Posts

March 02, 2015

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5:26 PM | One Doctor’s 170-Year History at Penn
As we celebrate the 250th birthday of the Perelman School of Medicine, it’s natural to look back at the doctors and students who wandered its halls. All have their own unique stories which brought them here, the nation’s oldest medical school, but perhaps no one’s story is steeped in as...
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9:49 AM | Systemic low grade inflammation and bowel issues in autism?
The paper from Katarina Babinská and colleagues [1] (open-access here) presents an interesting, if preliminary take on two potentially important issues linked to at least some cases of autism: gastrointestinal (GI) issues and inflammation (see here and see here respectively).Detailing the examination of plasma levels of a compound called high mobility group box 1 protein (HMGB1), a protein which has the apparent ability to 'bend DNA' and has some pretty potent immune effects [2] […]

Babinská K, Bucová M, Ďurmanová V, Lakatošová S, Jánošíková D, Bakoš J, Hlavatá A & Ostatníková D (2015). Increased plasma levels of the high mobility group box 1 protein (HMGB1) are associated with a higher score of gastrointestinal dysfunction in individuals with autism., Physiological research / Academia Scientiarum Bohemoslovaca, 63 Suppl 4 8. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25669692

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March 01, 2015

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8:52 AM | Vitamin D status affecting autoimmune disease risk?
I want to bring the paper from Tea Skaaby and colleagues [1] to your attention for today's brief blog post and their observation that there may be: "a possible protective role of a higher vitamin D status on autoimmune disease". Autoimmune disease by the way, reflects a breakdown in communication and tolerance of 'self' whereby the body attacks healthy tissue.Their findings, based on an analysis of "a total of 12,555 individuals from three population-based studies with measurements of […]

Skaaby T, Husemoen LL, Thuesen BH & Linneberg A (2015). Prospective population-based study of the association between vitamin D status and incidence of autoimmune disease., Endocrine, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25666936

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February 28, 2015

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12:04 AM | ME/CFS is real: confirmation if it is needed...
"Scientists discover robust evidence that chronic fatigue syndrome is a biological illness" went the title of the press release for the study by Mady Hornig and colleagues [1] (open-access) detailing an immune 'signature' and also possible staging of the illness.I couldn't help but wince at some of the media headlines reporting on this study as 'proof' that chronic fatigue syndrome / myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is a real illness. As I've indicated before on this blog (see here) […]

Mady Hornig, José G. Montoya, Nancy G. Klimas, Susan Levine, Donna Felsenstein, Lucinda Bateman, Daniel L. Peterson, C. Gunnar Gottschalk, Andrew F. Schultz, Xiaoyu Che & Meredith L. Eddy (2015). Distinct plasma immune signatures in ME/CFS are present early in the course of illness, Science Advances, 1 (1) Other:

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February 27, 2015

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9:37 AM | Hyperprolactinemia and risperidone use in autism
The findings reported by Yaowaluck Hongkaew and colleagues [1] (open-access) on prolactin levels being "positively and significantly associated with risperidone dose" in cases of children and adolescents diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the point of discussion today.Prolactin by the way, is the hormone most commonly associated with stimulating breast development and milk production in women. To quote from the US National Institute of Health (NIH) entry on prolactin: "There is […]

Hongkaew Y, Ngamsamut N, Puangpetch A, Vanwong N, Srisawasdi P, Chamnanphon M, Chamkrachchangpada B, Tan-Kam T, Limsila P & Sukasem C & (2015). Hyperprolactinemia in Thai children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder treated with risperidone., Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 11 191-6. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25653528

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February 26, 2015

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7:43 AM | Carnitine and autism continued
The paper from everyone's favourite Saudi - Egyptian autism research tag-team that is Gehan Mostafa and Laila AL-Ayadhi [1] (open-access) on plasma polyunsaturated fatty acids and serum carnitine levels in a cohort of children diagnosed with autism / autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is served up for your reading delight today.Regular readers of this blog might have heard me talk before about the pretty interesting research findings to come from this research partnership (see here and see […]

Mostafa, G. & AL-Ayadhi, L. (2015). Reduced levels of plasma polyunsaturated fatty acids and serum carnitine in autistic children: relation to gastrointestinal manifestations, Behavioral and Brain Functions, 11 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12993-014-0048-2

