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  • August 7, 2015
  • 07:38 AM

Seeing With Bionic Eyes!

by Viputheshwar Sitaraman in Draw Science

Pulse trains to percepts: the challenge of creating a perceptually intelligible world with sight recovery technologies.... Read more »

  • August 7, 2015
  • 02:32 AM

Immune related genes and pathways feature in 22q11DS-ASD

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

A quick post for your consumption today based on the findings reported by Maria Jalbrzikowski and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) who undertook "genomic analyses of 22q11DS to identify genes and pathways related to specific phenotypes." 22q11DS - 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome - is a genetic condition characterised by a deletion of a small piece of genetic material of chromosome 22. Autism is among several presentations that can co-occur in cases of 22q11DS (sometimes called Del22) alongside other psychiatric presentation such as psychosis [2].Jalbrzikowski et al reported that in amongst the various gene expression differences noted in their small-ish cohort diagnosed with Del22, for those also assessed as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (n=16) termed '22q11DS-ASD+' "Both DE [differential expression] analysis and WGCNA [weighted gene co-expression network analysis] showed converging evidence that alterations in immune-related pathways are associated with ASD." Additional comparisons led the authors to conclude that: "findings suggest that ASD pathology may be related to an innate immune system response to neuronal disturbances."It's not necessarily new news that some of the suspected genetics of autism might not necessarily just implicate the brain as being related to symptom onset and diagnosis. I've covered other examples of immune-related genes linked to autism appearing the peer-reviewed literature (see here). This comes on top of other more recent reviews stressing how immune function, in various guises, might hold something of a central role for [some] autism aetiology and pathology [3].Of course, one has to be aware that Del22 already has some pretty extensive links to immune function and in particular, the heightened risk of various autoimmune related conditions. There is always the possibility that the relationship being suggested by Jalbrzikowski and colleagues is just what would be expected in view of the small cohort included for study. Further study is implied; perhaps such investigations might also take into account another possible autism-link previously noted in the Del22 peer-reviewed literature: gastrointestinal issues and in particular, intestinal hyperpermeability and immune reactivity to gluten?Music: Kodaline - Ready.----------[1] Jalbrzikowski M. et al. Transcriptome Profiling of Peripheral Blood in 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome Reveals Functional Pathways Related to Psychosis and Autism Spectrum Disorder. PLoS One. 2015 Jul 22;10(7):e0132542.[2] Vorstman JA. et al. The 22q11.2 deletion in children: high rate of autistic disorders and early onset of psychotic symptoms. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006 Sep;45(9):1104-13.[3] Estes ML. & McAllister AK. Immune mediators in the brain and peripheral tissues in autism spectrum disorder. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2015 Jul 20;16(8):469-86.----------Jalbrzikowski M, Lazaro MT, Gao F, Huang A, Chow C, Geschwind DH, Coppola G, & Bearden CE (2015). Transcriptome Profiling of Peripheral Blood in 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome Reveals Functional Pathways Related to Psychosis and Autism Spectrum Disorder. PloS one, 10 (7) PMID: 26201030... Read more »

  • August 6, 2015
  • 04:54 PM

Cellular zombies: Mutant cells that can’t copy DNA keep dividing when they shouldn’t

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Researchers at USC have developed a yeast model to study a gene mutation that disrupts the duplication of DNA, causing massive damage to a cell’s chromosomes, while somehow allowing the cell to continue dividing. The result is a mess: Zombie cells that by all rights shouldn’t be able to survive, let alone divide, with their […]... Read more »

