Science  16 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6185, pp. 677

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  1. Progeria Drug May Extend Lifespan

    An experimental drug to treat the fatal disease progeria slightly increased the lifespan of dozens of children afflicted with the disease, reports the Progeria Research Foundation (PRF), which funded the first trials of the drug. The genetic mutation behind progeria causes symptoms resembling premature aging: hair and weight loss; joint stiffness; and atherosclerosis, which causes heart attacks that kill most patients in their teens.

    Leslie Gordon, medical director of PRF, and colleagues reported in 2012 that patients taking the drug, lonafarnib, showed small weight gains and reductions in blood vessel stiffness. In a paper published online on 2 May in Circulation, her team now reports that the drug added, on average, 19 months to their lifespans.

    Because so few children have progeria and the disease is invariably fatal, the trial did not include a placebo group. The researchers compared the treated group to historical records and published case reports, but such comparisons are "notoriously un reliable," because different studies may use different criteria for including patients, says Donald Berry, a biostatistician at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Other factors, he notes, could therefore contribute to differences in lifespan.

  2. Many Genes Helped Tame Wild Rabbits

    Charles Darwin wrote that no animal is more difficult to tame than a young wild rabbit—and no animal is tamer than a young domesticated bunny. That behavioral aboutface arises from thousands of subtle genetic differences, and not—as researchers thought—from big changes in just one or two genes, Nima Rafati and Leif Andersson from Uppsala University in Sweden reported last week at the Biology of Genomes meeting in Cold Spring Harbor, New York.


    With most domesticated animals, it's difficult to pin down a domestication gene: Humans tamed them so long ago that the wild ancestors are hard to identify. But rabbits came under our control just 1400 years ago, and their ancestors still thrive in Europe's Iberian Peninsula. After sequencing 20 wild and domesticated rabbit genomes, the researchers observed shifts in the frequency of different versions of genes in the two types of rabbits. Often the shifts were associated with genes and regulatory DNA involved in development, particularly of the nervous system. "The message coming from the rabbit is that it's just a large number of small changes," says Princeton University evolutionary geneticist Peter Andolfatto, who was not involved in the study.