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  • September 20, 2014
  • 03:43 PM
  • 16 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
  • 17 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 20, 2014
  • 10:15 AM
  • 26 views

Autumn Leaves: More Than Just Pretty Colors

by Kelly Hallstrom in The 'Scope

Why do the leaves change color in the fall? It might not be for the reason you think...... Read more »

Schaefer HM, & Rolshausen G. (2006) Plants on red alert: do insects pay attention?. BioEssays : news and reviews in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, 28(1), 65-71. PMID: 16369938  

  • September 20, 2014
  • 04:51 AM
  • 37 views

Antibiotics and risk of pediatric Crohn's disease

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I couldn't let the meta-analysis from Ryan Ungaro and colleagues [1] pass without a brief mention. Concluding that: "Exposure to antibiotics appears to increase the odds of being newly diagnosed with CD [Crohn's disease] but not UC [ulcerative colitis]" and further: "This risk is most marked in children diagnosed with CD", the implications from this and other findings in this area may be far-reaching.I've talked before on this blog about antibiotic exposure and risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (see here) and how, bearing in mind risk is risk, there may be quite a bit more to see in the whole gut bacteria - disease risk arena. Acknowledging that science is still feeling it's way around this area and in particular, whether the use of probiotics might offset any risk or mitigate symptoms [2], the meta-analytic contribution of Ungaro et al represent another important driver for further investigation into those trillions of beasties which call us home [3]. Oh and then there is the gut-brain axis too?Music to close... Be Happy.----------[1] Ungaro R. et al. Antibiotics Associated With Increased Risk of New-Onset Crohn’s Disease But Not Ulcerative Colitis: A Meta-Analysis. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2014. 16 September.[2] Orel R. & Trop TK. Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and prebiotics in inflammatory bowel disease. World J Gastroenterol. Sep 7, 2014; 20(33): 11505–11524.[3] Wu GD. Diet, the Gut Microbiome and the Metabolome in IBD. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2014;79:73-82.----------Ungaro R, Bernstein CN, Gearry R, Hviid A, Kolho KL, Kronman MP, Shaw S, Van Kruiningen H, Colombel JF, & Atreja A (2014). Antibiotics Associated With Increased Risk of New-Onset Crohn's Disease But Not Ulcerative Colitis: A Meta-Analysis. The American journal of gastroenterology PMID: 25223575... Read more »

Ungaro R, Bernstein CN, Gearry R, Hviid A, Kolho KL, Kronman MP, Shaw S, Van Kruiningen H, Colombel JF, & Atreja A. (2014) Antibiotics Associated With Increased Risk of New-Onset Crohn's Disease But Not Ulcerative Colitis: A Meta-Analysis. The American journal of gastroenterology. PMID: 25223575  

  • September 19, 2014
  • 07:28 PM
  • 37 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
  • 06:25 PM
  • 39 views

Estimating how much we don't know

by Iddo Friedberg in Byte Size Biology

Most of our understanding of what genes do comes from computational predictions, rather than actual experiments. For almost any given gene that is sequenced, its function is determined by putting its sequence through one or more function annotation algorithms. Computational annotation is cheaper and more feasible than cloning, translating, and assaying the gene product (typically a protein) to find out exactly what it does. Experiments can be long, expensive and, in many cases, impossible to perform. But, by resorting to computational annotation of the function of proteins, we need to know how well can these algorithms actually perform.... Read more »

  • September 19, 2014
  • 01:21 PM
  • 37 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 19, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 58 views

Translational Findings: What drunk fruit flies can tell us about alcohol addiction

by Bethany Christmann in Fly on the Wall

A study in 2012 found that approximately 7.2% of adults in the United States have an alcohol use disorder (a term that covers any person for whom their drinking causes distress or harm). That adds up to approximately 17 million Americans! Treatments for alcoholism, such as behavioral therapies or medications, can often be ineffective in […]... Read more »

