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  • July 14, 2016
  • 09:39 PM
  • 126 views

Are NETs involved in fighting Leptospira interrogans infections?

by Microbe Fan in Spirochetes Unwound

Neutrophils are the most abundant white blood cells in the bloodstream.  As the first immune cells to be recruited to infected tissues, they play a key role in the fighting microbial intruders.  It's long been known that they engulf microbes by phagocytosis, which results in the microbes being imprisoned within phagosomes inside the neutrophil.  Deadly proteases, antimicrobial proteins, and reactive oxygen species are released into the phagosome to kill the microbes.Another means used by neutrophils to kill microbes was discovered just a decade ago.  When mixed with bacteria, neutrophils cast nets of DNA impregnated with antimicrobial proteins to trap and kill the bacteria.  The web-like DNA goes by the name "neutrophil extracellular trap" (NET).  Several bacteria are known to trigger neutrophils to cast NETs, and NETs have even been observed by microscopy within infected tissues.Fluorescence staining of a neutrophil exudate in an appendicitis case.  NETs are the fibrous material.  Figure 4H from Brinkmann et al., 2004.  Bar = 50 μm. A study published last year in PLOS NTD showed that the spirochete Leptospira interrogans is also killed by NETs.  The image below shows the spirochetes trapped in a NET cast by a human neutrophil.Human neutrophils were cultured with L. interrogans for 3 hours.  Figure 1A from Scharrig et al., 2015.  Bar = 50 μm.The real question is whether NETs are involved in killing L. interrogans during infection.  To answer this question, the investigators turned to the mouse model of leptospirosis.  They found that the number of spirochetes in the bloodstream more than doubled when the neutrophils in the mice were depleted by injection of a monoclonal antibody targeting a antigen located on the neutrophil surface.  Later in the infection, there was 10-fold more spirochetes in the kidneys of mice whose neutrophils were depleted than in those with normal numbers of neutrophils.  This confirmed that neutrophils were involved in limiting infections by L. interrogans, but did the neutrophils fight the infection by casting NETs?The investigators used an indirect method to measure the amount of NETs generated during infection.  Neutrophils often expel nuclear DNA in the form of nucleosomes to generate NETs.  (Nucleosomes are assembled by wrapping nuclear DNA around histones.)  For this reason, the investigators measured the levels of free nucleosomes in the bloodstream of infected mice by ELISA. They concluded that NETs were generated by neutrophils in the bloodstream because they detected free nucleosomes in blood drawn from infected mice.  Much less was detected when neutrophils were first depleted with the anti-neutrophil antibody, confirming that the main source of free nucleosomes was neutrophils.These results don't convince me that NETs are generated by neutrophils during L. interrogans infection.  There could be other reasons for free nucleosomes being present in the bloodstream.  For example, nucleosomes could be released from neutrophils simply dying from their battle against L. interrogans.  More convincing evidence would be direct observation of NETs in infected animals, as done in this study of mice with E. coli blood infections.ReferencesScharrig E, Carestia A, Ferrer MF, Cédola M, Pretre G, Drut R, Picardeau M, Schattner M, & Gómez RM (2015). Neutrophil extracellular traps are involved in the innate immune response to infection with Leptospira. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 9 (7) PMID: 26161745Brinkmann V, Reichard U, Goosmann C, Fauler B, Uhlemann Y, Weiss DS, Weinrauch Y, & Zychlinsky A (2004). Neutrophil extracellular traps kill bacteria. Science (New York, N.Y.), 303 (5663), 1532-5 PMID: 15001782... Read more »

Scharrig E, Carestia A, Ferrer MF, Cédola M, Pretre G, Drut R, Picardeau M, Schattner M, & Gómez RM. (2015) Neutrophil extracellular traps are involved in the innate immune response to infection with Leptospira. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 9(7). PMID: 26161745  

Brinkmann V, Reichard U, Goosmann C, Fauler B, Uhlemann Y, Weiss DS, Weinrauch Y, & Zychlinsky A. (2004) Neutrophil extracellular traps kill bacteria. Science (New York, N.Y.), 303(5663), 1532-5. PMID: 15001782  

  • July 14, 2016
  • 03:58 PM
  • 182 views

Organic computers are coming

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Move over silicon, tomorrow's computers could be made of something completely different. A team of international researchers managed to find a molecule that, to their opinion, could give the impetus to the development of organic electronics.

