right ones and give them at a high concentration.”

Yeast outcrossing in the wild

WIKIMEDIA, HANS HILLEWAERTThe wasp gut provides an ideal place for yeasts such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae to mate, according to a study published in PNAS this week (January 18). Scientists in Italy and Spain showed that the wasp gut’s progressively increasing pH from anterior to posterior supports the sporulation-germination cycles required for yeast outcrossing.

“Despite the evidence for frequent outcrossing, derived from the sequences of yeast genomes, no one knew before where outcrossing could take place,” study coauthor Duccio Cavalieri of the University of Florence told The Scientist.

“[It’s] surprising that there’s so much sexual action going on in the gut of these insects,” said Kevin Verstrepen of the University of Leuven, Belgium, who was not involved in the work. “We knew that [S. cerevisiae] could survive the gut environment. . . . What we didn’t know is that they’re actually really going through the complete cycle.”

Other news in life science:

PubPeer’s Appeal for Anonymity Continues
The site’s lawyers, along with renowned scientists, filed briefs to an appeals court asking to protect a commenter’s identification.

Mutant Mosquitoes Deployed to Stop Zika, Dengue
A Brazilian town will ramp up the release of insects engineered to shrink mosquito populations.

Planning for the Next Ebola Outbreak
A public-health nonprofit and an international drugmaker team up to stockpile hundreds of thousands of doses of a promising vaccine and to speed along the approval process.

Bioresorbable Brain Implants
Sensors made from biodegrading materials may soon provide a safe, cost-effective alternative to current technology, a study shows.

$280 Million Boost for Disease Genomics
The genomics arm of the National Institutes of Health has pledged a total of $280 million for research into the genetic bases of disease.