Eben Alsberg (Case Western Reserve University, Ohio) and coworkers have applied biodegradable hydrogels for the sustained and local release of interfering RNA, a possible tool for gene silencing. This news feature was written on July 18, 2009.... Read more »
Krebs, M. D., Jeon, O., & Alsberg, E. (2009) Localized and Sustained Delivery of Silencing RNA from Macroscopic Biopolymer Hydrogels. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 131(26), 9204-9206. DOI: 10.1021/ja9037615
We think of spiders as fearsome hunters, spinners of webs and treacherous mates, but construction workers? Yes, that too. Some groups of spiders - trapdoor and wolf spiders - dig tunnels that they use to ambush passing insects. But these tunnels can also provide shelter and accommodation for other animals, including one of the rarest of Australia's lizards - the pygmy blue-tongue lizard. It seems that the lizard's survival depends entirely on the spiders.
The pygmy blue-tongue is a native of So........ Read more »
Fellows, H., Fenner, A., & Bull, C. (2009) Spiders provide important resources for an endangered lizard. Journal of Zoology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2009.00600.x
We read in the BMJ that a German agency refuses to rule on drug’s benefits until Pfizer discloses all trial results. The drug is reboxetine (Edronax), which readers will recall was recently deemed to be the worst new antidepressant by an Oxford team.The agency, the IQWiG, are an independent organization, but they were comissioned by the German federal government to report on the benefits of three antidepressants: reboxetine, mirtazapine, and buproprion. Their decision will have major implicati........ Read more »
Stafford, N. (2009) German agency refuses to rule on drug's benefits until Pfizer discloses all trial results. BMJ, 338(jun22 1). DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b2521
The determination of the ß-adrenergic receptor GPCR structure in 2007 was a breakthrough in structural biology. Combined with the earlier structure of rhodopsin, this provided a template for structure-based design for GPCRs. However, there was a lurking mystery in the structure, a mystery which was not always discussed but which has started to come to light recently.Th mystery is exemplified by a recent paper in which authors from D E Shaw Research in New York use extremely long molecular dynam........ Read more »
Dror, R., Arlow, D., Borhani, D., Jensen, M., Piana, S., & Shaw, D. (2009) Identification of two distinct inactive conformations of the 2-adrenergic receptor reconciles structural and biochemical observations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(12), 4689-4694. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0811065106
Discussion of a meta-analysis of 55 recent social-neuroscience studies using fMRI, and the self-fulfilling nature of many of the correlations those studies uncover. According to Edward Vul and his co-investigators, many fMRI studies used "functional criteria" --- i.e., is the area of the brain active or not during the study task --- to select voxels (fMRI data points) for inclusion in a statistical analysis looking for correlations with behavioral data. Since functional measures are also used to........ Read more »
Vul, E., Harris, C., Winkielman, P., & Pashler, H. (2009) Puzzlingly High Correlations in fMRI Studies of Emotion, Personality, and Social Cognition. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(3), 274-290. DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-6924.2009.01125.x
by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog
Dispensers of alcohol-based rubs are appearing in public places in an attempt to reduce the spread of pandemic influenza. Are these effective at removing virus from hands?
