Author Interviews, Cocaine, Gastrointestinal Disease, PLoS, Surgical Research, Vanderbilt, Weight Research / 27.07.2018 Interview with: Aurelio Galli, Ph.D. Professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics and Psychiatry & Behavioral Science Associate Director for Research Strategy Vanderbilt Brain Institute What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The study builds on evidence that bile acids influence the brain’s reward system. Bile acids are normally released from the gall bladder into the upper part of the small intestine, where they emulsify fats for absorption, before being recycled further down the small intestine. In bile diversion surgery, an experimental treatment for weight loss, bile is released at the end of the small intestine, increasing the amount of bile acids that enter the general circulation. Mice treated with this surgery have less appetite for high-fat foods, which suggests that bile acids affect brain reward pathways. We demonstrated that mice receiving the surgery also showed less preference for the cocaine-associated chamber, indicating that cocaine was probably less rewarding. (more…)
Allergies, Author Interviews, PLoS / 16.07.2018 Interview with: “TOMATOES” by RubyGoes is licensed under CC BY 2.0Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Wilfried Schwab Technical University of Munich Center of Life and Food Science Weihenstephan Biotechnology of Natural Products Freising, Germany What is the background for this study? Response: The prevalence of food allergy is an increasing health problem. Although tomatoes are one of the most consumed vegetables worldwide and have health beneficial effects lowering the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, patients suffering from birch pollen allergy can develop cross-reactivity after consumption of fresh tomatoes. The aim of this study was to develop an analytical method for the quantification of the birch-pollen homologous allergen Sola l 4 in various tomatoes cultivars. Furthermore, the effect of conventional or organic cultivation as well as processing techniques on Sola l 4 content was investigated. (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections, PLoS / 13.07.2018 Interview with: Nine-banded armadillo image credit: Dr. Richard Truman, USPHS, Public Domain (2014)John S. Spencer, Ph.D. Colorado State University Fort Collins, Colorado What is the background for this study? Where can armadillos be found? What are the main findings?  Response: The ancient disease leprosy, a disease causing skin lesions, nerve damage, disfigurement and disability, is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae, and is mainly spread by aerosol infection (coughing and sneezing) from human to human. It is rare in the United States (less than 200 cases on average per year), while it is endemic in Brazil, where over 25,000 new cases were diagnosed last year. In addition, zoonotic transmission of leprosy by nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcintus, pictured at left) has been shown to occur in the southern United States, mainly in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Nine-banded armadillos originated from South America, and expanded their range from Mexico into Texas in the 1800’s, eventually spreading north and east throughout the gulf states. People in Brazil, particularly in rural areas, hunt and kill armadillos as a dietary source of protein. In the small town of Belterra in western Pará state in the Brazilian Amazon region, a survey of 146 residents showed that around 65% of people had some contact with armadillos, through hunting, preparing the meat for cooking, or by eating them. A group of individuals who ate armadillos most frequently (more than once per month and up to twice a week) had a significantly higher antibody titer towards the M. leprae-specific antigen PGL-I and an almost two-fold higher risk of being diagnosed with disease, a significant risk.   (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, PLoS, UCSF / 12.07.2018 Interview with: Lara Cushing PhD Assistant Professor of Health Education, College of Health and Social Sciences San Francisco State University San Francisco, CA 94132 What is the background for this study? Response: More and more countries are adopting cap-and-trade programs as a way to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to address climate change. These efforts can lead to short-term health benefits because when you reduce greenhouse gas emissions, you usually also reduce emissions other harmful air pollutants that can cause cardiovascular disease, asthma and cancer. However, environmental equity concerns were raised early on about whether cap-and-trade would result in localized differences in emissions reductions that would also result in uneven reductions in harmful co-pollutants, such as particulate matter and air toxics. This is because companies can trade pollution permits under a cap-and-trade system and choose to buy more permits rather than reduce their emissions locally. Prior studies show that low income communities and communities of color are much more likely to live near polluting industries. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Cancer Research, PLoS, Vitamin D / 22.06.2018 Interview with: Cedric F. Garland, Dr.P.H., F.A.C.E. Adjunct Professor Division of Epidemiology Department of Family Medicine and Public Health University of California San Diego La Jolla, California 92093-0620 What is the background for this study? Response: Studies mapping death rates from female breast cancer in the US, the former USSR and Canada by Drs. Edward Gorham, and Frank and Cedric Garland revealed for the first time in history that death rates from breast cancer tracked latitude where people lived. The rates were highest in the least sunny northern tier of states, lowest in the sunny southwest. This led these scientists to be the first to theorize that vitamin D prevents breast cancer” said study first author Sharon McDonnell. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, PLoS, Probiotics / 21.06.2018 Interview with: Daniel Reis MA Graduate Student Clinical Psychology University of Kansas What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Probiotics have generated considerable interest as a possible treatment for numerous forms of physical and mental illness. Preliminary evidence from both preclinical and clinical studies suggest that probiotics may be able to reduce anxiety. Our goal was to comprehensively review and summarize existing preclinical and clinical studies. Overall, probiotic administration reduced anxiety-like behaviors in rodents, but only in those with some form of experimentally-induced disease (such as early-life stress or socieal defeat). Probiotics did not reduce anxiety in humans. (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, Cancer Research, PLoS / 20.06.2018 Interview with: “Alcohol” by zeevveez is licensed under CC BY 2.0Andrew Kunzmann Research Fellow Queen's Universit Belfast What is the background for this study?   Response: We decided to conduct this research because the messages about the health effects linked to light-moderate drinking are less consistent. Previous studies suggest that light-moderate drinking is linked to an increased risk of cancer but a lower risk of mortality than never drinking. The international guidelines around what constitutes drinking in moderation also differ, with UK guidelines now recommending intakes below 6 pints of beer or 175ml glasses of wine per week (equivalent to less than 1 per day) but other guidelines recommending intakes of 2 drinks or less per day. We wanted to see what the risk of getting either of these conditions (cancer or mortality) were to give a more comprehensive and less confusing message about the health effects of light-moderate drinking. This was part of a well-established collaboration between Queen’s University Belfast and the National Cancer Institute in the US. We used data from a cancer screening trial in the US that contained data on over 100,000 people from the US, who were free from cancer at the start of the study and who completed a questionnaire asking how much alcohol they consumed at different periods of their adult life. This was then linked to data over an average of 9 years after they completed the questionnaire to see which individuals developed cancer or died from any cause. We then assessed whether risk of cancer and mortality differed based on lifetime alcohol intakes after accounting for a number of other factors such as age, educational attainment, smoking and dietary intakes. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Pediatrics, PLoS, Toxin Research / 19.06.2018 Interview with: Cheryl Rosenfeld PhD DVS Professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine investigator in the Bond Life Sciences Center, and research faculty member for the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurobehavioral Disorders University of Missouri What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: My laboratory has been examining the effects of developmental exposure to the endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC), bisphenol A (BPA) on later neurobehavioral responses in a variety of rodent models, including California mice. This species is unique in that both parents rear the pups and they have monogamous social structure, similar to most human societies. We had previously found that developmental exposure to BPA or another EDC, ethinyl estradiol (EE), disrupted later maternal and paternal care by F1 offspringto their F2 pups. Rodent pups use vocalizations both in the range of human hearing (20,000 hertz or below) and outside of the range of human hearing (20,000 hertz) to communicate with each other and their parents, and for the latter, such communications serve as a trigger to provide additional parental care in the form of nutrition or warmth to the pups. Thus, in the current studies we sought to determine if exposure of the grandparents to BPA or EE could lead to disruptions in their grandoffspring (F2 generation) pup communications that might then at least partially account for the parental neglect of their F1 parents. We found that early on female BPA pups took longer to call to their parents but later during the neonatal period they vocalized more than pups whose grandparents were not exposed to either chemical. Such vocalization changes could be due to multigenerational exposure to BPA and/or indicate that the pups are perceiving and responding to the reduced parental care and attempting but failing to signal to their F1 parents that they need more attention. (more…)
