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  • April 7, 2015
  • 03:17 PM

Dehydrated Sea Snakes: The Thirst Is Real

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

It's a shame snakes can't appreciate irony. If they could, sea snakes in Australia might find some humor in their situation. Despite living in water, they seem to spend much of their time desperately dehydrated.

The true sea snakes, or Hydrophiini, include more than 60 species of almost frighteningly well-adapted reptiles. They swim with a graceful, ribbon-like motion through coastal waters around the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They have a venomous bite. Like many other snakes, they give ... Read more »

  • April 7, 2015
  • 12:59 PM

Master protein enhances learning, memory and fitness?!

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

You're supposed to stay fit, the key to successful aging is to be active. Science doesn't quite understand why, but staying fit helps keep our brain in shape as we get older. I hate to run, hate it, but I exercise my brain often. Truthfully, some people seem built to run marathons and have an easier time going for miles without tiring. Other individuals might be born with a knack for memorizing things, from times tables to trivia facts. These two skills―running and memorizing―are not so different as it turns out.... Read more »

Liming Pei, Yangling Mu, Mathias Leblanc, William Alaynick, Grant D. Barish, Matthew Pankratz, Tiffany W. Tseng, Samantha Kaufman, Christopher Liddle, Ruth T. Yu.... (2015) Dependence of Hippocampal Function on ERRγ-Regulated Mitochondrial Metabolism. Cell metabolism. DOI:  

  • April 7, 2015
  • 10:35 AM

Edwardsiella andrillae: The Icy Anemone

by beredim in Strange Animals

Edwardsiella andrillae

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Cnidaria

Class: Anthozoa

Order: Actiniaria

Family: Edwardsiidae

Genus: Edwardsiella

Species: Edwardsiella andrillae

Meet Edwardsiella andrillae, a recently discovered species of sea anemone that lives anchored to the underside of sea ice offshore of Antarctica.

The species was discovered in December 2010 during a test run of an ... Read more »

  • April 7, 2015
  • 02:45 AM

Candida albicans triggering coeliac disease?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Will the bafflement around coeliac (celiac) disease ever stop?I want you to cast your eye over the paper from Marion Corouge and colleagues [1] (open-access) and the interesting hypothesis that: "CI [Candida albicans infection] may trigger CeD [coeliac disease] onset in genetically-susceptible individuals."Continuing a theme of 'bafflement' when it comes to the autoimmune condition known as coeliac disease (see here), Corouge et al reported that a protein, hyphal wall protein 1 (Hwp1) present in C. albicans, 'required for hyphal development and yeast adhesion to epithelial cells' "presents sequence analogy with the gluten protein gliadin and is also a substrate for transglutaminase." Further a: "suggestion that C. albicans infection (CI) may be a triggering factor for Celiac disease (CeD) onset."Just in case you aren't au fait with all-things coeliac disease, my training post on the condition might come in useful (see here). Gliadin is a type of protein found in wheat and other cereal produce which together with the glutenins make up gluten. Gluten is the stuff that those with coeliac disease have to avoid as a consequence of the peptides that it eventually is metabolised into meeting a specific (geno)type of immune system. Transglutaminase reflects enzymatic alterations to said gluten peptides and a sort of 'super-charging' of them (deamidation) with reference to that 'coeliac immune system' and the processes it starts/continues.There is quite a bit of chemistry included in the Corouge paper but the main results were:"using recombinant Hwp1" the authors reported "serological cross-reactivity in humans between this C. albicans antigen and gliadin." This translates into Hwp1 and gliadin - peptides from gliadin - potentially having something of a shared ability to invoke an immune response or be involved in immune processes pertinent to coeliac disease.Looking at serum samples from participants diagnosed with coeliac disease or presenting with "systemic CI" researchers also reported that: "CI and CeD patients had higher levels of anti-Hwp1... and anti-gliadin... antibodies" than asymptomatic control specimens. Interestingly, they couldn't [significantly] differentiate between the coeliac and CI samples on these parameters .When plotting Hwp1 levels and anti-gliadin antibodies "during the course of C. albicans infection" they found that the expected increase in anti-Hwp1 antibodies was also accompanied by an "increase in anti-gliadin antibodies that paralleled the anti-Hwp1 response."Finally: "The decrease in levels of anti-gliadin antibodies in GFD [gluten-free diet] -adherent compared to non-adherent CeD patients further validates the clinical classification used." That being said: "the relative independence of anti-Hwp1 antibodies from a GFD" hints that the gluten-free diet might do many things but not necessarily everything in this suggested relationship.A final quote from the paper is worthwhile reproducing: "This study has revealed immune cross-recognition between two substrates of the potential auto-antigen transglutaminase, namely the fungal “invasive” protein Hwp1 and the dietary ‘innocuous” vegetal protein gliadin. Together our data, obtained from a translational comparative analysis of an infectious and an auto-immune disease, support the hypothesis... that the former may trigger the development of the latter."Independent replication is the name of the game when it comes to the Corouge results before anyone gets too carried away with the possible implications. That being said, the idea that in those possessing the risk genotype of coeliac disease a bout of Candida albican infection might have the ability to set the biological wheels in motion in a journey towards the condition (or even perpetuating the condition) represents a potentially important finding [2]. One might also question whether similar cross reactivity (molecular mimicry?) might also be transferable to other autoimmune conditions and whether the agent of choice has to necessarily be just a fungus [3]?Music: Kings Of Leon - The Bucket.----------[1] Corouge M. et al. Humoral Immunity Links Candida albicans Infection and Celiac Disease. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 20;10(3):e0121776.[2] Nieuwenhuizen WF. et al. Is Candida albicans a trigger in the onset of coeliac disease? Lancet. 2003 Jun 21;361(9375):2152-4.[3] Cabrera-Chávez F. et al. Maize prolamins resistant to peptic-tryptic digestion maintain immune-recognition by IgA from some celiac disease patients. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2012 Mar;67(1):24, 30.----------Corouge M, Loridant S, Fradin C, Salleron J, Damiens S, Moragues MD, Souplet V, Jouault T, Robert R, Dubucquoi S, Sendid B, Colombel JF, & Poulain D (2015). Humoral Immunity Links Candida albicans Infection and Celiac Disease. PloS one, 10 (3) PMID: 25793717... Read more »

