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
Yesterday, my spouse and I dropped our newborn daughter off with Grandma and then popped over to the local theater to see this summer's much anticipated comic-book blockbuster Man of Steel. By any standard, Man of Steel is exceptionally light when it comes to philosophical musings: The plot is predictably linear--good guys fight bad guys who are trying to kill them. At first glance, it may seem like a stretch to write an entire blog entry (for a psychology blog) about the film, given this simple plot design. But, in between the explosions--and there were MANY explosions--the bad guys turned out to be motivated by some very simple psychological principles. Spoilers Ahead!
Read More->... Read more »
Kraus MW, & Keltner D. (2013) Social Class Rank, Essentialism, and Punitive Judgment. Journal of personality and social psychology. PMID: 23713698
The study of how cells move in development is not just about development. Understanding cell migration can also help researchers understand how tumors spread and invade other tissues. So, the next time you see someone roll their eyes at your fruit fly egg chambers (or worm vulva, or culture dishes), take pity at their ignorance and explain to them how they should thank you instead.The movement of cells during development drives the shape changes and organization of an embryo. In the fruit fly ovary, a small cluster of border cells migrates across a region of the egg chamber in order to reach the oocyte. This collective migration of these border cells depends on polarization of the actin cytoskeleton. A recent paper describes the role of the Hippo signaling pathway in driving the polarization of actin to the outer rim of the migrating border cell cluster. Lucas and colleagues found that upstream Hippo pathway components localize to the contacts between border cells within the cluster in order to link polarity signaling with actin cytoskeleton organization. In the images above, the actin cytoskeleton (red) can be seen at the outer rim of the migrating cluster of border cells (arrows) as it moves across the egg chamber towards the oocyte (top to bottom, chronologically). Higher magnification views of the cluster are on the right. Lucas, E., Khanal, I., Gaspar, P., Fletcher, G., Polesello, C., Tapon, N., & Thompson, B. (2013). The Hippo pathway polarizes the actin cytoskeleton during collective migration of Drosophila border cells originally published in the Journal of Cell Biology, 201 (6), 875-885 DOI: 10.1083/jcb.201210073... Read more »
Lucas, E., Khanal, I., Gaspar, P., Fletcher, G., Polesello, C., Tapon, N., & Thompson, B. (2013) The Hippo pathway polarizes the actin cytoskeleton during collective migration of Drosophila border cells. originally published in the Journal of Cell Biology, 201(6), 875-885. DOI: 10.1083/jcb.201210073
A new study led by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center -- Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James) has identified a biochemical pathway in cancer stem cells that is essential for promoting head and neck cancer.The study shows that a protein called Nanog, which is normally active in embryonic stem cells, promotes the growth of cancer stem cells in head and neck cancer. The findings provide information essential for designing novel targeted drugs that might improve the treatment of head and neck cancer.Read More... Read more »
Xie, X., Piao, L., Cavey, G., Old, M., Teknos, T., Mapp, A., & Pan, Q. (2013) Phosphorylation of Nanog is essential to regulate Bmi1 and promote tumorigenesis. Oncogene. DOI: 10.1038/onc.2013.173
by Andrea in Science of Eating Disorders
While there is growing recognition that (surprise, surprise!) men are not immune to eating disorders, men are still underrepresented in the literature about eating disorders. We know comparatively little about what it is like to be a man with an eating disorder, and less still about recovery and life after recovery for these individuals. Recently, Björk, Wallin, & Pettersen (2012) conducted a qualitative study that asked men who had been diagnosed with an eating disorder and completed treatment to describe how recovery factors into their present lives. The researchers interviewed 15 men aged 19-52 (mean age 23) in Norway and Sweden, 10 of whom had been diagnosed with AN, 4 with BN, and 1 with EDNOS. The authors did not specify duration of illness.
The authors used a phenomenographical approach to study recovery among men. Though I am familiar with qualitative methods, this approach was new to me. From what I gather, phenomenography is an approach that focuses on a particular phenomenon (in this case, recovery from an eating disorder), and the similarities and differences in how …
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Björk T, Wallin K, & Pettersen G. (2012) Male experiences of life after recovery from an eating disorder. Eating Disorders, 20(5), 460-8. PMID: 22985242
Pesticide levels considered environmentally friendly in Europe and Australia are, in fact, having a devastating effect on invertebrate insect biodiversity in nearby creeks and streams, a new study has found, showing the need for an urgent overhaul of the way pesticide risk is assessed. Water-dwelling invertebrates like worms, snails, crustaceans, mites and insects play a crucial role in regional ecosystems because they provide food for fish, birds and platypuses.... Read more »
Beketov, M., Kefford, B., Schafer, R., & Liess, M. (2013) Pesticides reduce regional biodiversity of stream invertebrates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1305618110
Great minds met to conceive the first atomic bomb. Now the atomic bomb has helped researchers confirm some long-held suspicions about the human brain.... Read more »
Spalding Kirsty L., Bergmann Olaf, Alkass Kanar, Bernard Samuel, Salehpour Mehran, Huttner Hagen B., Boström Emil, Westerlund Isabelle, Vial Céline, & Buchholz Bruce A. (2013) Dynamics of Hippocampal Neurogenesis in Adult Humans. Cell, 153(6), 1219-1227. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.002
If you never got around to buying Peter Suber‘s book “for busy people” about Open Access (OA) publishing , you might be pleased to learn that it’s now available under an Open Access license.... Read more »
