Week in Review: January 19–23

Genetically recoded organisms; oxytocin and autism; new human protein map; MYC, longevity, and health span

Jan 23, 2015
Tracy Vence

Containing GMOs

WIKIMEDIA, MATTOSAURUSBy making genetically modified organisms (GMOs)reliant on lab-made amino acids, two groups have come up with a new GMO biocontainment strategy. Their work was published in Nature this week (January 21).

“It really addresses a long-standing problem in biotechnology, by engineering a really compelling solution to engineering biocontainments or biological barriers that limit the spread and survival of organisms in natural environments, and along the way also endow these organisms with new and expanded biological function,” said Farren Isaacs at Yale University, who led one of the studies.

Hormone therapy?

V. ALTOUNIAN/SCIENCE TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINEOxytocin may help improve social deficiency-related symptoms of autism, according to research on a mouse model of the disorders. Scientists who administered doses of oxytocin to mice displaying symptoms of autism spectrum disorders or ramped up the animals’ production of the hormone saw that “it would rescue those social deficits,” said Larry Young, who studies social neuroscience at Emory University and was not involved in the work. The results were published in Science Translational Medicine this week (January 21).


New proteome map

HUMAN PROTEIN ATLASUnlike those that preceded it, which were largely based on mass spectrometry data, the latest comprehensive map of the human proteome was created using immunohistochemistry. Members of the Human Protein Atlas project detailed the results of their years-long initiative to catalog protein expression throughout the body in Science this week (January 22).

“[The authors] have done a great job with putting the results out there in an easy-to-use format,” said Anne-Claude Gingras, a proteomics researcher at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, who was not involved in the work.

Missing MYC

SEDIVY LAB, BROWN UNIVERSITYMice missing one copy of the gene that encodes the transcription factor MYC live longer, more healthful lives than their wild-type counterparts, researchers reported in Cell this week (January 22).

“We’ve been so focused on [MYC’s] normal function and its cancer function,” said biologist Linda Penn of the Ontario Cancer Institute and the University of Toronto in Canada, who was not involved in the work. “I don’t think any of us really thought about what happens in terms of longevity.”

Other news in life science:

Fraction of SNPs Can Affect Fitness
A point mutation analysis of the entire human genome finds that alterations to as many as 7.5 percent of nucleotides may have contributed to humans’ evolutionary split from chimpanzees.

Zooming In
To improve the reach of optical microscopy, researchers are enlarging the biological features they wish to view.

Science Publishing Mega-Merger
Macmillan Science and Education, the publisher of Nature and Scientific American, will join forces with Springer Science+Business Media.

Understanding Antimalarial Drug Resistance
Researchers identify mutations associated with resistance to the frontline antimalarial drug artemisinin.

Reducing Gene Therapy-Related Risk
In a mouse model of a rare disease, scientists have figured out how to reduce the elevated cancer risk tied to a gene therapy treatment.