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DNA repeats—the genome’s dark matter

Expansions of DNA repeats are very hard to analyze. A method developed by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin allows for a detailed look at these previously inaccessible regions of the genome. It combines nanopore sequencing, stem cell, and CRISPR-Cas technologies. The method could improve the diagnosis of various congenital diseases and cancers in the future.

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A deep learning-based model DeepSpCas9 to predict SpCas9 activity

In a new report on Science Advances, Hui Kwon Kim and interdisciplinary researchers at the departments of Pharmacology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Medical Sciences, Nanomedicine and Bioinformatics in the Republic of Korea, evaluated the activities of SpCas9; a bacterial RNA-guided Cas9 endonuclease variant (a bacterial enzyme that cuts DNA for genome editing) from Streptococcus pyogenes. They used a high-throughput approach with 12,832 target sequences based on a human cell library to build a deep learning model and predict the activity of SpCas9.

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A ‘simulation booster’ for nanoelectronics

Two research groups from ETH Zurich have developed a method that can simulate nanoelectronics devices and their properties realistically, quickly and efficiently. This offers a ray of hope for the industry and data center operators alike, both of which are struggling with the (over)heating that comes with increasingly small and powerful transistors.

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Seismologists: Earthquake warning systems need better balance of technical and predictive capabilities

Two seismologists, one with the U.S. Geological Survey, the other with Instituto de Geofísica, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, have published a Policy Forum piece in the journal Science discussing the tradeoffs that come with earthquake warning systems. In their paper, Elizabeth Cochran and Allen Husker address the decision by officials in Los Angeles recently to lower the warning level for their earthquake app and possible repercussions of doing so.

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Using a two-step approach to convert aliphatic amines into unnatural amino acids

A team of chemists at Nankai University has developed a two-step approach to converting aliphatic amines into unnatural amino acids. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their approach, how well it worked, and applications that might benefit from its use. John Ovian and Eric Jacobsen with Harvard University have published a companion piece in the same journal issue outlining some of the obstacles to forging bonds with rich nitrogen reactants; it also describes the approach used by the team in China.

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Bacteria help make low-calorie sugar

Imagine a sugar that has only 38 percent of the calories of traditional table sugar, is safe for diabetics, and will not cause cavities. Now add that this dream sweetener is not an artificial substitute but a real sugar found in nature and it tastes like, well, sugar. You’d probably want to use that in your next cup of coffee, right?

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