Daddy's girl. Photo from freedigitalphotos.net.Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how special dads are. Across the animal kingdom, fathers caring for their young is the exception, not the rule. Paternal care is most often seen in species in which males can be pretty sure that they are indeed the father (for example, in species that fertilize eggs outside of the mothers’ bodies or in socially monogamous species). Mammals rarely act fatherly - Only 10% of mammalian species show paternal care at all. But among mammals, primates (including ourselves) are more likely to do so.Dads do a number of things to care for their young: Depending on the species (and the individual), they may incubate them, provide them with food, groom them, keep them close to home, guard and protect them, and help them gain survival and mate-attraction skills. These behaviors are costly to a male, who could often be reproductively more successful by spending his time and resources courting more females. But they do it nonetheless.Regardless of whether a dad is behaviorally involved with his offspring, he contributes a fair amount to the individuals we grow up to be. Dads provide nearly half of our genes, which are the instructions for the production of all of our bodies’ tissues and chemicals. These tissues and chemicals don’t just make up our physical bodies, they underlie much of our physical abilities, susceptibilities to disease, and behavior patterns (including personalities).Just because about half of your genes are from dad and about half of your genes are from mom, doesn’t mean that you are strictly half-your-dad and half-your-mom. Imagine you are given two books of Thanksgiving Day recipes: Both books have the same recipe for turkey, so that is the one you are going to follow. But one book has a recipe for garlic mashed potatoes and the other has a recipe for plain mashed potatoes. If no one in your family likes garlic, you will likely follow the recipe for plain potatoes. In addition to choosing between recipes, you can also combine them: If one book has a recipe for stuffing with lots of garlic and onions and the other has a recipe for stuffing without garlic or onions, you could make stuffing with onions and no garlic. Your pairs of genes work in similar ways: if the two copies of a gene are different, you may get the trait of one of them or they could combine to give you an intermediate trait. If the versions of the gene are the same, you will likely just get that trait.When something is made by following the instructions in a gene, this process is called gene expression. Not all genes are expressed equally everywhere: All of the cells of our body have the same genes, but the way they express in a particular cell determines whether that cell is part of a lung, a heart, a brain or something else. If for a particular gene the instructions in the gene from one parent are followed and the gene from the other parent is ignored, this is called parent-specific gene expression. We have several traits that occur as a result of dad-specific gene expression.Your genes are lined up on doubled-stranded DNA, which is tightly coiled around proteins called histones. The DNA is then wrapped even more and packed into chromosomes. You have 23 different pairs of chromosomes in each cell, where one of each pair came from mom and the other came from dad. Figure adapted from an image by KES47 at Wikimedia.More variation is caused by the fact that two individuals with identical genes may not have identical traits. Our genes are encoded in strings of DNA, which are coiled around proteins called histones and then packed into chromosomes. Biological factors can cause the string of DNA to coil tightly around these histones, hindering access to any genes in that section of DNA. This reduces or even prevents gene expression from happening (Imagine what would happen if two pages of your Thanksgiving Day recipe book stuck together). Alternatively, other biological factors can relax the DNA string, increasing gene expression. Gene expression is often decreased or increased as a result of life experiences (such as social experiences, nutrition, or exposure to drugs and toxins). If a particular gene is decreased or increased this way in a sperm or egg cell, this effect can be passed on to the children (and often grandchildren and great-grandchildren and so on). This process of inheritance that is not a strict passing on of genes is called epigenetics. Epigenetics is a new and emerging field, but we have already learned that mothers that provide more parental care create lasting changes in their offspring that are passed down for multiple generations. It is likely that fatherly care has a similar effect. We also know that a father’s nutrition and exposure to drugs and toxins can pass several traits down the generational line through epigenetics.Dads play a special role in the individuals we become. Their behavior with us, genetic makeup, and even personal experiences shape our physical appearances, health, abilities and personalities. If you haven’t yet, take a minute to say “Thanks, Dad!”Happy (late) Father’s Day, Dad! Want to know more? Check these out:1. Curley, J., Mashoodh, R., & Champagne, F. (2011). Epigenetics and the origins of paternal effects Hormones and Behavior, 59 (3), 306-314 DOI: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2010.06.0182. Wilkins, J., & Haig, D. (2003). What good is genomic imprinting: the function of parent-specific gene expression Nature Reviews Genetics, 4 (5), 359-368 DOI: 10.1038/nrg1062 And a special thanks to Tony Auger, Cathy Auger, Stacy Kigar, and Robin Forbes-Lorman for their feedback. ... Read more »