... Read more »

  • July 14, 2016
  • 11:15 AM
  • 162 views

Does Sugar Really Fuel Willpower?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Another prominent psychology theory has come under scrutiny by researchers who say the published results look unrealistic.



In a new paper, Miguel A. Vadillo et al. take aim at the idea that the body's reserves of willpower rely on glucose.

The background here is the 'ego depletion' model, a psychological theory which holds that self-control is effortful and draws on a limited resource, which can eventually be depleted if it's overused. Many researchers have proposed that glucose is thi... Read more »

  • July 14, 2016
  • 10:14 AM
  • 147 views

Folliculin is required for embryonic brain development in zebrafish

by Joana Guedes in BHD Research Blog

Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome (BHD) is caused by mutations in the gene encoding folliculin (FLCN). How this leads to the BHD clinical manifestations is not yet clear. Since homozygous mutations of FLCN are lethal in mice, rats and dogs at early embryonic stage (Hasumi et al., 2009), zebrafish is a valuable alternative model to study the developmental functions of FLCN. Newly published research from Kenyon et al. (2016) examines the role of FLCN in zebrafish development using morpholino oligonucleotides to generate a zebrafish BHD model and reconcile the expression of FLCN transcripts in the developing embryo with the phenotype associated with the morpholino knock-down of FLCN.... Read more »

Kenyon EJ, Luijten MN, Gill H, Li N, Rawlings M, Bull JC, Hadzhiev Y, van Steensel MA, Maher E, & Mueller F. (2016) Expression and knockdown of zebrafish folliculin suggests requirement for embryonic brain morphogenesis. BMC developmental biology, 16(1), 23. PMID: 27391801  

