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  • September 30, 2014
  • 06:10 PM
  • 40 views

New Immune System Discovery

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

The immune system is sort of this big enigma, we know how pieces of it work, but we don’t know it as well as we would like or we wouldn’t have autoimmunity to contend with. Well new research reveals new information about how our immune system functions, shedding light on a vital process that determines how the body’s ability to fight infection develops. Which brings us one step closer to the big picture of the immune system.... Read more »

  • September 29, 2014
  • 08:52 PM
  • 57 views

There's nothing quite like renewables: Modeling indicates natural gas production will not reduce future greenhouse gas emissions as hoped

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

Not so fast natural gas! New modeling using 'commitment' accounting to represent social inertia indicates that natural gas may not reduce emissions as hoped.... Read more »

Steven J Davis and Robert H Socolow. (2014) Commitment accounting of CO2 emissions. Environmental Research Letters, 9(084018). info:/

  • September 29, 2014
  • 06:07 PM
  • 57 views

Cat and Dogs: seeking solutions with sniffing canines and science

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Hi Mia and Julie,  First of all, I LOVE your blog! After meeting at SPARCS this past summer (summer for us in North America.. I take it summer is just beginning in Australia!), I’ve followed it closely.  You do amazing things for the promotion of  canine science. Serious love. A bit of background for the readers: I’m currently doing my PhD at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada, under the supervision of Dr. Simon Gadbois. Dr. Gadbois has an amazing amount of knowledge and experience in the science of sniffing (just check out Gadbois & Reeve, 2014 link below!).  He’s trained sniffer dogs for the conservation of ribbon snakes and wood turtles, to track coyotes, and to detect invasive pests in lumber. He and I have taken on a different type of project and are studying the intricacies of biomedical detection dogs, specifically, the very interesting phenomenon of Diabetic Alert Dogs.  Cat Reeve at #SPARCS2014 where she won the 'Best Emerging Researcher' prize I say interesting because there’s anecdotal evidence suggesting that some dogs alert their owners to hypoglycemic events (low blood sugar). In 2008, Deborah Wells published a series of case studies where dogs were reported as signalling (barking, licking, pawing etc. the individual) while their owners were awake, while they were sleeping, and even when their owners were in a different room with the door closed! And this is with no previous training!  Isn’t this fantastic! Severe hypoglycemic events can be extremely dangerous for individuals with diabetes. If not treated, they can lead to seizures, comas, and even death. The fact that dogs may be able to alert an individual before a serious hypoglycemic event means less worry about hypoglycaemia unawareness, and blood sugar dropping over night when individuals are unconscious.Given that dogs are signalling through closed doors, it is assumed that the dogs smell something that alerts them to a change in the physiology of their owner (as opposed to behavioural cues, as is believed to be the case with seizure alert dogs). There are many companies that have taken advantage of this supposed ability, and have trained Diabetic Alert Dogs (DADs) to sell to individuals with diabetes.  In my own searches, I have found no company that publicly provides information as to how they train their dogs. However, according to recent studies (see Gonder-Frederick et al., 2013 and Rooney et al., 2011 below) these trained DADs dogs contribute greatly to the families of individuals’ with diabetes; they signal consistently and, consequently, significantly reduce the number of hypoglycemic events an individual experiences. Now, if it is in fact an olfactory cue that dogs use to identify a drop in blood sugar in their owners, one would expect that if you presented one of these trained DADs with the “scent” of hypoglycemia without the individual present (just like having the owner with diabetes on the other side of a door), the dog would still signal.  Dehlinger and colleagues recently tested three DADs in a lab setting, presenting the dogs with human biological samples that were obtained identically to the way the samples used to train the dogs were obtained. In this study, none of the three dogs could pick out a ... Read more »

  • September 29, 2014
  • 05:12 PM
  • 54 views

New Protein Implicated in Alzheimer’s

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Alzheimer's prevention has made some strides in recent years. We've even identified some new causes, and in some cases we can do both. In fact, researchers have now shown that low levels of the protein progranulin in the brain can increase the formation of amyloid-beta plaques (a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease). These plaques can cause neuroinflammation, and worsen memory deficits in a mouse model of this condition. Conversely, by using a gene therapy approach to elevate progranulin levels, scientists were able to prevent these abnormalities and block cell death in this model.... Read more »

Minami, S., Min, S., Krabbe, G., Wang, C., Zhou, Y., Asgarov, R., Li, Y., Martens, L., Elia, L., Ward, M.... (2014) Progranulin protects against amyloid β deposition and toxicity in Alzheimer's disease mouse models. Nature Medicine. DOI: 10.1038/nm.3672  

  • September 28, 2014
  • 03:37 PM
  • 79 views

The Genetic Evolutionary Arms Race

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Genes are tricky little buggers, the stuff that makes us up has fought the test of time to make it to where we are today. It is thought that our genes changed in an attempt to outpace other life, albeit random changes.That might only be half right however, new findings suggest that there is an evolutionary arms race going on within the genome against, of all things, itself. This inherent competition of primates drove the evolution of complex regulatory networks that orchestrate the activity of genes in every cell of our bodies... Read more »

Jacobs, Greenberg, Nguyen, Haeussler, Ewing, Katzman, Paten, Salama . (2014) An evolutionary arms race betweenKRAB zinc-finger genes ZNF91/93 and SVA/L1 retrotransposons. Nature. info:/10.1038/nature13760

  • September 27, 2014
  • 01:29 PM
  • 93 views

Are Black Holes just in Our Imagination?!