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February 25, 2015

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4:59 PM | Why are oil prices so low and what does it mean for alt energy?
Oil prices are lower than they have been in 4 years, but what has changed lately?  At first glance, not much in the big picture: no big new reserves have been found or really cheap ways to extract & process … Continue reading →
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10:31 AM | Analysing the salivary proteome in autism
The paper from Armand Ngounou Wetie and colleagues [1] (open-access here) reporting pilot results from a mass spectrometry based proteomic analysis of saliva in cases of autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared with asymptomatic controls is served up for your reading delight today. There has already been some media attention about this paper (see here).It's an interesting paper for quite a few reasons; not least the continuing voyage of the analytical technique known as mass […]

Ngounou Wetie AG, Wormwood KL, Russell S, Ryan JP, Darie CC & Woods AG (2015). A Pilot Proteomic Analysis of Salivary Biomarkers in Autism Spectrum Disorder., Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25626423

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February 24, 2015

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9:38 AM | Maternal recall vs. medical records: implications for autism research
I don't want to dwell too much on the findings reported by Paula Krakowiak and colleagues [1] talking about the accuracy of "maternally-reported diabetes and hypertensive disorders, and reliability of BMI [body mass index] measurements during periconception and pregnancy compared with medical records when mothers are interviewed 2-5 years after delivery" but they are potentially important.With authors such as Krakowiak and Irva Hertz-Picciotto on the paper in question, those who […]
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7:30 AM | Parent Infant Psychotherapy: a gap in the evidence
Paul Ramchandani assesses the latest Cochrane review on Parent Infant Psychotherapy for improving parental and infant mental health, which finds little evidence to support the claim that PIP is an evidence-based treatment. The post Parent Infant Psychotherapy: a gap in the evidence appeared first on The Mental Elf.

February 23, 2015

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9:34 AM | Late, delayed and mis-diagnosis of autism
It's inevitable that with all the mountains of autism research published on a daily basis, certain themes will occur at certain times. My post today is reflective of one of those themes and how, on occasion, the autism diagnostic process does not run as smoothly as we would all like to think.I start this post with a link to an article discussing some forthcoming research to be published titled: 'The autistic pupils ‘traumatised’ by delayed diagnosis'. Describing the results of a […]

Davidovitch M, Levit-Binnun N, Golan D & Manning-Courtney P (2015). Late Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder After Initial Negative Assessment by a Multidisciplinary Team., Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics : JDBP, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25651066

Aggarwal S & Angus B (2015). Misdiagnosis versus missed diagnosis: diagnosing autism spectrum disorder in adolescents., Australasian psychiatry : bulletin of Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25653302

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February 22, 2015

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11:38 PM | Project Superhero: Using Pop Culture to Inspire Kids’ Interest in Science
In my pop-sci writing, mainly here, at Psychology Today, and in the books Becoming Batman and Inventing Iron Man, I use superheroes as foils for communicating science. I have encouraged other... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

February 21, 2015

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10:39 AM | Coeliac disease: genes, autoimmunity, gut bacteria and bafflement?
Some things in life really do baffle me. When it comes to this blog, nothing seems to baffle me more than some of the talk about the triad that is autoimmunity, coeliac disease and gluten (see here for an example).My bafflement continued upon reading the papers by Emilsson and colleagues [1] and by Olivares and colleagues [2]. Respectively suggesting that: "spouses of individuals with celiac disease are at increased risk of non-celiac autoimmune disease" and "a specific disease-biased host […]

Emilsson L, Wijmenga C, Murray JA & Ludvigsson JF (2015). Autoimmune Disease in First-degree Relatives and Spouses of Individuals with Celiac Disease., Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology : the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25645875

Olivares M, Neef A, Castillejo G, Palma GD, Varea V, Capilla A, Palau F, Nova E, Marcos A, Polanco I & Ribes-Koninckx C (2014). The HLA-DQ2 genotype selects for early intestinal microbiota composition in infants at high risk of developing coeliac disease., Gut, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24939571

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February 20, 2015

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8:43 AM | Behavioural sleep intervention for ADHD?
I was really quite interested to read about the study from Harriet Hiscock and colleagues [1] (open-access) suggesting that: "A brief behavioural sleep intervention modestly improves the severity of ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] symptoms in a community sample of children with ADHD." I had heard that these results would be forthcoming based on the publication of the study trial protocol [2] a few years back, alongside the trial entry listed in the ISRCTN registry […]

Hiscock H, Sciberras E, Mensah F, Gerner B, Efron D, Khano S & Oberklaid F (2015). Impact of a behavioural sleep intervention on symptoms and sleep in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and parental mental health: randomised controlled trial., BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 350 PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25646809

