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Journal: Nature biotechnology


We report the sequencing and assembly of a reference genome for the human GM12878 Utah/Ceph cell line using the MinION (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) nanopore sequencer. 91.2 Gb of sequence data, representing ∼30× theoretical coverage, were produced. Reference-based alignment enabled detection of large structural variants and epigenetic modifications. De novo assembly of nanopore reads alone yielded a contiguous assembly (NG50 ∼3 Mb). We developed a protocol to generate ultra-long reads (N50 > 100 kb, read lengths up to 882 kb). Incorporating an additional 5× coverage of these ultra-long reads more than doubled the assembly contiguity (NG50 ∼6.4 Mb). The final assembled genome was 2,867 million bases in size, covering 85.8% of the reference. Assembly accuracy, after incorporating complementary short-read sequencing data, exceeded 99.8%. Ultra-long reads enabled assembly and phasing of the 4-Mb major histocompatibility complex (MHC) locus in its entirety, measurement of telomere repeat length, and closure of gaps in the reference human genome assembly GRCh38.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Cell, Human genome, Base pair, Major histocompatibility complex, The Assembly


Efforts to develop gene therapies for hearing loss have been hampered by the lack of safe, efficient, and clinically relevant delivery modalities. Here we demonstrate the safety and efficiency of Anc80L65, a rationally designed synthetic vector, for transgene delivery to the mouse cochlea. Ex vivo transduction of mouse organotypic explants identified Anc80L65 from a set of other adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors as a potent vector for the cochlear cell targets. Round window membrane injection resulted in highly efficient transduction of inner and outer hair cells in mice, a substantial improvement over conventional AAV vectors. Anc80L65 round window injection was well tolerated, as indicated by sensory cell function, hearing and vestibular function, and immunologic parameters. The ability of Anc80L65 to target outer hair cells at high rates, a requirement for restoration of complex auditory function, may enable future gene therapies for hearing and balance disorders.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Auditory system, Cochlea, Inner ear, Mouse, Organ of Corti


High-fidelity intracranial electrode arrays for recording and stimulating brain activity have facilitated major advances in the treatment of neurological conditions over the past decade. Traditional arrays require direct implantation into the brain via open craniotomy, which can lead to inflammatory tissue responses, necessitating development of minimally invasive approaches that avoid brain trauma. Here we demonstrate the feasibility of chronically recording brain activity from within a vein using a passive stent-electrode recording array (stentrode). We achieved implantation into a superficial cortical vein overlying the motor cortex via catheter angiography and demonstrate neural recordings in freely moving sheep for up to 190 d. Spectral content and bandwidth of vascular electrocorticography were comparable to those of recordings from epidural surface arrays. Venous internal lumen patency was maintained for the duration of implantation. Stentrodes may have wide ranging applications as a neural interface for treatment of a range of neurological conditions.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Brain, Blood, Traumatic brain injury, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Neurology, Electroencephalography


Nanoscale robots have potential as intelligent drug delivery systems that respond to molecular triggers. Using DNA origami we constructed an autonomous DNA robot programmed to transport payloads and present them specifically in tumors. Our nanorobot is functionalized on the outside with a DNA aptamer that binds nucleolin, a protein specifically expressed on tumor-associated endothelial cells, and the blood coagulation protease thrombin within its inner cavity. The nucleolin-targeting aptamer serves both as a targeting domain and as a molecular trigger for the mechanical opening of the DNA nanorobot. The thrombin inside is thus exposed and activates coagulation at the tumor site. Using tumor-bearing mouse models, we demonstrate that intravenously injected DNA nanorobots deliver thrombin specifically to tumor-associated blood vessels and induce intravascular thrombosis, resulting in tumor necrosis and inhibition of tumor growth. The nanorobot proved safe and immunologically inert in mice and Bama miniature pigs. Our data show that DNA nanorobots represent a promising strategy for precise drug delivery in cancer therapy.

Concepts: Inflammation, DNA, Blood, Heart, Blood vessel, Coagulation, Nanotechnology, Endothelium


Antidepressants are widely prescribed, but their efficacy relative to placebo is modest, in part because the clinical diagnosis of major depression encompasses biologically heterogeneous conditions. Here, we sought to identify a neurobiological signature of response to antidepressant treatment as compared to placebo. We designed a latent-space machine-learning algorithm tailored for resting-state electroencephalography (EEG) and applied it to data from the largest imaging-coupled, placebo-controlled antidepressant study (n = 309). Symptom improvement was robustly predicted in a manner both specific for the antidepressant sertraline (versus placebo) and generalizable across different study sites and EEG equipment. This sertraline-predictive EEG signature generalized to two depression samples, wherein it reflected general antidepressant medication responsivity and related differentially to a repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment outcome. Furthermore, we found that the sertraline resting-state EEG signature indexed prefrontal neural responsivity, as measured by concurrent transcranial magnetic stimulation and EEG. Our findings advance the neurobiological understanding of antidepressant treatment through an EEG-tailored computational model and provide a clinical avenue for personalized treatment of depression.