  • August 6, 2015
  • 01:42 PM

Juicing for fungi and oomycetes

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Many fungi and oomycetes (fungus-like microbes often called water moulds) like to eat plants. Unfortunately for us, these plants include basically all of the ones we grow for food. Thus another front of the human-microbe war rages ever onward. In an effort to gain an edge against our dastardly eukaryotic cousins, scientists have compiled a whole lot of data on how plant-eating fungi and oomycetes go about their business. To grow these microorganisms in the laboratory, researchers have taken the quite reasonable approach of making appealing meals out of liquids extracted from plants. Some of the more popular plants used to grow and study fungi and oomycetes are corn, barley, and potatoes. Here are some others that are perhaps not as well known:Pea broth is essentially the outcome of the worst pea soup recipe you can imagine: nuke some frozen peas at 121°C for 15 minutes, strain the resulting sludge, then nuke it again to sterilize. We've used pea broth to grow oomycetes of the genus Phytophthora, which are responsible for the destruction of a wide range of plants including potatoes, oak trees, and cucumbers. A pea-based medium has also been used to grow the delightfully named fungus Botryotinia fuckeliana, which causes gray mold on a bunch of plants including peas. Karl Wilhelm Gottlieb Leopold Fuckel was a 19th century German botanist who focused his studies on fungi.Phytophthora rotting out a potato (Source)V8 vegetable juice is enjoyed by several fungi and oomycetes, including Thielaviopsis basicola (responsible for a plethora of plant diseases including a black carrot rot) and members of the genera Phytophthora (aforementioned destroyers of many plants) and Pythium (commonly found in soil and particularly good at killing seedlings). The blend of tomatoes, carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress and spinach provides a convenient mixture that can support the growth of fungi capable of infecting plants or people. One thing V8 juice does particularly well is convince fungi they should make offspring via a process known as sporulation. Getting fungi to make spores is sometimes super annoying, but is necessary in order to understand how they spread between hosts (by producing spores that can be carried by wind/animal vectors/etc.) and acquire new abilities through sex. In particular, V8 juice has been used to study the sexual development of Cryptococcus neoformans, a fungus that causes disease in humans but also tends to live in old trees.Oomycetes (Phytophthora and Pythium) can also be grown using straight up tomato juice (prepared fresh) or the liquid squeezed from pulverized soybeans. This is useful since V8 juice can potentially be difficult to acquire in certain parts of the world. It also can address the issue of using a commercial product that could potentially be altered by the manufacturer unbeknownst to researchers who use it.Phytophthora infecting a rhododendron leaf (Source)Orange serum (the result of heating up orange juice and then filtering it to remove fruit particles and precipitates) provides a good growth medium for fungi that spoil citrus fruits (e.g. Penicillium digitatum). This stuff has also been used to grow the following:Fungi living in association with Lophelia pertusa, a deep-sea cold-water coral notable for its ability to form large reef structures that serve as biodiversity hotspots in deep watersApparently harmless fungi living inside Norway spruce needles while they are still green and attached to a treeGremmeniella abietina, responsible for Scleroderris canker on coniferous treesAnemones hanging out with Lophelia pertusa (white stuff) in the Gulf of Mexico (Source)The liquid left over after boiling asparagus spears in water can support the growth of Fusarium oxysporum and Fusarium proliferatum, toxin-producing fungi capable of eating the roots and stalks of asparagus. I came across a paper from 1903 that mentioned using asparagus juice to grow species of Fusarium found on flowering plants including crocuses. The juice has also been used to grow Cryptomyces pleomorpha, a mysterious fungus (it likely encompasses several bacteria and fungi thought to be different forms of the same organism) isolated from the blood of a cancer patient and briefly suspected to be carcinogenic.It's not technically juice, but pureed carrots can be used to grow the fungi Gibberella fujikuroi (consumer of several plants including rice and corn, can also cause opportunistic infections in animals) and Gibberella zeae (damages wheat, barley, and other grains). Both species produce toxins (e.g. fumonisins and gibberellins) so even if infected plants can be harvested they're often not usable.Gibberella zeae rotting some corn (Source)Aschersonia placenta, a fungus that infects scale insects capable of spoiling tropical fruits such as durian and guava, grows particularly well on mushed up pumpkin. Citric acid-producing Aspergillus niger also grows well on pumpkin juice, although optimal acid production is achieved when the fungus is fed a combination of pumpkin and molasses.ReferencesBeregoff-Gillow P. 1936. Cryptomyces pleomorpha has no etiological relation to carcinoma. Canadian Medical Association Journal 34(6):634-636. [Full text]Galkiewicz JP, Stellick SH, Gray MA, Kellogg CA. 2012. Cultured fungal associates from the deep-sea coral Lophelia pertusa. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 67:12-20.... Read more »

