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  • December 4, 2014
  • 08:51 AM

Journal Club: Do pufferfishes hold their breath when inflated?

by GrrlScientist in Maniraptora

SUMMARY: A newly-published study by a team of Australian scientists reveals that inflated pufferfish do not hold their breath, that they continue to obtain oxygen across their gills as usual. ... Read more »

  • December 4, 2014
  • 04:47 AM

Gut dysbiosis in treated coeliac disease: time for a probiotic or worse?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Our findings indicate that dysbiosis of microbiota is associated with persistent gastrointestinal symptoms in treated celiac disease patients and open new possibilities to treat this subgroup of patients."That was the summary of the paper published by Pirjo Wacklin and colleagues [1] who looked at the bacterial constitution of the duodenal microbiota [the bacteria which inhabit us] in a small group of participants diagnosed with coeliac (celiac) disease who "had been following a strict GFD [gluten free diet] for several years and had restored small bowel mucosa and negative celiac autoantibodies." Based on an analysis of bowel symptoms recorded using the Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale, researchers reported that despite the use of a gluten free diet - universally indicated for coeliac disease (CD) - a proportion of their cohort still presented with "persistent symptoms" and it is within this cohort they were aiming to see whether: "abnormal intestinal microbiota may be associated with persisting gastrointestinal symptoms in treated celiac disease patients."I'm applying for a villain loan. I go by the name of Vector."The treated patients with persistent symptoms had a higher relative abundance of Proteobacteria (P=0.04) and a lower abundance of Bacteroidetes (P=0.01) and Firmicutes (P=0.05)." That and "their microbial richness was reduced." All of this led authors to conclude that for some with CD, a gluten free diet might just be the start of a management schedule to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.This is not the first time that CD (both treated and untreated) has been discussed with the gut microbiome in mind. The paper from De Palma and colleagues [2] (open-access) hinted that there may be more to see based on analyses of fecal samples for IgA-coated bacteria compared to results from asymptomatic controls. Granted the results do not directly overlay with the recent Wacklin findings but it's a start at least. Likewise the paper from Sellitto and colleagues [3] (open-access) (covered in a previous post on a sister blog) might also be pertinent to add to the discussion with their findings of "significant differences between the developing microbiota of infants with a genetic predisposition for CD and those from infants with a non-selected genetic background." I might add that the delayed introduction of gluten bit to their paper has not seemingly been borne out by subsequent larger scale research (see here).Then to the next question leading from the Wacklin results: do issues with gut bacteria mean that altering gut bacterial communities might be an intervention option? Well, one might certainly consider something like the use of probiotics to try and 'change' the bacterial make-up as a possibility. Indeed, type 'probiotics and celiac disease' (non-UK spelling) into PubMed and you get an array of papers talking about how probiotics might already have a role for some with CD. I've previously talked about the paper from Sarno and colleagues [4] on this blog (see here) and "a novel effect of probiotics in the prevention of undigested gliadin peptides toxic effects". Tomorrow on this blog, I have a post scheduled tomorrow about the paper from Duar and colleagues [5] on probiotics potentially degrading gluten peptides. One might also entertain the possibility that certain probiotics might also affect related systems such as abnormal intestinal permeability too...Insofar as probiotics potentially affecting GI symptoms in CD, the paper by Smecuol and colleagues [6] provides some preliminary data suggesting that there may be more to see in this area. Based on their examination of "the probiotic Bifidobacterium natren life start (NLS) strain", authors concluded that under placebo-controlled conditions: "those randomized to B. infantis experienced a significant improvement in Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale (P = 0.0035 for indigestion; P = 0.0483 for constipation; P = 0.0586 for reflux)". And yes, their results were based on the same Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale used by Wacklin and colleagues.Rather more speculatively, and with specific regard to the the 'or worse' bit of the title of this post is another possible means that one might think about altering the gut microbiota: the fecal microbiota transplantation or stool transplant. Now just before anyone gets the wrong idea here, I'm not talking about some sort of DIY transplant for CD as per other media reports (see here). What I do think is worthwhile however is for some brave researcher(s) to perhaps entertain the idea that transplanting bacteria from one person to another might have some potentially important effects in cases of CD as per it's use in other areas of medicine (see here) and onwards think about putting some actual science to the anecdotes. I'll say no more on this matter (at least for now).Music to close: Roxanne by The Police.----------[1] Wacklin P. et al. Altered Duodenal Microbiota Composition in Celiac Disease Patients Suffering From Persistent Symptoms on a Long-Term Gluten-Free Diet. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2014. November 18.[2] De Palma G. et al. Intestinal dysbiosis and reduced immunoglobulin-coated bacteria associated with coeliac disease in children. BMC Microbiol. 2010 Feb 24;10:63.[3] Sellitto M. et al. Proof of concept of microbiome-metabolome analysis and delayed gluten exposure on celiac disease autoimmunity in genetically at-risk infants. PLoS ONE. March 2012.[4] Sarno M. et al. Lactobacillus paracasei CBA L74 interferes with gliadin peptides entrance in Caco-2 cells. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Jul 17:1-7.[5] Duar RM. et al. Identification and characterization of intestinal lactobacilli strains capable of degrading immunotoxic peptides present in gluten. J Appl Microbiol. 2014 Nov 6. doi: 10.1111/jam.12687.[6] Smecuol E. et al. Exploratory, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of Bifidobacterium infantis natren life start strain super strain in active celiac disease. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2013 Feb;47(2):139-47.----------... Read more »