  • September 19, 2014
  • 05:06 AM
  • 27 views

Air travel may cause pneumothorax in BHD patients

by Lizzie Perdeaux in BHD Research Blog

One concern many BHD patients have is whether it is safe to take commercial flights, or whether this would increase the chances of a pneumothorax. A recently published study, by Professor Pieter Postmus and his team at the VU Medical … Continue reading →... Read more »

Postmus PE, Johannesma PC, Menko FH, & Paul MA. (2014) In-Flight Pneumothorax: Diagnosis May Be Missed because of Symptom Delay. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 190(6), 704-5. PMID: 25221882  

  • September 19, 2014
  • 04:08 AM
  • 29 views

Increasing parental age and autism severity?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

An interesting paper by David Geier and colleagues [1] (open-access here) caught my eye recently, concluding that there was a lack of support for the suggestion that: "increasing parental age was associated with increasing autism spectrum disorder phenotypic severity"."the snozzberries taste like snozzberries".Before progressing through the paper and its possible implications, the eagle-eyed out there might have already spotted the name Dr Brian Hooker on the authorship list of the Geier paper. Outside of his other peer-reviewed work [2], I probably only need to mention the letters 'CDC' and everything that has [so far] followed including (at the time of writing) a removal statement for another paper [3]...Anyhow, the idea behind the Geier paper stems from the quite widely disseminated notion that there may be a connection between increasing parental age at conceiving and an increased risk of offspring autism. I've covered it a few times on this blog (see here and see here). The authors elaborate about a recent hypothesis suggesting that "there must be a linkage between increasing genetic load and increasing parental age in autism spectrum disorder pathogenesis" based on studies like the one from Kong and colleagues [4] (covered in a previous post) and Lampi and colleagues [5]. Further, that as a consequence of an increasing genetic load (all those SNPs et al), "there should be a significant relationship between increasing parental age and increasing autism spectrum disorder phenotypic severity of subjects diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder".The paper is open-access but maybe a few details are in order:Participants (N=351), diagnosed with DSM-IV autism, were drawn from "patients presenting for outpatient genetic consultations at the ASD Centers, LLC". Mean age was approximately 9 years of age, most male and most reporting developmental regression following birth. Details of age of parents at time of offspring birth were analysed alongside use of the ATEC (Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist) at initial clinical presentation. These variables formed the crux of the study.Results: "Overall, it was observed that no significant relationships were observed between increasing autism spectrum disorder phenotypic severity and increasing maternal or paternal age". Except, that is, for something that seemed to suggest that older maternal age at birth of child seemed to correlates with "improved sociability" in offspring. The authors report that their observations: "provide important insights into the apparent lack of a relationship between increasing parental age and increasing autism spectrum disorder phenotypic severity".Of course one has to be careful with any study of correlation/association, particularly when it comes to something as simple as just looking at ATEC scores of severity of behaviours in the autism domains and parents age at time of birth of their children. I personally would also have liked to see some further discussion on whether the broader autism phenotype (BAP) for example, might have been an influencing variable too in light of studies like the one from Hasegawa and colleagues [6]. Also, the participant group is quite large - as the authors note - but even there I think back to the sort of sample numbers that those [big data] studies in Taiwan are including (see here) as to where we should be heading.That all being said, I don't want to downplay the Geier results. Another quote might be useful here: "most observed de novo genetic events are unconnected to an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, and those that do confer risk are distributed across many genes and are not necessarily sufficient for disease". This ties in rather nicely with the recent discussions on common variations and autism risk (see here) and how Gaugler and colleagues [7] questioned how much weight to give to de novo mutations in the grand scheme of autism 'causation'. This also might imply that non-genetic events, or at least non-structural genetic events headed under the general banner of environment might also play some contributory role to at least some cases of autism. Again, something which has cropped up on this blog before (see here).Music to close. Given the recent vote near these parts, one of Scotland's most famous exports... Franz Ferdinand and Do You Want To.----------[1] Geier DA. et al. An Evaluation of the Effect of Increasing Parental Age on the Phenotypic Severity of Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Child Neurol. 2014 Aug 27. pii: 0883073814541478.[2] Hooker B. et al. Methodological issues and evidence of malfeasance in research purporting to show thimerosal in vaccines is safe. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:247218.[3] Hooker BS. Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young african american boys: a reanalysis of CDC data. Transl Neurodegener. 2014; 3: 16.[4] Kong A. et al. Rate of de novo mutations and the importance of father's age to disease risk. Nature. 2012 Aug 23;488(7412):471-5.[5] Lampi KM. et al. Parental age and risk of autism spectrum disorders in a Finnish national birth cohort. J Autism Dev Disord. 2013 Nov;43(11):2526-35.[6] Hasegawa C. et al. Broader autism phenotype in mothers predicts social responsiveness in young children with autism spectrum disorders. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2014 Jun 6. doi: 10.1111/pcn.12210.[7] Gaugler T. et al. Most genetic risk for autism resides with common variation. Nature Genetics. 2014. July 20.----------... Read more »