Clair, K. (2013) Kevin Michael Clair reviews Open Access, by Peter Suber. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39(1), 94. DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2012.11.017
A new subduction zone forming off the coast of Portugal heralds the beginning of a cycle that will see the Atlantic Ocean close as continental Europe moves closer to America.... Read more »
Media Release Monash University. (2013) New 'embryonic' subduction zone found. Monash University. info:/
Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers have identified in the most aggressive forms of cancer a gene known to regulate embryonic stem cell self-renewal, beginning a creative search for a drug that can block its activity.The gene, SALL4, gives stem cells their ability to continue dividing as stem cells rather than becoming mature cells. Typically, cells only express SALL4 during embryonic development, but the gene is re-expressed in nearly all cases of acute myeloid leukemia and 10 to 30 percent of liver, lung, gastric, ovarian, endometrial, and breast cancers, strongly suggesting it plays a role in tumor formation.Read More... Read more »
Yong, K., Gao, C., Lim, J., Yan, B., Yang, H., Dimitrov, T., Kawasaki, A., Ong, C., Wong, K., Lee, S.... (2013) Oncofetal Gene in Aggressive Hepatocellular Carcinoma . New England Journal of Medicine, 368(24), 2266-2276. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1300297
A team from the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute and the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Centre of Columbia University has generated patient-specific beta cells, or insulin-producing cells, that accurately reflect the features of maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY).The researchers used skin cells of MODY patients to produce induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, from which they then made beta cells. Transplanted into a mouse, the stem cell-derived beta cells secreted insulin in a manner similar to that of the beta cells of MODY patients. Repair of the gene mutation restored insulin secretion to levels seen in cells obtained from healthy subjects. The findings were reported today in theJournal of Clinical Investigation.Read More... Read more »
Hua, H., Shang, L., Martinez, H., Freeby, M., Gallagher, M., Ludwig, T., Deng, L., Greenberg, E., LeDuc, C., Chung, W.... (2013) iPSC-derived β cells model diabetes due to glucokinase deficiency. Journal of Clinical Investigation. DOI: 10.1172/JCI67638
For half the population, it comes three to five days each month, 12 months each year, for 40 years of our lives. Menstruation can be debilitating, relieving, disappointing, or simply an inconvenient fact of life.
But why do humans menstruate, when most animals don’t? When you shake the tree of life, you find that only a handful of mammals aside from us – primates, a small number of bat species, and the elephant shrew – have opted for the monthly bleed.... Read more »
Emera, D., Romero, R., & Wagner, G. (2012) The evolution of menstruation: A new model for genetic assimilation. BioEssays, 34(1), 26-35. DOI: 10.1002/bies.201100099
Imagine there is a certain advantaged group of people that supports a policy that harms a disadvantaged group, and you believe there are hints of racial or ethnic bias underlying their position. Even if the advantaged group doesn’t literally believe that the disadvantaged group is less deserving, it’s impossible to view their insensitivity to the [...]... Read more »
Saguy, T., Chernyak-Hai, L., Andrighetto, L., & Bryson, J. (2013) When the powerful feels wronged: The legitimization effects of advantaged group members' sense of being accused for harboring racial or ethnic biases. European Journal of Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.1948
Rasinski, H., Geers, A., & Czopp, A. (2013) "I Guess What He Said Wasn't That Bad": Dissonance in Nonconfronting Targets of Prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. DOI: 10.1177/0146167213484769
Take Home Message: While both the Y-graft and C-graft effectively stabilized the patellofemoral joint, the patients who received the Y-graft had significantly better subjective outcome scores than the patients who received the C-graft.
Patients who endure a patellofemoral dislocation are often plagued with patellofemoral instability and frequent re-injury. While multiple methods of patellar fixation exist, a gold-standard does not. Therefore, Kang and colleagues performed a randomized trial to compare the double-bundle anatomic medial patellofemoral ligament reconstruction with one of two fixation methods – Y-graft or C-graft.... Read more »
Kang, H., Cao, J., Yu, D., Zheng, Z., & Wang, F. (2013) Comparison of 2 Different Techniques for Anatomic Reconstruction of the Medial Patellofemoral Ligament: A Prospective Randomized Study. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 41(5), 1013-1021. DOI: 10.1177/0363546513480468
A team of researchers from the Nanoengineering Research Centre (CRNE) and the Department of Electronic Engineering at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya—BarcelonaTech (UPC) has found a way to manufacture crystalline silicon materials cheaper and faster.... Read more »
Hernández, D., Trifonov, T., Garín, M., & Alcubilla, R. (2013) “Silicon millefeuille”: From a silicon wafer to multiple thin crystalline films in a single step. Applied Physics Letters, 102(17), 172102. DOI: 10.1063/1.4803009
The newly unveiled genome of a medieval strain of the mycobacterium that causes leprosy is a technical triumph borne of next-generation sequencing machines and clever new techniques to extract target DNA from a soup of ancient molecules. Awash in data, several labs are racing neck-and-neck to cull DNA from a Most Wanted list of other legendary killers: tuberculosis, plague, cholera, Leishmania, the potato blight, and AIDS. They gather traces of these culprits from ancient teeth, bones, hair, feces, and—in the case of potato blight—from skin and leaves, then unleash the sequencers. The work adds a new dimension to our understanding of historical events, revealing the true nature of the villains responsible for humanity's worst epidemics.... Read more »
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