Author Interviews, PLoS, Vaccine Studies / 13.06.2018 Interview with: “Syringe and Vaccine” by NIAID is licensed under CC BY 2.0Melissa S Nolan, PhD, MPH Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Department of Epidemiology and Biostats Arnold School of Public Health University of South Carolina Columbia, SC 2920 What is the background for this study? Response: As the CDC says, “vaccines are one of the greatest success stories in public health”. In the US, fifteen different vaccines are currently available and recommendations are based on age group and medical indication. Estimates suggest that the US childhood vaccination program has prevented 381 million infections and avoided 855,000 deaths. Despite these astounding public health successes, a movement opposing childhood vaccinations has been growing. Medical contraindications do exist, and these children rely on others to be fully vaccinated to provide herd immunity for children that cannot get vaccinations for medical reasons. In contrast to this important vulnerable clinical population, other reasons for non-vaccination include religious and philosophical beliefs. A major reason for philosophical belief-exemptions is based on the erroneous belief that vaccines cause autism. With philosophical-belief based non-vaccinated populations on the rise, our current study aimed to better understand why some parents seek exemptions for their children. (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections, Pain Research, PLoS, Urinary Tract Infections / 17.05.2018 Interview with: Ingvild Vik MD Doctoral Research Fellow Department of General Practice Institute of Health and Society - UiO University of Oslo, Norway What is the background for this study? Response: Uncomplicated urinary tract infection (UTI) is the most common bacterial infection in women. It is painful and troublesome, and even though it is often self-limiting most women who see a doctor will be prescribed an antibiotic, as antibiotics provide quick symptom relief.  Antibiotic resistance is a growing, serious public health problem. Antibiotic use is the main contributor to antibiotic resistance, and to stop the rapid development it is crucial that we reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics. Antibiotics can cause unpleasant and potentially severe side effects, so avoiding unnecessary use is also beneficial for the individual patient. A small German trial published in 2010 by Bleidorn et al. suggested that ibuprofen was non-inferior to the antibiotic ciprofloxacin in achieving symptomatic cure in uncomplicated UTI. This inspired us to conduct a larger trial to compare the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen to antibiotics in the treatment of uncomplicated UTI.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections, Nature, NIH, PLoS, Rheumatology / 16.04.2018 Interview with: John B. Harley, MD, PhD Professor and Director David Glass Endowed Chair Center for Autoimmune Genomics and Etiology (CAGE) Department of Pediatrics University of Cincinnati Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Cincinnati, Ohio 45229 What is the background for this study? Response: Previous work has shown that Epstein-Barr virus infection is associated with systemic lupus erythematosus and studies of the origins of the autoimmune response have also suggested that the autoimmunity of this disease may originate with the immune response against this virus. In the meantime, many investigators have been studying the genetics of lupus over the past 25 years. They have found about 100 convincing genes that alter the risk of developing lupus. (more…)
Author Interviews, PLoS / 30.03.2018 Interview with: Ksenija Marinkovic and Lauren Beaton Psychology Department - College of Sciences Spatio-Temporal Brain Imaging Lab Center for Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience San Diego State University San Diego CA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In general, we subjectively perceive our actions to be under our deliberate and voluntary control. However, our results are consistent with other accruing evidence suggesting that a large portion of our behavior is automatic and not accessible to conscious experience. The automatic processing primarily underlies predictable daily routines when we seem to be on an “auto-pilot”. In contrast, situations that are ambiguous or that evoke incompatible response tendencies engage cognitive control which allows conscious override of the preplanned actions and results in flexible behavior. Our study used a multimodal imaging approach that combines perfect time sensitivity of magnetoencephalography (MEG) with structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate spatio-temporal stages of the seamless interplay between automatic and controlled processing. MEG is a highly sensitive method that records magnetic fields generated by the brain’s neural activity in real time. Young, healthy, participants performed a version of the Eriksen Flanker task, which presents two colored squares on either side of a centrally presented target square that appears after a short delay. Participants are instructed to press a button corresponding to the color of the target square in the middle and to pay no attention to the flankers. Although participants know that the flankers are irrelevant, they are unable to disregard them deliberately. Instead, flankers trigger an automatic preparation to respond. This is particularly apparent on mismatch trials on which the flanker color is misleading and it activates the wrong hand. Target appearance overrides the initial automatic response as the response plan is switched to the other hand to make a correct response. This process reflects recruitment of cognitive control or the decision-making capacity which includes a range of functions such monitoring