In a recent study, the hands of twenty vaccinated, antibody-positive volunteers were contaminated with 10,000,000 TCID50 of a 1999 seasonal H1N1 influenza virus strain (see this post for an [...]... Read more »
Grayson, M., Melvani, S., Druce, J., Barr, I., Ballard, S., Johnson, P., Mastorakos, T., & Birch, C. (2009) Efficacy of Soap and Water and Alcohol‐Based Hand‐Rub Preparations against Live H1N1 Influenza Virus on the Hands of Human Volunteers. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 48(3), 285-291. DOI: 10.1086/595845
How do antidepressants work? Some people will tell you that it’s all about neurogenesis. The theory goes that antidepressants increase the rate at which new neurones are created in a region called the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, and that, somehow, this boom in the number of new hippocampal cells alleviates depression.To date, however, all of the research linking antidepressants and neurogenesis has involved animals. It was generally assumed that if drugs altered neurogenesis in mice, the........ Read more »
Boldrini, M., Underwood, M., Hen, R., Rosoklija, G., Dwork, A., John Mann, J., & Arango, V. (2009) Antidepressants increase neural progenitor cells in the human hippocampus. Neuropsychopharmacology. DOI: 10.1038/npp.2009.75
It's an interesting question, when did photosynthetic life first invade dry land, and what type was it? The tradition is that green plants first invaded the land in the Ordovician or Silurian, if not later, sometime after 500 MYA, well after the Cambrian, when we first see fossils of animals developing in the ocean (there are actually some from earlier, but those may not be animals, and we know little about them). However, there are various lines of evidence that there was already extensive........ Read more »
Emiliani, G., Fondi, M., Fani, R., & Gribaldo, S. (2009) A horizontal gene transfer at the origin of phenylpropanoid metabolism: a key adaptation of plants to land. Biology Direct, 4(1), 7. DOI: 10.1186/1745-6150-4-7
Here's another one for the 'It's about attendance, not belief' files. It turns out that strong religious beliefs do not reduce infidelity, although regular churchgoers are more faithful. The study was published last year, but it's new to me at least (thanks to Brian Cleary for bringing it to my attention).What the investigators (David Atkins and Deborah Kessel from Fuller Theological Seminary in California) did was to analyse data from the 1998 General Social Survey of the USA.The survey is mass........ Read more »
Atkins, D., & Kessel, D. (2008) Religiousness and Infidelity: Attendance, but not Faith and Prayer, Predict Marital Fidelity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70(2), 407-418. DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00490.x
How genes for altruism can benefit strangers as well as kin
The generosity of adoption has long been considered a unique human hallmark.
Image: Shadows of Forgotten AncestorsFor decades it was conventional dogma that humans were the only species that used tools. "Man the Toolmaker" was our celebrated designation. The hominin fossil Homo habilis (or "handy" man) was even defined within our genera primarily because the skeleton was associated with stone implements. However, when Jane Goodall ........ Read more »
Cäsar, C., & Young, R. (2007) A case of adoption in a wild group of black-fronted titi monkeys (Callicebus nigrifrons). Primates, 49(2), 146-148. DOI: 10.1007/s10329-007-0066-x
BATS USE BIOSONAR, or echolocation, to navigate complex environments, and also to forage and then accurately pinpoint the flying insects on which they prey. Insects in turn have evolved various counter-measures to evade capture. Some species have ears which are in tune to the echolocation signals, while others are capable of performing complex evasive flight maneuvers in response to the clicks produced by attacking bats.Tiger moths have evolved the ability to produce ultrasonic clicks in respons........ Read more »
by Nestor Lopez-Duran PhD in Child-Psych
The totality of the available data on the short term effects of ADHD stimulant is relatively consistent: these medications are safe and result in significant improvement in symptoms, especially for children with severe forms of the disorder. However, little previous research on the long term effects of these medications has been used by critics of [...]... Read more »
Biederman, J., Monuteaux, M., Spencer, T., Wilens, T., & Faraone, S. (2009) Do Stimulants Protect Against Psychiatric Disorders in Youth With ADHD? A 10-Year Follow-up Study. PEDIATRICS, 124(1), 71-78. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2008-3347
Yesterday our group discussed the recent Nature paper from Lynda Chin’s lab that identified GOLPH3 as a “first-in-class” Golgi oncogene. The study began where most cancer genomics efforts end up: with the identification of a genomic region (5p13) that’s amplified in numerous solid tumours. The authors reasoned that the amplified region likely contains a gene [...]... Read more »
Scott, K., Kabbarah, O., Liang, M., Ivanova, E., Anagnostou, V., Wu, J., Dhakal, S., Wu, M., Chen, S., Feinberg, T.... (2009) GOLPH3 modulates mTOR signalling and rapamycin sensitivity in cancer. Nature, 459(7250), 1085-1090. DOI: 10.1038/nature08109
Here we estimated the evolutionary history and inferred date of introduction to humans of each of the genes for all 20th century pandemic influenza strains. Our results indicate that genetic components of the 1918 H1N1 pandemic virus circulated in mammalian hosts, i.e., swine and humans, as early as 1911 and was not likely to be [...]... Read more »
