Posts

February 13, 2015

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6:20 PM | Valentine’s Day Special: Drosophila in lust
Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, which means that men (and women) all over the U.S. are performing courtship rituals to woo a companion. But while we humans often have trouble figuring out the right moves to attract a potential mate, fruit flies have it down to a science. And incredibly, researchers can study fruit fly […]

Pavlou H.J. (2013). Courtship behavior in Drosophila melanogaster: towards a ‘courtship connectome’, Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 23 (1) 76-83. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.conb.2012.09.002

Griffith L.C. (2009). Courtship learning in Drosophila melanogaster: Diverse plasticity of a reproductive behavior, Learning , 16 (12) 743-750. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/lm.956309

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3:47 PM | The Tree of Earthworms
Earthworm taxonomists describing what they do to a layperson is hilarious to watch. Laypeople often have a difficult time understanding the concept of a species – you will regularly hear statements that there are only 50 insect species, for example. Insect species often differ in colour and patterning, so it’s easy to then correct a layman’s misconceptions about […] The post The Tree of Earthworms appeared first on Teaching Biology.

Domínguez, J., Aira, M., Breinholt, J., Stojanovic, M., James, S. & Pérez-Losada, M. (2015). Underground evolution: New roots for the old tree of lumbricid earthworms, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 83 7-19. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2014.10.024

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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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6:48 PM | Possible mechanism underpinning Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s type diseases found
Neurodegenerative diseases have remained stubbornly increasing in prevalence for sometime now. Unfortunately longer life does not mean a better quality of life. Thankfully that could change sooner than you think, scientists have for the first time discovered a killing mechanism that could underpin a range of the most intractable neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s […]

Minghai Zhou, Gregory Ottenberg, Gian Franco Sferrazza, Christopher Hubbs, Mohammad Fallahi, Gavin Rumbaugh, Alicia F. Brantley & Corinne I. Lasmézas (2015). Neuronal death induced by misfolded prion protein is due to NAD+ depletion and can be relieved in vitro and in vivo by NAD+ replenishment, Brain - A Journal of Neurology, Other:

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2:06 PM | What is the motive?
It is clear from bacteria to ourselves that cooperation has evolved many times in all sorts of organisms and so it clearly has an advantage that can be realized. However, it is also obvious that simple unquestioned cooperation works if everyone cooperates but would be a great disadvantage once cheaters became numerous. This looks like […]

Hoffman, M., Yoeli, E. & Nowak, M. (2015). Cooperate without looking: Why we care what people think and not just what they do, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112 (6) 1727-1732. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1417904112

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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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9:16 AM | How the brain got language: The mirror system hypothesis
Language is a unique feature of human beings. In addition to having the ability to use language, humans can conjecture about language consciously and even create realistic constructed languages from scratch. In How the brain got language, Michael A. Arbib, whose work has been influential in shaping the field of computational neuroscience, addresses the title […]

Farid Pazhoohi (2014). How the brain got language: The mirror system hypothesis (review), The Canadian Journal of Linguistics / La revue canadienne de linguistique , 59 (3) Other:

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1:35 AM | Music may reduce your ability to remember!
Sometimes just turning on some background music really helps a person get things done. While music may help some people relax when they’re trying to concentrate, new research suggests that it doesn’t help them remember what they’re focusing on, especially as they get older. That’s the finding in a new study that challenged younger and older […]

Reaves, S., Graham, B., Grahn, J., Rabannifard, P. & Duarte, A. (2015). Turn Off the Music! Music Impairs Visual Associative Memory Performance in Older Adults, The Gerontologist, DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnu113

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February 11, 2015

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11:38 PM | 10 Species Named After Star Wars Characters
Pictures courtesy of Lucasfilm and J. Armbruster     Leaving the movie theater in 1977, with Greedo's death at the hands of Han Solo a fresh memory, a young Jon Armbruster could not have anticipated the role that Jabba the Hutt's go-to bounty hunter would play in his scientific contributions decades later.     And yet...when he (along with Auburn University researchers Milton Tan, Christopher

Armbruster, J., Werneke, D. & Tan, M. (2015). Three new species of saddled loricariid catfishes, and a review of Hemiancistrus, Peckoltia, and allied genera (Siluriformes), ZooKeys, 480 97-123. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.480.6540

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3:37 PM | How to eradicate an organ
 Phreatichthys andruzzii, lateral view (left), frontal view (right) Adaptations of some fish species to their environment can be most peculiar, especially within cave dwelling kinds. The so called troglomorphisms slowly turn these fish into almost grotesque looking creatures with no eyes, lost pigments and no scales on the one hand, but with enhanced alternative sensory […]

