Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Thyroid / 27.10.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Maaike van Gerwen, MD, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery Institute for Translational Epidemiolog Director of Research Department of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Where are these PFAS chemicals found? Response: Over the past decades, we have seen an increasing trend in thyroid cancer which cannot be fully explained by increased use of medical imaging (including ultrasound). Certain environmental exposure are known to impact on the thyroid gland, including thyroid dysfunction or development of cancer. PFAS are chemicals that are known to disrupt the function of endocrine organs, such as the thyroid gland. We therefore hypothesized that PFAS exposure may be one of the potential risk factors for thyroid cancer and thus one of the potential reason for the increasing thyroid cancer incidence. PFAS chemicals are widespread in the environment and have been found in the soil, water, and air. PFAS are also widely used in a variety of consumer products including non-stick cookware, stain resisting fabric, firefighting foams, but are also found in drinking water and food. This leads to an almost universal exposure of the general population. (more…)
Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus, JAMA, Pediatrics / 26.10.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Neeraj Sood, PhD Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall University Park Campus University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We conducted this study to inform school COVID-19 policies. The main findings are that the median duration of infectivity after a positive COVID-19 test in children is 3 days. The median duration of infectivity does not vary with vaccination.  (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Baylor College of Medicine Houston / 22.10.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: David B. Corry, M.D. Professor of Pathology & Immunology and Medicine Vice Chair for Immunology Department of Pathology & Immunology Biology of Inflammation Center Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center   Clarence and Irene H. Fulbright Chair in Pathology Baylor College of Medicine Michael E. Debakey VA Medical Center MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Can candida species cross the blood brain barrier? Response: We showed earlier (2019) that the common fungus Candida albicans can enter the brain from the blood. That earlier study was in turn inspired by the finding of another research group that had found Candida in the brains of persons suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementing illnesses. (more…)
Author Interviews, Weight Research / 16.10.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: John A. Batsis, MD, FACP, AGSF, FGSA, FTOS Associate Professor Division of Geriatric Medicine, School of Medicine Department of Nutrition, The Gillings School of Global Public Health Chapel Hill, NC 27599 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: The rationale for this study is that there has been a flurry of new medications that have been approved for the treatment of obesity in older adults. MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? Response: Our main findings are that the rates of weight loss promoting (WLP) medications (those that are prescribed for weight loss or have evidence that lead to significant weight loss) are rising and that there is a robust association between the rates of limitations (physical limitations, instrumental activities of daily living, and basic activities of daily living) and the use of weight loss promoting medications. In those persons with obesity, older adults taking weight loss promoting have higher rates of being of physical limitations. (more…)
Author Interviews, Emory, Infections, JAMA, MRSA / 10.10.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. John Jernigan, MD MS Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases Emory University School of Medicine Branch Chief Epidemiology, Research and Innovations Branch CDC Center for Disease Control MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Staphylococcus aureus commonly causes infections in ICUs. One approach to preventing these infections is using nasal mupirocin plus chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) bathing for ICU patients. This practice is known to prevent methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections and all-cause. bloodstream infections.  This practice has been broadly adopted in ICUs in the US, but adoption of mupirocin as a universal topical antibiotic has been slowed by concerns for engendering mupirocin resistance. This cluster-randomized trial in adult ICUs was conducted to assess whether universal nasal antiseptic povidone-iodine (iodophor), to which minimal S. aureus resistance is expected, was an acceptable alternative to universal nasal mupirocin for reducing S. aureus and MRSA clinical cultures in the setting of daily CHG bathing. Those who received chlorhexidine (CHG) bathing with mupirocin had an 18% reduction in risk of Staphylococcus aureus clinical cultures and a 15% reduction in risk of methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) clinical cultures compared to patients who received CHG bathing with intranasal iodophor.  These results show that using mupirocin for nasal decolonization may be preferred over iodophor because it is more effective at preventing S. aureus infections. (more…)