Wilkins, J., & Haig, D. (2003) What good is genomic imprinting: the function of parent-specific gene expression. Nature Reviews Genetics, 4(5), 359-368. DOI: 10.1038/nrg1062
Automotive fuel cells are not only good for powering eco-friendly buses and potentially fuel cell cars, they also can be used in space exploration, according to an article co-authored by the JRC and the European Space Agency (ESA) in the scientific journal Acta Astronautica. The article analyzes the present-day hydrogen activities in the terrestrial and aerospace industries, highlighting possible performance improvements and cost savings.... Read more »
Frischauf, N., Acosta-Iborra, B., Harskamp, F., Moretto, P., Malkow, T., Honselaar, M., Steen, M., Hovland, S., Hufenbach, B., Schautz, M.... (2013) The hydrogen value chain: applying the automotive role model of the hydrogen economy in the aerospace sector to increase performance and reduce costs. Acta Astronautica, 8-24. DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2013.01.002
A new study confirms the link between eating red meat and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus. Find out what this means for you.... Read more »
Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein AM, Manson JE, Willett WC, & Hu FB. (2013) Changes in Red Meat Consumption and Subsequent Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Three Cohorts of US Men and Women. JAMA Intern Med, 1-8. info:/10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6633
Evans WJ. (2013) Oxygen-Carrying Proteins in Meat and Risk of Diabetes Mellitus. Comment on “Changes in Red Meat Consumption and Subsequent Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Three Cohorts of US Men and Women”. JAMA Intern Med, 1-2. info:/10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.7399
Researchers have found that dim light could enhance our creativity as the dark surrounding broadens our thinking and encourages innovation.
Journal of Environmental Psychology
This study would help you to understand why in a hotel with dim light you feel enhanced ability of mind wandering.
In the present study, researchers exposed different groups of German undergraduates to different amount of light. Some groups received only 150 lux (representing dim light), others 500 lux (representing the recommended lighting level for an office), and still others 1,500 lux (representing bright light).
After exposing the different groups to the different amounts of light, researchers gave the groups “four creative insight problems typically used in creativity research. These tasks require that individuals change their perceptions of a given problem in order to find the optimal solution.”
Researchers found that the groups that spent more time in dim light solved significantly more problems than the other groups.
“These results indicate that dim illumination heightens perceived freedom from constraints, which in turn improves creative performance,” the researchers conclude.
Steidle, A., & Werth, L. (2013). Freedom from constraints: Darkness and dim illumination promote creativity Journal of Environmental Psychology, 35, 67-80 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.05.003... Read more »
Steidle, A., & Werth, L. (2013) Freedom from constraints: Darkness and dim illumination promote creativity. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 67-80. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.05.003
In the past few days, a great deal of media attention has been paid to Leanne Rowe, a Tasmanian woman who has lived eight years with a French accent she acquired after a car accident. This phenomenon is known as foreign accent syndrome, a rare disorder that usually arises after brain damage as a result of, for example, stroke or head injury.
Foreign accent syndrome has always been the source of much media interest and the stories often sound sensational. There has been, for example, an American who spoke with a British accent, a British Yorkshireman with an Irish accent and another British man with a Russian accent.... Read more »
David Stehling. (2009) Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS): The Speech Characteristics of Foreign Accent Syndrome. Grin. info:/
Dio, C., Schulz, J., & Gurd, J. (2006) Foreign Accent Syndrome: In the ear of the beholder?. Aphasiology, 20(9), 951-962. DOI: 10.1080/02687030600739356
If Mayor Bloomberg's wildest decay-related fantasies are realized, New Yorkers will soon be sparing their food scraps from the garbage. A new composting program would encourage (or possibly require) people in the city to collect their food waste in a separate container. Yet Bloomberg may want to consider whether a Manhattan apartment has the square footage to fit both its residents and their potentially harmful compost fungi.