Wacklin, P., Laurikka, P., Lindfors, K., Collin, P., Salmi, T., Lähdeaho, M., Saavalainen, P., Mäki, M., Mättö, J., Kurppa, K.... (2014) Altered Duodenal Microbiota Composition in Celiac Disease Patients Suffering From Persistent Symptoms on a Long-Term Gluten-Free Diet. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. DOI: 10.1038/ajg.2014.355  

  • December 3, 2014
  • 10:45 PM

Memes, compound strategies, and factoring the replicator equation

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

When you work with evolutionary game theory for a while, you end up accumulating an arsenal of cute tools and tricks. A lot of them are obvious once you’ve seen them, but you usually wouldn’t bother looking for them if you hadn’t know they existed. In particular, you become very good friends with the replicator […]... Read more »

Börgers, T., & Sarin, R. (1997) Learning through reinforcement and replicator dynamics. Journal of Economic Theory, 77(1), 1-14. DOI: 10.1006/jeth.1997.2319  

  • December 3, 2014
  • 04:35 PM

New peptide might treat spinal cord injury

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

In nature there are plenty of animals that can regenerate nerves, even some mammals have the ability to regenerate them, but unfortunately we do not. However, there is some great news on the horizon, scientists have developed a new chemical compound that shows extraordinary promise in restoring function lost to spinal cord injury. The compound, which the researchers dubbed intracellular sigma peptide (ISP), allowed paralyzed muscles to activate in more than 80 percent of the animals tested.... Read more »

Lang, B., Cregg, J., DePaul, M., Tran, A., Xu, K., Dyck, S., Madalena, K., Brown, B., Weng, Y., Li, S.... (2014) Modulation of the proteoglycan receptor PTPσ promotes recovery after spinal cord injury. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature13974  

  • December 3, 2014
  • 09:38 AM

Video Tip of the Week: BioLayout Express3D for network visualizations

by Mary in OpenHelix

My previous Video Tip of the Week highlighted the GeneFriends tool. With GeneFriends you can search for co-expression of genes in RNA-seq data sets. But you can take these results further and visualize them with the BioLayout Express3D tool, so I wanted to bring more details about BioLayout in this tip since we haven’t covered […]... Read more »

  • December 3, 2014
  • 08:00 AM

How Slime Molds Our World

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Fungus-like protists have amazing tales to tell. One phylum has been shown to ranch bacteria and hire cowhands to guard them. One phylum has slime mold that can find its way through a maze and is used to model mathematics for video games. Finally, one phylum is responsible for the glut of Irish priests and policeman in late 1800’s America.... Read more »

Goss, E., Tabima, J., Cooke, D., Restrepo, S., Fry, W., Forbes, G., Fieland, V., Cardenas, M., & Grunwald, N. (2014) The Irish potato famine pathogen Phytophthora infestans originated in central Mexico rather than the Andes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(24), 8791-8796. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1401884111  