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Black holes, physicists have been fighting over them forever, heck there is even a book entitled the black hole war! (which I do recommend for anyone interested) It’s no real surprise since they are the ultimate unknown – the blackest and most dense objects in the universe that do not even let light escape. And as if they weren't bizarre enough to begin with, now add this to the mix: they don’t exist.... Read more »

Laura Mersini-Houghton, Harald P. Pfeiffer. (2014) Back-reaction of the Hawking radiation flux on a gravitationally collapsing star II: Fireworks instead of firewalls . Physics Letters B. info:/arXiv:1409.1837

  • September 26, 2014
  • 02:15 PM
  • 107 views

“GMO” Foods (Once Again) Proven Safe

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

GMO, I shudder every time I hear someone talk about the “dangers”. It’s one of the new buzzwords that doesn’t actually mean anything, but still manages to scare people. Well a new scientific review reports that the performance and health of food-producing animals consuming genetically engineered feed, first introduced 18 years ago, has been comparable to that of animals consuming non-GE feed. Not that this will stop people from spreading fear, but it’s a start.... Read more »

  • September 25, 2014
  • 10:37 AM
  • 108 views

A New Discovery in the Treatment of Autoimmunity and Chronic Inflammation

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Lupus, Type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis are all diseases brought on by autoimmunity — the bodies inability to tell itself apart from foreign invaders. Finding a cure, or even a suitable treatment has been to put it gently a long, painful road, with little to show for it. On the forefront of the war against the body betrayal is immunosuppressants, which with them carry their own set of side effects and in most cases only off mild to moderate relief of symptoms. But that is all changing and new research on something called immunoproteasomes offer that new hope.... Read more »

Dubiella C, Cui H, Gersch M, Brouwer AJ, Sieber SA, Krüger A, Liskamp RM, & Groll M. (2014) Selective Inhibition of the Immunoproteasome by Ligand-Induced Crosslinking of the Active Site. Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English). PMID: 25244435  

  • September 24, 2014
  • 03:54 PM
  • 82 views

A new Medicine may help Lupus Sufferers

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Lupus, a particularly bad hell on earth for people suffering from it. Lupus is caused by autoimmunity, in where the body attacks itself. I have a special place in my heart for people suffering from the disease because my Uncle suffered from it. There is no cure and only moderately effective treatments for the disorder, which causes, in some cases, the most excruciating pain you will ever feel. Thankfully new findings by a biomedical engineering team raise hope for a new class of drugs to treat lupus that may not include the long list of adverse risks and side effects often associated with current treatments.... Read more »

  • September 24, 2014
  • 11:42 AM
  • 81 views

Genetics "Experts" Surveyed on Returning Incidental Findings

by Daniel Koboldt in Massgenomics

In my last post, I wrote about the return of results from next-gen sequencing, specifically a recent paper in AJHG about secondary findings in ~6500 ESP exomes. Today we’ll delve into another paper in the same issue on the attitudes of genetics professionals on return of incidental findings from whole genome sequencing (WGS) and exome sequencing […]... Read more »

  • September 23, 2014
  • 06:41 PM
  • 64 views

A shale's life: first life cycle assessment of shale gas production in Great Britain

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

A paper has just come out looking at the life cycle impact of shale gas production in Great Britain. At the same time, the author is speaking at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester. A great opportunity for science and policy to unite!... Read more »

  • September 23, 2014
  • 01:55 PM
  • 92 views

Lie Detection using Brain Waves: It’s just as creepy as it sounds…

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Currently lie detectors (polygraphs) are not admissible in court, this is because (despite what you may read) there is little proof to show that they are much better than a guess — coming in at roughly 50% accuracy. They aren’t really based in science, making them more of a toy. There might just be a new contender in the lie detection department coming soon however, researchers have found that brain activity can be used to tell whether someone recognizes details they encountered in normal, daily life.... Read more »

  • September 22, 2014
  • 02:17 PM
  • 83 views

Autism and the Low Iron Connection

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

The topic of autism is a charged one. Maybe it’s because it isn’t a simple diagnosis; there are many roads to autism. Most of them are probably genetic, some of them are likely environmental, and none of them are related to vaccination (sorry to burst your bubble anti vax people, it’s called science). Some new research shows another possible (environmental) cause. The new study shows that mothers of children with autism are significantly less likely to report taking iron supplements before and during their pregnancies than the mothers of children who are developing normally.... Read more »