The New York City recycling plan, as described in the New York Times this week, would start out on a voluntary basis. Participants would gather their food waste in "containers the size of picnic baskets in their homes," then dump the compost in curbside bins for regular collection. Instead of going into landfills, that waste might be turned into biogas for electricity. Eventually, the program could become mandatory.
Vidya De Gannes, a graduate student at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus, in Trinidad and Tobago, has been composting too. She made three kinds of compost, each based on one type of dried plant material (agricultural wastes from the processing of rice, sugar cane, or coffee) mixed with cow or sheep manure. De Gannes and William Hickey, a soil microbiologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who's the senior author of the new study, say these composts are most similar to a homeowner's compost mix of grass and yard waste.
To study the biodiversity of species living in compost, De Gannes collected fungal DNA from her compost containers and sequenced it. In total, she found 120 different species of fungus. Each kind of compost had a unique mix of species living inside it.
She also turned up 15 fungus species that can cause disease in humans. These were present in every kind of compost and ranged from Aspergillus fumigatus, a common fungus that can cause lung infections in people with compromised immune systems, to other species that can infect the skin or eyes.
Although the composts De Gannes studied weren't quite what New Yorkers would be collecting in their kitchens—unless they're keeping pet sheep too—some of the potentially dangerous fungi she found have also turned up in studies of all-plant compost.
Keeping a compost bucket in an enclosed space is "potentially risky," Hickey and De Gannes wrote in an email. Fungal spores floating on the air can cause infections, especially in people with weakened immune systems. "Compost kept in an enclosed area like a small apartment would probably not have adequate ventilation."
To get some fresh air, composters might have to leave their apartments and go around the corner for an extra-extra-large soda.
Image: Waldo Jaquith (not, as far as I know, a dangerous fungus)
De Gannes, V., Eudoxie, G., & Hickey, W. (2013). Insights into fungal communities in composts revealed by 454-pyrosequencing: implications for human health and safety Frontiers in Microbiology, 4 DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2013.00164
... Read more »
De Gannes, V., Eudoxie, G., & Hickey, W. (2013) Insights into fungal communities in composts revealed by 454-pyrosequencing: implications for human health and safety. Frontiers in Microbiology. DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2013.00164
Sons and daughters of same-sex couples grow up as good as in traditional families. That's what Australian research shows us.... Read more »
Crouch SR, Waters E, McNair R, Power J, & Davis E. (2012) ACHESS--The Australian study of child health in same-sex families: background research, design and methodology. BMC public health, 646. PMID: 22888859
They live with two mums or two dads, and they are on the same level as their school friends regarding self-esteem, emotional behavior and time spent with their parents. But they seem to have the edge over the average regarding overall health and familiar cohesion. Kids that grow with homosexual couples grow up as good as in traditional families, and even better in some aspects. This seems to be confirmed by a study conducted by a group of researchers of the University of Melbourne on 500 minors living in Australia: member of same-sex families are closer to one another –the research suggests- since they have to face attacks that come from society, digest them and give them an explanation.... Read more »
Crouch SR, Waters E, McNair R, Power J, & Davis E. (2012) ACHESS--The Australian study of child health in same-sex families: background research, design and methodology. BMC public health, 646. PMID: 22888859
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Bacteriology are studying the colonies of leaf-cutter ants as they cultivate thriving communities of fungi and bacteria using freshly cut plant material. While these fungi provide nutrients for the ants, researchers are hoping to replicate the process and apply it for better biofuel production.... Read more »
Aylward, F., Burnum-Johnson, K., Tringe, S., Teiling, C., Tremmel, D., Moeller, J., Scott, J., Barry, K., Piehowski, P., Nicora, C.... (2013) Leucoagaricus gongylophorus Produces Diverse Enzymes for the Degradation of Recalcitrant Plant Polymers in Leaf-Cutter Ant Fungus Gardens. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 79(12), 3770-3778. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.03833-12
We’ve been doing training and workshops on the UCSC Genome Browser for 10 years now. It’s a tremendous tool that has to be a foundational item in your toolkit in genomics. But–there may be times when you want to examine some of the data that you can find there in another way, with a different [...]... Read more »
Auerbach, R., Chen, B., & Butte, A. (2013) Relating Genes to Function: Identifying Enriched Transcription Factors using the ENCODE ChIP-Seq Significance Tool. Bioinformatics. DOI: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btt316