Corouge M, Loridant S, Fradin C, Salleron J, Damiens S, Moragues MD, Souplet V, Jouault T, Robert R, Dubucquoi S.... (2015) Humoral Immunity Links Candida albicans Infection and Celiac Disease. PloS one, 10(3). PMID: 25793717  

  • April 6, 2015
  • 03:27 PM

Researchers find protein that triggers lupus-associated immune system activation

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Researchers have identified an inflammatory molecule that appears to play an essential role in the autoimmune disorder systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known simply as lupus. In their report the team describes finding that a protein that regulates certain cells in the innate immune system – the body’s first line of defense against infection – activates a molecular pathway known to be associated with lupus and that the protein’s activity is required for the development of lupus symptoms in a mouse model of the disease.... Read more »

Ramirez-Ortiz et al. (2015) TREML4 amplifies TLR7. Nature Immunology . info:/10.1038/ni.3143

  • April 6, 2015
  • 09:46 AM

Rare Variants in Complex Disease: ABCA7 and Alzheimer’s

by Daniel Koboldt in Massgenomics

Although the cost of sequencing continues to fall precipitously (cue the NIH sequencing-versus-Moore’s-Law figure), it’s still expensive relative to high-throughput genotyping. Whole-genome sequencing on the X Ten costs around $2500 per sample by the time you account for basic analysis and data storage. This means that a well-powered genetic association study for complex disease (10,000 […]... Read more »

Steinberg S, Stefansson H, Jonsson T, Johannsdottir H, Ingason A, Helgason H, Sulem P, Magnusson OT, Gudjonsson SA, Unnsteinsdottir U.... (2015) Loss-of-function variants in ABCA7 confer risk of Alzheimer's disease. Nature genetics. PMID: 25807283  