Tero, A., Takagi, S., Saigusa, T., Ito, K., Bebber, D., Fricker, M., Yumiki, K., Kobayashi, R., & Nakagaki, T. (2010) Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design. Science, 327(5964), 439-442. DOI: 10.1126/science.1177894  

Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada . (2000) Intelligence: Maze-solving by an amoeboid organism. Nature, 407(470). info:/

Brock, D., Douglas, T., Queller, D., & Strassmann, J. (2011) Primitive agriculture in a social amoeba. Nature, 469(7330), 393-396. DOI: 10.1038/nature09668  

  • December 3, 2014
  • 04:36 AM

Autism ADHD equals greater risk of psychiatric comorbidity?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Because the name Mu-Hong Chen (and colleagues) has appeared so, so many times on this blog with reference to the various studies originating from investigations of the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, I genuinely did have to make sure that I hadn't covered one of their recent papers [1] on here previously. Actually I can't 100% confirm that I haven't already covered a further addition to their research repertoire which concluded that: "Patients with ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] + ASD [autism spectrum disorder] were associated with the greatest risk of having comorbid bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, disruptive behavior disorder, and tic disorder" over and above various control groups. So, if this does happen to be a duplicate post, I apologise in advance.It's just... none of us have ever been aboard a submarine beforeADHD and ASD appearing together in the same person has been the source of quite a bit of discussion in [some] autism research circles in recent years. Whether it be with the frequency figures in mind (see here) or some rather interesting suggestions about ESSENCE (see here) or autism plus [2] if you prefer, it seems the notion of autism - quite a lot of autism - being a stand-alone condition existing in some sort of diagnostic vacuum is gradually falling by the wayside. The more contemporary view is that clinical presentation (i.e. real life) is rather more fuzzy and complicated than we've all been led to believe. A shocker I know.The further suggestion from Chen et al that: "A comprehensive interview scrutinizing the psychiatric comorbidities would be suggested when encountering and following patients with both ASD and ADHD in clinical practice" is perhaps quite obviously implied from their findings. Said findings based on the study of: "725 patients with ASD-alone, 5694 with ADHD-alone, 466 with ASD + ADHD, and 27,540 (1:4) age-/gender-matched controls". Sample size and power, as you might realise, was probably not a great issue for this study.What's more to say about these findings? Well, when we talk about 'the common ground' between conditions like autism, ADHD, schizophrenia, depression, etc. the Chen findings provide some exquisite evidence to back-up the assertion of common genetic findings potentially weaving their way through various presentations. That being said, I'm not necessarily saying that genes, mutations on genes, are the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to deciphering reasons for such common ground, given the often important variable of 'environment' (however you wish to describe this) and those all-important gene x environment interactions. Just as an aside I'll refer you to some of my other musings when it comes, for example, to how infection or response to infection might show interplay (see here and see here) and even a possible effect from those trillions of wee beasties which we call carry with us (see here). It's likely to be complicated and multi-factorial.The Chen findings might also be viewed as further evidence for a revision to the way we classify when it comes to psychiatry and behaviour too. Followers of the whole RDoC debate (see here) can probably see how starting from a different point when it comes labelling conditions might allow for some more revealing aspects of the underlying genetics/biochemistry/brain and other organ stuff to come to the forefront.And just in case you hadn't had your fill of research from Taiwan based on that Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, yet more big data findings: (i) ADHD does indeed seem to be "associated positively with asthma" [3], and (ii) "A predisposition for allergies was an independent risk factor for hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes mellitus among patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder" [4].I'm just wondering who would be brave enough to write the book: The Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database: research findings 1995 to present day...Music, music, music... How about Neneh Cherry and Manchild?----------[1] Chen M-H. et al. Autistic spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and psychiatric comorbidities: A nationwide study. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2015; 10: 1-6.[2] Gillberg C. & Fernell E. Autism plus versus autism pure. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Dec;44(12):3274-6.[3] Chou CJ. et al. Asthma in patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A nationwide population-based study. Ann Clin Psychiatry. 2014 Nov;26(4):254-260.[4] Chen MH. et al. A predisposition for allergies predicts subsequent hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes mellitus among patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder: a nationwide longitudinal study. Schizophr Res. 2014 Oct;159(1):171-5.----------Chen, M., Wei, H., Chen, L., Su, T., Bai, Y., Hsu, J., Huang, K., Chang, W., Chen, T., & Chen, Y. (2015). Autistic spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and psychiatric comorbidities: A nationwide study Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 10, 1-6 DOI: 10.1016/j.rasd.2014.10.014... Read more »

