Week in Review: January 4–8

Lack of data, disclosures in biomedical literature; hominin interbreeding and immunity; predicting patient responses to the flu vax; fewer off-target effects for engineered Cas9 variant

Jan 8, 2016
Tracy Vence

Incomplete accounts

WIKICOMMONS, NICKLAS BILDHAUERJust one of 268 randomly selected biomedical research studies containing empirical data contained a complete protocol, according to an analysis published in PLOS Biology this week (January 4). Examining 441 total papers published between 2000 and 2014, all selected at random, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine and the National Cancer Institute also reported on a lack of conflict-of-interest and other disclosures, as well as of instructions for accessing authors’ full data.

“What was most surprising to me was the complete lack of data-sharing and protocol availability,” study coauthor John Ioannidis of Stanford told The Scientist. “That was worse than I would have predicted.”

“It is commendable of the authors to put this study together,” said Arthur Caplan of New York University who was not part of the work. “It’s unique and a useful baseline of transparency, conflict of interest, and reproducibility [in the biomedical literature].”

Evolutionary acquisition

DANNEMANN ET AL./AJHGWe humans may have our Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestors to thank for some innate immune genes, according to two studies published in The American Journal of Human Genetics this week (January 7). Two independent groups have found genomic evidence to suggest that present-day people inherited versions of several toll-like receptors (TLRs) that recognize pathogens through the interbreeding of human ancestors with Neanderthals and Denisovans.

“At least partially, Neanderthals may have harbored already adaptive mutations, mutations that rendered them more resistant to infections,” said Lluis Quintana-Murci of the Pasteur Institute in Paris who was a coauthor on one of the studies.

Flu vax response

FLICKR, NIAIDFlu shots are known to cause a handful of unfavorable side effects in some people following vaccination. A team led by scientists at King’s College London has homed in on a gene-expression pattern in the circulating immune cells of individuals who are more likely to experience an adverse reaction to a flu shot. Their results were published in Nature Immunology this week (January 4).

“The gene signature in the peripheral blood . . . is not a smoking gun at this point, but it’s a strong association and quite compelling,” study coauthor Adrian Hayday of King’s College told The Scientist.

Other news in life science:

ORCID Rising
Publishers and scientific societies will require researchers to identify themselves using  unique numeric codes.

Cas9 Further Refined
Researchers have engineered a Cas9 variant that produces almost no detectable gene-editing errors in the CRISPR/Cas9 system.

Fraudulent Paper Pulled
Nature retracts a study six years after an investigation found that the protein structures it reported were fabricated.

TS Picks: CRISPR Patent Edition
A challenge to the first CRISPR patent just got teeth.

Epigenetic Alterations Determine Ant Behavior
Histone modifications to the DNA of Florida carpenter ants can turn soldiers into foragers.