Something puzzles me about the arguments made by shock collar advocates. On the one hand they claim the e-collar doesn’t hurt, and on the other they say it’s a last resort to prevent ‘dead dogs’ due to recall and chasing problems. Surely the second justification casts doubt on the first? Two new scientific studies funded by the UK’s DEFRA address both arguments, and conclude that e-collars are unnecessary and detrimental to animal welfare.Shock collars (including invisible fences) are already banned in many countries because of welfare concerns. The DEFRA studies aimed to investigate the welfare of dogs trained using e-collars. The results will surely add to calls for shock collars to be banned in England and Scotland (they have been illegal in Wales since 2010), and elsewhere. The first study (Defra AW1402) included extensive pilot work, an investigation of the electrical resistance of wet and dry dogs (conclusion: wet dogs get zapped more), and a comparison of the features of several purchased shock collars. Only a handful of instruction manuals stated that vocalizations indicate the shock is too high. They did not explain all features well, particularly the warning tone or vibration which is meant to precede a shock (not all models had a warning tone). Most manuals suggested use of the continuous shock option that is stopped when the dog does the required behaviour, rather than a momentary stimulus (for quadrant enthusiasts, this is using the collar as R- rather than P+). One of the collars, bought over the internet, turned out to be a counterfeit with no cut-off for the continuous shock, and two of the genuine collars had faults.The manuals assumed people were using the collars to teach general obedience, but some also mentioned particular problem behaviours. The scientists conducted a survey that found almost all dog owners who use shock collars use it for problem behaviours, particularly recall and/or chasing. Owners were not able to explain properly how they had used the collar in training. Particularly worrisome is that “some end-users either fail to read the instructions, misunderstand or deliberately disregard the advice in the manuals.” (p25)Owners reported that 36% of the dogs vocalized (e.g. yelped) the first time the e-collar was used, and 26% of dogs vocalized on later use(s) of the e-collar. Six per cent of owners said they started at the highest shock level the first time they used the collar, and either stayed at this level or adjusted down from there. The scientists say that “some of the reported use was clearly inconsistent with advice in e-collar manuals and potentially a threat to the dog’s welfare.” (p25)The scientists collected saliva and urine samples from the dogs that had been trained using e-collars and a matched sample that had not, plus an extra set of controls. The samples allowed them to check for physiological signs of stress at various points in data collection. They also did behavioural and training tests on the dogs, including to the fitting of a dummy (inactive) e-collar and having both owner and researcher conduct training sessions. They tested whether there were differences between when the dogs were not wearing the dummy collar compared to when they were were, with an extra control group of dogs who never wore the dummy collar.In the e-collar-trained dogs, salivary cortisol increased significantly when they were wearing a collar, compared to dogs trained only using positive reinforcement. The researchers say this “suggests a negative association with anticipation of stimulus application.” (p28). The e-collar-trained dogs also had a significant increase in tense behaviour, compared to the other dogs. They were very attentive to their owner whilst wearing the collar, to the extent that the researchers could not do the training task with some of these dogs. During training, the control group (including those trained using positive reinforcement only) were significantly more attentive to their trainer than the e-collar dogs. The first study concluded that “for a subset of dogs tested, the previous use of e-collars in training are associated with behavioural and physiological responses that are consistent with significant negative emotional states; this was not seen to the same extent in the control population. It is therefore suggested that the use of e-collars in training pet dogs can lead to a negative impact on welfare, at least in a proportion of animals trained using this technique.” (p4).Because so many owners used the shock collars in a way that was not consistent with the manuals, the second study (DEFRA1402DWa) was designed to investigate what happens when a shock collar is used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This includes a warning cue prior to the shock, so that it can be cancelled if the dog responds to the warning, and checking the level of shock to use for each dog. The Electronic Collar Manufacturer’s Association assisted with the design of the training protocol, and suggested the trainers who used the e-collar, who were also experienced in using other methods of training such as rewards.Three groups of dogs were tested, with 21 dogs in each group. All of the dogs were referred because the owner said they had problems with