  • July 14, 2016
  • 03:09 AM
  • 146 views

Gastrin-releasing peptide and autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Gastrin-releasing peptide was safe and well tolerated by most subjects and may be effective for core symptoms of autism."So said the results of the study - open trial - by Michele Michelin Becker and colleagues [1] continuing a research theme from this author [2] on the potential need for further scientific scrutiny when it comes to the use of gastrin-releasing peptides (GRP) and autism. Emphasising again that results were based on the use of an open trial (everyone knew what was being taken) alongside the small participant group included for study (N=10), researchers suggested that there may be more to see in this area as per the idea that 6 of 10 of the participants "responded to GRP" based on scores on a suite of autism-related assessment schedules. I might add that authors also importantly noted 'adverse reactions' in 3 of the 10 participants so perhaps slightly reducing the impact of that 'safe and well tolerated' sentence above.For those with long autism research memories, mention of the word 'gastrin', as in the idea that GRP stimulates the release of gastrin in the stomach, might take you back to another gut hormone with a place in autism research history: secretin. Gastrin and secretin (and cholecystokinin (CCK)) show some important relationships with one another, but under typical circumstances secretin normally inhibits the release of gastrin. Just to add to the complexity here, older research had also suggested that GRP (and its homolog bombesin) might also "elicit secretin secretion" [3] under certain circumstances. It's all rather complicated as gut hormone chemistry tends to be.I note that over the course of their research interest in this area, Becker et al have tended to focus on the idea that their intravenous (IV) application of GRP is probably working on the 'first brain' not the second one as per their discussions about GRP being "released by glutamatergic neurons and acts as a neurotransmitter that regulates neuronal excitability." I might add that other research has talked about GRP in the context of neurogenesis too [4]. Unfortunately as the research currently stands, we don't know very much which biological parameters are being affected by administration of GRP in cases of autism so we can't say too much. There is some suggestion that "neonatal blockade of GRPr [gastrin-releasing peptide receptor]" might have behavioural implications in rats pertinent to the "expression of autism-relevant phenotypes" [5] but again, very little on GRP and gastrin itself in people with autism.I'm hoping that lessons have been learned when it comes to the potential future investigation of GRP and autism from the secretin story and any prejudice is minimised by mere mention of gut hormones potentially being implicated in some autism. Accepting that case reports are normally the starting point for quite a lot of science, I couldn't help but notice that the 3 case reports paper by Becker et al [2] on the use of GRP in cases of autism was not a million miles away from the 3 case reports paper by Horvath et al [6] on secretin and autism....To close, I really hope the picture shown here is not a sign of things to come but just in case, on behalf of the UK, we're sorry...----------[1] Becker MM. et al. Improvement in Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children With the Use of Gastrin-Releasing Peptide: An Open Trial. Clin Neuropharmacol. 2016 Jun 21.[2] Becker MM. et al. Improvement of autism spectrum disorder symptoms in three children by using gastrin-releasing peptide. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2016 May-Jun;92(3):302-6.[3] Chang CH. et al. Modulation of secretin release by neuropeptides in secretin-producing cells. Am J Physiol. 1998 Aug;275(2 Pt 1):G192-202.[4] Walton NM. et al. Gastrin-releasing peptide contributes to the regulation of adult hippocampal neurogenesis and neuronal development. Stem Cells. 2014 Sep;32(9):2454-66.[5] Merali Z. et al. Long-term behavioral effects of neonatal blockade of gastrin-releasing peptide receptors in rats: similarities to autism spectrum disorders. Behav Brain Res. 2014 Apr 15;263:60-9.[6] Horvath K. et al. Improved social and language skills after secretin administration in patients with autistic spectrum disorders. J Assoc Acad Minor Phys. 1998;9(1):9-15.----------Becker MM, Riesgo RS, Roesler R, Bosa C, Ohlweiler L, Backes B, Endres RG, Zanon RB, Marchezan J, & Schwartsmann G (2016). Improvement in Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children With the Use of Gastrin-Releasing Peptide: An Open Trial. Clinical neuropharmacology PMID: 27332629... Read more »

  • July 13, 2016
  • 10:30 PM
  • 152 views

Modeling influenza at ECMTB/SMB 2016

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

This week, I am at the University of Nottingham for the joint meeting of the Society of Mathematical Biology and the European Conference on Mathematical and Theoretical Biology — ECMTB/SMB 2016. It is a huge meeting, with over 800 delegates in attendance, 308 half-hour mini-symposium talks, 264 twenty-minute contributed talks, 190 posters, 7 prize talks, […]... Read more »

Gog, J.R., Ballesteros, S., Viboud, C., Simonsen, L., Bjornstad, O.N., Shaman, J., Chao, D.L., Khan, F., & Grenfell, B.T. (2014) Spatial Transmission of 2009 Pandemic Influenza in the US. PLoS Computational Biology, 10(6). PMID: 24921923  

  • July 13, 2016
  • 03:59 PM
  • 170 views

A New Tool for Studying Gorilla Health: Half-Chewed Food

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



In the mountains of Central Africa, scientists who study critically endangered gorillas have a new tool. They've discovered that they can learn what viruses gorillas are carrying by stealthily collecting half-chewed plants the apes leave behind.

If this sounds reminiscent of that class clown at the third-grade lunch table who would ask if you liked seafood and then say "See? Food!" and open his mouth wide to display his sloppy Joe slurry, don't worry—mountain gorillas are vegetarians. And... Read more »

Smiley Evans T, Gilardi KV, Barry PA, Ssebide BJ, Kinani JF, Nizeyimana F, Noheri JB, Byarugaba DK, Mudakikwa A, Cranfield MR.... (2016) Detection of viruses using discarded plants from wild mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. American journal of primatology. PMID: 27331804  

  • July 13, 2016
  • 03:33 PM
  • 194 views

"Shocking" new role of the immune system: Controlling social interaction

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

In a startling discovery that raises fundamental questions about human behavior, researchers have determined that the immune system directly affects - and even controls - creatures' social behavior, such as their desire to interact with others. So could immune system problems contribute to an inability to have normal social interactions?

