In 2011, a new animal virus was detected in the German town of Schmallenberg. This virus, which infects sheep and cows, is now sweeping across Europe and was first identified in the UK in 2012. In a new paper published … Continue reading →... Read more »
Coupeau, D., Claine, F., Wiggers, L., Kirschvink, N., & Muylkens, B. (2013) In vivo and in vitro identification of a hypervariable region in Schmallenberg virus. Journal of General Virology. DOI: 10.1099/vir.0.051821-0
This week, 13th-19th May, a campaign is being launched to highlight the hidden aspects of brain injury and help with the correct diagnosis of these potentially terminal conditions. The campaign is part of Action for Brain Injury (ABI) week, organised by Headway.
Brain injury is an umbrella-term for a number of conditions, including brain trauma, stroke and brain tumours. These conditions can often go unnoticed externally, yet are extremely damaging internally. It is therefore vital that GPs correctly diagnose brain injury and offer appropriate support and guidance to patients.... Read more »
Ahmed, A., Thaci, B., Alexiades, N., Han, Y., Qian, S., Liu, F., Balyasnikova, I., Ulasov, I., Aboody, K., & Lesniak, M. (2011) Neural Stem Cell-based Cell Carriers Enhance Therapeutic Efficacy of an Oncolytic Adenovirus in an Orthotopic Mouse Model of Human Glioblastoma. Molecular Therapy, 19(9), 1714-1726. DOI: 10.1038/mt.2011.100
Research shows Utricularia gibba maintains a small genome size by resisting gene duplications.
... Read more »
Ibarra-Laclette, E., Lyons, E., Hernández-Guzmán, G., Pérez-Torres, C., Carretero-Paulet, L., Chang, T., Lan, T., Welch, A., Juárez, M., Simpson, J.... (2013) Architecture and evolution of a minute plant genome. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature12132
These days, we have a pretty serious problem when it comes to our ability to kill resistant bacteria causing serious illness. People petition governments to urge action, while drug companies lament over how those pesky bacteria evolved to defeat their … Continue reading →... Read more »
Johnston BC, Ma SS, Goldenberg JZ, Thorlund K, Vandvik PO, Loeb M, & Guyatt GH. (2012) Probiotics for the prevention of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of internal medicine, 157(12), 878-88. PMID: 23362517
Karuppiah P, & Rajaram S. (2012) Antibacterial effect of Allium sativum cloves and Zingiber officinale rhizomes against multiple-drug resistant clinical pathogens. Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine, 2(8), 597-601. PMID: 23569978
For a long time, it has been thought that evolutionary and ecological research were quite separated from each other. After all, evolution takes place on long timescales while ecological events usually happen much faster. At least, that was the common perception. Lately, however, it has become clear that, in some cases, the relevant timescales in […]... Read more »
Sanchez, A., & Gore, J. (2013) Feedback between Population and Evolutionary Dynamics Determines the Fate of Social Microbial Populations. PLOS Biology, 11(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001547
Genome of the western painted turtle has developed a remarkable ability to go without oxygen for months. And this genomic change could point to better heart attack and stroke treatments for us.... Read more »
Abramyan, J., Badenhorst, D., Biggar, K., Borchert, G., Botka, C., Bowden, R., Braun, E., Bronikowski, A., Bruneau, B., Buck, L.... (2013) The western painted turtle genome, a model for the evolution of extreme physiological adaptations in a slowly evolving lineage. Genome Biology, 14(3). DOI: 10.1186/gb-2013-14-3-r28
We currently lack strong evidence for consciousness in dolphins suggests Professor Heidi Harley in her recently published review article appearing in the Journal of Comparative Physiology A. For some (perhaps most) cognitive scientists studying animals minds, this is not a particularly controversial conclusion – a borderline truism. For other scientists – and perhaps for nearly [...]... Read more »
Harley HE. (2013) Consciousness in dolphins? A review of recent evidence. Journal of comparative physiology. A, Neuroethology, sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology. PMID: 23649907
Molecular motors are some of the raddest things in a cell. They can walk along cytoskeletal elements such as microtubules and actin filaments, and the list of cellular events that they participate in is a long, long list. Today’s image is from a paper showing a beautiful pattern of nonmuscle myosin II in epithelial cells.Epithelial cells assemble junctions to adhere to one another, and the actin motor nonmuscle myosin II (NMII) is a major component of these epithelial apical junctions. NMII helps the epithelial sheet respond to morphogenesis and changes in tissue homeostasis, and a recent paper describes how the network of NMII motors does so. Ebrahim and colleagues have found that NMII in the apical junctional complex of epithelial cells assembles into precise muscle-like sarcomere units that form a belt around each cell. The sarcomeres of