Stemmer, M., Schuhmacher, L., Foulkes, N., Bertolucci, C. & Wittbrodt, J. (2015). Cavefish eye loss in response to an early block in retinal differentiation progression, Development, 142 (4) 743-752. DOI: 10.1242/dev.114629

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1:00 PM | Thinking Skinny Thoughts Won’t Help
Biology concepts – undulipodia, primary cilia, chemosensing, obesity, depression, hydrocephalus, lithiumWinston Churchill once said that men occasionally stumble on the truth, but most people pick themselves up and carry on as if nothing had happened. Gregor Mendel was Augustinian monk who really joined the order because they would allow him to study and learn for the rest of his life. Sounds like the gig I would enjoy. Since he was a monk, do you think he got angry that his discoveries […]

Tong, C., Han, Y., Shah, J., Obernier, K., Guinto, C. & Alvarez-Buylla, A. (2014). Primary cilia are required in a unique subpopulation of neural progenitors, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111 (34) 12438-12443. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1321425111

Han, Y., Kang, G., Byun, K., Ko, H., Kim, J., Shin, M., Kim, H., Gil, S., Yu, J., Lee, B. & Kim, M. (2014). Leptin-promoted cilia assembly is critical for normal energy balance, Journal of Clinical Investigation, 124 (5) 2193-2197. DOI: 10.1172/JCI69395

Davenport JR, Watts AJ, Roper VC, Croyle MJ, van Groen T, Wyss JM, Nagy TR, Kesterson RA & Yoder BK (2007). Disruption of intraflagellar transport in adult mice leads to obesity and slow-onset cystic kidney disease., Current biology : CB, 17 (18) 1586-94. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17825558

Keryer, G., Pineda, J., Liot, G., Kim, J., Dietrich, P., Benstaali, C., Smith, K., Cordelières, F., Spassky, N., Ferrante, R. & Dragatsis, I. (2011). Ciliogenesis is regulated by a huntingtin-HAP1-PCM1 pathway and is altered in Huntington disease, Journal of Clinical Investigation, 121 (11) 4372-4382. DOI: 10.1172/JCI57552

Miyoshi, K., Kasahara, K., Miyazaki, I. & Asanuma, M. (2009). Lithium treatment elongates primary cilia in the mouse brain and in cultured cells, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 388 (4) 757-762. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2009.08.099

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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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5:55 AM | Toxic bacteria: a possible cause of frog deformities
The toxic cyanobacteria that clog ponds with thick, green muck may cause deformities in frogs, according to Czech scientists. Since the 1970s, more and more frogs around the world have been born with missing legs or deformed eyes. Scientists have … Continue reading →

Jonas A, Buranova V, Scholz S, Fetter E, Novakova K, Kohoutek J & Hilscherova K (2014). Retinoid-like activity and teratogenic effects of cyanobacterial exudates., Aquatic toxicology (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 155 283-90. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25103898

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4:55 AM | False memories and journalism
We like to think of ourselves as a collection of our memories, and of each memory as a snapshot of an event in our lives. Sure, we all know that our minds aren’t as sturdy as our computer’s hard-drive, so these snapshots decay over time, especially the boring ones — that’s why most of us […]

Loftus, E.F. (2003). Make-believe memories., The American Psychologist, 58 (11) 867-73. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14609374

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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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6:06 PM | Seafood associated with autoimmune disease
Autoimmunity is one of those great mysteries of the human body. We still aren’t sure what causes it and treating it can be painfully ineffective. Unfortunately my sister knows that one first hand, so here at the labs autoimmunity is a problem close to our heart. While we may not know what causes autoimmunity, a […]

Somers, E., Ganser, M., Warren, J., Basu, N., Wang, L., Zick, S. & Park, S. (2015). Mercury Exposure and Antinuclear Antibodies among Females of Reproductive Age in the United States, Environmental Health Perspectives, DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1408751

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9:53 AM | Increased risk of chronic kidney disease in schizophrenia
"After adjusting for demographic characteristics, select comorbid medical disorders and NSAIDs [non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs] usage, the current results reveal that patients with schizophrenia have an increased risk of nearly 40% (HR=1.36; 95% CI 1.13 to 1.63; p<0.001) of developing CKD [chronic kidney disease] within a 3-year follow-up period after their schizophrenia diagnosis."That was the rather surprising finding reported by Nian-Sheng Tzeng and […]