... Read more »

Filiano, A., Xu, Y., Tustison, N., Marsh, R., Baker, W., Smirnov, I., Overall, C., Gadani, S., Turner, S., Weng, Z.... (2016) Unexpected role of interferon-γ in regulating neuronal connectivity and social behaviour. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature18626  

  • July 13, 2016
  • 01:00 PM
  • 12 views

Brockington Lab Weekly Research Round-Up

by ross.mounce in Ross Mounce's blog

This week I chose the papers for the Brockington Lab ‘journal club’ here at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge (I prefer to call it the ‘weekly research round-up’ though, because good content has nothing-to-do with journals per se!). We rotate the choice of papers between each lab member every week. Sometimes the focus is … Read more →... Read more »

Islam, T., Croll, D., Gladieux, P., Soanes, D., Persoons, A., Bhattacharjee, P., Hossain, S., Gupta, D., Mahboob, M. G., Cook, N.... (2016) Emergence of wheat blast in Bangladesh was caused by a South American lineage of Magnaporthe oryzae. bioRxiv. DOI: 10.1101/059832  

Erin C McKiernan, Philip E Bourne, Titus Brown, Stuart Buck, Amye Kenall, Jennifer Lin, Damon McDougall, Brian A Nosek, Karthik Ram, Courtney K Soderberg.... (2016) How open science helps researchers succeed. eLife. info:/http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.16800

  • July 13, 2016
  • 10:57 AM
  • 145 views

The Genetic Architecture of Complex Disease

by Daniel Koboldt in Massgenomics

It’s no secret that while genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have implicated thousands of genetic loci in human phenotypes, the variants uncovered collectively explain only a fraction of the observed variance between individuals. The reasons for this “missing heritability” are a subject of vigorous debate in the scientific community. One possible explanation is that rare (low-frequency) variants […]... Read more »

Fuchsberger C, Flannick J, Teslovich TM, Mahajan A, Agarwala V, Gaulton KJ, Ma C, Fontanillas P, Moutsianas L, McCarthy DJ.... (2016) The genetic architecture of type 2 diabetes. Nature. PMID: 27398621  

  • July 13, 2016
  • 08:45 AM
  • 136 views

The Perils of Plant Monogamy

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

The philodendron that raises its temperature to attract a certain beetle is an exception. Most plants invite many different pollinators, but a few have only a single pollinator species. This leads to some interesting adaptations and some even funkier smells.... Read more »

  • July 13, 2016
  • 07:30 AM
  • 136 views

Plenty of Fish in the Sea but Only Two Kinds of Brains: Epigenetic Sex differences in Zebrafish Brain

by Aniruddha Chatterjee in EpiBeat

Phenotypic differences between males and females of a species are referred to as sexual dimorphism. Sexual dimorphism manifests not only in morphological traits, but also in physiological and behavioural traits. In organisms that do not have sex chromosomes, males and females are both derived from a nearly identical genome. Such is the case in zebrafish. Despite being such an important model for biological research, the mechanism of sex determination still remains a mystery. Many believe environmental factors may play a role, but there is no consensus. In such cases then, what it is that makes an individual a male or a female? Sex-specific expression of certain genes is one of the main proximate causes of phenotypic differences between the sexes in these organisms. Therefore, sex differences in specific gene expression forms a basis for the “male-sex drive hypothesis”. The male-sex drive hypothesis predicts that a stronger selection on male traits results in masculinization of the genome, and therefore a “male” individual. However, the underlying molecular events that cause differential gene expression resulting in a male sex is unknown.