Smith, G., Bahl, J., Vijaykrishna, D., Zhang, J., Poon, L., Chen, H., Webster, R., Peiris, J., & Guan, Y. (2009) From the Cover: Dating the emergence of pandemic influenza viruses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(28), 11709-11712. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0904991106
Junior doctors are undergoing HIV tests as part of pre-employment occupational health checks without being made aware that such testing is not mandatory, according to research published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. Many junior doctors interviewed by Lee Salkeld and colleagues held the misperception that HIV testing was compulsory and felt unable to decline the test. In [...]... Read more »
Salkeld, L., McGeehan, S., Chaudhuri, E., & Kerslake, I. (2009) HIV testing of junior doctors: exploring their experiences, perspectives and accounts. Journal of Medical Ethics, 35(7), 402-406. DOI: 10.1136/jme.2008.027052
People accept the idea of echinoderm predation on shallow reef building corals. The voracious Crown of Thorns seastar Acanthaster planci is a familiar coral antagonist on the Great Barrier Reef, part of a natural process that may or may not be amplified by anthropogenic disturbance. Asteroid predation on deep-sea corals is more difficult to demonstrate. [...]... Read more »
Etnoyer, P. (2008) A new species of Isidella bamboo coral (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea: Isididae) from northeast Pacific Seamounts. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 121(4), 541-553. DOI: 10.2988/08-16.1
Mosher, C., & Watling, L. (2009) Partners for life: a brittle star and its octocoral host. Marine Ecology Progress Series. DOI: 10.3354/meps08113
Purcell et al. (2009). Common polygenic variation contributes to risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature08185Neil Walker has been doing a spectacular job of serving up useful information in the comments recently, so I asked him to write the first ever guest post on Genetic Future - something that (as I will be announcing shortly) I intend to do fairly regularly over the next couple of months.The topic is a paper that has created a rather perplexed buzz recently in t........ Read more »
Purcell, S., Wray, N., Stone, J., Visscher, P., O'Donovan, M., Sullivan, P., Sklar, P., Purcell (Leader), S., Stone, J., Sullivan, P.... (2009) Common polygenic variation contributes to risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature08185
New data emerging from the investigation of the death of Michael Jackson reveal that the iconic pop star was taking very high doses of sedative medications during the course of his career. At the time of his death, it was reported that he was taking at least ten tablets of the powerful sedative Xanax every [...]... Read more »
Christie, M. (2008) Cellular neuroadaptations to chronic opioids: tolerance, withdrawal and addiction. British Journal of Pharmacology, 154(2), 384-396. DOI: 10.1038/bjp.2008.100
Bateson, A. (2002) Basic Pharmacologic Mechanisms Involved in Benzodiazepine Tolerance and Withdrawal. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 8(1), 5-21. DOI: 10.2174/1381612023396681
Hutchinson, M. (1996) The behavioural and neuronal effects of the chronic administration of benzodiazepine anxiolytic and hypnotic drugs. Progress in Neurobiology, 49(1), 73-97. DOI: 10.1016/0301-0082(96)00011-1
In parts I and II of this series, I discussed the basic no-nos around contraception, the reason some advocate its continuous use, and what constitutes a normal menstrual cycle. Today, I'll explain a bit about population variation in reproductive function, and how it may relate to the conversation.Population variationBoth the efficacy of hormonal contraception and its non-contraceptive benefits are reduced if women do not take their prescriptions properly, and there are many reasons women do this........ Read more »
Baerwald A, Olatunbosun O, & Pierson R. (2006) Effects of oral contraceptives administered at defined stages of ovarian follicular development. Fertility and Sterility, 86(1), 27-35.
Ellison PT. (1990) Human ovarian function and reproductive ecology: new hypotheses. American Anthropologist, 94(2), 933-952.
Vitzthum VJ, Spielvogel H, Caceres E, & Miller A. (2001) Vaginal bleeding patterns among rural highland Bolivian women: relationship to fecundity and fetal loss. Contraception, 319-325.
Vitzthum VJ, Spielvogel H, & Thornburg J. (2004) Interpopulational differences in progesterone levels during conception and implantation in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101(6), 1443-1448.
If predicting climate trends was as easy as predicting the reaction of global warming pseudoskeptics there wouldn't be any deniers left. When I came across a new study in Nature Geoscience on the cause of the massive shift in the climate 55 million years ago, my first reaction was, "How long will it take before someone completely misrepresents this paper as evidence that undermines anthropogenic global warming?"
Not long. See here, here and here, if you have the time. Read the rest of this post........ Read more »
Zeebe, R., Zachos, J., & Dickens, G. (2009) Carbon dioxide forcing alone insufficient to explain Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum warming. Nature Geoscience. DOI: 10.1038/ngeo578
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