  • December 2, 2014
  • 04:31 PM

Synthetic biology breakthrough: The world’s first artificial enzymes

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Like mad scientists working away in some secret location we have created life… well sort of. It may sound like something out of a Sci fi movie, but scientists have created the world’s first enzymes made from artificial genetic material. Their synthetic enzymes (which are made from molecules that do not occur anywhere in nature) are capable of triggering chemical reactions in the lab and are the building blocks for life.... Read more »

Taylor, A., Pinheiro, V., Smola, M., Morgunov, A., Peak-Chew, S., Cozens, C., Weeks, K., Herdewijn, P., & Holliger, P. (2014) Catalysts from synthetic genetic polymers. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature13982  

Pinheiro, V., Taylor, A., Cozens, C., Abramov, M., Renders, M., Zhang, S., Chaput, J., Wengel, J., Peak-Chew, S., McLaughlin, S.... (2012) Synthetic Genetic Polymers Capable of Heredity and Evolution. Science, 336(6079), 341-344. DOI: 10.1126/science.1217622  

  • December 2, 2014
  • 12:51 PM

Our Increased carbon dioxide output causes global warming and now we have proof

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Global warming, it’s a bigger deal than some people seem to realize. For years science has pointed to the increased carbon dioxide output as the main reason for man-made global warming. However, there has been no evidence to directly link CO2 output to global warming, well until now. Research has identified, for the first time, how global warming is related to the amount of carbon emitted.... Read more »

  • December 2, 2014
  • 12:34 PM

Heb je uitzonderlijk muzikaal gehoor? (1/5) [Dutch]

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

Ben jij een beetje muzikaal? Kun jij een liedje op de perfecte toonhoogte meezingen? Hoor jij meteen of er een valse snaar op een gitaar zit? Sommigen mensen zijn volledig toondoof. Maar mensen met absoluut gehoor kunnen (zonder te kijken!) aan een pianotoets al horen welke noot het is. Een heel zeldzame gave! Maar is deze luistereigenschap wel zo bijzonder? Hoogleraar Muziekcognitie prof. dr. Henkjan Honing (UvA) legt je uit wat nog veel opmerkelijker is aan gehoor.... Read more »

Peretz, I., & Zatorre, R. (2005) Brain Organization for Music Processing. Annual Review of Psychology, 56(1), 89-114. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070225  

Stewart L, von Kriegstein K, Warren JD, & Griffiths TD. (2006) Music and the brain: disorders of musical listening. Brain : a journal of neurology, 129(Pt 10), 2533-53. PMID: 16845129  

Takeuchi, A., & Hulse, S. (1993) Absolute pitch. Psychological Bulletin, 113(2), 345-361. DOI: 10.1037//0033-2909.113.2.345  

Schellenberg, E., & Trehub, S. (2003) Good Pitch Memory Is Widespread. Psychological Science, 14(3), 262-266. DOI: 10.1111/1467-9280.03432  

Trehub SE. (2003) The developmental origins of musicality. Nature neuroscience, 6(7), 669-73. PMID: 12830157  

  • December 2, 2014
  • 06:55 AM

In Winter, Frozen Isn't Just A Disney Movie

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

Everyone knows that you can dies from being out in the cold for too long, but do you how the cold can bring about your demise? It has to do with water, electricity, and believe it or not, stripping.... Read more »

Palmers PJ, Hiltrop N, Ameloot K, Timmermans P, Ferdinande B, Sinnaeve P, Nieuwendijk R, & Malbrain ML. (2014) From therapeutic hypothermia towards targeted temperature management: a decade of evolution. Anaesthesiology intensive therapy. PMID: 25421924  

Argacha, J., Adamopoulos, D., Gujic, M., Fontaine, D., Amyai, N., Berkenboom, G., & van de Borne, P. (2008) Acute Effects of Passive Smoking on Peripheral Vascular Function. Hypertension, 51(6), 1506-1511. DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.107.104059  

Adams MD, Earnhardt JT, Dewey WL, & Harris LS. (1976) Vasoconstrictor actions of delta8- and delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol in the rat. The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics, 196(3), 649-56. PMID: 4606  