Galkiewicz, J., Stellick, S., Gray, M., & Kellogg, C. (2012) Cultured fungal associates from the deep-sea coral Lophelia pertusa. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 12-20. DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr.2012.05.001  

  • August 6, 2015
  • 03:16 AM

More medical illness associated with bipolar disorder

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

In a previous post on this blog I covered the idea that a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (previously called manic depression) might 'set someone up' for an elevated risk of various other medical illnesses when compared with data from asymptomatic controls (see here).Today I'm continuing that theme based on the findings reported by Hsu and colleagues [1] and the suggestion that: "BDs [bipolar disorders] were an independent risk factor for PUDs [peptic ulcer diseases]." With a starting point once again centred on the examination of data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, perhaps one of the premier population-wide databases producing data at the present time (see here), researchers analysed the medical insurance records of over 21,000 people diagnosed with BDs compared with over 84,000 "frequency-matched patients without BDs" for the presence of PUDs.They reported that the incidence of PUDs was higher in those with bipolar disorders compared with asymptomatic controls. The hazard ratio came in at 1.51 with 95% confidence intervals 1.43-1.59. The authors also concluded that: "BDs were an independent risk factor for PUDs" when taking into account other potentially interfering comorbidities. As usual, further research is called for surrounding any possible connection(s) and that when a diagnosis of BD is received "practitioners could notice the occurrence of PUD." I might add that this is not the first time that peptic ulcer disease has been linked to bipolar disorder as per research accounts such as the one from Goodwin and colleagues [2].I'm no expert on peptic ulcer disease so cannot readily offer any explanation as to why it should be more frequently reported when bipolar disorder is present than not. One could speculate that some of the known triggers of PUD might be more readily present in cases of BD as in the link between PUD and stress for example [3] in light of what stress can do to trigger some of the features of BD.I am also intrigued by the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) link to BD in light of what this bacterium does to the stomach lining. Appreciating the very stark way that H. pylori was shown to be connected to PUD and that questions still remain about the exact hows and whys, I do wonder if this gastrointestinal microbiota link might extend much further into the how gut and brain might be connected. With my speculating hat on, I might suggest that concepts such as leaky membranes and inflammation might also figure in some sort of way...Music: Jason Derulo - Want To Want Me.----------[1] Hsu YC. et al. Increased Subsequent Risk of Peptic Ulcer Diseases in Patients With Bipolar Disorders. Medicine (Baltimore). 2015 Jul;94(29):e1203.[2] Goodwin RD. et al. Peptic ulcer and mental disorders among adults in the community: the role of nicotine and alcohol use disorders. Psychosom Med. 2009 May;71(4):463-8.[3] Levenstein S. et al. Psychological stress increases risk for peptic ulcer, regardless of Helicobacter pylori infection or use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2015 Mar;13(3):498-506.e1.----------Hsu YC, Hsu CC, Chang KH, Lee CY, Chong LW, Wang YC, & Kao CH (2015). Increased Subsequent Risk of Peptic Ulcer Diseases in Patients With Bipolar Disorders. Medicine, 94 (29) PMID: 26200637... Read more »

  • August 5, 2015
  • 03:14 PM

How to tell the difference between bipolar disorder and depression

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Many patients with bipolar disorder, a debilitating mental condition that can take a person from the sluggishness of severe depression to super-human energy levels, are often misdiagnosed as having major depressive disorder, or MDD. But now as an alternative to reliance on patient interviews, scientists are closing in on an objective test that could help clinicians distinguish between the two — and provide better treatment.... Read more »

  • August 5, 2015
  • 02:44 PM

Mans best friend: Dogs process faces in specialized brain area

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Ever feel like your pet knows what you look like? While historically animals are depicted as, well slow… new research is proving otherwise. To pet owners this might not be big news, but scientists found that dogs have a specialized region in their brains for processing faces. The research provides the first evidence for a face-selective region in the temporal cortex of dogs.... Read more »

  • August 5, 2015
  • 09:38 AM

Video Tip of the Week: Araport, Arabidopsis Portal

by Mary in OpenHelix

The recent Plant Biology 2015 conference tweets were full of delightful morsels (#plantbiology15). Some of them edible. I am very psyched to learn of the Legume Federation. Legumes are *way* at the top of my list of favorite organisms. I think it was their tweet of the Araport data that led to this week’s video tip […]... Read more »