Author Interviews, Opiods, Pain Research / 07.10.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Leana Pande Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Buprenorphine is not a new drug. It was developed in the 1960s with the intent of providing the benefits of opioids, without the addictive side effects. Unlike many prescription opioids,1 use of this Schedule III drug is increasing.2 It is often characterized as a partial agonist at the mu-opioid receptor (Figure-Right). Buprenorphine is available in many routes of administration and also with (brand name Suboxone) or without naloxone. Buprenorphine is a first-line pharmacotherapy for pregnant women with OUD.3 This review was completed in order for the benefits, and risks, of buprenorphine to be more fully appreciated and inform utilization for both opioid use disorder (OUD) and the treatment of pain. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Technology / 06.10.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: HUANYU “LARRY” CHENG Ph.D. Associate Professor and Dorothy Quiggle Career Development Professor in Engineering James L. Henderson, Jr. Memorial Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics Penn State University MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Although increasing efforts have been devoted to the development of non-invasive wearable electrochemical sweat sensors for monitoring physiological and metabolic information, most of them still suffer from poor stability and specificity over time and fluctuating pH and temperatures. laser-induced graphene is the low-cost platform for the early identification and continuous monitoring of different biomarkers for non-invasive disease diagnosis and treatment evaluation However, low sensitivity and limited surface area can limit the detection of ultra-low biomarker concentration in sweat or other fluids. As a result, a wide range of conductive nanomaterials has been incorporated into the porous structure of LIG to increase the available surface area, facilitate electron transfer, and enhance the electrocatalytic activity of the electrode but those nanomaterial modifications are hard to manufacture reproducibly, and they are not long-term stable. Therefore, it is highly desirable to develop a highly sensitive, selective, low-cost, and long-term stable flexible sensing platform for continuous and accurate healthcare monitoring. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Melanoma / 06.10.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr Mitchell Stark B.App.Sc (Hons), PhD UQ Amplify Senior Research Fellow Skin Cancer Genomics and Biomarker Discovery Group Leader Frazer Institute Faculty of Medicine The University of Queensland Translational Research Institute Woolloongabba, QLD 4102   MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Nodular melanoma (NM) is one of the most aggressive subtypes of melanoma. Despite making up only 14 per cent of cases, it is the largest contributor to melanoma deaths. Nodular melanoma is difficult to catch early because it grows fast and has often spread deeper in the skin by the time it’s diagnosed. Around a quarter of NM cases also appear as a skin-coloured tumour, which might go unnoticed for longer. In this study we wanted to determine whether there were genetic variants associated with nodular melanoma, which might contribute to nodular melanoma risk. We identified 39 genes with rare DNA variants which had the greatest frequency in nodular melanoma patients compared to non-NM patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, JAMA, OBGYNE, Surgical Research / 04.10.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Gabriele Martelli, MD Breast Unit, Surgery Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori Milan, Italy MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Approximately 8% of breast cancer cases are associated with pathogenic germline variants of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Women with a pathogenic BRCA1 variant have lifetime risks of breast or ovarian cancer of 45% to 80% and 30% to 60%, respectively. Women with a pathogenic BRCA2 variant have lifetime risks of breast or ovarian cancer of 35% to 60% and 10% to 25%, respectively. BRCA1 breast cancer is often more aggressive than sporadic disease, while BRCA2 breast cancer is often of similar aggressivity to sporadic disease. However, few studies have investigated outcomes of breast-conserving surgery, prophylactic mastectomy, or prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy in patients with BRCA1/2 breast cancer. We conducted a cohort study to assess outcomes of breast-conserving surgery vs mastectomy, prophylactic mastectomy vs no prophylactic mastectomy, and prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy vs no prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy in patients with BRCA1/2 breast cancer. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, ADHD, Author Interviews, Columbia, JAMA / 04.10.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Guohua Li, MD, DrPH Finster Professor of Epidemiology and Anesthesiology Columbia University Irving Medical Center MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? How was the ADHD diagnosis determined? Response: The reported prevalence of ADHD in children and young adults in the United States has more than doubled since the 1990s because of improved diagnosis.  Currently, ADHD affects about 13 percent of children under 18 years of age and eight percent of adults under 45 years of age.  Little is known about the prevalence of ADHD in older adults although it is estimated that ADHD symptoms may persist throughout the lifespan in about one-third of children diagnosed with the disorder.  Diagnostic criteria for adulthood ADHD include having five or more relevant symptoms, adverse impact on social, academic, and occupational activities,  and onset of symptoms before age 12. In this study, ADHD status is determined based on an affirmative response to the question of whether the participant had ever had ADHD or had ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that he or she had ADHD. (more…)
