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Posts

April 23, 2014

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8:17 PM | Tracking the Lives of Nonstop Swimmers
How do you study an animal that never stops swimming? Find out how the Pristine Seas team is using technology to go along for the ride.
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8:17 PM | Tracking the Lives of Nonstop Swimmers
How do you study an animal that never stops swimming? Find out how the Pristine Seas team is using technology to go along for the ride.
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12:46 PM | Hacking life: an introduction to biohacking and transhumanism
Last Wednesday I spoke on the topics of DIYBio and Transhumanism at the weekly KAT-O Tech Talks organised by my friend Robyn. This is a collection of links and interesting videos that formed part of my presentation. You can view the presentation below – keeping scrolling for interesting links. I’ve included a bit of the […]
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8:25 AM | Phenylalanine and schizophrenia: new directions for intervention?
As regular readers might already have noticed, amino acids are a bit of a obsession of mine on this blog. Out of all of them - and there are quite a few - I'm particularly interested in the aromatic amino acids and the their various connections to health and wellbeing. I've talked at length about some of the proposed connections made between amino acids such as tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylalanine to all manner of conditions but specifically with the autism spectrum in mind (see here).The […]

Olaoluwa Okusaga, Olesja Muravitskaja, Dietmar Fuchs, Ayesha Ashraf, Sarah Hinman, Ina Giegling, Annette M. Hartmann, Bettina Konte, Marion Friedl, Jason Schiffman & Elliot Hong (2014). Elevated Levels of Plasma Phenylalanine in Schizophrenia: A Guanosine Triphosphate Cyclohydrolase-1 Metabolic Pathway Abnormality?, PLoS ONE, 9 DOI:

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April 22, 2014

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1:54 PM | No link between STAP cells and acid reflux, except for paper’s authors
> If you’ve stayed current with the STAP cell fiasco you know it’s been a wild ride. STAP cells, or Stimulus-Triggered Acquisition of Pluripotency cells, caught the imagination of many in late January through their sheer simplicity: You hit cells with a shock of acidic conditions, and they become pluripotent. That’s it. No Yamanaka factors...Read more

Chen X., Qin R., Liu B., Ma Y., Su Y., Yang C., Glickman J., Odze R. & Shaheen N. Multilayered epithelium in a rat model and human Barrett's esophagus: similar expression patterns of transcription factors and differentiation markers, BMC Gastroentereology, 8 (1) DOI:

Wang X., Yang S., Zhao X., Guo H., Ling X., Wang L., Fan C., Yu J. & Zhou S. (2014). OCT3 and SOX2 promote the transformation of Barrett's esophagus to adenocarcinoma by regulating the formation of tumor stem cells., Oncology reports, PMID:

Wang X., Ouyang H., Yamamoto Y., Kumar P.A., Wei T.S., Dagher R., Vincent M., Lu X., Bellizzi A.M. & Ho K.Y. & Residual embryonic cells as precursors of a Barrett's-like metaplasia., Cell, PMID:

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April 21, 2014

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6:57 PM | How To Make Powdered Booze At Home
N-Zorbit courtesy Modernist Pantry Some truths we rarely question. The sky is blue. The sun rises in the east. Cocktails are wet. But a new product, called Palcohol, aims to crumble our everyday expectations. It's an alcoholic beverage -- in powder form. Carry a convenient lightweight packet of powder with you anywhere, and reconstitute it with water whenever you want a drink. Palcohol will be available in vodka and rum varieties, as well as mojito, margarita, and other premixed cocktail […]
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10:30 AM | Africa’s Submerged Savannas
Scientist Kike Ballesteros beautifully describes the diversity of Africa's "Submberged Savannas" in this post from the Pristine Seas expedition in Mozambique.
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10:30 AM | Africa’s Submerged Savannas
Scientist Kike Ballesteros beautifully describes the diversity of Africa's "Submberged Savannas" in this post from the Pristine Seas expedition in Mozambique.
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9:15 AM | Lathosterolosis, cholesterol and autism?
Although intrigued by the findings reported by Pier Luigi Calvo and colleagues [1] describing a "unique case" potentially linking liver functions and cognitive functions with a hat-tip to the presentation of autistic behaviours, I'll readily admit that I am way out of my comfort and competence zones when discussing this paper so please be ready with that pinch of salt.How do you like your eggs in the morning? @ Wikipedia As per what the paper and accompanying press release (see […]