  • April 6, 2015
  • 04:18 AM

Assisted Reproductive Technology conception and autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I noticed recently that the paper by Christine Fountain and colleagues [1] reporting that "incidence of diagnosed autism was twice as high for ART [assisted reproductive technology] as non-ART births" has been making some media headlines.Based on an analysis of an impressive participant number "using linked records from the California Birth Master Files for 1997 through 2007, the California Department of Developmental Services autism caseload for 1997 through 2011, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National ART Surveillance System for live births in 1997 through 2007" authors looked at nearly 6 million births in California, USA. Including nearly 49,000 "ART-originated infants" and 33,000 "cases of autism diagnosed by the Department of Developmental Services", they set about looking at whether there was any difference between "births originated using ART with births originated without ART for incidence of autism."They concluded that there was perhaps more to see when it came to ART births and autism albeit not necessarily a clear-cut relationship. Multiple births and "adverse prenatal and perinatal outcomes" seemed to play quite an important role in the 'association' reported, leading to quotes like this from others: "The results indicate that reducing multiple births during ART may be beneficial for decreasing the risk of autism."This is not the first time that ART and some of the specific techniques linked to ART such as IVF (in vitro fertilisation) have been talked about with autism in mind. I have discussed the topic previously on this blog (see here) based on the findings reported by Venla Lehti and colleagues [2] for example. In that case, as in other instances [3], the results were less than impressive on any general association. These independent analyses did not rule out specific factors perhaps requiring further investigation, but overall the effect of ART on general autism risk was not particularly great.The take-home message is that whilst ART might impact on autism risk, the techniques themselves included under the ART banner are probably not the primary source of any risk. Rather, as we've seen on quite a few other occasions, issues around gestation and birth (see here) might be the important variables which itself asks some interesting questions about autism research areas such as the use of twins (see here) among other things...Music: Rihanna et al - Umbrella.----------[1] Fountain C. et al. Association Between Assisted Reproductive Technology Conception and Autism in California, 1997-2007. Am J Public Health. 2015 Mar 19:e1-e9.[2] Lehti V. et al. Autism spectrum disorders in IVF children: a national case-control study in Finland. Hum Reprod. 2013 Mar;28(3):812-8.[3] Sandin S. et al. Autism and mental retardation among offspring born after in vitro fertilization. JAMA. 2013 Jul 3;310(1):75-84.----------Fountain C, Zhang Y, Kissin DM, Schieve LA, Jamieson DJ, Rice C, & Bearman P (2015). Association Between Assisted Reproductive Technology Conception and Autism in California, 1997-2007. American journal of public health PMID: 25790396... Read more »

  • April 5, 2015
  • 02:30 AM

Let a Virus Paint Your Eggs in Blue

by Bernadeta Dadonaite in The Question Gene

How retrovirus integration leads to blue eggshell formation... Read more »

  • April 4, 2015
  • 05:46 PM

Uterine fibroid growth increases with cadmium exposure, but not because cadmium acts like estrogen

by Megan Cartwright in Science-Based Writing

Breathing or eating even small amounts of the toxic metal cadmium—a widespread contaminant of cigarettes and seafood—may increase a woman’s risk for developing uterine fibroids, but not in the way scientists previously thought. By the age of 50, at least … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • April 4, 2015
  • 03:02 PM

5 Weird Animals Described in 2014

by beredim in Strange Animals

From pink blind fish to mushroom shaped animals to flic-flac jumping spiders, here is a pick of the weirdest animals described in 2014.

1. Hoosier cavefish (Amblyopsis hoosieri)

A live specimen of A. hoosieri, measuring 6.07 cm (2.39 in) long.

The Hoosier cavefish (Amblyopsis hoosieri) is a subterranean blind fish from southern Indiana, U.S.

First discovered during a 2013 study on ... Read more »

  • April 4, 2015
  • 02:53 PM

Smoking, bad for you, good for MRSA

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant superbug, can cause life-threatening skin, bloodstream and surgical site infections or pneumonia. It has been a tough battle finding ways to fight it and research now shows, cigarette smoke may make matters worse. The study shows that MRSA bacteria exposed to cigarette smoke become even more resistant to killing by the immune system.... Read more »

McEachern, E., Hwang, J., Sladewski, K., Nicatia, S., Dewitz, C., Mathew, D., Nizet, V., & Crotty Alexander, L. (2015) Analysis of the Effects of Cigarette Smoke on Staphylococcal Virulence Phenotypes. Infection and Immunity. DOI: 10.1128/IAI.00303-15  