recall and chasing (e.g. of sheep, cars, bicycles). This issue was chosen because it is one for which those trainers who use shock collars often recommend them.Group A were trained using e-collars by dog trainers who had completed industry training. Group B were trained by the same trainers, but not using any shock and using lots of positive reinforcement. Group C were trained by members of the UK’s APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) using no shock and lots of positive reinforcement. The APDT (UK) has a code of conduct which states that “coercive or punitive techniques and/or equipment should not be used, recommended, advertised or sold by members” and this includes the shock collar which they describe as an “abusive device”. (N.B. APDTs in other countries have different policies).Groups B and C were both control groups, as neither was trained using shock collars. The reason for two controls? Group B is a useful control because they are the same trainers as Group A, but they are not blind to the purposes of the study, so it is possible they could unintentionally affect the results. Also, since they usually rely on shock collars they may not be as experienced in using reward-based methods as the trainers in Group C, who never use shock collars. All of the dogs were evaluated on a number of standardized tests prior to the start of training, and the dogs in each group were closely matched. Of course, researchers can’t shock people’s dogs without their permission, so for Groups A and B the dog owners were allowed to express a preference. Only two owners did this, one wanting their dog to be in the shock collar group and one wanting it not to be. It’s to the credit of the experimenters that they did not just swap these two dogs; in fact each one was swapped with another well-matched dog, to ensure matching between the groups.Each dog was trained over a period of five days, although occasionally the trainers declared training complete after four days. The training took place in a field with a livestock pen in it; although the field used for Group C ... Read more »
Blackwell, E., Bolster, C., Richards, G., Loftus, B., & Casey, R. (2012) The use of electronic collars for training domestic dogs: estimated prevalence, reasons and risk factors for use, and owner perceived success as compared to other training methods. BMC Veterinary Research, 8(1), 93. DOI: 10.1186/1746-6148-8-93
Herron, M., Shofer, F., & Reisner, I. (2009) Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 117(1-2), 47-54. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2008.12.011
Schalke, E., Stichnoth, J., Ott, S., & Jones-Baade, R. (2007) Clinical signs caused by the use of electric training collars on dogs in everyday life situations. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 105(4), 369-380. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2006.11.002
Schilder, M., & van der Borg, J. (2004) Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 85(3-4), 319-334. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2003.10.004
I’m not sure if the format of the Dutch postcode lottery is common, but it certainly creates some interesting incentives. In this lottery, a random postcode is drawn from the 430,000 postcodes in the Netherlands, with each postcode having, on average, 19 households. Each person in that postcode who has purchased a ticket in the [...]The post When your neighbour wins the lottery appeared first on Evolving Economics.... Read more »
Kuhn, P., Kooreman, P., Soetevent, A., & Kapteyn, A. (2011) The Effects of Lottery Prizes on Winners and Their Neighbors: Evidence from the Dutch Postcode Lottery. American Economic Review, 101(5), 2226-2247. DOI: 10.1257/aer.101.5.2226
Research continues on what is the most basal animal on Earth and if that animal is representative of the earliest metazoaon. A 2013 report says that it isn’t time to rewrite the books, but even if we tried to do just that, what would we place at the bottom of the tree? Recent studies argue for different groups. A 2009 study says it is the placozoans. A 2012 study gives the award to the sponges. And several studies in the 2000’s wanted to nominate the comb jellies. The biggest difference in these studies – the 2013 report makes the porifera different from all the other animals, while the 2009 study says the lower metazoans all diverged from the bilaterians at the same time and then evolved in parallel.... Read more »
Dohrmann, M., & Worheide, G. (2013) Novel Scenarios of Early Animal Evolution--Is It Time to Rewrite Textbooks?. Integrative and Comparative Biology. DOI: 10.1093/icb/ict008
Schierwater, B., Eitel, M., Jakob, W., Osigus, H., Hadrys, H., Dellaporta, S., Kolokotronis, S., & DeSalle, R. (2009) Concatenated Analysis Sheds Light on Early Metazoan Evolution and Fuels a Modern “Urmetazoon” Hypothesis. PLoS Biology, 7(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000020
by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room
Despite the admiration we often have for whistle-blowers and the generous adjectives we might use to describe them (e.g., courageous, principled, moral) they almost uniformly have a very tough time. They are also seen as disloyal and mean-spirited by members of their former group and typically not revered as having the best interests of the [...]