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3:20 AM | Fitbits!
How do you motivate me to do something I don't want to? Turn it into a game or competition! For Valentine's Day, I bought Fitbit flexs for Phyllis and myself. A somewhat courageous choice of present that seems to have worked out well. Fitbits are wearable devices that can track your activity (exercise, sleep patterns, etc).So, I now know that walking  from my home to Macquarie University in the morning through the Lane Cove National Park is 4.8 km and takes 5,700 steps (which puts me along […]
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2:51 AM | Mind those sausage-stealing kookaburras
I was out at the Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences (SIMS) last Friday. I gave a guest lecture to finish up the SIMS-CMB Summer Course on Marine Microbial Ecology. Suhelen Egan at UNSW has been organizing this course for the last few years, this has been the first time I've actually been able to make it. It was a fun day, Martin from my group was able to get a portable flow sorter setup and the students were able to sort cyanobacterial cells from Sydney Harbour water they had collected that […]

February 19, 2015

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8:39 AM | Metal sensitisation and chronic fatigue syndrome?
I have to admit that I pondered longer than usual over whether I should talk about the paper by Vera Stejskal [1] (open-access here) and the idea that: "Patients with CFS [chronic fatigue syndrome] and fibromyalgia are frequently sensitized to metals found in the environment or used in dentistry and surgery."It was't that I doubted that metals - certain types present in the wrong place or wrong concentration - can affect physical and psychological health and wellbeing as per the […]

Stejskal V (2014). Metals as a common trigger of inflammation resulting in non-specific symptoms: diagnosis and treatment., The Israel Medical Association journal : IMAJ, 16 (12) 753-8. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25630203

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February 18, 2015

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8:59 AM | Autism and the inter-pregnancy interval (again)
The paper from Maureen Durkin and colleagues [1] adds to something of a growing research evidence base suggesting that the temporal spacing between pregnancies / births - the inter-pregnancy interval (IPI) - may have something of an effect on the risk of receipt of a diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD).We've been here before. In fact, a couple of times I've talked about the IPI in relation to autism risk (see here and see here) not including other, similar research findings in […]

Durkin MS, DuBois LA & Maenner MJ (2015). Inter-Pregnancy Intervals and the Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Results of a Population-Based Study., Journal of autism and developmental disorders, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25636677

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February 17, 2015

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8:57 AM | Congenital rubella, autism and remote stroke
Case reports. I know they rank pretty low in the order of what counts as objective scientific evidence [1] despite their often interesting findings. That being said, when it comes to a diagnosis like autism, with all its associated heterogeneity and elevated risk of various comorbidity probably better encapsulated in a more 'plural autisms' understanding, case reports can offer something of an important view into the many and varied ways in which someone might arrive on the autism spectrum and […]

George J Hutton, J. (2014). Congenital Rubella with Autism and Evidence of a Remote Stroke, Journal of Vaccines & Vaccination, 05 (06) DOI: 10.4172/2157-7560.1000258

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February 16, 2015

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11:31 AM | Welcome Lisa!
We're very pleased to welcome Professor Lisa Moore from the University of Southern Maine, who is visiting us on sabbatical for four months. Lisa's visit is supported by a prestigious Endeavour Foundation Fellowship. Lisa is an expert on the physiology of Prochlorococcus, a photosynthetic marine cyanobacterium that is one of the key primary producers underlying the entire marine food web.Fun fact- there are an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Prochlorococcus cells in the world's […]
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8:11 AM | Poo transplant and weight gain: a case study
The case report detailed by Neha Alang and Colleen Kelly [1] (open-access) reporting on "new-onset obesity after receiving stool from a healthy but overweight donor" has already garnered some significant press attention (see the BBC entry for example). Reporting on that seemingly most undesirable but in some cases life-saving of measures - the fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) - whereby some of those trillions of wee beasties which inhabit our deepest, darkest recesses are […]

Alang, N. & Kelly, C. (2015). Weight Gain After Fecal Microbiota Transplantation, Open Forum Infectious Diseases, 2 (1) DOI: 10.1093/ofid/ofv004

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February 14, 2015

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9:53 AM | Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry
Have you remembered? Flowers from the nearest petrol / gas station or something a little more amorous for February 14th?So as not to take up too much of your time today, I want to briefly draw your attention to the paper (personal view) from Jerome Sarris and colleagues [1] carrying the same title as that of this blog post: 'Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry' published in The Lancet Psychiatry.Aside from applauding the notion that nutrition is potentially of some importance to […]

Jerome Sarris, Alan C Logan, Tasnime N Akbaraly, G Paul Amminger, Vicent Balanzá-Martínez, Marlene P Freeman, Joseph Hibbeln, Yutaka Matsuoka, David Mischoulon, Tetsuya Mizoue & Akiko Nanri (2015). Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry, Lancet Psychiatry, Other:

