Week in Review: November 7–11

Evaluating the potential effects of the US elections on life science; evolutionary advantages of Neanderthal DNA; coral gene expression adapts to environmental conditions; correcting sickle cell gene with CRISPR

Nov 11, 2016
Tracy Vence

The American electorate stunned the world this week, voting Donald Trump to be the 45th US President. Following Trump’s unexpected victory, biopharma stocks rallied while the scientific community expressed concern over the potential effects of a Trump administration on research and development. Forty-two percent of 158 respondents to a The Scientist Twitter poll indicated that they believed research funding would be most impacted by the incoming administration. “I am taking a breath and trying to explain to my children that science matters, that global climate change is indeed occurring and we are watching it happen via species migration, storm intensity, and inundation on our coastlines,” wrote Deanne Caffee-Cooper on The Scientist’s Facebook page.

See “Trumping Science?

Ancient advantage

Neanderthal DNA may have helped modern humans adapt to diverse environments, according to a genomic analysis published in Current Biology this week (November 10). A team led by researchers at the University of Washington compared the genomes of a diverse cohort of modern humans with those from Neanderthal and Denisovan samples, finding advantageous alleles in the former group of genomes that appear to be inherited from the latter.

“The study expands our knowledge of the extent to which Neanderthals and Denisovans contributed functionally relevant genetic variation to modern humans,” Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, who was not involved in the work, wrote in an email.

Adaptive coral

Gene expression in mustard hill coral (Porites astreoides) is altered to match the marine invertebrate’s environment, scientists from the University of Texas at Austin showed in Nature Ecology & Evolution this week (November 7).

“This paper shows that variable environments may have given [inshore coral] the ability to respond to a variety of conditions, which makes sense. If at home your environment is always changing, you’re going to have to be more flexible to survive there,” said Dan Barshis, an assistant professor of biology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, who was not involved in the study.

More news in life science

Evolution May Have Deleted Neanderthal DNA
Natural selection may be behind the dearth of Neanderthal DNA in modern humans.

More Success Fixing Sickle Cell Gene with CRISPR
Researchers say they have sufficient in vitro and animal data to apply for human testing.

Zika Update
Testing a new vaccine; Cuba’s aggressive Zika-control tactics pay off

Plan to Fight Zika with GM Mosquitos Passes Popular Vote in Florida
The strategy to release mosquitos that cannot spread the virus passed a county-level vote but faced opposition in one town.

Walgreens Sues Theranos for $140 Million
The drugstore giant is accusing the blood-testing company of breach of contract, although the full details of the suit have not been disclosed.