contextual demands, selecting the correct response, and suppressing an automatic but irrelevant action. Our multimodal MEG imaging method has allowed us to track the neural response as the brain prepares an incorrect response to flankers and then “switches” motor preparation between hemispheres. This approach makes it possible to investigate the interplay between automatic and controlled processing and dissect decision making as it unfolds. The addition of a moderate dose of alcohol dysregulates this frontal network involved in motor decision making, which decreases accuracy when response conflict is present and lowers neural activity reflecting cognitive control. Related to this overall decrease, and of clinical importance, is the reduced ability to employ cognitive control to refrain from drinking excessively. However, the underlying patterns of response-switching were preserved under alcohol, suggesting that alcohol primarily induces deficits upstream during decision making and not during executing motor commands.  (more…)
Abuse and Neglect, Accidents & Violence, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Pediatrics, PLoS / 21.03.2018 Interview with: Neha Bairoliya, Ph.D. Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies Cambridge, MA 02138 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: While the high prevalence of preterm births and its impact on infant mortality in the US have been widely acknowledged, recent data suggest that even full-term births in the US face substantially higher mortality risks compared to European countries with low infant mortality rates. In this paper, we use the most recent birth records in the US to more closely analyze the primary causes underlying mortality rates among full-term births. We show that infants born full-term in the US face 50%-200% higher risks of infant mortality compared to leading European countries. The two main drivers of these high relative risks are increased risk of mortality due to congenital malformations, which patients cannot really do much about other than ensuring adequate screening during pregnancy, and high risk of sudden unexpected deaths in infancy, which should largely be preventable through appropriate sleeping arrangements. While we do not have data on actual sleeping arrangements from our study, other data sources suggest that a substantial number of babies continue to sleep on their tummy; we also found a shockingly large number of babies dying from suffocation, which suggests that parents either use covers that are not safe, or let children sleep in their own beds. (more…)
Author Interviews, PLoS, Weight Research / 21.03.2018 Interview with: Robin Dando, PhD Assistant Professor Director, Cornell Sensory Evaluation Facility Department of Food Science Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14853 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: For many years, people have been interested in if gaining weight can change how we perceive foods, thus maybe encouraging less healthy food choices.  There is some evidence in previous work that if we become obese, we seem to perceive things as tasting less intense.  Now if this were the case, to make up for this we might eat more of whatever food it was we were eating, or conversely we might choose something that tasted more intense, to make up this difference.  More intense usually means higher calories, so if we took either of these approaches, we’re at risk for weight gain. In our study, we examined the taste buds of mice who were fed an unhealthy diet that induces obesity, versus sibling mice fed a more healthy diet that keeps them lean.  The mice gaining weight ended up after only 8 weeks with a lot fewer taste buds than the lean mice.  This loss of taste buds represents one explanation for foods tasting less intense to the obese. (more…)
Author Interviews, HIV, NYU, PLoS, Zika / 23.02.2018 Interview with: Maite Sabalza Ph.D Post Doctoral Associate Department of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology College of Dentistry, New York University New York, NY 10010 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: With previous NIH funding we were able to develop an automated “dual assay” (able to detect both host antibodies and viral RNA) for HIV. In relatively short time, we were able to migrate those findings into the new assay for ZIKA Virus. (more…)
Author Interviews, PLoS, Sexual Health, Zika / 16.02.2018 Interview with: Yogy Simanjuntak PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow Institute of Biomedical Sciences Academia Sinica, Taiwan What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Despite the low case fatality, Zika virus infection has been associated with microcephaly in infants and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Primarily transmitted by Aedes species mosquitoes, Zika also can be sexually transmitted in humans. By August 2016, the sexual transmission of Zika had been documented in 11 countries worldwide and most of the cases were from male to female. Infectious Zika in semen has been reported. Moreover, unlike in serum or urine samples, Zika RNA can still be detected in semen up to 188 days after the onset of symptoms. In the absence of approved antiviral drugs or vaccines for Zika infection, preventing the disease transmission is critical. We observed Zika progressively damaged testes by gaining access to testicular cells including sperm. Notably, Zika caused signs of increased testicular oxidative stress and inflammation, characterized by high levels of reactive oxygen species and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Our data indicate that these factors may contribute to testicular damage as well as successful sexual transmission of Zika; thus, we speculate antioxidants might display beneficial effects to alleviate these disease outcomes. We found that antioxidant ebselen both alleviated testicular damage and prevented sexual transmission of Zika via sperm from infected male mice to uninfected female mice. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dengue, Genetic Research, PLoS / 16.02.2018 Interview with: Luisa Pereira PhD Institute for Research and Innovation in Health University of Porto What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: By using admixture mapping along the genome in Thai cohorts, we were able to identify new candidate genes conferring protection/susceptibility to dengue fever. A very interesting result was that the set of genes differed with the dengue phenotype: genes coding proteins that may link to the virus, conditioning its entrance in the host cells and mobility therein were associated with the less severe phenotype; genes related with blood vessels permeability were associated with the dengue shock syndrome.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Endocrinology, Environmental Risks, PLoS, Weight Research / 15.02.2018 Interview with: Gang Liu, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow Department of Nutrition Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Although many approaches can be used to achieve a short-term weight loss, maintenance of weight loss has become a key challenge for sustaining long-term benefits of weight loss. Accumulating evidence has suggested that certain environmental compounds may play an important role in weight gain and obesity development. The potential endocrine-disrupting effects of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which are extensively used in many industrial and consumer products including food packaging, paper and textile coatings, and non-stick cookware, have been demonstrated in animal studies, but whether PFASs may interfere with body weight regulation in humans is largely unknown. In a 2-year POUNDS Lost randomized clinical trial that examined energy-restricted diets on weight changes, baseline plasma concentrations of major PFASs were measured among 621 overweight and obese participants aged 30-70 years. Body weight was measured at baseline, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. Resting metabolic rate (RMR) and other metabolic parameters, including glucose, lipids, thyroid hormones, and leptin, were measured at baseline, 6, and 24 months. We found that higher baseline levels of PFASs were significantly associated with a greater weight regain, primarily in women. On average, women in the highest tertile of PFASs regained 1.7-2.2 kg more body weight than women in the lowest tertile. In addition, higher baseline plasma PFAS concentrations, especially perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), were significantly associated with greater decline in RMR during the first 6 months and less increase in RMR during weight regain period.  (more…)
Author Interviews, NYU, PLoS / 15.02.2018 Interview with: Glenn N. Saxe, MD Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Child Study Center, One Park Avenue New York, NY 10016 What is the background for this study? Would you briefly explain what is meant by brain entropy and how it relates to intelligence? Response: Think of human intelligence as the capacity for a human being to understand their complex and ever-changing world. The world of a person is really complex and constantly in flux so the human brain must be ready to understand whatever may come – when there is no way beforehand to predict what might come. How does the brain understand its world? It creates specific models of the information it receives through specific patterns of neuronal connection. These are called brain states. The way the brain understands its world is largely through using such models, or brain states, to accurately predict what comes next. So you can see that for an intelligent brain to properly understand and predict events in the world, it will need to have access to a very, very large number of brain states. And this is how entropy is defined. Entropy is a very old and very powerful concept in the history of science. Not only is it fundamental for thermodynamics – what we learned in high school physics – but it is also fundamental for the nature of information and it’s processing. Entropy is defined as the number of states – or distinct configurations – any system has access to at any point in time. High entropy means access to a very large number of states. Low entropy means access to a very small number of states. A solid is a phenomenon with very low entropy. A gas is a phenomenon with very high entropy. Life, and the brain, are somewhere in between. Although it is impossible to precisely measure the number of states a brain has access to at any one moment, there is a highly related concept that can be measured. A system with access to a very high number of possible states (like a gas) has components with behavior that is highly unpredictable. A system with access to very few possible states (like a solid) has components whose behavior is highly predictable. We measured brain entropy through the predictability of the brains components at the smallest scale we had access to: what are called voxels in an fMRI scan. These are 3mm cubes of neurons in a functional MRI scan, and there are many thousands of these voxels in our measurement and each of these voxels contains information on the activity of hundreds of thousands of neurons. We measured the predictability of each of these voxels and then found clusters of voxels where their predictability - or entropy - was related to intelligence. (more…)