Author Interviews, Neurological Disorders, Science, UCLA / 29.09.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Michael Sofroniew, MD, PhD Professor UCLA School of Medicine MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? How did this study differ from your previous work on this topic? Response: After spinal cord injuries, nerve fibers that are damaged do not spontaneously regrow across injury sites. In previous studies, our group of collaborators identified a combination of interventions that could stimulate damaged nerve fibers to regrow for short distances across injuries, but we found that in spite of this short distance regrowth there was no recovery of functions. The present study examined what type of regrowth might be necessary to re-establish functions. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Pediatrics, Race/Ethnic Diversity / 29.09.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Devon Payne-Sturges, DrPH, MPH, MEngr
Associate Professor
Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health
School of Public Health
University of Maryland, College Park

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: My co-authors and I conducted this study to fill a knowledge gap and to inform the work of Project TENDR. No systematic or scoping review had examined both exposure disparities and the joint effects of combined exposures of environmental neurotoxicants and social disadvantage as they relate to disparities in neurodevelopmental outcomes specifically among children living in the U.S.

Our study is the first to summarize the evidence on 7 neurotoxicants that children in the U.S. are routinely exposed to and we examined both disparities in these exposures and disparities in the effects of those exposures on children’s brain development, cognition, and behavior by race, ethnicity, and economic status.

We reviewed over 200 independent studies spanning five decades from 1974 to 2022 on social disparities in exposure to 7 exemplar neurotoxic chemicals and pollutants, including chemical mixtures, and their relationship with disparities with neurodevelopmental outcomes among children in the U.S.

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Author Interviews, Blood Pressure - Hypertension, JAMA, OBGYNE, USPSTF / 26.09.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Esa M. Davis, M.D., M.P.H , F.A.A.F.P Professor of Medicine and Family and Community Medicine Associate Vice President of Community Health and Senior Associate Dean of pPopulation Health and Community Medicine University of Maryland School of Medicine Dr. Davis joined the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in January 2021 Esa M. Davis, M.D., M.P.H , F.A.A.F.P Professor of Medicine and Family and Community Medicine Associate Vice President of Community Health and Senior Associate Dean of pPopulation Health and Community Medicine University of Maryland School of Medicine Dr. Davis joined the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in January 2021 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, including gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, and eclampsia, are among the leading causes of serious complications and death for pregnant people in the United States. Pregnant women and pregnant people of all genders should have their blood pressure measured at each prenatal visit to help find and prevent serious health issues related to hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.  (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews / 25.09.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof. Elisabet Jerlhag Holm Department of Pharmacology Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology The University of Gothenburg MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a conditioned associated with morbidity, mortality and costs for society. There are today 4 approved medications, but given the heterogeneity of the disease the efficacy of these is limited and new medications are needed. Peptides of the gut-brain axis, such as GLP-1, have been implied as novel treatment targets. We therefore investigated the effect of an agonist for GLP-1, semaglutide, on alcohol drinking in rodents. (more…)
Author Interviews, Exercise - Fitness / 19.09.2023

WeightControl.com Interview with: Tongyu Ma, Ph.D., MBBS, ACSM EP-C
Assistant Professor of Exercise Physiology
Franklin Pierce UniversityTongyu Ma, Ph.D., MBBS, ACSM EP-C Assistant Professor of Exercise Physiology Franklin Pierce University WeightControl.com:  What is the background for this study?  Response: The benefit of Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA) on weight management is widely recognized. We found that timing also matters. Individuals who accumulated MVPA in the early morning had lower BMI and WC, compared to those whose MVPA were in the midday or evening. (more…)