Tzeng, N., Hsu, Y., Ho, S., Kuo, Y., Lee, H., Yin, Y., Chen, H., Chen, W., Chu, W. & Huang, H. & (2015). Is schizophrenia associated with an increased risk of chronic kidney disease? A nationwide matched-cohort study, BMJ Open, 5 (1) DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006777

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9:52 AM | Accepting help can be difficult. You'll find it easier if you help others
Receiving help can sting. Admitting that others can do what you can’t and feeling indebted to them can lead to a sense of dependence and incompetence, and even resentment towards the very person who helped you. Luckily, Katherina Alvarez and Esther van Leeuwen have published some helpful research on one way to take the sting away.Their study asked student participants to complete a series of tricky maths puzzles. If a puzzle was stumping them, assistance was available in the form of help […]

Alvarez, K. & van Leeuwen, E. (2015). Paying it forward: how helping others can reduce the psychological threat of receiving help, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 45 (1) 1-9. DOI: 10.1111/jasp.12270

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February 09, 2015

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9:34 PM | Help on the horizon for treatment resistant depression
Depression is like a kick while you’re already down. Sometimes there is no real reason for it, sometimes it is triggered by some serious life issues, but clinical depression always has very real neurological roots. Unfortunately, while we know that certain areas of the brain are smaller in a depressed person, we don’t know why […]

Benjamin D. Sachs, Jason R. Ni & Marc G. Caron (2015). Brain 5-HT deficiency increases stress vulnerability and impairs antidepressant responses following psychosocial stress, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Other:

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9:19 PM | Most supernatural beliefs are about avoiding harm, not bringing benefit
A survey of supernatural beliefs across cultures around the world has found that beliefs involving hazards and harms were about 50% more common than beliefs about benefits about benefits, opportunities and other good things. Daniel Fessler, at the University of California, and colleagues searched a representative dataset of 60 cultures held at the Human Relations [Read More...]

Fessler, D., Pisor, A. & Navarrete, C. (2014). Negatively-Biased Credulity and the Cultural Evolution of Beliefs, PLoS ONE, 9 (4) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095167

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9:19 PM | Most supernatural beliefs are about avoiding harm, not bringing benefit
A survey of supernatural beliefs across cultures around the world has found that beliefs involving hazards and harms were about 50% more common than beliefs about benefits about benefits, opportunities and other good things. Daniel Fessler, at the University of California, and colleagues searched a representative dataset of 60 cultures held at the Human Relations [Read More...]

Fessler, D., Pisor, A. & Navarrete, C. (2014). Negatively-Biased Credulity and the Cultural Evolution of Beliefs, PLoS ONE, 9 (4) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095167

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6:30 PM | Slime mould and researcher set to play piano duet
SUMMARY: A single-celled organism will perform a piano duet with a computer musician at Plymouth University on 1 March 2015. The public is invited. A scientist and a single-celled organism will perform a piano duet at Biomusic, the 10th Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival. Professor of Computer Music, Eduardo Miranda, and a slime mould will premiere Professor Miranda’s new composition, Biocomputer Music, on a musical bio-computer that he and his team designed. Professor Miranda is […]

Nakagaki T., Yamada H. & Tóth Á. (2000). Intelligence: Maze-solving by an amoeboid organism, Nature, 407 (470) DOI: 10.1038/35035159

Saigusa T., Toshiyuki Nakagaki & Yoshiki Kuramoto (2008). Amoebae Anticipate Periodic Events, Physical Review Letters, 100 (1) DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/physrevlett.100.018101

Miranda E.R., Adamatzky A. & Jones J. (2011). Sounds Synthesis with Slime Mould of Physarum polycephalum, Journal of Bionic Engineering, 8 107-113. arXiv: http://arxiv.org/abs/1212.1203

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4:21 PM | The Beginnings of Jurassic Park: Dinosaur Blood Discovered? (A Guest Post)
By Samantha VoldThe classic tale of Jurassic Park, where dinosaurs once again walked the earth has tickled the fancy of many a reader. Dinosaur DNA preserved in a fossilized mosquito was used to bring these giants back to life. But in real life, it was previously thought that there was no possible way for organic materials to be preserved, that they often degraded within 1 million years if not rapidly attacked by bacteria and other organisms specialized in decomposition. Skin and other soft […]

Schweitzer, M. (2010). Blood from Stone, Scientific American, 303 (6) 62-69. DOI: 10.1038/scientificamerican1210-62