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February 13, 2015

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2:02 PM | Pictures: Hippo Struggles to Escape Ocean Surf
Residents of Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique were shocked to find a hippopotamus apparently struggling in the ocean surf in front of the beach town earlier this month. The giant mammal, which can weigh two or three tons, is certainly no stranger to water, living much of its life in Africa's rivers and lakes. But while hippos have been known to stray into the sea in Gabon, it’s a very rare occurrence in southern Africa
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9:46 AM | Autism, CNVs and sensitivity to maternal infection?
An intriguing quote to begin today's post: "Our findings support a gene-environment interaction model of autism impairment, in that individuals with ASD-associated CNVs are more susceptible to the effects of maternal infection and febrile episodes in pregnancy on behavioral outcomes and suggest that these effects are specific to ASD [autism spectrum disorder] rather than to global neurodevelopment."The findings come from the paper by Varvara Mazina and colleagues [1] who sought to […]

Mazina V, Gerdts J, Trinh S, Ankenman K, Ward T, Dennis MY, Girirajan S, Eichler EE & Bernier R (2015). Epigenetics of Autism-related Impairment: Copy Number Variation and Maternal Infection., Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics : JDBP, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25629966

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February 12, 2015

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11:54 AM | Creating a new society
I was in Melbourne last week meeting with synthetic biologists from all around Australia. We have  decided to form a new society or association representing synthetic biologists. Claudia Vickers from the University of Queensland is the driving force behind this new body and our meeting decided this she should be our chairperson or president (still working on the terminology). I was volunteered into being deputy president? vice chairperson? something like that anyway. As well as needing to […]
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10:50 AM | Congratulations Dr. Farrugia!
Congratulations to Daniel Farrugia, who has been awarded a PhD for his work in my group on the bacterial pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii. Daniel has published a couple papers examining the differences between hospital and community strains of this pathogen, and when I manage to find time to finalize them, has two more manuscripts still to come. Daniel is now currently taking a well deserved break in Malta, and I believe will soon be looking for a postdoctoral position in Europe.  You are […]
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9:58 AM | 15q11.2 microdeletion, developmental delay and congenital heart disease
"Our results support the hypothesis that 15q11.2 (BP1-BP2) microdeletion is associated with developmental delay, abnormal behaviour, generalized epilepsy and congenital heart disease."So it was written in the paper from Vanlerberghe and colleagues [1] following their analysis of 52 "unrelated patients" diagnosed with 15q11.2 microdeletion, a 'novel' microdeletion syndrome according to other research [2].Your REAL problem's the monkey.Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is mentioned in the […]

Vanlerberghe C, Petit F, Malan V, Vincent-Delorme C, Bouquillon S, Boute O, Holder-Espinasse M, Delobel B, Duban B, Vallee L & Cuisset JM (2015). 15q11.2 Microdeletion (BP1-BP2) and Developmental delay, Behaviour issues, Epilepsy and Congenital heart disease: a series of 52 patients., European journal of medical genetics, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25596525

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February 11, 2015

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5:00 PM | Why Can’t Gravity Believers and Skeptics Get Along?
Multiple media outlets around the world covered a study published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change.* This study sought to explain why “believers” in climate change cannot get along with... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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10:22 AM | Like buses. Vitamin D and autism again.
I don't know if everyone will have heard the term 'like buses' to infer that you seem to spend ages waiting for something (like a bus) and then two or more turn up at once. So it is with research, and the continuing interest that autism research seems to have with the sunshine vitamin/hormone that is vitamin D.Following on from my recent discussions on the paper by Fernell and colleagues [1] (see here) talking about early low vitamin D potentially being 'connected' to cases of autism or autism […]

Bener, A., Khattab, A. & Al-Dabbagh, M. (2014). Is high prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency evidence for autism disorder?: In a highly endogamous population, Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences, 9 (3) 227. DOI: 10.4103/1817-1745.147574

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February 10, 2015

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9:09 PM | New name: Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease?
The name is: Systematic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID).A very quick post to direct you to the public release of the findings from the US Institute of Medicine (IoM) looking at the name and current criteria used to diagnose Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) (see here). The proposed diagnostic criteria for CFS/ME, sorry SEID can be viewed here.Some of the background to these findings can be seen here and some of the media about the new IoM recommendations can […]

Morris G & Maes M (2013). Case definitions and diagnostic criteria for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic fatigue Syndrome: from clinical-consensus to evidence-based case definitions., Neuro endocrinology letters, 34 (3) 185-99. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23685416

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