In most legal orders, human germline modification is either prohibited or severely restricted. A recurring thought in these legal frameworks is that heritable genome editing would result in practices that are at odds with principles of human rights, such as dignity, justice, and equality. However, now that CRISPR is bringing heritable genome editing within human reach, the question has risen as to whether these human rights bans still make sense. The call is growing louder to lift the ban on heritable genome editing for therapeutic purposes as soon as the technology is safe for introduction in the clinic. This article critically examines these recent proposals from a human rights perspective. First, it examines the question as to how realistic the proposed distinction between the therapeutic and the nontherapeutic uses of human germline modification is in the CRISPR era. Second, it argues that these proposals rely on a one-dimensional understanding of the meaning of human rights for this issue. Finally, it suggests that this one dimensional understanding paves the way for a regime of self-regulation by the scientific community that leaves little room for public debate on the question as to whether or how human germline modification fits in the long term aspirations of society.
KEYWORDS: assisted reproductive technologies, CRISPR, human dignity, human germline gene editing, human nuclear genome transfer, human rights
Using online surveys, we collected data regarding COVID-19-related loss of smell or taste from 69,841 individuals. We performed a multi-ancestry genome-wide association study and identified a genome-wide significant locus in the vicinity of the UGT2A1 and UGT2A2 genes. Both genes are expressed in the olfactory epithelium and play a role in metabolizing odorants. These findings provide a genetic link to the biological mechanisms underlying COVID-19-related loss of smell or taste.
Common SNPs are predicted to collectively explain 40-50% of phenotypic variation in human height, but identifying the specific variants and associated regions requires huge sample sizes. Here we show, using GWAS data from 5.4 million individuals of diverse ancestries, that 12,111 independent SNPs that are significantly associated with height account for nearly all of the common SNP-based heritability. These SNPs are clustered within 7,209 non-overlapping genomic segments with a median size of ~90 kb, covering ~21% of the genome. The density of independent associations varies across the genome and the regions of elevated density are enriched for biologically relevant genes. In out-of-sample estimation and prediction, the 12,111 SNPs account for 40% of phenotypic variance in European ancestry populations but only ~10%-20% in other ancestries. Effect sizes, associated regions, and gene prioritization are similar across ancestries, indicating that reduced prediction accuracy is likely explained by linkage disequilibrium and allele frequency differences within associated regions. Finally, we show that the relevant biological pathways are detectable with smaller sample sizes than needed to implicate causal genes and variants. Overall, this study, the largest GWAS to date, provides an unprecedented saturated map of specific genomic regions containing the vast majority of common height-associated variants.
Because a genetic diagnosis can guide clinical management and improve prognosis in critically ill patients, much effort has gone into developing methods that result in rapid, reliable results. The authors describe extremely rapid sequencing and analysis of the genomes of 12 patients, 5 of whom received a diagnosis.
Single-cell atlases often include samples that span locations, laboratories and conditions, leading to complex, nested batch effects in data. Thus, joint analysis of atlas datasets requires reliable data integration. To guide integration method choice, we benchmarked 68 method and preprocessing combinations on 85 batches of gene expression, chromatin accessibility and simulation data from 23 publications, altogether representing >1.2 million cells distributed in 13 atlas-level integration tasks. We evaluated methods according to scalability, usability and their ability to remove batch effects while retaining biological variation using 14 evaluation metrics. We show that highly variable gene selection improves the performance of data integration methods, whereas scaling pushes methods to prioritize batch removal over conservation of biological variation. Overall, scANVI, Scanorama, scVI and scGen perform well, particularly on complex integration tasks, while single-cell ATAC-sequencing integration performance is strongly affected by choice of feature space. Our freely available Python module and benchmarking pipeline can identify optimal data integration methods for new data, benchmark new methods and improve method development.
To explore kinship practices at chambered tombs in Early Neolithic Britain, here we combined archaeological and genetic analyses of 35 individuals who lived about 5,700 years ago and were entombed at Hazleton North long cairn1. Twenty-seven individuals are part of the first extended pedigree reconstructed from ancient DNA, a five-generation family whose many interrelationships provide statistical power to document kinship practices that were invisible without direct genetic data. Patrilineal descent was key in determining who was buried in the tomb, as all 15 intergenerational transmissions were through men. The presence of women who had reproduced with lineage men and the absence of adult lineage daughters suggest virilocal burial and female exogamy. We demonstrate that one male progenitor reproduced with four women: the descendants of two of those women were buried in the same half of the tomb over all generations. This suggests that maternal sub-lineages were grouped into branches whose distinctiveness was recognized during the construction of the tomb. Four men descended from non-lineage fathers and mothers who also reproduced with lineage male individuals, suggesting that some men adopted the children of their reproductive partners by other men into their patriline. Eight individuals were not close biological relatives of the main lineage, raising the possibility that kinship also encompassed social bonds independent of biological relatedness.