  • April 4, 2015
  • 04:55 AM

No evidence for efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids on [autism] core symptom domains

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

To quote from the study by Deepali Mankad and colleagues [1] (open-access): "This study does not support high dose supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids in young children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder]."Only yesterday I was discussing the results from Bos and colleagues [2] (see here) and the idea that inattention might be a target behaviour for supplementation with PUFAs [polyunsaturated fatty acids] with (and without) ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] in mind. Then today, something completely opposite crops up on this blog...Mankad and colleagues "conducted a 6-month, randomized, placebo controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acid supplements (1.5 g) vs placebo in children 2 to 5 years of age with ASD." The study entry at can be seen here. The supplementation in question consisted of "0.75 g of EPA + DHA (1.875 ml once a day) of liquid formulation" rising to "1.5 g (3.5 ml) after 2 weeks" if well tolerated by participants.Various measures were analysed over the course of the trial period beginning at baseline (no intervention). "Autism symptom severity was measured by the autism composite score of the Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Behavioral Inventory (PDDBI)." Further: "The effect of omega-3 fatty acids on externalizing behaviors was measured using the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2)." Blood draws were also included as part of the study protocol, not only to study EPA and DHA content in "the plasma phospholipid" but also looking at various immune markers such as cytokines too (see here).Results: "There was no significant difference between groups on the 0- to 24-week change in PDDBI autism composite scores." So when it came to the core autism domains, fatty acid supplementation didn't seem to offer anything in excess of the placebo formulation of "refined olive oil and medium chain triglycerides."But: "there was a statistically significant difference in externalizing behaviors, with participants in the placebo group experiencing slight improvements and children in the omega-3 group worsening over the course of the study." Curiously, those receiving the placebo showed some improvement in so-called externalising behaviours (outward behaviours such as hyperactivity, aggression and conduct problems) compared with a worsening of such parameters for those receiving the active intervention. The authors add: "This effect is peculiar in the context of previous studies, but is robust." One possible explanation may lie in the examination of gastrointestinal (GI) issues among the participant groups. So: "8/19 participants in the omega-3 group had GI distress at baseline, and only 1/19 in placebo group had GI distress at baseline. The possibility that preexisting GI distress predisposes to externalizing behaviors cannot be ruled out." Knowing what is known about GI issues in relation to autism and what areas of functioning they can impinge on (see here) I would support the authors' stance on this.Going back to the Bos findings on ADHD and fatty acids, the authors also have some comment on the suggestion that ADHD might be an 'intervention target' for fatty acid supplementation. To quote again: "we explored the effect of this intervention on hyperactivity as measured by the BASC. There was no statistically significant difference between groups and the trend favored placebo." That and the lack of changes to the cytokine profile following intervention and we're just about done.Accepting that there is some research out there that has suggested that fatty acid supplementation might be useful for some on the autism spectrum (see here) including the quite recent results reported by Ooi and colleagues [3] (albeit an open trial), in general the evidence base around this intervention with autism in mind, is perhaps not as favourable as that with something like ADHD in view (see here). I should point out that the dose of fatty acid used by Mankad et al was described as "high dose" and was, eventually, more than double that used in the Bos study but similar to that described by other researchers [4]. Whether there may be merit in looking at smaller doses combined with a greater focus on those presenting with an abnormal fatty acid profile (see here for example) remains to be seen. I might also suggest that lessons could be learned from the paper by Rapaport and colleagues [5] linking inflammatory molecules to best response to fatty acids in relation to depression...Music: Beck - Where It's At.----------[1] Mankad D. et al. A randomized, placebo controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of young children with autism. Molecular Autism 2015, 6:18.[2] Bos DJ. et al. Reduced symptoms of inattention after Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation in boys with and without Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Mar 19.[3] Ooi YP. et al. Omega-3 fatty acids in the management of autism spectrum disorders: findings from an open-label pilot study in Singapore. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015 Mar 25.[4] Amminger GP. et al. Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in children with autism: a double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study. Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Feb 15;61(4):551-3.[5] Rapaport MH. et al. Inflammation as a predictive biomarker for response to omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder: a proof-of-concept study. Molecular Psychiatry. 2015. March 24.----------Mankad, D., Dupuis, A., Smile, S., Roberts, W., Brian, J., Lui, T., Genore, L., Zaghloul, D., Iaboni, A., Marcon, P., & Anagnostou, E. (2015). A randomized, placebo controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of young children with autism ... Read more »