  • September 19, 2014
  • 12:13 AM
  • 44 views

The neuroscience behind scratching an itch

by William Lu in The Quantum Lobe Chronicles

The beautiful experience of alleviating an itch, the vigorous scratching of skin cells, and the white flakes that float away slowly and gently like a whimsical dream.If only those with chronic itching problems could describe their conditions in such a serene way. In the latest edition of Nature Neuroscience, Diana Bautista and colleagues (2014) review the literature on the underlying mechanism of the itch at the molecular and cellular level within the peripheral and central nervous systems. They describe what drives acute and chronic itching and even quote the famous Buddhist Nagarjuna in their abstract."There is a pleasure when an itch is scratched. But to be without an itch is more pleasurable still".They provide the reader with a few examples of neurological disorders where chronic itching can become a problem:1. multiple sclerosis2. diabetic neuropathy3. shingles They also boldly state that the act of itching serves no biological purpose.Because I currently do not have institutional access to any research journals, I can only surmise that this article is an incredibly interesting read (although there is a greater likelihood that the details would go over my head). But alas, I now suffer from an inability to rid myself of this nagging itch to read Bautista et al.'s article so that I can write a decent blog post about it.You can check out the first page here.You can also enjoy this Times read on the mysteries of the itch and how a molecule known as neuropeptide natriuretic polypeptide b (Nppb) may be the answer.References:Bautista, D., Wilson, S., & Hoon, M. (2014). Why we scratch an itch: the molecules, cells and circuits of itch Nature Neuroscience, 17 (2), 175-182 DOI: 10.1038/nn.3619The above image is from http://www.byebyedoc.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/itching.jpeg... Read more »

  • September 18, 2014
  • 11:45 PM
  • 28 views

Experimental and comparative oncology: zebrafish, dogs, elephants

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

One of the exciting things about mathematical oncology is that thinking about cancer often forces me to leave my comfortable arm-chair and look at some actually data. No matter how much I advocate for the merits of heuristic modeling, when it comes to cancer, data-agnostic models take second stage to data-rich modeling. This close relationship […]... Read more »

Gallaher, J., & Anderson, A.R. (2013) Evolution of intratumoral phenotypic heterogeneity: the role of trait inheritance. Interface Focus, 3(4), 20130016. arXiv: 1305.0524v1

  • September 18, 2014
  • 05:00 PM
  • 33 views

Trunk biomechanics, hip and knee kinematics in patellofemoral pain

by Craig Payne in Running Research Junkie

Trunk biomechanics, hip and knee kinematics in patellofemoral pain... Read more »

  • September 18, 2014
  • 05:00 PM
  • 47 views

The influence of running speed on ankle and knee joint moments

by Craig Payne in Running Research Junkie

The influence of running speed on ankle and knee joint moments... Read more »