Coffee is a widely consumed beverage that is naturally bitter and contains caffeine. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of coffee drinking have identified genetic variants involved in caffeine-related pathways but not in taste perception. The taste of coffee can be altered by addition of milk/sweetener, which has not been accounted for in GWAS. Using UK and US cohorts, we test the hypotheses that genetic variants related to taste are more strongly associated with consumption of black coffee than with consumption of coffee with milk or sweetener and that genetic variants related to caffeine pathways are not differentially associated with the type of coffee consumed independent of caffeine content. Contrary to our hypotheses, genetically inferred caffeine sensitivity was more strongly associated with coffee taste preferences than with genetically inferred bitter taste perception. These findings extended to tea and dark chocolate. Taste preferences and physiological caffeine effects intertwine in a way that is difficult to distinguish for individuals which may represent conditioned taste preferences.
Microbial communities might include distinct lineages of closely related organisms that complicate metagenomic assembly and prevent the generation of complete metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs). Here we show that deep sequencing using long (HiFi) reads combined with Hi-C binning can address this challenge even for complex microbial communities. Using existing methods, we sequenced the sheep fecal metagenome and identified 428 MAGs with more than 90% completeness, including 44 MAGs in single circular contigs. To resolve closely related strains (lineages), we developed MAGPhase, which separates lineages of related organisms by discriminating variant haplotypes across hundreds of kilobases of genomic sequence. MAGPhase identified 220 lineage-resolved MAGs in our dataset. The ability to resolve closely related microbes in complex microbial communities improves the identification of biosynthetic gene clusters and the precision of assigning mobile genetic elements to host genomes. We identified 1,400 complete and 350 partial biosynthetic gene clusters, most of which are novel, as well as 424 (298) potential host–viral (host–plasmid) associations using Hi-C data.
Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) suggests viral adaptation to enhance human-to-human transmission1,2. Although much effort has focused on characterisation of spike changes in VOCs, mutations outside spike likely contribute to adaptation. Here we used unbiased abundance proteomics, phosphoproteomics, RNAseq and viral replication assays to show that isolates of the Alpha (B.1.1.7) variant3 more effectively suppress innate immune responses in airway epithelial cells, compared to first wave isolates. We found that Alpha has dramatically increased subgenomic RNA and protein levels of N, Orf9b and Orf6, all known innate immune antagonists. Expression of Orf9b alone suppressed the innate immune response through interaction with TOM70, a mitochondrial protein required for RNA sensing adaptor MAVS activation. Moreover, the activity of Orf9b and its association with TOM70 was regulated by phosphorylation. We propose that more effective innate immune suppression, through enhanced expression of specific viral antagonist proteins, increases the likelihood of successful Alpha transmission, and may increase in vivo replication and duration of infection4. The importance of mutations outside Spike in adaptation of SARS-CoV-2 to humans is underscored by the observation that similar mutations exist in the Delta and Omicron N/Orf9b regulatory regions.
Lychee is an exotic tropical fruit with a distinct flavor. The genome of cultivar ‘Feizixiao’ was assembled into 15 pseudochromosomes, totaling ~470 Mb. High heterozygosity (2.27%) resulted in two complete haplotypic assemblies. A total of 13,517 allelic genes (42.4%) were differentially expressed in diverse tissues. Analyses of 72 resequenced lychee accessions revealed two independent domestication events. The extremely early maturing cultivars preferentially aligned to one haplotype were domesticated from a wild population in Yunnan, whereas the late-maturing cultivars that mapped mostly to the second haplotype were domesticated independently from a wild population in Hainan. Early maturing cultivars were probably developed in Guangdong via hybridization between extremely early maturing cultivar and late-maturing cultivar individuals. Variable deletions of a 3.7 kb region encompassed by a pair of
-like genes probably regulate fruit maturation differences among lychee cultivars. These genomic resources provide insights into the natural history of lychee domestication and will accelerate the improvement of lychee and related crops.