Mankad, D., Dupuis, A., Smile, S., Roberts, W., Brian, J., Lui, T., Genore, L., Zaghloul, D., Iaboni, A., Marcon, P.... (2015) A randomized, placebo controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of young children with autism. Molecular Autism, 6(1). DOI: 10.1186/s13229-015-0010-7  

  • April 3, 2015
  • 07:30 PM

Risk of congenital heart disease is determined by the age of the mother, not her eggs

by Betty Zou in Eat, Read, Science

Roughly one in 100 children will have minor congenital heart disease whereas one in 1000 will require heart surgery. The risk factors for congenital heart disease include genetics, infections, maternal diabetes and advanced maternal age. A team of researchers led by Dr. Patrick Jay at Washington University School of Medicine asked whether the maternal age effect was based on the age of the mother’s eggs or the mother herself. To tease apart these scenarios, the researchers carried out reciprocal ovarian transplants where the ovaries of young mice were transplanted into older mice and vice versa.... Read more »

Schulkey Claire E., Rachel A. Magnan, Megan T. Danzo, Herman Luther, Alayna K. Hutchinson, Adam A. Panzer, Mary M. Grady, David B. Wilson, & Patrick Y. Jay. (2015) The maternal-age-associated risk of congenital heart disease is modifiable. Nature. DOI:  

  • April 3, 2015
  • 03:15 PM

New therapy halts artery plaque growth and suppresses inflammation

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

According to the CDC, 1 in 4 deaths are due to heart attacks. In fact it is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Largely attributed to diet, most medications solely aim at lowering cholesterol. However, a research team showed that a nanotherapeutic medicine can halt the growth of artery plaque cells resulting in the fast reduction of the inflammation that may cause a heart attack, offering a new way to treat people at risk for heart disease.... Read more »

Jun Tang, Mark E. Lobatto, Laurien Hassing, Susanne van der Staay, Sarian M. van Rijs, Claudia Calcagno, Mounia S. Braza, Samantha Baxter, Francois Fay, Brenda L. Sanchez-Gaytan.... (2015) Inhibiting macrophage proliferation suppresses atherosclerotic plaque inflammation. Science Advances. info:/10.1126/sciadv.1400223

  • April 3, 2015
  • 11:39 AM

The Jay Who Came to Dinner (on a Sloth)

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Kelsey Neam was strolling through the trees in Costa Rica and looking for sloths when she spotted something unusual. High on a tree branch, a three-toed sloth was eating leaves at an unhurried pace. It seemed oblivious to three brown jays that perched nearby and were watching it intently. Then one jay scooted closer and plunged its beak into the sloth's fur.

Neam is a graduate student in ecology at Texas A&M University. She was in the Costa Rican cloud forests to study three-toed slot... Read more »

