What's Hot In Biology> 2011

Year: 2011

The Top Ten lists in Biology feature papers published during the year 2011 (excluding review articles) that were most cited in current journal articles indexed by Thomson Reuters 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 2011

Building an Encyclopedia Of Microbial Sequences

by Jeremy Cherfas

A woman works with human genetic material at a laboratory in Munich, May 2011. REUTERS/Michael Dald.A large team of biologists set out to sequence bacterial and archaeal genomes, selecting their microbial targets on the basis of evolutionary relationships instead of physiology. Initial results produced genome sequences from 56 microbes, also illuminating new protein families and other novel properties. The team members envision harnessing this “phylogenetically driven” approach to genome sequencing in the compilation of a “Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea.
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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011

Land of 1000 Genomes: How Best to Sequence?

by Jeremy Cherfas

From the 1000 Genome Project page, Wiki, and Wiki Commons figure.The international undertaking known as the 1000 Genome Project Consortium aims to explore and thoroughly characterize the variation in human genome sequences. In its pilot study, the Consortium reports the investigation of different strategies for genome-wide sequencing. Results indicated that over 95% of currently available variants found in any individual had been catalogued. These methods will be combined with public data as the Project moves to its next phase.
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JULY/AUGUST 2011

New Markers Sharpen Picture Of Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

by Jeremy Cherfas

Chemical structure of open-chain glucose. From the Wiki Commons.A meta-analysis of 21 genome-wide association studies has made progress in elucidating the genetic underpinnings of type 2 diabetes. Examining such traits as levels of fasting glucose and fasting insulin, the team identified several genetic loci associated with impaired glucose or insulin function. Increased knowledge of these factors will aid in identifying those at risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes, so that dietary and behavioral changes can be effected.
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MAY/JUNE 2011

Mapped Out: A Complex Landscape of Genetic Interactions

by Jeremy Cherfas

Saccharomyces cerevisiaeUsing yeast, a team of biologists has produced a network map representing the relationship and interactions between thousands of genes. Most of the mapped genes displayed few interactions, while some were observed to serve as “hubs” in the network. The degree of connectedness also pointed to bridges between different processes. Expanding this “landscape” approach to other species promises further insights and, possibly, new therapeutic strategies.
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MARCH/APRIL 2011

MicroRNAs Brought to Bear Against Liver Cancer

by Jeremy Cherfas

Mir-26 microRNA precursor family (Wiki Commons).Researchers have successfully used a viral vector to deliver a specific microRNA (miRNA) to suppress tumorigenesis in a mouse model of liver cancer. The miRNA in question, MiR-26a, which is highly expressed in normal cells but suppressed in the murine liver-cancer model, interferes with two cyclins that are required for the proliferative phase of the cell cycle. Results indicate that the restored miRNA caused the tumor cells to undergo programmed cell death.
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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2011

Genome-Wide Association Studies Yield More Insights

by Jeremy Cherfas

APOE (apolipoprotein E). Figure: Wiki Commons, public domain.Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) continue to find wide utility, as researchers attempt to tease out genetic variations that contribute to disease conditions and other physiological phenomena. Recent work, for example, has centered on specific variations and the attendant risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Another recent report discusses methodological issues associated with GWAS, and also describes an online catalog of variations and traits derived from GWAS.
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