Author Interviews, Emergency Care, Technology / 15.09.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Hidde ten Berg  Department Emergency Medicine and Dr. Steef Kurstjens Department of Clinical cChemistry and Haematology Jeroen Bosch Hospital, 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands   MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: At this moment we are still in the exploratory phase, and therefore, there is no widespread or routine usage of ChatGPT in Emergency Medicine. That said, there are instances where individual physicians have used ChatGPT for specific purposes. These may include facilitating bureaucratic tasks that can often be time-consuming, aiding in writing e-mails or texts, and serving as a brainstorming tool when dealing with complex medical cases and questions. Though not yet a standardized practice, these isolated examples demonstrate a growing interest for the potential application of this novel technology. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Education, Karolinski Institute / 15.09.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Lotfi Khemiri
Centre for Psychiatry Research
Stockholm, SwedenLotfi Khemiri Centre for Psychiatry Research Stockholm, Sweden MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Our study used large-scale national register data in close to 2 million children, and found that parental abuse of both alcohol and drugs are associated with increased risk of intellectual disability in the offspring. Importantly, the risk increase was observed in both mothers and fathers which to the best of our knowledge is a novel finding, and may be explained by both genetic and environmental factors including toxic effects of substance intake on fetal development. (more…)

Author Interviews, JAMA, OBGYNE, Pediatrics / 03.09.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr Robert Eves Research Associate at Universität Bielefeld Honorary research fellow at the University of Warwick Guest researcher at DIW Berlin MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: When an infant is born their birthweight percentile is often calculated. This indicates how big the infant is relative to other infants born at the same gestational age (weeks of pregnancy). In long-term follow-up of at-risk infants, being born below the 10th percentile has been considered a risk factor for later cognitive development. However, we thought that this above or below the 10th percentile cut-off was unlikely to reflect the true association between birthweight percentiles and later cognitive development. First of all, we thought that it was unlikely that there would be a dramatic difference between someone born at the 9th vs. 11th percentile. Secondly, we wanted to determine if there was a point when birthweight percentiles could get too large (i.e is there a Goldilocks effect, maybe you should not be too small but not too big either) (more…)
Author Interviews, HIV, JAMA, STD, USPSTF / 01.09.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: James Stevermer, M.D., M.S.P.H.Vice chair for clinical affairs Professor of family and community medicine University of Missouri Medical director of MU Health Care Family Medicine–Callaway Physicians, Dr. Stevermer joined the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force in January 2021. MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: HIV continues to be a significant public health issue. The good news is that PrEP is a safe, highly effective way to help prevent HIV in people at increased risk. There are now two ways people can take PrEP – as a pill or as a shot. We encourage healthcare professionals to have a conversation with their patients about their individual risk for HIV and determine if they should consider taking whichever form of PrEP would work best for them. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cannabis / 30.08.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Luke Cavanah, BS Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine Scranton, PA MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: It is well-known that schedule II stimulants, which are those that are highly addictive and include amphetamine, methylphenidate, and lisdexamfetamine, have had increasing use and misuse in the US. Despite understanding the presence of this phenomenon, the reason for it is poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to see if rising rates of schedule II stimulants are related to the legalization of medical marijuana. We were interested in this because schedule II stimulants are primarily used as the treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), chronic cannabis use has been demonstrated to cause neurocognitive deficits resembling that of ADHD, and the conditions have been shown to affect similar brain regions. (more…)
Author Interviews, Gender Differences, JAMA, Surgical Research, Vanderbilt / 30.08.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Christopher Wallis, MD, PhD Assistant Professor of Urology Department of Surgery University of Toronto and Urologic Oncologist Mount Sinai Hospital   MedicalResearch.com:  Could you give a little context - what was the question you were looking at?
  • We have been studying how the primary treating surgeons sociocultural characteristics impact the recovery of patients they are looking after.
  • Specifically, we have been studying the effect of surgeon sex on outcomes such as death, complications and readmission after common and complex surgeries. These are outcomes that are important to patients and the health system.
  • Previously, we showed that patients with a female surgeon had better short term (30 day) outcomes than similar patients having surgery with a man. This study asked the question of whether the sex of a patient’s surgeon affects patients’ longer term outcomes at 90 days and 1 year, after surgery.
