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WHAT'S HOT IN... BIOLOGY - 2009

The Top Ten lists in Biology feature papers published during the year 2009 (excluding review articles) that were most cited in current journal articles indexed by Clarivate Analytics during a recent two-month period. Papers are ranked according to the latest bimonthly citation count. The articles below are accompanied by expert discussion and analysis (including comments from the papers’ authors) written by Jeremy Cherfas, veteran scientist-journalist and longtime ScienceWatch.com contributor.


November/December 2009

Clarifying the Role of TH-17 Cells in Disease and Health
by Jeremy Cherfas

In investigating the complex workings of the immune system, researchers are learning more about a recently discovered group of T helper cells--TH-17 cells, so designated because they produce interleukin 17 in response to infection and other challenges to the immune system, along with being implicated in certain autoimmune diseases. Recent Hot Papers clarify the processes by which TH-17 cells are triggered, differentiated, and assigned to different defensive roles.
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September/October 2009

Clues to Schizophrenia’s Complex Genetic Disruptions
by Jeremy Cherfas

Two recent studies of the genetic underpinnings of schizophrenia used microarray analysis to examine the variant DNA patterns, or so-called “copy number variants, that are characteristic of the disease. The observed mutations—for example, in genes associated with brain development, nerve axons, and working memory—point to a complex picture that belies simplistic notions of a “schizophrenia gene” and underscores the involvement of numerous factors.
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July/August 2009

Diseases Yield More Secrets To Genome Wide Analysis
by Jeremy Cherfas

Three papers poised to enter the Top Ten examine, respectively, three prevalent and intractable diseases: autism, breast cancer, and type 1 diabetes. All the papers employ recent techniques of genome-wide analysis and mapping in order to provide a fuller picture of specific mutations and links that give rise to disease. In the case of autism, for example, analysis points not to particular genes, but to copy number variations that are not present in the parents of autistic subjects.
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May/June 2009

Atlas Supports a New World of Neurogenomics
by Jeremy Cherfas

A team of researchers has produced a three-dimensional atlas of gene expression in the mouse brain. By painstakingly examining individual slices of mouse brain and determining gene activation by in situ hybridization, the researchers have determined specific locations in which more than 20,000 genes are expressed. The team further determined that nearly 70% of the genes are expressed in fewer than 20% of the cells. The atlas also provides insights into the relationship between cell type and cellular function.
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March/April 2009

Nailing Down the Structure of the ß2 Adrenoreceptor
by Jeremy Cherfas

G protein-coupled receptors are trans-membrane signal receptors involved in a large range of cellular responses to stimuli, also serving as targets for upwards of half the therapeutic drugs currently marketed. Recent work has supplied the crystal structure of one such receptor, the ß2 adrenergic receptor. These findings have provided insights into interior water channels and other structural elements that suggest how these receptors actually work.
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January/February 2009

Help in Understanding New Kinds of Helpers
by Jeremy Cherfas

Recent efforts in biology have centered on a particular immune-system component known as T(h)-17, one of the immune system's T helper cells. Specially adapted to fighting bacterial and fungal diseases, T(h)-17 is also involved in such autoimmune disorders as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. Biologists are still unraveling the complex interplay of T(h)-17 with the cytokines IL-6 and TGF-beta, along with other specifics on how T(h)-17 cells are differentiated to respond to various immune challenges.
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