“It was ‘a man’s work’ and I just didn’t like working with those incompetent women….”
Politics and prejudice? Nope. It’s about ideology!
Proof we don’t hire the most qualified candidate!
... Read more »
Packer, D., Fujita, K., & Herman, S. (2013) Rebels with a cause: A goal conflict approach to understanding when conscientious people dissent. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2013.05.001
America is being eroded by greed. More schools are being closed, more prisons are being built, and money is changing hands in all the wrong places. From limiting the potential of the future generations, to arresting innocent people for personal gain, America has become rotten.
Like a rat in a Skinner box, when you give the right incentives, they're motivated to get the cheese. But unlike in the Skinner box, the cheese taken in America is at the expense of others.
This article explains it all, from incentives to education. ... Read more »
Lochner, L., & Moretti, E. (2004) The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports. American Economic Review, 94(1), 155-189. DOI: 10.1257/000282804322970751
When I first saw the paper from Nga Lau and colleagues* (open-access) looking for markers of gluten sensitivity and/or coeliac (celiac) disease in children with autism I have to admit to raising a smile. I smiled because in a previous post on this blog I talked about a 'wish-list' for autism research specifically focused on the gluten and casein-free dietary intervention**. Part of that wish list was some further inquiry into why, biochemically, some people on the autism spectrum might benefit from dietary intervention. My prayers it seems have started to be answered.Smiler @ Wikipedia When it comes to the area of dietary intervention for conditions like schizophrenia (no really), there seemed to be a lot more enthusiasm for looking at why some cases of schizophrenia might overlap with dietary issues over investigations into autism. I can't pretend to know why schizophrenia research took the lead; maybe something to do with Dohan and his original discussions on diet and schizophrenia or that schizophrenia research has some very talented people like Emily Severance and colleagues (see here and here and here) taking an interest. One might also speculate that some of the politics of autism - diet, gastrointestinal (GI) issues = (see here) - might also creep into this lack of autism research interest too? Who knows.No mind, Lau et al did look at immune reactivity to gluten (or rather a fraction of gluten called gliadin) in a group of children with autism (n=37) compared with their asymptomatic siblings (n=27) and typically developing controls (n=76). They looked for anti-gliadin antibodies (IgA and IgG). They looked for antibodies to deamidated gliadin (that is where gliadin has already been subjected to some kind of enzymatic modification). They looked at antibodies to tissue transglutaminase (tTG). They even examined HLA genotype for the DQ2 and DQ8 haplotypes (linked to the genetics of coeliac disease). All in all, the primary bases were covered.Results: well, the serum samples all came from AGRE - the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange - so no quibbling about the diagnosis of autism. They also subdivided the autism group up into those with GI symptoms and those without and remarked on those who were following a gluten-free diet too.The authors report that levels of IgG anti-gliadin antibody were elevated in the autism group compared to siblings and controls. This differences lasted even when certain confounders such as age, gender and race were taken into account and the calculated odds ratio of an having an elevated IgG antibody levels to gliadin was not to be sniffed at either (OR 4.97; CI 1.39 - 17.8). That being said, there was cross-over between the relatively small participant groups and levels of IgA antibody to gliadin were not significantly different between the groups. Very interestingly, the presence of comorbid GI symptoms appearing alongside autism seemed to be linked to that elevated IgG antibody response to gliadin compared with no comorbid GI symptoms.Just short of 50% of the children with autism were "positive for HLA-DQ2 and/or -DQ8 (6 DQ2, 12 DQ8)". I probably didn't explain this well, but a significant proportion of people with coeliac disease carry these haplotypes which all relates back to the almighty MHC and antigen presentation (see here for explanation).Insofar as the other parameters on antibodies to deamidated gliadin and tTG, there was little difference to write home about. Although not wholly relevant, I'll refer you back to some interesting work down on tTG with autism in mind from a while back (see here).A few choice quotes from the authors: "The findings indicate