  • December 2, 2014
  • 04:44 AM

Coenzyme Q10 and NADH supplementation for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

A quick post today to direct your attention to the paper by Jesus Castro-Marrero and colleagues [1] reporting results which seemed to suggest that under double-blind, placebo-controlled conditions "oral CoQ10 [Coenzyme Q10] (200 mg/day) plus NADH [nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) + hydrogen (H)] (20 mg/day) supplementation" might have some positive effects for cases of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). The NIH entry for the trial can be found here.I volunteer as tribute! Reporting on both fatigue-related and "biochemical parameters in 73 Spanish CFS patients", researchers found that the NADH / CoQ10 preparation (ReConnect) was superior to a phosphoserine/serine plus vitamin C placebo based on fatigue scores derived from the Fatigue Impact Scale (FIS) [2]. Further, that "a recovery of the biochemical parameters was also reported. NAD+/NADH (p< 0.001), CoQ10 (p< 0.05), ATP (p< 0.05) and citrate synthase (p< 0.05) were significantly higher and lipoperoxides (p< 0.05) were significantly lower in blood mononuclear cells (BMCs) of the treated group."Obviously there is quite a bit more to do in this area but these results are perhaps not so surprising given other more open-trial data as per the paper from Garth Nicholson and colleagues [3]. I'm also minded to refer you back to some other research discussed in this area with regards to mitochondria and CFS (see here) and mention of the paper by Maes and colleagues [4] which concluded: "lowered levels of CoQ10 play a role in the pathophysiology of ME/CFS and that symptoms, such as fatigue, and autonomic and neurocognitive symptoms may be caused by CoQ10 depletion.""Larger sample trials are warranted to confirm these findings." I couldn't have said it better myself.Music: The Skatalites and Guns of Navarone based around a story by one of my favourite novelists.----------[1] Castro-Marrero J. et al. Does oral Coenzyme Q10 plus NADH supplementation improve fatigue and biochemical parameters in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Antioxid Redox Signal. 2014 Nov 11.[2] Frith J. & Newton J. Fatigue Impact Scale. Occup Med (Lond). 2010 Mar;60(2):159.[3] Nicholson G. et al. Lipid Replacement Therapy with a Glycophospholipid Formulation with NADH and CoQ10 Significantly Reduces Fatigue in Intractable Chronic Fatiguing Illnesses and Chronic Lyme Disease Patients. International Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2012; 3: 163-170.[4] Maes M. et al. Coenzyme Q10 deficiency in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is related to fatigue, autonomic and neurocognitive symptoms and is another risk factor explaining the early mortality in ME/CFS due to cardiovascular disorder. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2009;30(4):470-6.----------Castro-Marrero J, Cordero MD, Segundo MJ, Saez-Francas N, Calvo N, Román-Malo L, Aliste L, Fernandez de Sevilla T, & Alegre-Martin J (2014). Does oral Coenzyme Q10 plus NADH supplementation improve fatigue and biochemical parameters in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Antioxidants & redox signaling PMID: 25386668... Read more »

Castro-Marrero J, Cordero MD, Segundo MJ, Saez-Francas N, Calvo N, Román-Malo L, Aliste L, Fernandez de Sevilla T, & Alegre-Martin J. (2014) Does oral Coenzyme Q10 plus NADH supplementation improve fatigue and biochemical parameters in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?. Antioxidants . PMID: 25386668  

  • December 1, 2014
  • 04:24 PM

Feeding the Buzzards

by Denise O'Meara in Denise O'Meara

Eimear Rooney and colleagues from Queen’s University Belfast aimed to investigate that very question in a new study examining the effects of supplementary feeding on the common buzzard population in Northern Ireland. The study has recently been published in the international ornithology journal, Ibis.