Hanlon, M., Vaughn, M., Mock, S., Dooley, R., Moreira, W., Stubbs, J., Town, C., Miller, J., Krishnakumar, V., Ferlanti, E.... (2015) Araport: an application platform for data discovery. Concurrency and Computation: Practice and Experience. DOI: 10.1002/cpe.3542  

Krishnakumar, V., Hanlon, M., Contrino, S., Ferlanti, E., Karamycheva, S., Kim, M., Rosen, B., Cheng, C., Moreira, W., Mock, S.... (2014) Araport: the Arabidopsis Information Portal. Nucleic Acids Research, 43(D1). DOI: 10.1093/nar/gku1200  

  • August 5, 2015
  • 08:36 AM

The ones that get away—does intensive fishing make fish harder to catch?

by naturallyspeakingpodcast in Naturally Speaking Podcast

Are humans changing the course of evolution in wild fish populations? A new study making media waves today provides tantalizing evidence of a mechanism by which this may happen. In our new Naturally Speaking Reports, one of our editors caught up with Institute Senior Research Fellow Shaun Killen, the author of the study, to find out more about […]

... Read more »

Shaun S. Killen, Julie J. H. Nati, & Cory D. Suski. (2015) Vulnerability of individual fish to capture by trawling is influenced by capacity for anaerobic metabolism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. info:/10.1098/rspb.2015.0603

  • August 5, 2015
  • 08:10 AM

One Egg, Two People, A Bunch of Reasons

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Man has been cloning himself for thousands of years. They’re called monozygotic twins. But how it occurs naturally is still a mystery. Identical twinning isn’t common, but is increased by in vitro fertilization techniques. Maybe this will give clues as to why one embryo splits. And if it doesn’t split completely – conjoined twins.... Read more »

  • August 5, 2015
  • 03:29 AM

Gender differences in chronic fatigue syndrome

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The title of this post matches the title of the paper published by Monica Faro and colleagues [1] (open-access here) and some potentially important data on "whether there are gender-related differences in CFS [Chronic Fatigue Syndrome], and to define a clinical phenotype in men."Starting with the idea that the prevalence of CFS - a generic term covering a spectrum of conditions characterised by severe and debilitating fatigue among several other things - may have a gender skew towards females over males [2], Faro and colleagues set about looking at whether the presentation of CFS might also differ between males and females. I should perhaps back-up a little and highlight how the sex differences in CFS frequency might be somewhat clouded by the fact that quite a few diagnostic criteria systems are currently around for CFS (also called myalgic encephalomyelitis, ME) and that under-diagnosis of men cannot yet be discounted as contributing to any gender differences. Think autism and the perceived gender skew there as an example of potential under-diagnosis in action with another label in mind.Based on the analysis of over 1300 patients formally diagnosed with CFS (using the Fukuda 1994 definition), 119 (9%) of the cohort were described as male. Following the administration of a clinical interview "conducted by 2 specialized internists in the diagnosis of the disease" among other things, researchers reported a few interesting details. First, men in general seemed to be diagnosed slightly earlier than women. It wasn't a stark difference measured in decades for example, but a difference of on average, 4-5 years. Further: "Widespread pain, muscle spasms, dizziness, sexual dysfunction, Raynaud's phenomenon, morning stiffness, migratory arthralgias, drug and metals allergy, and facial oedema were less frequent in men." Fibromyalgia as "defined by the criteria of the ACR" was also reported to be less frequent in men than women (29% vs 58% respectively). Also of interest was the suggestion that: "The most common triggering factor was an infection" where men were more likely than women to relate their symptoms to such a factor.These are interesting findings that add an extra dimension to discussions about CFS with a view to a possible role for gender differences. Obviously one has to be a little guarded about making too many sweeping generalisations that for example, CFS is a 'different condition' for men and women because we don't really have a great deal of evidence to back up such a claim. Insofar as the possibility that men are diagnosed earlier than women, this could point to a number of things. Either this is reflective of an earlier onset of the illness in men or that women find it more difficult to get diagnosed with CFS. I'd be interested to see how this variable pans out as and when more research in this area is forthcoming.Music: The Calling - Wherever You Will Go.----------[1] Faro M. et al. Gender differences in chronic fatigue syndrome. Reumatol Clin. 2015 Jul 16. pii: S1699-258X(15)00081-9.[2] Líndal E. et al. The prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome in Iceland - a national comparison by gender drawing on four different criteria. Nord J Psychiatry. 2002;56(4):273-7.----------Faro M, Sàez-Francás N, Castro-Marrero J, Aliste L, Fernández de Sevilla T, & Alegre J (2015). Gender differences in chronic fatigue syndrome. Reumatologia clinica PMID: 26190206... Read more »