that the observed anti-gliadin immune response in patients with autism is likely to involve a mechanism that is distinct from celiac disease, without the requirement for TG2 activity or antigen presentation through DQ2/DQ8 MHC molecules". Well, we know that coeliac disease, when it is tested for in cases of autism, is probably not greatly over-represented in ASD despite some interesting evidence (see here). The Lau study kinda confirms that fact. But.... with all the talk about non-coeliac gluten sensitivity which has surfaced over the past few years (see here and here) one has to wonder whether for some on the autism spectrum, a similar mode of action might pertain outside of the more classical coeliac serology and markers?It's interesting also that the authors talk about issues like the potential cross-reactivity of gluten as one implication of their findings. I'm taken back to the work of Ari Vojdani and colleagues*** on this matter. Oh and those Emily Severance findings about critters like T.gondii mixing it up with gluten reactivity (see here). I'm not necessarily saying that everyone with autism who presents with gluten antibodies has been in contact with the gondii but merely that the infection connection is an interesting one as per all that autoimmunity chatter with autism in mind.It's interesting too that the authors also make mention of intestinal permeability as potentially being a factor to be looked at further. I know some people still look on things like 'leaky gut' as being the stuff of tree-huggers, but the evidence is growing for some effect in cases of autism (see here) with the promise of more investigations to come (see here for the Paul Patterson mouse work and here for a video from everyone's favourite autism - gut specialist researcher, Alessio Fasano).Whilst I am pretty buoyed by seeing that this area is starting to get some research interest, I'm containing my excitement for now. It's still a long haul from gluten antibodies to suggesting that gluten may 'cause' or 'exacerbate' a complex s... Read more »
Lau, N., Green, P., Taylor, A., Hellberg, D., Ajamian, M., Tan, C., Kosofsky, B., Higgins, J., Rajadhyaksha, A., & Alaedini, A. (2013) Markers of Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity in Children with Autism. PLoS ONE, 8(6). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066155
A violent attack by someone who is mentally ill quickly grabs the headlines. And it’s usually implied that mental illnesses are a preventable cause of violent crime. Tackle that and we can all sleep safer in our beds. But by pressuring mental health services to focus on the risk of violence we are in danger of actually increasing it.
Most of the debate around risk and offending has centred around schizophrenia – the bread and butter of community psychiatry. But what is the evidence relating to the risk of violence in those diagnosed with schizophrenia? It’s tricky because schizophrenia varies so much in character and severity. And other factors known to have an association with violent crime, like migration and social disadvantage, are often also implicated as a part of the cause or consequence of schizophrenia.... Read more »
Short, T., Thomas, S., Mullen, P., & Ogloff, J. (2013) Comparing violence in schizophrenia patients with and without comorbid substance-use disorders to community controls. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. DOI: 10.1111/acps.12066
June 2013, Volume 45 No 6 pp 579-714Jonathan the zombie isn't the only one who likes turtles. These heroes-in-a-half-shell adorn the cover of the current Nature Genetics, as two species of turtle have just joined the Genome Club (Wang et al. 2013; paper's free!).This definitely not one of those genome sequencing studies alluded to recently by John Hawks, that's "too boring for journals." Wang and colleagues didn't just sequence the genomes of soft-shell and green sea turtles 'just cuz.' Rather, they use these copious data to address several questions, perhaps most interesting of which relate to developmental genetics and embyrogenesis.First, analysis of gene expression during embryonic development supports what the authors refer to as a "nested hourglass model" of development and gene expression. The hourglass serves as analogy for variation across related species over time: there is great variation (in both morphology and gene expression) in the earliest stages of development, then species are more similar at a given developmental stage (the "phylotypic period"), and thereafter variation increases again. This phylotypic period (which I don't believe is unanimously agreed upon) is arguably the most conserved developmental stage in evolution - all vertebrates, for example, simply must pass through this stage to become good