We hypothesized that epigenetic mechanisms (i.e., DNA methylation) are involved in determining sexual traits and sex specific gene expression. In our recent paper, we investigated evidence of masculinization of zebrafish epigenome. Previously, we documented the first genome-wide base resolution DNA methylome of zebrafish brain and liver. Here we analysed the zebrafish adult brains (2 male and 2 female samples, each of them a pool of six individuals) to address the male sex drive hypothesis at both methylome and transcriptome levels. We chose to look at brain because of its role in behavioural differences between sexes, as well as it is the second most sexually dimorphic organ (after the gonads) and there is a wealth of evidence supporting sex specific gene expression other organisms.... Read more »

Chatterjee A, Ozaki Y, Stockwell PA, Horsfield JA, Morison IM, & Nakagawa S. (2013) Mapping the zebrafish brain methylome using reduced representation bisulfite sequencing. Epigenetics, 8(9), 979-89. PMID: 23975027  

Chatterjee A, Stockwell PA, Horsfield JA, Morison IM, & Nakagawa S. (2014) Base-resolution DNA methylation landscape of zebrafish brain and liver. Genomics data, 342-4. PMID: 26484126  

Gagnidze K, Weil ZM, & Pfaff DW. (2010) Histone modifications proposed to regulate sexual differentiation of brain and behavior. BioEssays : news and reviews in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, 32(11), 932-9. PMID: 20836091  

  • July 13, 2016
  • 07:28 AM
  • 165 views

An equation for life

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Water churns. Earth moves. Molecules jostle and chemicals mix. Between heaven and hell, a young planet finds itself in full flux. Developing. Forming. Star stuff rains down and forged elements bubble up. Then it happens. It seems as if it’s just another chemical match-up, another reaction in the vast library of possibilities. But it would […]... Read more »

Scharf C, & Cronin L. (2016) Quantifying the origins of life on a planetary scale. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 27382156  

  • July 13, 2016
  • 04:35 AM
  • 137 views

Immune reactivity to gluten and (some) autism continued

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Not so long ago I blogged about the research paper from Faezeh Ghalichi and colleagues [1] (see here) describing the result of their relatively small scale (non-blinded, not placebo-controlled) trial on the use of a gluten-free diet (GFD) with a cohort of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).The results, taking into account certain methodological issues, were generally quite favourable when it came to the analysed behavioural measurements used and importantly on the presence of comorbid functional gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms over the short period of intervention.Today I'm adding to the discussions with another paper from Ghalichi et al [2] suggesting that whilst coeliac disease (CD) wasn't detected among any of their cohort "an underlying immune reactivity to gluten in a subset of children with ASD" may be present in some.Detailing the results of a suite of immunological markers more typically seen with reference to CD - "IgA [immunoglobulin A], tTGIgA [tissue transglutaminase (tTG)-IgA antibodies], tTGIgG [tissue transglutaminase (tTG) IgG antibodies] and EMAIgG [Endomysial antibody-IgG]" - researchers reported that a small proportion of their cohort were 'positive' for at least one of those serological markers: "6 patients were tTGIgA positive." Further, whilst no significant group differences were noted to said serological markers following 6 weeks of a GFD or regular diet: "In the GFD group, tTGIgA decreased insignificantly while it increased significantly in the regular diet group."To many these might seem like fairly unremarkable results. I took a slightly different view insofar as the idea that something 'not quite coeliac diease' but nonetheless potentially suggestive of 'immune reactivity to gluten' might be a feature of at least some autism. Indeed, I'll take readers back to some previous discussions in this area (see here and see here) and how, set against the idea of the plural autisms (see here) there may be particular biological and serological signs to look for when it comes to ascertaining potential best and non-responders to something like use of a gluten-free diet (see here).I'm also minded to bring in some chatter a few years back specifically about tissue transglutaminase (tTG) and autism (see here) based on the findings reported by Rosenspire and colleagues [3] who reported that "a significant number of autistic children have serum levels of IgA antibodies above normal to the enzyme tissue transglutaminase II (TG2)." I was always a little perplexed as to why this work has never really been followed up particularly when dietary intervention including use of a GFD seems to be something a significant minority of people on the autism spectrum have been or are currently using (see here). Allowing also for the fact that the rates of coeliac disease (an autoimmune condition linked to consumption of gluten) are probably not excessive when it comes to a diagnosis of autism, autism is by no means protective against CD and on occasion might prove an interesting clinical combination [4].Set within the context that non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is starting to receive some welcome study (see here) as part of a wider 'diet can affect behaviour' agenda (see here) and that for at least for some on the autism spectrum, the idea of a specific 'diet phenotype' [5] might not be a pipe dream, there remains quite a bit to do in this area of autism research.----------[1] Ghalichi F. et al. Effect of gluten free diet on gastrointestinal and behavioral indices for children with autism spectrum disorders: a randomized clinical trial. World J Pediatr. 2016 Jun 10.[2] Ghalichi F. et al. The effect of gluten free diet on markers of celiac disease and association with behavioral symptoms in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Progress in Nutrition. 2016; 18.[3] Rosenspire A. et al. Autism spectrum disorders are associated with an elevated autoantibody response to tissue transglutaminase-2. Autism Res. 2011 Aug;4(4):242-9.[4] Genuis SJ. & Bouchard TP. Celiac disease presenting as autism. J Child Neurol. 2010 Jan;25(1):114-9.[5] Whiteley P. Nutritional management of (some) autism: a case for gluten- and casein-free diets? Proc Nutr Soc. 2015 Aug;74(3):202-7.----------Faezeh Ghalichi, Alireza Ostadrahimi, Ayyoub Malek, & Jamal Ghaemmaghami (2016). The effect of gluten free diet on markers of celiac disease and association with behavioral symptoms in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders Progress in Nutrition, 18 (2)... Read more »