  • September 18, 2014
  • 04:52 PM
  • 55 views

How to Look for Otters

by Denise O'Meara in Denise O'Meara

In the first of a new series of posts about “How to Look for Mammals”, I take a look at one of our semi aquatic species, the Eurasian otter. The Eurasian otter is distributed across Europe and into Eurasia, but it is absent and restricted to small isolated pockets in some European countries. However, the species is slowly starting to recover across Western Europe. Ireland is a stronghold for the otter, and marks the western most point of the otter’s distribution. It is thought that the Irish climate with lots of fresh water makes it an ideal habitat for the otter....... Read more »

Reid N, Hayden B, Lundy MG, Pietravalle S, McDonald RA, & Montgomery WI. (2013) National Otter Survey of Ireland 2010/12. Irish Wildlife Manuals No. 76. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dublin, Ireland. info:other/

  • September 18, 2014
  • 04:09 PM
  • 62 views

Coffee Drinkers Have Trouble Talking About Emotions?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

People who drink a lot of coffee – and other caffeinated beverages – find it more difficult to identify and describe their own emotions. This is the claim of a new study, published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, from Australian researchers Michael Lyvers and colleagues: Caffeine use and alexithymia in university students. “Alexithymia” – […]The post Coffee Drinkers Have Trouble Talking About Emotions? appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

Lyvers M, Duric N, & Thorberg FA. (2014) Caffeine use and alexithymia in university students. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 46(4), 340-6. PMID: 25188705  

  • September 18, 2014
  • 03:44 PM
  • 63 views

MERS-CoV vaccine

by thelonevirologist in Virology Tidbits

MERS-CoV is the causative agent of a severe and fatal respiratory illness in humans with no known effective antiviral therapy or vaccine. Although MERS-CoV infections have been reported from countries outside the Arabian peninsula, local transmission with the exception of family cluster of three cases in Tunisia (with the index case being infected in the KSA) has been limited to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Jordan, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. Recent developments on MES-CoV vaccines are discussed.... Read more »

Corman VM, Jores J, Meyer B, Younan M, Liljander A, Said MY, Gluecks I, Lattwein E, Bosch BJ, Drexler JF.... (2014) Antibodies against MERS coronavirus in dromedary camels, Kenya, 1992-2013. Emerging infectious diseases, 20(8), 1319-22. PMID: 25075637  

Yang L, Wu Z, Ren X, Yang F, Zhang J, He G, Dong J, Sun L, Zhu Y, Zhang S.... (2014) MERS-related betacoronavirus in Vespertilio superans bats, China. Emerging infectious diseases, 20(7), 1260-2. PMID: 24960574  

  • September 18, 2014
  • 12:58 PM
  • 60 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 18, 2014
  • 11:22 AM
  • 41 views

There's a problem with assuming the most intelligent candidates make the best employees