Faro M, Sàez-Francás N, Castro-Marrero J, Aliste L, Fernández de Sevilla T, & Alegre J. (2015) Gender differences in chronic fatigue syndrome. Reumatologia clinica. PMID: 26190206  

  • August 4, 2015
  • 04:34 PM

Preventing addiction relapse by erasing drug-associated memories

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Recovering addicts often grapple with the ghosts of their addiction–memories that tempt them to relapse even after rehabilitation and months, or even years, of drug-free living. Now, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have made a discovery that brings them closer to a new therapy based on selectively erasing these dangerous and tenacious drug-associated memories.... Read more »

  • August 4, 2015
  • 12:40 PM

Stem cells: From pluripotency to totipotency

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

While it is already possible to obtain in vitro pluripotent cells (ie, cells capable of generating all tissues of an embryo) from any cell type, researchers from Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla’s team have pushed the limits of science even further. They managed to obtain totipotent cells with the same characteristics as those of the earliest embryonic stages and with even more interesting properties.... Read more »

Ishiuchi, T., Enriquez-Gasca, R., Mizutani, E., Bošković, A., Ziegler-Birling, C., Rodriguez-Terrones, D., Wakayama, T., Vaquerizas, J., & Torres-Padilla, M. (2015) Early embryonic-like cells are induced by downregulating replication-dependent chromatin assembly. Nature Structural . DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.3066  

  • August 4, 2015
  • 10:21 AM

Monkeys Try to Hide Illicit Hookups

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Just how much monkey business is there in monkey sex? In groups with alpha males, monkeys lower on the totem pole may have to sneak around to mate. How well they conceal their activities can shed light on the cognitive powers of primates.

Macaques are monkeys that live in troops with complex social hierarchies. High-ranking males may have dibs on mating with all the females in the group. But females give non-alpha males a chance too, and some studies have found that these hookups happen m... Read more »

Overduin-de Vries, A., Spruijt, B., de Vries, H., & Sterck, E. (2015) Tactical deception to hide sexual behaviour: macaques use distance, not visibility. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 69(8), 1333-1342. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-015-1946-5  

  • August 4, 2015
  • 02:53 AM

Anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis and autism: research ascendancy