neighboring cells are aligned, in turn assembling into a contractile network that can result in changes in cell shape. In the images above, NMII (green) is seen in repeated sarcomere units around each cell (actin is in red). NMII puncta are paired together in neighboring cells. Arrows (middle) point to the junctions between three cells, seen at higher magnification on the right.Ebrahim, S., Fujita, T., Millis, B., Kozin, E., Ma, X., Kawamoto, S., Baird, M., Davidson, M., Yonemura, S., Hisa, Y., Conti, M., Adelstein, R., Sakaguchi, H., & Kachar, B. (2013). NMII Forms a Contractile Transcellular Sarcomeric Network to Regulate Apical Cell Junctions and Tissue Geometry Current Biology, 23 (8), 731-736 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.03.039 Copyright ©2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.... Read more »
Ebrahim, S., Fujita, T., Millis, B., Kozin, E., Ma, X., Kawamoto, S., Baird, M., Davidson, M., Yonemura, S., Hisa, Y.... (2013) NMII Forms a Contractile Transcellular Sarcomeric Network to Regulate Apical Cell Junctions and Tissue Geometry. Current Biology, 23(8), 731-736. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.03.039
In a study published in May in Nature Immunology, a team of Argentinian and American scientists shows that B cells are capable of producing IL-17 in response to infection by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. The current textbook knowledge tells us … Continue reading →... Read more »
Bermejo DA, Jackson SW, Gorosito-Serran M, Acosta-Rodriguez EV, Amezcua-Vesely MC, Sather BD, Singh AK, Khim S, Mucci J, Liggitt D.... (2013) Trypanosoma cruzi trans-sialidase initiates a program independent of the transcription factors RORγt and Ahr that leads to IL-17 production by activated B cells. Nature immunology, 14(5), 514-22. PMID: 23563688
The bony fishes are one of the success stories of life on planet earth, diverse in shape and habit, and thriving in almost every body of water on the globe. Estimates of the number of distinct species tend to be …... Read more »
Betancur-R., R., Broughton, R., Wiley, E., Carpenter, K., López, J., Li, C., Holcroft, N., Arcila, D., Sanciangco, M., Cureton II, J.... (2013) The Tree of Life and a New Classification of Bony Fishes. PLoS Currents. DOI: 10.1371/currents.tol.53ba26640df0ccaee75bb165c8c26288
Broughton, R., Betancur-R., R., Li, C., Arratia, G., & Ortí, G. (2013) Multi-locus phylogenetic analysis reveals the pattern and tempo of bony fish evolution. PLoS Currents. DOI: 10.1371/currents.tol.2ca8041495ffafd0c92756e75247483e
Nearly 98% of junk DNA is present in the body and scientists have found that they may not be needed for the creation of complex life.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the substance in the living beings that carry genetic information that passes from one generation to the next generation.
The term “junk DNA” refers to the “noncoding DNA” and a huge amount of such DNAs have no known biological function in the body i.e. they don’t pass genetic information for protein sequencing. Approximately, 98% junk DNAs are present in your body out of 3 billion letters that make up your genome.
"At least for a plant, junk DNA really is just junk it's not required," said study co-author Victor Albert, a molecular evolutionary biologist at the University of Buffalo in New York.
In the latest study, scientists sequenced the genome - containing 80 million DNA base pairs - of the carnivorous bladderwort plant, Utricularia gibba, living in wet soil or fresh water globally and suck swimming microorganisms into its tiny, 1-milimeter-long bladders. Only 3% of the bladderwort's genetic material is so-called 'junk' DNA and somehow it has been able to get rid of most of what makes up plant genomes, according to Albert.
They found that these DNA may not actually be required for the creation of the complex life and it is still a mystery why these junk DNAs are present in the body?
The Times of India, LiveScience
Ibarra-Laclette, E., Lyons, E., Hernández-Guzmán, G., Pérez-Torres, C., Carretero-Paulet, L., Chang, T., Lan, T., Welch, A., Juárez, M., Simpson, J., Fernández-Cortés, A., Arteaga-Vázquez, M., Góngora-Castillo, E., Acevedo-Hernández, G., Schuster, S., Himmelbauer, H., Minoche, A., Xu, S., Lynch, M., Oropeza-Aburto, A., Cervantes-Pérez, S., de Jesús Ortega-Estrada, M., Cervantes-Luevano, J., Michael, T., Mockler, T., Bryant, D., Herrera-Estrella, A., Albert, V., & Herrera-Estrella, L. (2013). Architecture and evolution of a minute plant genome Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature12132... Read more »
Ibarra-Laclette, E., Lyons, E., Hernández-Guzmán, G., Pérez-Torres, C., Carretero-Paulet, L., Chang, T., Lan, T., Welch, A., Juárez, M., Simpson, J.... (2013) Architecture and evolution of a minute plant genome. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature12132
All it takes is an antenna on a headband. If you've got a breathless video report on the dangers of wireless internet connections, that will help your case. It doesn't take much, though, to turn an ominous hint into a real headache.