Faezeh Ghalichi, Alireza Ostadrahimi, Ayyoub Malek, & Jamal Ghaemmaghami. (2016) The effect of gluten free diet on markers of celiac disease and association with behavioral symptoms in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Progress in Nutrition, 18(2). info:/

  • July 13, 2016
  • 01:00 AM
  • 129 views

Another one bites the dust?

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

The music theory literature has been suggesting it for a long time: the idea that simultaneous sounding tones with frequency relationships that are low integer multiples, like 1:2 (octave) or 3:2 (a perfect fifth), are determinant of how listeners perceive consonance. It is an idea that is often related to the overtone structure of natural sounds (such as the voice or string instruments) suggesting that musical harmony is reflective or even a result of the acoustic structure that is found in natural, harmonic sounds that are surrounding us...... Read more »

Honing, H., ten Cate, C., Peretz, I., & Trehub, S. (2015) Without it no music: cognition, biology and evolution of musicality. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1664), 20140088-20140088. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0088  

  • July 12, 2016
  • 03:31 PM
  • 111 views

Stem cells feel the force

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

All cells share the same genetic code, no matter if they are skin or brain cells. However, these cells are exposed to very different types of mechanical environments and mechanical stresses. For example, brain tissue is very soft, whereas bone is hard. Researchers know that cells respond to extrinsic forces by changing their structure and their gene expression to be better suited for their particular environments and to be able to execute their specific functions.... Read more »

Le, H., Ghatak, S., Yeung, C., Tellkamp, F., Günschmann, C., Dieterich, C., Yeroslaviz, A., Habermann, B., Pombo, A., Niessen, C.... (2016) Mechanical regulation of transcription controls Polycomb-mediated gene silencing during lineage commitment. Nature Cell Biology. DOI: 10.1038/ncb3387  

  • July 12, 2016
  • 03:31 AM
  • 115 views

Regulating trophy hunting: antlers or reproduction?

by sschindler in sschindlerblog

Guest blog from Rocío Pozo: Imagine you are a trophy hunter. The red deer hunting season has just opened and you are ready to go out and get those trophies you have been waiting for. What would be the first question you would ask to yourself? Exactly! What is the hunting quota? more Pozo, R., […]... Read more »

Pozo, R., Schindler, S., Cubaynes, S., Cusack, J., Coulson, T., & Malo, A. (2016) Modeling the impact of selective harvesting on red deer antlers. The Journal of Wildlife Management. DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.21089  