  • April 3, 2015
  • 04:29 AM

Improving inattention in boys with and without ADHD

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The [truncated] PubMed listing of the abstract by Dienke Bos and colleagues [1] does little justice to the results reported by this group looking at the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on the behaviour of boys both diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and those who are described as 'typically developing'.Luckily the paper is open-access (see here) and one can get a true flavour of what happened to this cohort of boys with and without a diagnosis of ADHD following consumption of "10 grams of margarine daily, enriched with either 650mg of EPA/DHA [Eicosapentaenoic Acid / Docosahexaenoic Acid] each or placebo." Indeed, the study is also listed on too (see here) and has received some press attention too (see here).So:Authors "set out to investigate the effects of omega-3 PUFA [polyunsaturated fatty acid] dietary supplementation on ADHD symptoms in young boys with and without ADHD in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial." Randomised [placebo-controlled] trials are sweet music to science ears.As mentioned, researchers did not however limit their analysis of any potential effects from fatty acid supplementation to just boys diagnosed with ADHD. No, instead they "included a typically developing reference group to investigate the specificity of treatment to subjects with ADHD."Over 16 weeks of supplementation (or not) and including measures at baseline (before intervention), researchers assessed the strength of any results based on both psychometric and other more physiological measures including buccal (cheek) swabs "for analysis of phospholipid fatty acid levels" and urine samples to "measure the HVA [homovanillic acid] to creatinine ratio, as a proxy for dopamine turnover." They also imaged the brain via fMRI.Results: "Omega-3 PUFA dietary supplementation improved symptoms of inattention in boys with and without ADHD in a double blind randomized controlled trial." This was based on scores on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and in particular, scores around attention. Inattention scores were not unexpectedly higher in boys diagnosed with ADHD but the authors are pretty adamant that "there was an effect of treatment on parent-rated symptoms of ADHD, regardless of diagnosis.""The dietary intervention affected omega-3 PUFA levels in cheek cell phospholipids." This gives us some idea that the behavioural changes reported also correlated with a physiological difference over placebo. It doesn't confirm the possible mechanism but is a good start linking behaviour and physiology. Other more physiological variables such as urinary HVA and the fMRI results did not show any specific effects following active intervention.The authors conclude: "this study provides new evidence that dietary supplementation using omega-3 PUFAs may be an effective augmentation of pharmacological treatments of ADHD."These are interesting results which add to a growing body of work suggesting that PUFAs may have some important effects when it comes to behaviour. With ADHD specifically in mind, PUFAs have received a mixed response from science albeit with some more recent meta-analyses now starting to come down on the side of (possible) effect over no effect, at least for some (see here). Outside of just ADHD, there is also a bank of research suggesting that skills such as reading ability might also have some connection to PUFA status (see here) again, for some. I say this with the caveat that there is more research to do in these areas.As per the discussions by Bos, their study was of a particularly high methodological standard so that must count in favour of strength of their results. They did note that "a small number of participants with ADHD had changes made to their medication during the intervention" but found similar results without including these participants in separate analysis. With those issues in mind, I'd be inclined to say that we should be paying a lot more attention to fatty acids and behaviour...Music: Bobby Fuller Four - I Fought The Law.----------[1] Bos DJ. et al. Reduced symptoms of inattention after Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation in boys with and without Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Mar 19.----------Bos DJ, Oranje B, Veerhoek ES, Van Diepen RM, Weusten JM, Demmelmair H, Koletzko B, de Sain-van der Velden MG, Eilander A, Hoeksma M, & Durston S (2015). Reduced symptoms of inattention after Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation in boys with and without Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology PMID: 25790022... Read more »

Bos DJ, Oranje B, Veerhoek ES, Van Diepen RM, Weusten JM, Demmelmair H, Koletzko B, de Sain-van der Velden MG, Eilander A, Hoeksma M.... (2015) Reduced symptoms of inattention after Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation in boys with and without Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. PMID: 25790022  

  • April 2, 2015
  • 02:55 PM

Beta secretase inhibitors to treat Alzheimer's disease

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

With each new amyloid-targeting treatment for Alzheimer’s disease that has been developed, there has been a corresponding concern. For example, antibodies targeting amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) produce inflammation in the brain in some patients. Gamma secretase inhibitors tend to produce adverse effects by interacting with Notch, an important pathway for cellular signaling. However, a new target for alzheimer’s is offering some new hope.... Read more »

Filser, S., Ovsepian, S., Masana, M., Blazquez‐Llorca, L., Brandt Elvang, A., Volbracht, C., Müller, M., Jung, C., & Herms, J. (2015) Pharmacological Inhibition of BACE1 Impairs Synaptic Plasticity and Cognitive Functions. Biological Psychiatry, 77(8), 729-739. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.10.013  

  • April 2, 2015
  • 02:11 PM

Underage drinking has lasting effects on the brain and epigenetics

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

The rise of underage drinking has almost left a sense that it is acceptable or even free of long-term consequences. Unfortunately because the brain continues forming long into the early twenties, environmental factors can have a large impact on the development. In fact, research shows that binge-drinking during adolescence may perturb brain development at a critical time and leave lasting effects on genes and behavior that persist into adulthood.... Read more »

  • April 2, 2015
  • 04:58 AM

The Bourbon Virus: Less Fun Than Whiskey

by Rebekah Morrow in United Academics

Deadly tick-borne Bourbon virus remains an incurable mystery.... Read more »