Calvo, P., Brunati, A., Spada, M., Romagnoli, R., Corso, G., Parenti, G., Rossi, M., Baldi, M., Carbonaro, G., David, E. & Pucci, A. (2014). Liver Transplantation in Defects of Cholesterol Biosynthesis: The Case of Lathosterolosis, American Journal of Transplantation, DOI:

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April 19, 2014

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4:36 PM | Sharks, Rays, and (Finally) a Break in the Weather
The rough seas finally calm and the weather improves for the Pristine Seas team in Mozambique, and they move north into more tropical waters and the exciting marine life that dwell there.
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4:36 PM | Sharks, Rays, and (Finally) a Break in the Weather
The rough seas finally calm and the weather improves for the Pristine Seas team in Mozambique, and they move north into more tropical waters and the exciting marine life that dwell there.

April 17, 2014

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8:31 AM | Mitochondrial dysfunction as a neurobiological subtype of autism
The paper by Suzanne Goh and colleagues [1] reporting on "a possible neurobiological subtype of mitochondrial dysfunction in ASD [autism spectrum disorder]" is a worthy addition to the research roll call which has graced this blog down the years. Based on the analysis of brain lactate levels - a potential marker of mitochondrial dysfunction - via the analysis of lactate doublets on brain magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI), authors picked up a significantly higher rate of […]

Goh, S., Dong, Z., Zhang, Y., DiMauro, S. & Peterson, B. (2014). Mitochondrial Dysfunction as a Neurobiological Subtype of Autism Spectrum Disorder, JAMA Psychiatry, DOI:

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April 16, 2014

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8:46 PM | Here Today, Dugong Tomorrow!
The Pristine Seas dive team battles rough seas in this update from the expedition team in Mozambique.
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8:46 PM | Here Today, Dugong Tomorrow!
The Pristine Seas dive team battles rough seas in this update from the expedition team in Mozambique.
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5:54 AM | Joined by HDAC (inhibitors)
I'm treading quite carefully with this post which came about following my [non-expert] reading of the paper abstract from Anand Venkatraman and colleagues [1] on a potential downside to the use of HDAC (histone deacetylase) inhibitors for treating spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1), a progressive disease affecting movement and other knock-on functions. This follows other work suggesting that certain HDAC inhibitors might offer some important new lines of investigation when it […]

Venkatraman A, Hu YS, Didonna A, Cvetanovic M, Krbanjevic A, Bilesimo P & Opal P (2014). The histone deacetylase HDAC3 is essential for Purkinje cell function, potentially complicating the use of HDAC inhibitors in SCA1., Human molecular genetics, PMID:

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April 15, 2014

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2:30 AM | We have Minions!
A couple of years ago, Oxford Nanopore made a big scientific splash when they announced they had developed a new DNA sequencing technology that would revolutionize genomics. Their MinION devices were the size of a USB stick, but were supposedly capable of sequencing long reads from single DNA molecules. After two years of wondering whether these devices were mythical, I can now tell you they actually exist. Together with Mike Gillings, we received five Minions in the mail today as part of a […]

April 14, 2014

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10:59 PM | Diving Through Kelp With a Beautiful Giant
The Pristine Seas scientists explore a deep underwater kelp forest near Zavora Point in Mozambique, and are surprised by a giant-sized visitor during their surveys.
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10:59 PM | Diving Through Kelp With a Beautiful Giant
The Pristine Seas scientists explore a deep underwater kelp forest near Zavora Point in Mozambique, and are surprised by a giant-sized visitor during their surveys.
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7:58 AM | Neurology of inflammatory bowel diseases
The paper by Ben-Or and colleagues [1] talking about a neurologic profile present in a small participant cohort of children and adolescents diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) caught my eye recently. Their findings reporting that over two-thirds of their paediatric participant group diagnosed with IBD also "exhibited neurologic manifestations" provides some compelling preliminary evidence for further investigation in this area.Outside of reports of headache and dizziness, the […]

Ben-Or O, Zelnik N, Shaoul R, Pacht A & Lerner A (2014). The Neurologic Profile of Children and Adolescents With Inflammatory Bowel Disease., Journal of child neurology, PMID:

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April 11, 2014

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10:25 PM | Dad's obesity and risk of offspring autism
In this post I'm talking about the paper by Pål Surén and colleagues [1] and their suggestion that "paternal obesity is an independent risk factor for ASDs [autism spectrum disorders] in children". I do so not with the intent of stigmatising parents and specifically parents with weight issues, which tend to be present for many more reasons than just food and exercise (see here), but merely to highlight how parental physical health may show some relationship to […]

Suren, P., Gunnes, N., Roth, C., Bresnahan, M., Hornig, M., Hirtz, D., Lie, K., Lipkin, W., Magnus, P., Reichborn-Kjennerud, T. & Schjolberg, S. (2014). Parental Obesity and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder, PEDIATRICS, DOI:

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April 10, 2014

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9:17 AM | New science-to-policy Centre of Excellence unveiled
A new centre of Excellence was launched in Stellenbosch last week focussing on Science and Research Policy. I wrote an article about it for SciBraai: http://scibraai.co.za/new-science-to-policy-centre-of-excellence-unveiled/Filed under: News, Published Articles
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7:56 AM | Gluten exposure and "feelings of depression"?
Could exposure to dietary gluten affect a person's moods or emotional state?Well, if the paper by Simone Peters and colleagues [1] (open-access here) is to be believed the answer may very well be yes, at least in some cases, as they report a link between gluten consumption and feelings of depression under [short-term] experimental conditions. If replicated, such a finding may have profound consequences for how we view our relationship between food and mental health and wellbeing.Bread […]

Peters SL, Biesiekierski JR, Yelland GW, Muir JG & Gibson PR (2014). Randomised clinical trial: gluten may cause depression in subjects with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity - an exploratory randomised clinical study., Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, PMID:

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6:36 AM | Racing up the Best Seller's List
Currently #285,426 on Amazon's best seller list (how the hell did it get that high?) is our new book on Molecular Methods in Environmental Microbiology. Andy and I would like to thank all our contributors for their hard work and their patience, as this book took a long time to see the light of day. I now remember why it was over a decade since I last edited a book.

April 08, 2014

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3:52 PM | Out of the Deep Freeze: Captain America, the Winter Soldier and the Wood Frog
“Put him back on ice…” — Evil Hydra scientist Arnim Zola speaking about Bucky Barnes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier There’s a great convergence of activities occurring right now. The Major... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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10:28 AM | Can we fund clinical trials with the crowd?
Crowd-funding has progressed from a novelty a few years ago, to a genuine way to launch your product today. Recently, it has even been used to fund medical research and clinical trials, once considered the preserve of Big Pharma.  What is wrong with the status quo? Developing a drug is a mind-bogglingly expensive endeavour, justified […]
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7:35 AM | Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and various factors
The paper by Kate Lievesley and colleagues [1] documenting various "predisposing, precipitating and perpetuating factors in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in children and adolescents" caught my eye recently. Based on a review of the research literature around the topic of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) [in childhood], the authors set about detailing some of the important factors linked to the condition and in doing so, highlighted how physiology and psychology might combine when […]

Lievesley, K., Rimes, K. & Chalder, T. (2014). A review of the predisposing, precipitating and perpetuating factors in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in children and adolescents, Clinical Psychology Review, DOI:

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12:33 AM | An Octopus Bite and a Visit From Mozambique’s Youngest Ocean Explorers
A group of young local underwater enthusiasts called the Nemos Pequenos inspire the Pristine Seas team with their interest and excitement, and an esteemed scientist is bitten by an octopus, in this update from Mozambique.
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12:33 AM | An Octopus Bite and a Visit From Mozambique’s Youngest Ocean Explorers
A group of young local underwater enthusiasts called the Nemos Pequenos inspire the Pristine Seas team with their interest and excitement, and an esteemed scientist is bitten by an octopus, in this update from Mozambique.

April 07, 2014

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11:35 PM | Bad Weather, Weird Parrot Fish Fact, and More
Bad weather puts the pressure on the team to get the day's underwater surveys done, but there's still time to relate a weird-but-true fact about where sand comes from.
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11:35 PM | Bad Weather, Weird Parrot Fish Fact, and More
Bad weather puts the pressure on the team to get the day's underwater surveys done, but there's still time to relate a weird-but-true fact about where sand comes from.
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