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Author Interviews, Dermatology, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Weight Research / 28.08.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Alexis Elias Malavazos Endocrinology Unit Clinical Nutrition and Cardiovascular Prevention Service, IRCCS Policlinico Unit of Radiology, IRCCS Policlinico San Donato, San Donato Milanese, Italy   MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Psoriasis is a systemic inflammatory disease often associated with obesity and type-2 diabetes (T2D). The inflammatory process of psoriasis can target adipose tissue depots, particularly those surrounding the heart and the coronary arteries, exposing them to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. (more…)
Author Interviews, Kidney Disease / 28.08.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Amira Abdelrasoul, Ph.D., P. Eng.Associate Professor, Chemical and Biomedical EngineeringDepartment of Chemical and Biological EngineeringDivision of Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of Saskatchewan     MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: The background of this study lies in the pursuit of improving the compatibility of dialysis membranes used in hospitals. My team sought to enhance the performance of these membranes by incorporating heparin, a widely recognized anticoagulant. Existing heparin-grafted membranes carried a negative charge, resulting in adverse blood-membrane interactions and complications for dialysis patients. The study aimed to overcome these issues and create a neutralized membrane surface that maintains the benefits of heparin while minimizing undesirable interactions. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Endocrinology, Nature / 27.08.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Huizhong Whit Tao, PhD Professor of Physiology & Neuroscience Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute Department of Physiology & Neurosience Keck School of Medicine University of Southern California   MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Previously, we published a study in which we found that a group of neurons, namely glutamatergic neurons, in the medial preoptic area (MPOA) of the hypothalamus mediate stress-induced anxiety states. This result inspired us to explore whether the MPOA can play a more general role in mood regulation. Fluctuations in the productive hormones secreted by women’s ovaries are known to cause mood swings. In some cases, rapid changes in the secretion of ovarian hormones can cause depressive-like symptoms. Key examples are postpartum and peri-menopausal depression. In this study, we intended to test whether the MPOA can also play a part in depressive states that are linked to fluctuations in ovarian hormones. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Lancet, Medical Imaging, Technology / 24.08.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Daiju Ueda Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology Graduate School of Medicine Osaka Metropolitan University Osaka, Japan MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response:  We were inspired by the potential of chest radiography as a biomarker for aging. Previous research had utilized chest radiographs for age estimation, but these studies often involved cohorts with diseases. (more…)
Author Interviews, Columbia, Gender Differences, JAMA, OBGYNE, Surgical Research / 24.08.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Jason D. Wright, MD, FACOG, FACS Sol Goldman Associate Professor Chief, Division of Gynecologic Oncology Vice Chair of Academic Affairs, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons New York, New York 10032 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: There is growing recognition that gender-affirming surgery (GAS) is safe and that the procedures are associated with favorable long term outcomes. Prior work has explored the use of inpatient procedures and shown that the rates of GAS have risen, but there is little contemporaneous data to examine more recent inpatient and outpatient use of GAS. This is particularly important as changes in insurance regulations may have increased access for these procedures. We examined temporal trends in performance of inpatient and outpatient GAS and examined age-specific trends in the types of procedures performed over time. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Infections, Inflammation, Pediatrics / 18.08.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Myrsini Kaforou, PhD Senior Lecturer in Bioinformatics Department of Infectious Disease Imperial College London MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response:  Children very often present to hospital and clinics with fever, but fever is a non-specific disease symptom. The identification of the cause of fever poses a great challenge for the clinical teams worldwide. The available diagnostic tests are neither quick or accurate enough to fully base decisions on, such as withholding or administering antibiotics. For example, cultures may take days or even weeks to provide a result. In our research group, we are working on novel approach; instead of trying to identify the causative pathogen, which is often inaccurate or impossible, we are studying the genes in the patient's blood that are "switched on" or "switched off" during the infection or the disease in general. Using computational/bioinformatics methods, we are able to identify out of thousands of genes, the combinations of genes, "the biosignatures" for each disease. In the past we had shown that this approach works to distinguish bacterial from viral infection, or tuberculosis disease from other conditions that mimic its symptoms. But with this work we have shown for the first time that a single set of genes, a "single gene panel" can be used to discriminate between 6 broad and/or 18 specific infectious or inflammatory conditions that cause fever in children. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Gastrointestinal Disease / 16.08.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Daniel L. Worthley MBBS (Hons), PhD, MPH, FRACP, AGAF Gastroenterologist Associate Professor University of Adelaide MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Cells are revolutionising healthcare, from modern faecal microbial transplantation in the gut to CAR-T cells fighting cancers, life healing life. Some aspects of cellular care are so entrenched in medicine that they are almost overlooked for the miraculous cellular therapies that they are, such as stem cell transplantation to treat haematological malignancies and, of course, in vitro fertilization, life creating life. Modern medicine is slowly, but surely, pivoting from pills to cells. Professor Siddhartha Mukherjeee, oncologist, scientist, and author, provides a beautiful thesis of this in his book Song of the Cell and in his TED talk on the cellular revolution in medicine (https://youtu.be/qG_YmIPFO68?feature=shared). I was lucky enough to have trained with Sid as a post-doc at Columbia and this concept was really drummed into me. But, as a gastroenterologist, perhaps it was the bacterial cells, rather than the blood cells, that had most to offer in the management of bowel disorders? Around the same time, Professors Jeff Hasty, Tal Danino and Omar Din from UC San Diego had been inventing and publishing, in my opinion, the best bacterial engineering work that has ever been produced to specifically target cancer. I remember when we first reviewed their 2016 Nature paper in our lab meeting (https://www.nature.com/articles/nature18930#citeas), it was like – “We gotta meet these guys!”. Through Tal, who was by then, working at Columbia, I was introduced to Jeff and I attended his lab meeting back in 2019. That was where our project began after a lab meeting in La Jolla. Rob Cooper had presented his work on horizontal gene transfer. Everything that comes out of Jeff’s lab is both practical and reproducible but also beautiful. Beautiful in a scientific self-evident way that instantly communicates the purpose, approach and outcomes of an experiment. Rob’s presentation that day was a case-in-point. Rob was studying genes and gene transfer in bacteria (see part of Rob’s fascinating presentation here, https://youtu.be/5nBsRF-BsA8?feature=shared). Genes are the fundamental unit of heredity and gene transfer (or inheritance) the process by which genes are passed from one cell to another. Genes may be inherited vertically when one cell replicates its DNA and divides into two, now separate, cells (reproduction). Genes are the stuff, and vertical gene transfer is the process, by which you receive your mother’s laugh and your father’s eyebrows. Genes may also, however, be inherited horizontally when DNA is passed between unrelated cells, outside of parent to offspring inheritance. Horizontal gene transfer is quite common in the microbial world. Certain bacteria can salvage genes from cell-free DNA found within its environment. This sweeping up of cell-free DNA, into a cell, is called natural competence. So, competent bacteria can sample their nearby environment and, in doing so, acquire genes that may provide a selective advantage to that cell. Like cellular panning for flecks of gold in a stream. After Rob’s presentation, Jeff, Rob and I started to discuss the possibilities. If bacteria can take up DNA, and cancer is defined genetically by a change in its DNA then, theoretically, bacteria could be engineered to detect cancer. Colorectal cancer seemed a logical proof of concept as the colorectal lumen is full of microbes and, in the setting of cancer, full of tumour DNA.  When a biophysicist, a scientist and a gastroenterologist walk into a bar, after a lab meeting, this is what can happen! Professor Susi Woods and Dr Josephine Wright, superb cancer scientists from Adelaide, Australia, were quickly recruited in as essential founding members of the group. We all got to work. Australian and US grants, lots of experiments, early morning Zoom calls across the Pacific, inventing new animal models and approaches, i.e. a many year, iterative process of design-build-test-learn, that got us all to where we are now. (more…)
Author Interviews, Microbiome, Pediatrics, PLoS / 13.08.2023

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Sebastian Hunter – M.Sc. student with Dr. Brett Finlay and Dr. Sara Mostafavi University of British Columbia MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: This study started as an exploratory project to evaluate the effects of the early microbiota on infant brain development and emerging cognitive capacities. This arises from the increase research around the gut-brain-microbiome axis and its pursuit to uncover how the microbiome helps in the development of a healthy brain, as the microbiota colonization occurs before most neural systems are fully matured and have been linked to later brain health.. (more…)