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12:19 PM | Another brick gone in the wall
The idea that there is an unbridgeable gap between human language and animal communication has taken another hit. For many years it has been maintained that chimpanzees cannot change their vocal signals, so although the grunts vary in different populations, in any particular group they are fixed. Therefore their vocalizations were not at all like […]

Watson, S., Townsend, S., Schel, A., Wilke, C., Wallace, E., Cheng, L., West, V. & Slocombe, K. (2015). Vocal Learning in the Functionally Referential Food Grunts of Chimpanzees, Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.12.032

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9:47 AM | What have we learned about autism?
Today's post is a bit of mash-up based on the review paper by Jason Chen and colleagues [1] and a news entry from Autism Speaks titled: '10 Years of Progress: What We've Learned About Autism' (see here). Cumulatively, these two commentaries try to paint a picture of where we are, knowledge-wise, when it comes to the label of autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and highlight the many gaps that remain in what we 'think' we know about autism.The Chen paper approaches the 'emerging picture of […]

Chen JA, Peñagarikano O, Belgard TG, Swarup V & Geschwind DH (2015). The Emerging Picture of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Genetics and Pathology., Annual review of pathology, 10 111-144. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25621659

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February 08, 2015

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8:11 PM | ‘Virtual virus’ unfolds the flu on a CPU
The flu virus can be pretty nasty — it’s quick to evolve — which means yearly flu shots are needed and then it’s only a guess to which strain will be the most prevalent. Well new research aims to change all that, by combining experimental data from X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, cryoelectron microscopy and lipidomics (the […]

Reddy, T., Shorthouse, D., Parton, D., Jefferys, E., Fowler, P., Chavent, M., Baaden, M. & Sansom, M. (2015). Nothing to Sneeze at: A Full-Scale Computational Model of the Human Influenza Virion, Biophysical Journal, 108 (2) 31. DOI: 10.1016/j.bpj.2014.11.195

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5:16 PM | Satisfying the nitrogen fix: new method to make environmentally-friendly ammonia
When we think of energy-intensive processes and greenhouse gas emissions, our minds probably jump to gas-guzzling cars and coal-fired power plants.  But agriculture is another culprit, largely due to a single industrial process that accounts for 1 percent of the world’s … Continue reading →

Banerjee, A., Yuhas, B., Margulies, E., Zhang, Y., Shim, Y., Wasielewski, M. & Kanatzidis, M. (2015). Photochemical Nitrogen Conversion to Ammonia in Ambient Conditions with FeMoS-Chalcogels, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2147483647. DOI: 10.1021/ja512491v

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3:59 PM | The immortality paradox part II: can we rejuvenate cells without making them "immortal"?
I've talked about the immortality paradox in an older post, but today I would like to continue the discussion in light of a recently published paper on telomere lengths. The paper is a bit of a spoiler alert from my detective thriller Chimeras. Given that my detective has some screwed up genes, it seemed natural that he would solve crimes revolving around genetics and, in particular, its exploitations in the medical and pharmaceutical world. One of such exploitations in my book is a […]

Ramunas J, Yakubov E, Brady JJ, Corbel SY, Holbrook C, Brandt M, Stein J, Santiago JG, Cooke JP & Blau HM & (2015). Transient delivery of modified mRNA encoding TERT rapidly extends telomeres in human cells., FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25614443

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2:03 AM | Misinformation and selective coverage change perception of outbreaks, but can be corrected by presenting the facts
While it’s not an animal product, the Listeriosis outbreak recently traced to apples is just as relevant to the food industry as a whole as any other food-borne illness outbreak. While I was looking for more information on the outbreak, I came across this gem* of an article posted on cnn.com. *When this post was originally […]

Young ME, Norman GR & Humphreys KR (2008). Medicine in the popular press: the influence of the media on perceptions of disease., PloS one, 3 (10) PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18958167

Mummert A & Weiss H (2013). Get the news out loudly and quickly: the influence of the media on limiting emerging infectious disease outbreaks., PloS one, 8 (8) PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23990974

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February 07, 2015

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8:37 PM | Anorexia, it’s in your genes
No one likes to talk about eating disorders — specifically anorexia nervosa — despite the increased prevalence in both men and women. Like depression people tend to think that you an “just get over it” or some other nonsense. However new research is shedding light on the truth behind anorexia, much like with depression, there is […]

Howard Steiger Et al. (2015). DNA methylation in individuals with Anorexia Nervosa and in matched normal-eater controls: A genome-wide study, International Journal of Eating Disorders, Other:

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