  • July 12, 2016
  • 02:53 AM
  • 147 views

Bowel issues in autism may cluster with other symptoms

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Clinicians should be aware that gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, and autonomic dysfunction may cluster in children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and should be addressed in a multidisciplinary treatment plan."So said the findings by Bradley Ferguson and colleagues [1] who, continuing an autism research theme (see here), "examined the relationship between gastrointestinal symptomatology, examining upper and lower gastrointestinal tract symptomatology separately, and autonomic nervous system functioning, as assessed by heart rate variability and skin conductance level, in a sample of 120 individuals with ASD." Authors concluded that approaching half of their cohort "met criteria for functional constipation" and that said bowel issues might not necessarily just be a stand-alone finding.I had expected these results based on a previous presentation at IMFAR 2015 (see here). That also one Micah Mazurek appears on the authorship list of the Ferguson paper builds on her previous discoveries (see here) in this area and more generally (see here and see here). Yup, real gut-brain stuff; and when it comes to the often disabling (yes, disabling) effects of something like anxiety in relation to autism (see here), further data potentially pinpointing areas for possible intervention. Mmm, I wonder (see here)...One very interesting detail included in the Ferguson data was the observation that: "a history of regressive ASD or loss of previously acquired skills" might also be an important variable when it comes to heart rate variability and "lower gastrointestinal tract symptomatology." Regressive autism is something that I'm particularly interested in on this blog (see here for example) and the idea that in amongst the many and varied plural 'autisms', one or two 'types of autism' might not necessarily be all 'pre-programmed' (see here). What the recent data from Ferguson et al might imply is that further studies on bowel issues and anxiety according to symptom onset might be indicated (bearing in mind previous studies have not been too favourable when it comes to things like regression and bowel problems in autism).The bottom line: yet again, various comorbidities may be over-represented alongside a diagnosis of autism (see here) and when it comes to 'explaining' psychology and behaviour in relation to at least some autism, we ignore other potentially important somatic manifestations at our peril (see here). And speaking of comorbidity and autism, take a gander at a recent paper from Richard Frye & Dan Rossignol [2]...----------[1] Ferguson BJ. et al. Psychophysiological Associations with Gastrointestinal Symptomatology in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Res. 2016 Jun 20.[2] Frye RE. & Rossignol DA. Identification and Treatment of Pathophysiological Comorbidities of Autism Spectrum Disorder to Achieve Optimal Outcomes. Clin Med Insights Pediatr. 2016; 10: 43–56.----------Ferguson BJ, Marler S, Altstein LL, Lee EB, Akers J, Sohl K, McLaughlin A, Hartnett K, Kille B, Mazurek M, Macklin EA, McDonnell E, Barstow M, Bauman ML, Margolis KG, Veenstra-VanderWeele J, & Beversdorf DQ (2016). Psychophysiological Associations with Gastrointestinal Symptomatology in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research PMID: 27321113... Read more »

Ferguson BJ, Marler S, Altstein LL, Lee EB, Akers J, Sohl K, McLaughlin A, Hartnett K, Kille B, Mazurek M.... (2016) Psychophysiological Associations with Gastrointestinal Symptomatology in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research. PMID: 27321113  

  • July 11, 2016
  • 04:42 PM
  • 160 views

It's in the eyes: Alzheimer's detected before symptoms

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Scientists may have overcome a major roadblock in the development of Alzheimer's therapies by creating a new technology to observe -- in the back of the eye -- progression of the disease before the onset of symptoms. Clinical trials are to start in July to test the technology in humans.

... Read more »

  • July 11, 2016
  • 12:48 PM
  • 126 views

Size matters (for both sexes of seahorses)

by Emily Makowski in Sextraordinary!

This week's article is about research on whether male seahorses contribute to the size of their offspring. Seahorses are unique in that the young develops in the male's specialized pouch.... Read more »

Faleiro F, Almeida AJ, Ré P, & Narciso L. (2016) Size does matter: An assessment of reproductive potential in seahorses. Animal Reproduction Science, 61-7. PMID: 27062576  

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