Rooney and colleagues focused on mainly agricultural land consisting of improved grassland, but they also included areas of lower productivity such as bogs, rough grazing areas, woodlands and urban areas. Forty nests were located and monitored for a year prior to their experimental study.... Read more »

  • December 1, 2014
  • 03:05 PM

A Surfeit of Salamanders: An Imagined Picture Book

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

If ever there was a scientific study that deserved to be a children’s picture book, this was it. Scientists belly-crawled through the forests of the Ozarks, flipping stones and looking for slimy things that wriggled away from them. They learned that the forest is secretly packed with salamanders in unfathomable numbers, as many as 10 […]The post A Surfeit of Salamanders: An Imagined Picture Book appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • December 1, 2014
  • 04:42 AM

Cortisol and cytokines: a diagnostic tag-team for autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

A quote from the paper by Chang-Jiang Yang and colleagues [1] begins today's post: "The results of ROC [receiver operating characteristic] analysis indicated the cortisol VAR, IL-6 and TNF-α were potential biomarkers in diagnosis of ASD [autism spectrum disorder]."With many thanks to Natasa for providing me with a copy of this paper, I'd like to discuss these 'joined up' findings a little further. A few pointers to begin with:Boot the grime of this world in the crotch, dearBased on quite a bit of previous research looking at the steroid hormone cortisol in relation to autism (see here) alongside an increasingly important body of work talking about cytokines and autism (see here), the authors embarked on assessing the joint role of these compounds as "potential biomarkers in assisting the diagnosis of ASD."Based in China, a small-ish group of participants diagnosed with ASD (n=35) aged around 10 years were recruited alongside an asymptomatic group (n=32) "unrelated to the autistic participants".Salivary cortisol levels were measured (8 of them) at various points of the day from waking up to just before going to sleep. A fasting blood sample was also provided from each participant for analysis of cytokines. The Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) served as the measure of autism severity.Results: the cortisol VAR - "diurnal variation of cortisol" - did show something of a group difference between those with autism and controls exemplified by "reduced diurnal amplitude in... cortisol concentration". Group cortisol concentrations differed particularly at the time of "just before going to sleep", where the ASD group tended to show higher levels than controls.Insofar as those cytokines: "There was a significant difference noted in median plasma concentrations of IL-6 and TNF-α between the ASD and control individuals." Both measures were elevated in the autism samples when taking groups as a whole.Then came the ROC analysis, and based on those values for cortisol VAR and those two cytokines, various measures of sensitivity and specificity were put forward individually. "The combination of three factors had a sensitivity of 91.43% and a specificity of 96.87% (AUC = 0.97)". Those are pretty good values in anyone's bookThe authors conclude that their study results "may supply a simple clinical approach for aiding the diagnosis of ASD." Importantly however, they make mention of the small participant groups included in their study.As always, further independent replication of these findings are warranted before anyone goes and gets too excited about the possible implications. That and the fact that 'biomarkers' mentioned in the context of autism perhaps doesn't mean as much as you might think bearing in mind the heterogeneity of the autism spectrum ('the autisms'?) and those all-important comorbidities which I keep going on about. Whether results also translate to other geographic or ethnic populations is another point to be seen.What I perhaps like best about the Yang paper and results is however the logical simplicity behind their study. As indicated, both areas of cortisol - as part of the HPA axis - and cytokines have something of an important history in autism research [2] which has thus far been seldom looked at together. I acknowledge the paper by Brian Lovell and colleagues [3] (discussed in this post) looking at pro-inflammatory biomarkers and cortisol levels in parents of children with autism or ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) but that was parents, not children with autism.The obvious next questions after any independent replication are 'why' and what could this mean for potential interventions (if and when required). The 'why' question is probably going to be rather complicated as per the involvement of genetics (see here), epigenetics (see here) and biochemistry (see here) intersecting when it comes to immune function involvement and autism for example. Despite some headlines talking about elements of immune function as being the next frontier for autism research I'd be minded to say that is has been for at least the past 20 years or so, in some circles at least. Oh, and science is also picking up the idea of "an immune-mediated subtype of autism" too [4] perhaps at the centre of any cytokine biomarkers [5].Insofar as the intervention side of things, well this is where things can get a little more contentious. Accepting that concepts like inflammation are starting to be more readily used in the context of psychiatry (see here), the idea that treating said inflammation might impact on behavioural measures is still something squarely in the research domain at least for now.But this kind of work does represent an interesting area ripe for further study...Music to close... and I am the only one transfixed with this 'how to play Heart and Soul' on the piano?----------[1] Yang C-J. et al. The roles of cortisol and pro-inflammatory cytokines in assisting the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2015; 9: 174-181.[2] Ashwood P. et al. Elevated plasma cytokines in autism spectrum disorders provide evidence of immune dysfunction and are associated with impaired behavioral outcome. Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Jan;25(1):40-5.[3] Lovell B. et al. The psychosocial, endocrine and immune consequences of caring for a child with autism or ADHD. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Apr;37(4):534-42.[4] McDougle CJ. et al. Toward an immune-mediated subtype of autism spectrum disorder. Brain Research. 2014. November 13.[5] Rose D. & Ashwood P. Potential cytokine biomarkers in autism spectrum disorders. Biomark Med. 2014 Oct;8(9):1171-1181.----------... Read more »

