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Genomic Study of 412 Anthrax Strains Provides New Virulence Clues

By analyzing genomic sequences from more than 400 strains of the bacterium that causes anthrax, researchers have provided the first evidence that the severity – technically known as virulence – of specific strains may be related to the number of copies of certain plasmids they carry. Plasmids are genetic structures of the cell that can reproduce independently, and are responsible for producing the anthrax toxin and other virulence factors.

New tools used to identify childhood cancer genes

Using a new computational strategy, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have identified 29 genetic changes that can contribute to rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive childhood cancer. The group used Bayesian analysis, a method for statistical inference, in conjunction with screening using CRISPR/Cas9, the much-heralded gene-editing tool, to confirm the statistical predictions.

Altering songbird brain signaling provides insight into human behavior

A study from UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute demonstrates that a bird’s song can be altered – to the syllable – by activating and deactivating a neuronal pathway responsible for helping the brain determine whether a vocalization is performed correctly. Previous research has shown that when a song is performed without perceived error, certain neurons release dopamine to brain areas involved in motor control. The new study shows that by activating and suppressing these neurons, scientists can prompt the birds to change specific syllables in future performances.

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