Round-up Jan 16th- 31st

Updates to the human germline editing saga


  • In a long piece in the New York Times Magazine on paleogenomics, takehomes here,  Gideon Lewis-Kraus points to the field’s major and recent successes, but also highlights how some archeologists fear that it traffics in “grand intellectual narratives” that history warns us against. This is an indication of culture wars between geneticists and others.


  • A study that doubled the number of microbial genomes available (150,000) by producing data from metagenomic studies including those covering non-Westernized countries. They grouped their ~150,000 new sequences in to 5000 “species bins”, 77% of which were novel. The new sequences dramatically increase the mappability of samples to 87%.
  • A fine grained (682bp) map of where crossovers occur on chromosomes, from Decode. The CEO of Decode, and author, Dr Stefansson (source): “The classic premise of evolution is that it is powered first by random genetic change. But we see here in great detail how this process is in fact systematically regulated – by the genome itself and by the fact that recombination and de novo mutation are linked. We have identified 35 sequence variants affecting recombination rate and location, and show that de novo mutations are more than fifty times more likely at recombination sites than elsewhere in the genome. Furthermore, women contribute far more to recombination and men to de novo mutation, and it is the latter that comprise a major source of rare diseases of childhood. What we see here is that the genome is an engine for generating diversity within certain bounds. This is clearly beneficial to the success of our species but at great cost to some individuals with rare diseases, which are therefore a collective responsibility we must strive to address”
  • Polygenic score for lifespan, explaining 1% of the phenotypic variance, which is 5% of the heritability. Those in the top 10% of the score can expect, on average, to live 5 years longer than those in the bottom 10%.
  • GWAS for risk tolerance and risky behaviors, with genetic overlaps found between different “risky” phenotypes, and with various personality traits.



  • More powers for DNA forensics. As of the beginning of January, the Rapid DNA Act comes into force. Rapid DNA machines sitting inside police stations allow police officers to obtain sequence results in 90 minutes. The Act allows for police to upload this data to CODIS, the National DNA database, and look for matches to e.g. previous crime scenes.

In other news: The preprint server for biology BioRxiv, just turned five. In 2018, about 1711 preprints were posted per month, and in October there were over 1 million downloads. A project called the Rxvist allows users to see which preprints are generating the most twitter attention. I have added this to my bookmarks, and will be using it to help inform this round-up from henceforth!


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