  • December 1, 2014
  • 02:00 AM

Is cancer really a game?

by Philip Gerlee in Evolutionary Games Group

A couple of weeks ago a post here on TheEGG, which was about evolutionary game theory (EGT) and cancer, sparked a debate on Twitter between proponents and opponents of the idea of using EGT to study cancer. Mainly due to the limitations inherent to Twitter the dialogue fizzled. Instead, here we are expanding ideas in […]... Read more »

Marusyk, A., Tabassum, D.P., Altrock, P.M., Almendro, V., Michor, F., & Polyak, K. (2014) Non-cell-autonomous driving of tumour growth supports sub-clonal heterogeneity. Nature, 514(7520), 54-8. PMID: 25079331  

  • November 30, 2014
  • 03:16 PM

Population Genomics Reveal Recent Speciation and Rapid Evolutionary Adaptation in Polar Bears

by Olesya Pavlova in genome ecology evolution etc

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a carnivorous species which is closely related to the brown bear (Ursus arctos) and is adapted to the severe living conditions of the High Arctic due to the great physiological changes happened during evolutionary … Continue reading →... Read more »

Liu, S., Lorenzen, E., Fumagalli, M., Li, B., Harris, K., Xiong, Z., Zhou, L., Korneliussen, T., Somel, M., Babbitt, C.... (2014) Population Genomics Reveal Recent Speciation and Rapid Evolutionary Adaptation in Polar Bears. Cell, 157(4), 785-794. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.03.054  

  • November 30, 2014
  • 01:31 PM

Even more bad global warming news

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

While everyone (but seemingly the media) is on basically the same page with the fact that global warming is a human caused problem — and one we need to fix the effects of this change are still coming to light. Human-induced changes to Earth’s carbon cycle – for example, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and ocean acidification – have been observed for decades. However, a new study showed human activities, in particular industrial and agricultural processes, have also had significant impacts on the upper ocean nitrogen cycle.... Read more »

Kim IN, Lee K, Gruber N, Karl DM, Bullister JL, Yang S, & Kim TW. (2014) Chemical oceanography. Increasing anthropogenic nitrogen in the North Pacific Ocean. Science (New York, N.Y.), 346(6213), 1102-6. PMID: 25430767  

  • November 29, 2014
  • 10:23 PM

Global Warming Denial: What Does it Take? A Case Study of Climate Change Denialists

by Nick in How to Paint Your Panda

Despite the established scientific consensus on global climate change, a substantial number of people, specifically Americans, deny its effects or its taking place. Why does this form of denialism persist so feverishly? What can mitigate this gap between the scientific community and the public?... Read more »

Finucane, M., Slovic, P., Mertz, C., Flynn, J., & Satterfield, T. (2000) Gender, race, and perceived risk: The 'white male' effect. Health, Risk , 2(2), 159-172. DOI: 10.1080/713670162  

Hamilton, L., & Keim, B. (2009) Regional variation in perceptions about climate change. International Journal of Climatology, 29(15), 2348-2352. DOI: 10.1002/joc.1930  

Kahan, D., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L., Braman, D., & Mandel, G. (2012) The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Change, 2(10), 732-735. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1547  

  • November 29, 2014
  • 03:35 PM

Vegetable oil in the fight against gastric disease

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

The bacterium Helicobacter pylori is strongly associated with gastric ulcers and cancer. Unfortunately, treating the bacteria with antibiotics is difficult and with the increase in antibiotic resistance it can be a dangerous fight to take on. Given the high rate of ulcers and stomach cancers, the need for a better treatment is becoming more apparent. New research may bring hope (and of all things) in the form of vegetable oil.
... Read more »

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