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The paper by Reza Kiani and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) detailing the presence of anti-N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor encephalitis in two people "with autism and intellectual disability presenting with neuropsychiatric symptoms of catatonia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome" caught my eye recently.Having previously talked about anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis and autism in a previous blog post (see here) back in 2013 with the emphasis on a possible link to 'autistic regression', I've been intrigued by the rise and rise of peer-reviewed material on this subject in the intervening years. Subsequent descriptions such as the one from González-Toro and colleagues [2] again talking about children diagnosed with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis after suffering a "regression of previously acquired abilities that developed into autism" further adds to my interest in this potentially important connection. That also there may be several roads leading to a diagnosis of autism is also an important take-away point from such work.Kiani et al continue with the idea that there may be an "aetiological role of the immune system in the pathogenesis of various psychiatric disorders" on the back of various studies looking at anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. On this occasion, they detail two case reports where autism and learning (intellectual) disability were already diagnosed but deteriorations in behaviour were noted. The first case report of a woman in her early-30s who "presented with social withdrawal and a persistently low mood" that subsequently led into "objective evidence of hallucinations" illustrates how various tests followed various symptoms ultimately leading the authors to suspect anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. Importantly, they detail how psychotropic medication was the first choice of intervention and how, only after this 'failed', did they look for anti-NMDA-receptor antibodies. Of importance to the female presentation of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis were the further investigations looking for any signs of "an underlying tumour, particularly an ovarian teratoma" given previous suggestions of a possible link [3].The second case report focused on a middle-aged man "with moderate intellectual disability, autism and a history of affective psychosis in remission." Again, antipsychotic medication was the first thing to be reached for when "his condition deteriorated and he displayed aggressive outbursts and insomnia." Alas, this did not improve his state and neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) was eventually diagnosed as a result of such intervention. Anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis was finally considered when "further investigations revealed positive anti-NMDA-receptor antibodies."Of note for both these individuals was the effect of treating anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. This involved the use of methylprednisolone, an anti-inflammatory compound, normally administered for various autoimmune conditions. Interestingly, as a corticosteroid, prednisolone (the un-methylated version of methylprednisolone) has been talked about with 'regressive autism' in mind before in the peer-reviewed literature (see here). Kiani et al note that delivery of methylprednisolone was associated with a gradual recovery in behavioural symptoms "with no evidence of psychosis or cognitive deficit.""In both patients the diagnosis was made with delay owing to the complexity of their presentation." This is an important sentence from Kiani and colleagues. Not only in respect to the various behavioural and somatic issues that were present (including comorbid diagnoses) but also insofar as issues with communication for example. I've talked about similar things before on this blog (see here). Further, the authors reiterate "the complex presentation of anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis in... patients with intellectual disability and autism" and how further research is required to see whether diagnostic conditions such autism and/or learning disability "are more prone to develop this type of encephalitis or have a worse prognosis in comparison with the rest of the population." I struggle to disagree with such sentiments.Music: Hozier - Take Me To Church.----------[1] Kiani R. et al. Anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis presenting with catatonia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome in patients with intellectual disability and autism. BJPsych Bull. 2015 Feb;39(1):32-5.[2] González-Toro MC. et al. Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis: two paediatric cases. Rev Neurol. 2013 Dec 1;57(11):504-8.[3] Dabner M. et al. Ovarian teratoma associated with anti-N-methyl D-aspartate receptor encephalitis: a report of 5 cases documenting prominent intratumoral lymphoid infiltrates. Int J Gynecol Pathol. 2012 Sep;31(5):429-37.----------Kiani R, Lawden M, Eames P, Critchley P, Bhaumik S, Odedra S, & Gumber R (2015). Anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis presenting with catatonia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome in patients with intellectual disability and autism. BJPsych bulletin, 39 (1), 32-5 PMID: 26191422... Read more »

  • August 3, 2015
  • 12:50 PM

New approach for making vaccines for deadly diseases

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Researchers have devised an entirely new approach to vaccines – creating immunity without vaccination. The team has demonstrated that animals injected with synthetic DNA engineered to encode a specific neutralizing antibody against the dengue virus were capable of producing the exact antibodies necessary to protect against disease, without the need for standard antigen-based vaccination. Importantly, this approach, termed DMAb, was rapid, protecting animals within a week of administration.... Read more »

Flingai, S., Plummer, E., Patel, A., Shresta, S., Mendoza, J., Broderick, K., Sardesai, N., Muthumani, K., & Weiner, D. (2015) Protection against dengue disease by synthetic nucleic acid antibody prophylaxis/immunotherapy. Scientific Reports, 12616. DOI: 10.1038/srep12616  

  • August 3, 2015
  • 06:00 AM

1,200-Year-Old Pouches Found in Arizona Cave Contain Prehistoric ‘Chewing Tobacco,’ Study Finds

by Blake de Pastino in Western Digs

Dozens of small, fiber-wrapped bundles discovered in a cave in Arizona have been found to contain wild tobacco, the first scientific evidence suggesting that Ancestral Puebloans of the prehistoric Southwest chewed tobacco for personal use, archaeologists say.
... Read more »