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Workplace research through the 20th Century suggested that selecting for intelligence is the best way to identify good performers. General mental ability (GMA), a popular recruitment measure that maps closely to the colloquial meaning of "intelligence", is strongly correlated with on-the job performance, well ahead of any other single measure.This consistent finding came from studies that mostly defined job performance as carrying out the duties expected in that role. Although intuitive, this neglects two types of "extra-role" behaviours identified and studied in more recent years: citizenship behaviours, such as volunteering time or treating colleagues with courtesy; and counter-productive work behaviours, such as spreading rumours, shirking, or theft. Now a new meta-analysis suggests that GMA isn't the best predictor of these crucial aspects of performance. In fact, intelligence may be of little use in predicting who will behave badly at work - although it may predict who can get away with it.The meta-analysis winnowed the available literature down to 35 relevant studies that looked at citizenship and counterproductive behaviours in real organisations. Intelligence (GMA) was correlated with engaging in more citizenship behaviours, but the association was far weaker than between intelligence and traditional task-based measures of performance. The researchers led by Erik Gonzalez-Mulé then cross-compared their results with previous meta-analyses focused on personality, and concluded that personality and GMA each account for about half the variance in citizenship behaviours. Put another way, you're just as likely to do good because you're inclined that way, as you are because you're smart.Turning to counterproductive workplace behaviours, the authors predicted a relationship here with intelligence/GMA based on evidence from criminology that’s shown helping people see the consequences of their actions has an inhibitory effect on aberrant behaviour. In fact, the new analysis found no association between intelligence and aberrant behaviour. It's possible that this discrepancy with the criminology findings is because of differences in samples: there may be low-intelligence individuals who are more disposed to malfeasance, but they are underrepresented in workplaces because of adolescent anti-social issues, such as truancy or criminal behaviour. Meanwhile, personality, particularly the trait of agreeableness (but also conscientiousness and openness to experience) was strongly associated with performing fewer unhelpful behaviours at work.An interesting footnote - when self-ratings of counterproductive behaviour were removed from the analysis (leaving only third-party ratings), the results showed a significant relationship between intelligence and (fewer) unhelpful workplace behaviours. This means that smarter people report engaging in just as much bad behaviour as the rest of us, but others, such as work supervisors, notice less of it.In summary, while GMA is the undisputed king of predicting better task performance, it holds equal footing with personality in predicting helpful, altruistic work behaviour, and cedes the ground almost entirely to personality for bad behaviour. Looking at performance as a composite of these three areas, Mulé's team conclude that when it comes to workplace selection, GMA still has a prominent role, but a much diminished one. _________________________________ Gonzalez-Mulé E, Mount MK, & Oh IS (2014). A Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between General Mental Ability and Nontask Performance. The Journal of applied psychology PMID: 25133304 Post written by Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) for the BPS Research Digest.

... Read more »

  • September 18, 2014
  • 11:11 AM
  • 76 views

Genetics of Social Skills: Oxytocin Receptor Gene

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Social neuroscience is an emerging emphasis in the field of neuroscience research.Social cognition is the subset of cognitive functions related to social processes and includes factors such as facial recognition, social memory and ability to form friendships and other social bonds.Impairment in social cognition is a known feature in autism, schizophrenia and other mental disorders. This type of impairment can produce significant problems in life adjustment, employment and human attachment.Genetic features appear to be important in human social cognition. Biological factors influence social behavior including the action of the hormone oxytocin.Dave Skuse along with colleagues in England, Finland and the U.S. recently published an important study examining the oxytocin receptor gene and social cognition.Their study used a family study design of 198 families from the U.K. and Finland with a single identified with high-functioning autism.This strategy was used with recognition that social cognition deficits are common in family members of those with autism and autism spectrum disorder.Probands with autism and family members had genetic testing for oxytocin gene polymorphism status along with the related vasopression gene. All participants completed a standardized test known as the Facial Recognition Memory Test (FRMT). Facial recognition and memory are key elements in social cognition and social function.The key findings from the study included the following:Oxytocin receptor polymorphism SNP rs237887 was strongly linked to deficits in facial recognition memoryHomozygous status for this SNP was associated with approximately a one standard deviation reduction in performance on the FRMT.This deficit was found in the autism group along with a significant number of undiagnosed family membersThe authors note their finding is consistent with other studies linking this specific SNP polymorphism with measures of empathy, autism traits and emotional responsivity to betrayal cues. The authors also note their results add to rodent animal model studies finding a key role for the oxytocin and vasopressin system in modulating social cognition and social behavior.These types of studies hold promise for potential drug development to reduce social impairment in those with autism and other disorders of social cognition.Readers with more interest in this research can access the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the PMID link in the citation below.Photo from the Dingle peninsula in Ireland is from the author's files.Follow the author on Twitter WRY999Skuse DH, Lori A, Cubells JF, Lee I, Conneely KN, Puura K, Lehtimäki T, Binder EB, & Young LJ (2014). Common polymorphism in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is associated with human social recognition skills. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111 (5), 1987-92 PMID: 24367110... Read more »

Skuse DH, Lori A, Cubells JF, Lee I, Conneely KN, Puura K, Lehtimäki T, Binder EB, & Young LJ. (2014) Common polymorphism in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is associated with human social recognition skills. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(5), 1987-92. PMID: 24367110  

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