Blood pressure regulation is known to be maintained by a neuro-endocrine circuit, but whether immune cells contribute to blood pressure homeostasis has not been determined. We previously showed that CD4(+) T lymphocytes that express choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), which catalyzes the synthesis of the vasorelaxant acetylcholine, relay neural signals. Here we show that these CD4(+)CD44(hi)CD62L(lo) T helper cells by gene expression are a distinct T-cell population defined by ChAT (CD4 TChAT). Mice lacking ChAT expression in CD4(+) cells have elevated arterial blood pressure, compared to littermate controls. Jurkat T cells overexpressing ChAT (JTChAT) decreased blood pressure when infused into mice. Co-incubation of JTChAT and endothelial cells increased endothelial cell levels of phosphorylated endothelial nitric oxide synthase, and of nitrates and nitrites in conditioned media, indicating increased release of the potent vasorelaxant nitric oxide. The isolation and characterization of CD4 TChAT cells will enable analysis of the role of these cells in hypotension and hypertension, and may suggest novel therapeutic strategies by targeting cell-mediated vasorelaxation.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Gene, Atherosclerosis, Blood pressure, T helper cell, Nitric oxide, Nitric oxide synthase


Additive manufacturing, otherwise known as three-dimensional (3D) printing, is driving major innovations in many areas, such as engineering, manufacturing, art, education and medicine. Recent advances have enabled 3D printing of biocompatible materials, cells and supporting components into complex 3D functional living tissues. 3D bioprinting is being applied to regenerative medicine to address the need for tissues and organs suitable for transplantation. Compared with non-biological printing, 3D bioprinting involves additional complexities, such as the choice of materials, cell types, growth and differentiation factors, and technical challenges related to the sensitivities of living cells and the construction of tissues. Addressing these complexities requires the integration of technologies from the fields of engineering, biomaterials science, cell biology, physics and medicine. 3D bioprinting has already been used for the generation and transplantation of several tissues, including multilayered skin, bone, vascular grafts, tracheal splints, heart tissue and cartilaginous structures. Other applications include developing high-throughput 3D-bioprinted tissue models for research, drug discovery and toxicology.

Concepts: DNA, Cell nucleus, Cell, Biology, Organelle, Cell biology, Organ, Cell type


DNA storage offers substantial information density1-7 and exceptional half-life3. We devised a ‘DNA-of-things’ (DoT) storage architecture to produce materials with immutable memory. In a DoT framework, DNA molecules record the data, and these molecules are then encapsulated in nanometer silica beads8, which are fused into various materials that are used to print or cast objects in any shape. First, we applied DoT to three-dimensionally print a Stanford Bunny9 that contained a 45 kB digital DNA blueprint for its synthesis. We synthesized five generations of the bunny, each from the memory of the previous generation without additional DNA synthesis or degradation of information. To test the scalability of DoT, we stored a 1.4 MB video in DNA in plexiglass spectacle lenses and retrieved it by excising a tiny piece of the plexiglass and sequencing the embedded DNA. DoT could be applied to store electronic health records in medical implants, to hide data in everyday objects (steganography) and to manufacture objects containing their own blueprint. It may also facilitate the development of self-replicating machines.


Differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells to small brain-like structures known as brain organoids offers an unprecedented opportunity to model human brain development and disease. To provide a vascularized and functional in vivo model of brain organoids, we established a method for transplanting human brain organoids into the adult mouse brain. Organoid grafts showed progressive neuronal differentiation and maturation, gliogenesis, integration of microglia, and growth of axons to multiple regions of the host brain. In vivo two-photon imaging demonstrated functional neuronal networks and blood vessels in the grafts. Finally, in vivo extracellular recording combined with optogenetics revealed intragraft neuronal activity and suggested graft-to-host functional synaptic connectivity. This combination of human neural organoids and an in vivo physiological environment in the animal brain may facilitate disease modeling under physiological conditions.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Human brain, Synapse, Pluripotency


The ability to preserve metabolically active livers ex vivo for 1 week or more could allow repair of poor-quality livers that would otherwise be declined for transplantation. Current approaches for normothermic perfusion can preserve human livers for only 24 h. Here we report a liver perfusion machine that integrates multiple core physiological functions, including automated management of glucose levels and oxygenation, waste-product removal and hematocrit control. We developed the machine in a stepwise fashion using pig livers. Study of multiple ex vivo parameters and early phase reperfusion in vivo demonstrated the viability of pig livers perfused for 1 week without the need for additional blood products or perfusate exchange. We tested the approach on ten injured human livers that had been declined for transplantation by all European centers. After a 7-d perfusion, six of the human livers showed preserved function as indicated by bile production, synthesis of coagulation factors, maintained cellular energy (ATP) and intact liver structure.