  • August 3, 2015
  • 02:34 AM

Screening for autism in young children: 6 questions to ask

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Question 1: Does your child ever point with their index finger to ask for something?Question 2: Is your child able to imitate you or your actions, for example if you pull a face?Question 3: Does your child ever use pretend play, for example to talk on a phone or take care of a doll?Question 4: Does your child look at something across a room when you point to it?Question 5: Does your child understand what people say?Question 6: Does your child ever bring an object to you to show you something?The paper from Yoko Kamio and colleagues [1] (open-access) suggests that these 6 questions taken from the 23-item M-CHAT Japanese version (JV) might have the methodological strength to screen for possible autism in toddlers -- at least in Japan. M-CHAT by the way, is one of the instruments of choice when it comes to screening for possible autism and has seen some developments in recent times (see here).Based on data derived from "two prospective community cohorts in Japan, Fukuoka (cohort 1) and Tokyo (cohort 2)" cumulatively including some 2500 children "who received health check-ups when aged 18 months", researchers analysed data using a model of discriminant function analysis based on groupings of those who were eventually diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared with those who weren't. They concluded that their study "identified a highly discriminative 6-item set from the 23-item M-CHAT-JV and demonstrated its reliability and validity with cohort data from 2 geographically different regions in Japan." The results, I might add, were not 100% reliable in terms of the 6-item screening method used, but this is real life and, as far as I am aware, we don't have a perfectly reliable autism screen at the moment.These are interesting results as a function of the important autism science on the best way to 'red flag' autism in its very earliest days (see here). Indeed, the focus on social-communicative functions (including pointing) follows a trend in the peer-reviewed research literature in this area, as something to focus on when it comes to early screening for autism. I say this bearing in mind that within the very heterogeneous label of autism, there are cases of regression into autism at a time later than 18 months."Considering the tight time constraints in primary care settings, a brief screening tool might be helpful in facilitating the integration of autism-specific screening within routine general developmental screening." These are noble sentiments from the authors and kinda accords with some increasing moves in autism practice to make things more streamlined in these resource-austere times that we live in (see here). Obviously we await further research in this area on whether the Kamio findings cross cultures and geographies with other infant cohorts or not. If they do however, combined with the rise and rise of telemedicine for example, the days of the [often] long and expensive autism screening and diagnosis process might be numbered. Oh, and screening might just start to be interactive too [2] (see here for more information on the RITA-T).Music: iLL BLU - Lonely People ft. James Morrison.----------[1] Kamio Y. et al. Brief Report: Best Discriminators for Identifying Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder at an 18-Month Health Check-Up in Japan. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 2015. July 19.[2] Choueiri R. & Wagner S. A New Interactive Screening Test for Autism Spectrum Disorders in Toddlers. J Pediatr. 2015 Aug;167(2):460-466.----------Kamio, Y., Haraguchi, H., Stickley, A., Ogino, K., Ishitobi, M., & Takahashi, H. (2015). Brief Report: Best Discriminators for Identifying Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder at an 18-Month Health Check-Up in Japan Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI: 10.1007/s10803-015-2527-1... Read more »

  • August 2, 2015
  • 01:29 PM

Perfectionism linked to burnout at work, school and sports

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Concerns about perfectionism can sabotage success at work, school or on the playing field, leading to stress, burnout and potential health problems, according to new research. In the first meta-analysis of the relationship between perfectionism and burnout, researchers analyzed the findings from 43 previous studies conducted over the past 20 years. It turns out perfectionism isn’t all bad.... Read more »

  • August 2, 2015
  • 09:54 AM

A Close Look at the Connectivity of a Single Brain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

In a new paper just out in Neuron, researchers Timothy Laumann and colleagues present an in-depth analysis of the functional connectivity of a single human brain.

The brain in question belongs to neuroscientist Russ Poldrack, and he's one of the authors of the paper. Poldrack was fMRI scanned a total of 84 times over a period of 532 days. The goal of this intense scanning schedule was to provide a detailed analysis of the functional connectivity of an individual brain.

Previous studies... Read more »

Laumann TO, Gordon EM, Adeyemo B, Snyder AZ, Joo SJ, Chen MY, Gilmore AW, McDermott KB, Nelson SM, Dosenbach NU.... (2015) Functional System and Areal Organization of a Highly Sampled Individual Human Brain. Neuron. PMID: 26212711  

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