Kosoy, O., Lambert, A., Hawkinson, D., Pastula, D., Goldsmith, C., Hunt, D., & Staples, J. (2015) Novel Thogotovirus Associated with Febrile Illness and Death, United States, 2014. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 21(5). DOI: 10.3201/eid2105.150150  

Ciancanelli, M., Huang, S., Luthra, P., Garner, H., Itan, Y., Volpi, S., Lafaille, F., Trouillet, C., Schmolke, M., Albrecht, R.... (2015) Life-threatening influenza and impaired interferon amplification in human IRF7 deficiency. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1578  

  • April 2, 2015
  • 03:12 AM

Physical activity and sleep in autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Sleep issues are not an uncommon feature for quite a few people on the autism spectrum (see here).Autism research has provided some pretty strong evidence to support that last sentence and how sleep, or a lack of it in terms of quality and/or quantity, might not be optimal for people on the autism spectrum (as it isn't for those not on the spectrum).The hows and whys of sleep affecting the behavioural presentation of autism are still a little in the air outside of what is known more generally about temperament and behaviour following poor sleeping patterns and routines. That being said, the relationship between sleep and behaviour specifically with the autism spectrum in mind has been the topic of some discussion [1] (open-access).The findings reported by David Wachob & David Lorenzi [2] add to that literature with their suggestion that: "though over half of the children were identified as having at least one sleep-related problem, their activity levels were significantly related to their sleep patterns."I was really quite interested in the idea that activity levels and sleep are sharing some research airtime when it comes to autism. Looking at a (very) small group of children/young adults (N=10) with autism who "were asked to wear accelerometer devices for 7 days in order to track objective measures of activity and sleep quality" researchers set about looking at any relationship. They concluded that over 7 days "the more physically active children had overall higher sleep quality."I could quibble that the authors "included children who have a parent-reported diagnosis of ASD [autism spectrum disorder]" or that there were some gaps in the data as a result of breaks in the time that the "Actigraph GT3X+" were worn but I would be just quibbling. Particularly so following the tide of research on how accurate parent report can be when it comes to autism (see here for example). It's also worthwhile noting that other groups have also reported similar findings [3] to that of Wachob & Lorenzi.Regular readers of this blog might have understood my specific interest in research on physical activity and autism as per posts on topics such as obesity (see here) and how movement issues might be one potential barrier to physical activity participation when it comes to autism (see here). I'm minded to suggest that there are various solutions to increasing a person's physical activity which might also have some interesting secondary effects too (see here) (although recognising that the martial arts are not for everyone).The Wachob/Lorenzi results add an interesting dimension to the proposed benefits of physical activity when it comes to autism which requires some important follow-up. Their [objective] use of accelerometer devices also taps into increasing moves toward technology assisting in such research (see here). The paper from David Kennaway [4] advising some caution on one of the treatments of choice for sleep issues in relation to pediatric autism - melatonin - might also be dropped in at this point.And just one more thing... one might also think about what physical activity might also do for parts of an important comorbidity in autism as per the preliminary findings from Silva and colleagues [5] on ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and 'intense' physical activity...Music: Madonna - Material Girl. (no capes).----------[1] Cohen S. et al. The relationship between sleep and behavior in autism spectrum disorder (ASD): a review. J Neurodev Disord. 2014;6(1):44.[2] Wachob D. & Lorenzi DG. Brief Report: Influence of Physical Activity on Sleep Quality in Children with Autism. J Autism Dev Disord. 2015 Mar 20.[3] Tatsumi Y. et al. Daytime physical activity and sleep in pre-schoolers with developmental disorders. J Paediatr Child Health. 2014 Sep 3.[4] Kennaway DJ. et al. Potential safety issues in the use of the hormone melatonin in paediatrics. Journal of Pediatrics & Child Health. 2015. Feb 3.[5] Silva AP. et al. Measurement of the Effect of Physical Exercise on the Concentration of Individuals with ADHD. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 24;10(3):e0122119.----------Wachob D, & Lorenzi DG (2015). Brief Report: Influence of Physical Activity on Sleep Quality in Children with Autism. Journal of autism and developmental disorders PMID: 25791123... Read more »

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