vertebrates. Plus, several studies have found that evolutionarily younger genes tend to be expressed before and after this amorphous phylotypic stage, while more ancient genes are expressed during this time. As the authors state"According to the recently supported developmental hourglass model ... the changes underlying major adult morphological evolution occurred primarily in the developmental stages after the period ... that serves as the basic vertebrate body plan."So the turtle data generally support this model. However they mention a nested hourglass, because they found evidence of an additional bottleneck, a second hourglass, of conserved gene expression when comparing turtles with their close relative the chicken. In other words, "the most conserved developmental stage changes depending on distantly related species are that are being compared." So since turtles and chickens are more closely related to one another than to many other vertebrates, they might share another conserved developmental stage. Incidentally, both also make for good soup.Wang and colleagues also looked for genes relating to some of the unique aspects of turtle anatomy, examining what parts of the genome seem to get kicked up after the phylotypic period. It doesn't take a trained eye to see that these animals are kinda weird in that their bodies are encased in a flagrant shell, with a carapace on top and plastron on the bottom. Now it turns out this carapace is actually formed from what should, in most other vertebrates, become vertebrae and ribs. So by studying the earliest development of these structures, Wang and colleagues could examine the molecular bases of this carapacial deviation.Fig. 5 from Wang et al., showing Wnt protein expression in turtle embryos. In a), only Wnt5a is expressed in the 'carapacial ridge' during its earliest development. Fig c) is a cross-section indicated in b) showing this expression. NT=neural tube, NC= notochord. The scale bar is 0.5 mm. Tiny!The authors were able to identify over 200 miRNAs, and implicate the signalling protein Wnt5a, in the development of the "carapacial ridge" (see the arrows in fig. c above), the embryonic precursors to the carapace. Interestingly, Wnt5a is involved in the development of limb buds (e.g, those big purple circles in the red square in a) above). The precise role of Wnt5a and the miRNAs in turtle shell development has yet to be determined, so this study really sets the stage for future investigations.So there you have it, a pretty cool paper combining genomics with developmental biology, among other things. And so to close, for your bemusement, here's a video I shot last week at the awesome Kansas City Zoo, of a turtle attempting to make embryos like in the figure above. Hang in there, little buddy!They like tuhtles!Wang Z, Pascual-Anaya J, Zadissa A, Li W, Niimura Y, Huang Z, Li C, White S, Xiong Z, Fang D, Wang B, M... Read more »
Wang Z, Pascual-Anaya J, Zadissa A, Li W, Niimura Y, Huang Z, Li C, White S, Xiong Z, Fang D.... (2013) The draft genomes of soft-shell turtle and green sea turtle yield insights into the development and evolution of the turtle-specific body plan. Nature genetics, 45(6), 701-6. PMID: 23624526
In 2008, doctor Sergio Canavero, an italian neurosurgeon based in Turin, IT, have awakened a 20 years old lady from a permanent post-traumatic vegetative state, by means of a bifocal extradural cortical electro-stimulation. Today, while Science still find it hard to explain consciousness and embodied cognition – the world-class neurosurgeon made a shock announcement: “I’m ready for the first head transplant on a man.”
In the manuscript published on Surgical Neurology International, he reveals the details of this astonishing project, named HEAVEN. Including ethical questions.... Read more »
Canavero, S. (2013) HEAVEN: The head anastomosis venture Project outline for the first human head transplantation with spinal linkage (GEMINI). Surgical Neurology International, 4(2), 335. DOI: 10.4103/2152-7806.113444
Researchers working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new microscopy technique that uses a process similar to how an old tube television produces a picture—cathodoluminescence—to image nanoscale features. Combining the best features of optical and scanning electron microscopy, the fast, versatile, and high-resolution technique allows scientists to view surface and subsurface features potentially as small as 10 nanometers in size.... Read more »
Yoon, H., Lee, Y., Bohn, C., Ko, S., Gianfrancesco, A., Steckel, J., Coe-Sullivan, S., Talin, A., & Zhitenev, N. (2013) High-resolution photocurrent microscopy using near-field cathodoluminescence of quantum dots. AIP Advances, 3(6), 62112. DOI: 10.1063/1.4811275
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