The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Friday Science Review: Sunday Edition

ErlenmeyersHello, loyal readers.  Welcome to the Sunday Edition of the Friday Science Review.  Sorry for the delay … turns out my day job is sometimes a day and night and next day and next night job.  Anyway, this one’s worth the wait.  Lots of cool science on a cool Spring weekend here in Canada

Jeffrey Wrana, not content with CBC interviews and corporate ventures, insists on continuing to crank out top notch science at the same time.  His lab at the Lunenfeld has a Cell paper this week that susses out a role for Smurf ubiquitin ligases in planar cell polarity and neural tube closure via a noncanonical Wnt signalling pathway, in what must have been some fairly messed up double knockout mice.

Another Cell paper from Guy Sauvageau’s lab at Université de Montréal used a novel gain-of-function assay to identify 18 nuclear factors that affect hematopoietic stem cell activity, ten of which increased repopulating activity when overexpressed.  Four of those turned out to be non-cell-autonomous actors.

The Canadian Cell contribution this issue is rounded out with a paper from Berge Minassian’s lab at Sick Kids that indentifies the genetic cause of X-linked myopathy with excessive autophagy (XMEA), a childhood-onset disease characterized by progressive vacuolation and atrophy of skeletal muscle.  In an interesting mechanism related to a proton pump component characterized in yeast, the research identifies macroautophagic overcompensation leading to cell vacuolation and tissue atrophy as the mechanism of disease.

GenomeWeb picked up an early online paper in Science this week from Timothy Hughes’ lab at U of T, in collaboration with Martha Bulyk’s lab at Harvard. The teams used microarrays of every possible 10-base-pair permutation to rigorously test the binding specificities of 104 mouse DNA-binding proteins. Interestingly, about half of the proteins each recognized more than one distinct sequence motif. Presumably, this reflects the importance of DNA accessibility and protein-protein interactions in functional specificity in vivo.

A paper in last week’s Science from Peter Koeller et al at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Nova Scotia compared shrimp egg hatching times and satellite-derived phytoplankton bloom dynamics throughout the North Atlantic to show how climate change could lead to mismatches between the reproductive cycles of marine organisms and their planktonic food.

Finally, a NEJM paper from a group at Pediatric Emergency Research Canada based at the University of Ottawa did a prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial looking at the combination of epinephrine and dexamethasone to treat infants with bronchiolitis, and found that “[a]mong infants with bronchiolitis treated in the emergency department, combined therapy with dexamethasone and epinephrine may significantly reduce hospital admissions.”

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