Some people consider themselves sensitive to electromagnetic fields. They report symptoms such as burning skin, tingling, nausea, dizziness, or chest pain, and they blame their malaise on nearby power lines, cell phones, or WiFi networks. A recent Slate article described such people moving to a remote West Virginia town where radio-frequency signals are banned. (The town is within the U.S. National Radio Quiet Zone, an area that's enforced to keep signals from interfering with radio telescopes there—telescopes that work because they receive the radio-frequency signals constantly hitting our planet from space.)
There's no known scientific reason why a wireless signal might cause physical harm. And studies have found that even people who claim to be sensitive to electromagnetic fields can't actually sense them. Their symptoms are more likely due to nocebo, the evil twin of the placebo effect. The power of our expectation can cause real physical illness. In clinical drug trials, for example, subjects who take sugar pills report side effects ranging from an upset stomach to sexual dysfunction.
Psychologists Michael Witthöft and G. James Rubin of King's College London explored whether frightening TV reports can encourage a nocebo effect. They recruited a group of subjects and showed half of them a clip from a BBC documentary about the potential dangers of wireless internet. (The BBC later acknowledged that the 2007 program was "misleading.") The remaining subjects watched a video about the security of data transmissions over mobile phones.
After watching the videos, subjects put on headband-mounted antennas. They were told that the researchers were testing a "new kind of WiFi," and that once the signal started they should carefully monitor any symptoms in their bodies. Then the researchers left the room. For 15 minutes, the subjects watched a WiFi symbol flash on a laptop screen.
In reality, there was no WiFi switched on during the experiment, and the headband antenna was a sham. Yet 82 of the 147 subjects—more than half—reported symptoms. Two even asked for the experiment to be stopped early because the effects were too severe to stand.
Witthöft says he expected to see a greater effect in people who had watched the frightening documentary. This wasn't the case overall. Instead, the movie mainly increased symptoms in subjects who described themselves beforehand as more anxious.
"It suggests that sensational media reports especially in combination with personality factors (in this case anxiety) increase the likelihood for symptom reports," Witthöft says.
Plenty of symptoms were reported without the sensationalist TV show, though. The antenna on the head, the researchers' allusion to a "new kind of WiFi," and the instructions to monitor their bodies closely were enough to trigger symptoms in many people who watched the other video.
Witthöft points out that his study would have been stronger if there were a third group of subjects who didn't wear the "WiFi" headband at all, but were simply told to pay attention to their bodies for 15 minutes. This kind of attentiveness might trigger symptoms on its own.
Still, Witthöft says, "I think the high percentage of symptom reports nicely shows how powerful nocebo effects are."
Though the researchers set out to show how irresponsible reports in the media can trigger a nocebo effect, they ended up showing how easy it is to make a person feel sick with just a a prop and a few choice words. Even a National Radio Quiet Zone can't protect against that.
Witthöft, M., & Rubin, G. (2013). Are media warnings about the adverse health effects of modern life self-fulfilling? An experimental study on idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF) Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 74 (3), 206-212 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2012.12.002
Image: Scott Beale/Laughing Squid (via Flickr)
... Read more »
Witthöft, M., & Rubin, G. (2013) Are media warnings about the adverse health effects of modern life self-fulfilling? An experimental study on idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF). Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 74(3), 206-212. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2012.12.002
Among other intriguing properties, the sacred lotus has the ability to generate heat and regulate its temperature like birds and mammals. It has been cultivated as a food crop for more than 7000 years in Asia and is prominent in both Buddhism and Hinduism.
An international team has sequenced and described the sacred lotus genome, now published online in Genome Biology. The paper sheds new light on the evolutionary position of the lotus, one of the world’s oldest flowering plants, and facilitates further research into its unusual characteristics.... Read more »
Diana Yates. (2013) Sacred lotus genome sequence enlightens scientists. University of Illinois. info:/
Plants and other photosynthetic organisms live in a catch-22 situation. “Plants produce oxygen but are also poisoned by oxygen,” says Roberto Bassi, an Italian plant physiologist who has been passionate about photosynthesis since his graduate degree at the Padua University Botanical Garden. Bassi’s research group at Verona University played a pivotal role in understanding the dual function of carotenoid pigments in absorbing light energy and protecting the photosynthetic machinery against light-induced damage by oxygen. Now his team has identified a new unexpected function for carotenoids in controlling the production of photosynthetic proteins.