Rebecca J. Schmidt et al. (2014) Maternal intake of supplemental iron and risk for autism spectrum disorders. American Journal of Epidemiology. info:/

  • September 21, 2014
  • 02:33 PM
  • 83 views

Move over Carbon nanotubes introducing Diamond nanothreads

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Carbon nanotubes, the wave of the future. Our hopes and dreams for the future have been firmly placed in using the unique material for everything from electronics to engineering. Unfortunately the production of carbon nanotubes has been hampered by setbacks, which as it turns out might not be a bad thing. This is because for the first time, scientists have discovered how to produce ultra-thin “diamond nanothreads” that promise extraordinary properties, including strength and stiffness greater than that of today’s strongest nanotubes and polymers.... Read more »

Fitzgibbons, T., Guthrie, M., Xu, E., Crespi, V., Davidowski, S., Cody, G., Alem, N., & Badding, J. (2014) Benzene-derived carbon nanothreads. Nature Materials. DOI: 10.1038/nmat4088  

  • September 20, 2014
  • 03:43 PM
  • 109 views

Lengthen Telomeres and Turn Back Aging

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Want to live longer and healthier? Of course you do, well science may just have the answer! Scientists have discovered an on-and-off "switch" in cells that may hold the key to healthy aging. This switch points to a way to encourage healthy cells to keep dividing and generating, for example, new lung or liver tissue, even in old age. Getting cells to divide might not be that hard (or even very useful), but that isn't all, it gets better!... Read more »

  • September 20, 2014
  • 01:52 PM
  • 82 views

Solving the metal problem: new organic solar cell material allows wide use of metal cathodes, improves efficiency

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

New research in Science shows the use of a new organic buffer layer that allows a wide range of metal electrodes to be used in conjunction with solution-based processing.... Read more »

  • September 19, 2014
  • 07:28 PM
  • 90 views

Nanosponges Clean up Antibody-mediated Autoimmune Disease

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

What does lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatic heart disease have in common? All of these (and many other) apparently unrelated disorders are caused by autoimmunity, in which the immune system produces antibodies that attack normal, healthy cells and tissues. Currently considered incurable, these autoimmune diseases can be managed, but to varying degrees and not without serious side effects. Moreover, autoimmune diseases include a wide range of dysfunctional immune responses known as type II, type III, and type IV immune hypersensitivity reactions.... Read more »

Copp JA, Fang RH, Luk BT, Hu CM, Gao W, Zhang K, & Zhang L. (2014) Clearance of pathological antibodies using biomimetic nanoparticles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(37), 13481-6. PMID: 25197051  

  • September 19, 2014
  • 01:21 PM
  • 114 views

New test for Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Early

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Alzheimer’s diagnosis is important, like the famous slogan “with a stroke, time lost is brain lost,” detecting alzheimer’s is important in order to stave off cognitive decline. A just like a stroke time lost is brain lost. Unfortunately early diagnosis has been hard to come by, but now researchers say a simple test that combines thinking and movement can help to detect heightened risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease in a person. The best part, they say this will work even before there are any telltale behavioural signs of dementia.... Read more »

  • September 18, 2014
  • 12:58 PM
  • 130 views

Is Stress Eating Away at You? No, Literally…

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Ever wonder why, when people are too stressed, they are often grouchy, grumpy, nasty, distracted or forgetful? It may not be something you’ve done, in fact it turns out stress is literally tearing apart the brain. By this I mean that researchers have just highlighted a fundamental synaptic mechanism that explains the relationship between chronic stress and the loss of social skills and cognitive impairment. When triggered by stress, an enzyme attacks a synaptic regulatory molecule in the brain. In other words, when people use the colloquialism “what’s eating you?” the answer might just be, stress.... Read more »

van der Kooij, M., Fantin, M., Rejmak, E., Grosse, J., Zanoletti, O., Fournier, C., Ganguly, K., Kalita, K., Kaczmarek, L., & Sandi, C. (2014) Role for MMP-9 in stress-induced downregulation of nectin-3 in hippocampal CA1 and associated behavioural alterations. Nature Communications, 4995. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5995  

  • September 17, 2014
  • 05:56 PM
  • 157 views

Why are ethical standards higher in science than in business and media?

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Facebook manipulates user content in the name of science? Scandalous! It manipulates user content in the name of profit? No worries! Want to run a Milgram study these days? Get bashed by your local ethics committee! Want to show it on TV? No worries. Why do projects which seek knowledge have higher ethical standards than […]... Read more »

Kramer AD, Guillory JE, & Hancock JT. (2014) Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(24), 8788-90. PMID: 24889601  

Milgram, S. (1963) Behavioral Study of obedience. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371-378. info:/doi: 10.1037/h0040525

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