Carotenoids are organic pigments made by plants, algae, fungi and cyanobacteria that are found in all organisms (animals obtain them from food). Besides their fundamental roles in photosynthesis, carotenoids can act as plant hormones, vitamins, odours, colours (in fruits, flowers and bird feathers, for instance) and, in the eye retina, photo-protection. There are two types of carotenoids: carotenes, which give carrots their orange colour, and their oxygenated offshoots, the yellow xanthophylls. In plant leaves, carotenoids are normally masked by chlorophyll, but they put on a show in autumn as chlorophyll gets degraded and their striking orange and yellow colours are revealed. ... Read more »
Dall'Osto L., Piques M., Ronzani M., Molesini B., Alboresi A., Cazzaniga S., & Bassi R. (2013) The Arabidopsis nox Mutant Lacking Carotene Hydroxylase Activity Reveals a Critical Role for Xanthophylls in Photosystem I Biogenesis. The Plant Cell, 25(2), 591-608. DOI: 10.1105/tpc.112.108621
How do organisms evolve into individuals that are distinguished from others by their own personal brain structure and behaviour? Scientists in Dresden, Berlin, Münster, and Saarbrücken have now taken a decisive step towards clarifying this question. Using mice as an animal model, they were able to show that individual experiences influence the development of new neurons, leading to measurable changes in the brain. The results of this study are published in Science on May 10th. The DFG-Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden – Cluster of Excellence at the TU Dresden (CRTD), the Dresden site of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin played a pivotal role in the study.... Read more »
Britta Grigull. (2013) Experience leads to the growth of new brain cells. Max Planck Institute for Human Development. info:/
A new class of tiny, injectable LEDs is illuminating the deep mysteries of the brain.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis developed ultrathin, flexible optoelectronic devices – including LEDs the size of individual neurons – that are lighting the way for neuroscientists in the field of optogenetics and beyond.... Read more »
Liz Ahlberg. (2013) A bright idea: Tiny injectable LEDs help neuroscientists study the brain. University of Illinois News Bureau. info:/
Kim, T., McCall, J., Jung, Y., Huang, X., Siuda, E., Li, Y., Song, J., Song, Y., Pao, H., Kim, R.... (2013) Injectable, Cellular-Scale Optoelectronics with Applications for Wireless Optogenetics. Science, 340(6129), 211-216. DOI: 10.1126/science.1232437
Electromicrobiology is one of the rising subjects in the field of science. It combines the technology with biology.
In this subject, initially scientists found the transmission of electrical signals between the microbes. On a further note, in this subject, we study about the complex interaction between the microorganisms and technological devices while considering the novel electrical properties of the microorganisms i.e. accepting or donating the electrons from electrodes without any extra addition of electrons.
Some of the examples:
Shewanella oneidensis interacts with electrodes through flavins that work as soluble electron shuttles.
Geobacter sulfurreducens interacts directly with electrodes through c-type cytochromes present on the outer surface.
G. sulfurreducens has pili, known as microbial nanowires that have conducting ability same as metals. With the help of these pili, G. sulfurreducens can transport electrons over a long-range.
This field is still in the emerging sciences as the mechanism behind the microbe-electrode electron exchange has been studied only in some of the microbes. It is quite possible that some of the microbes, which have not been studied by scientists, could perform better than the presently studied microorganisms.
Ken Nealson of ScienceNews, wrote “I think in 20 years, this may well be a major field.”
Lovley, D. (2012). Electromicrobiology Annual Review of Microbiology, 66 (1), 391-409 DOI: 10.1146/annurev-micro-092611-150104... Read more »
A group of researchers from the University of Western Australia reported a new type of unknown mechanism by which some plants communicate.... Read more »
Gagliano, M., & Renton, M. (2013) Love thy neighbour: facilitation through an alternative signalling modality in plants. BMC Ecology, 13(1), 19. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6785-13-19
Nodding syndrome.Ever heard of it? Well, up until a few days ago I hadn't. That is before coming across articles on the topic by Richard Idro and colleagues* (open-access) and Angelina Kakooza-Mwesige and colleagues** (open-access). Whilst not specifically my line of expertise or interest, I was intrigued to read about how nodding and other symptoms of the epileptic variety, at least in some cases, seemed to be precipitated by food and showed a potential nutritional angle.Curving spacetime @ Wikipedia Granted, the hows and whys of nodding syndrome are still a mystery, but the first thought that went through my mind was whether any specific types of food(s) might be implicated. Y'know in a similar vein to Marios Hadjivassiliou and the notion of gluten ataxia*** for example? Just speculating...With all that talk of food and behaviour in mind there are a few things that piqued my attention towards the paper by Herbert & Buckley**** seemingly part of a string of articles looking at the topic of dietary intervention published in the Journal of Child Neurology. The first thing was the title of the paper: "Autism and Dietary Therapy" simply because I have some research interest in this area. Perhaps I might have mentioned it before...Next was the authorship list, focused on at least one of the authors, Dr Martha Herbert (no disrespect intended to Dr Buckley). Alongside an already distinguished career in autism research, Dr Herbert is also making some waves with her new book: 'The Autism Revolution' co-authored with Karen Weintraub who wrote that very interesting Nature article on autism prevalence a few years back.Finally, a sentence from the paper abstract: "Over the course of several years following her initial diagnosis, the child’s Childhood Autism Rating Scale score decreased from 49 to 17, representing a change from severe autism to nonautistic, and her intelligence quotient increased 70 points".Such a dramatic description of change in presentation might once have been received with a very, very sceptical eye. Indeed I assume that still might be the case in some quarters. The publication of the Deborah Fein study (see here and here) on optimal outcome in relation to autism in conjunction with the rising tide of research looking at the potential benefits of early intervention for cases of autism, have perhaps made such observations slightly more 'acceptable', at least to some elements of the autism research community. Indeed I was also very taken by the recent BBC interview of Kristine and Jacob Barnet which discussed similar changes to symptom presentation in a young man now tipped for some absolutely amazing things. The fact that said changes detailed in the Herbert & Buckley paper seemed to occur at the same time that a "gluten-free casein-free ketogenic diet" was being followed is... interesting.Now round about this time, some people might be thinking what does this study actually show? A case study of a girl / young woman with autism where comorbid epilepsy was controlled both by anti-seizure medication and a ketogenic diet (yes, such a diet has been linked to the control of cases of epilepsy). Said dietary intervention originating in the gluten- and casein-free (GFCF) dietary domain. As time went on, seizures dissipated and over time her clinical scores on the CARS reduced indicative of quite a change in her autism presentation.One of course might say, a single case study, it means very little in the grand methodological scheme of things. That is unless you think back to the mantra 'if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism' highlighting the power of the N=1 where autism is concerned (see here). That and the interesting viewpoint expressed by people like Gary Mesibov on the issue of evidence-based medicine when applied to a extremely heterogeneous condition like autism, sorry the autisms.I am interested in the coincidental factors reported in this paper. I have questions: did the (almost) resolution of the epileptic symptoms carry any influence on the presentation of autism? In particular, I'm thinking back to that very interesting piece of research which suggested one particular type of autism (and epilepsy) might be related to a metabolic issue with the branched-chain amino acids (see here). Is this a potential model for that epilepsy-autism relationship for some people on the spectrum? What about the "resolution of morbid obesity" also reported; could this similarly have had any effect on symptom presentation?I have questions about the role of the diet adopted in this case. A ketogenic diet, as well as finding some value in cases of epilepsy or seizure disorders, has also been looked at with autistic behaviours in mind. Yep, at least one trial***** albeit preliminary, suggested that this might be an option for some people on the spectrum bearing in mind I'm not making any recommendations. Down the years I've also heard anecdotal reports about how the GFCF diet might have aided in the reduction/amelioration of certain signs and symptoms linked to autism. The paper by Stephen Genuis (see this post) is one example. Just before you say something along the lines of 'there is no methodologically sound experimental evidence for dietary effect'; well, yes and no (see here) accepting the need for much more rigorous experimental study and that the evidence is not all one-way (see here).If anyone has alternative explanations for the change in symptoms outside of just healthier eating, any placebo effect or just the research attention paid to the participant in question, please feel free to post them in the comments section. That being said, no mumbo-jumbo please like I've being reading today which has been roundly answered by psychiatry. Going back to the Fein study and the promise of more details to come, I'll be interested to see whether they report any of their optimal outcomers were following such a dietary intervention alongside other interventions.A... Read more »
Herbert, M., & Buckley, J. (2013) Autism and Dietary Therapy: Case Report and Review of the Literature. Journal of Child Neurology. DOI: 10.1177/0883073813488668
Last year, I blogged about a new and very pretty way of displaying the data about the human ‘connectome’ – the wiring between different parts of the brain. But there are many beautiful ways of visualizing the brain’s connections, as neuroscientists Daniel Margulies and colleagues of Leipzig discuss in a colourful paper showcasing these techniques. Here, [...]... Read more »
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