Author Interviews, HIV, NIH, PLoS / 18.01.2018 Interview with: Tae-Wook Chun, Ph.D. National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD 20892 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: While antiretroviral therapy (ART) has improved the clinical outcome for people living with HIV, persistence of viral reservoirs in the peripheral blood and lymphoid tissues remains a hurdle to complete eradication of virus and cure of the infection. We know the vast majority of people living with HIV will experience plasma viral rebound within weeks of cessation of therapy. Considering that current research on the treatment of people living with HIV has been heavily focused on developing strategies aimed at achieving sustained virologic remission in the absence of ART, it is of great interest to investigate whether treatment interruption results in expansion of the viral reservoir and/or damage to the immune system. Using data from a recently concluded trial that employed short-term analytical treatment interruption (ATI), we found that, as expected, HIV DNA increased in the CD4+ T cells of individuals living with HIV during the treatment interruption phase. However, the size of the HIV reservoirs as well as immune parameters returned to baseline 6–12 months after the participants resumed ART.  (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, PLoS, Social Issues, Transplantation / 05.01.2018 Interview with: “Alcohol” by Jorge Mejía peralta is licensed under CC BY 2.0Dr. Eirik Degerud, PhD Norwegian Institute of Public Health What is the background for this study? Response: Alcohol-related hospitalisations and deaths are more frequent among individuals with low socioeconomic position, despite that they tend to drink less on average. This is referred to as the alcohol-harm paradox. Alcohol is associated with both higher and lower risk of cardiovascular disease, depending on the drinking pattern. We wanted to assess if the paradox was relevant to these relationship also. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Chemotherapy, Diabetes, PLoS / 08.12.2017 Interview with: Terra G Arnason, MD PhD, Associate Professor, Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, SK, Canada What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Response: Metformin has been used worldwide for decades to treat Type diabetes. Metformin is a cheap non-toxic compound that was originally plant derived. In the past decade a number of meta-analyses have demonstrated that Type 2 individuals taking metformin have a reduced risk of developing many different cancers and do better longterm. The molecular events facilitating metformin’s activity remain obscure and it is unknown whether metformin can help cancer patients avoid the development of drug resistant cancers years after successful treatment. In our study we asked whether metformin can not only restore sensitivity of multiple drug resistant tumors to chemotherapy once again, but whether metformin can prevent the development of multiple drug resistance in the "rst place. We demonstrate that metformin can sensitize drug resistant cells to chemotherapy once again, which supports recent studies, but we also show for the "first time that Metformin can prevent the progression of cancer cells towards drug resistance using cell culture experiments. (more…)
Author Interviews, PLoS, Stem Cells / 23.10.2017 Interview with: Serge Horbach MSc Institute for Science in Society Radboud University Nijmegen What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Since the late 60s, researchers have pointed to issues in biomedical research stemming from the misidentification of cells. Starting with controversy around HeLa cells, researchers became aware of cells invading other cell cultures. Currently, 488 cell lines have become mixed up with the wrong cells, still often HeLa cells. This leads to errors in reporting research. For example, some research papers have reported results for "lung cancer cells" that turned out to be liver cancer cells, or even mouse cells. We wanted to know what happened to past research and set out to estimate the number of scientific publications affected by misidentified cells. By tracing misidentified cells of the ICLAC database in Web of Science, we found 32.755 contaminated publications, or 0,8% of all literature in cell biology. These articles are cited by at least 500.000 other publications. More worryingly, it turned out that this problem is highly stubborn. Currently, still a few dozen new articles are published every month reporting on other cells than were actually used, leading to a total of 1200 each year. And this number is not decreasing, in spite of a database of misidentified cells, of genetic testing availability, requirements by some prominent journals, or attention for the problem in the literature. We were also able to establish that this is not just a problem for newly emergent countries in the international research community, but also for countries with well-establishments research traditions. In spite of great efforts, the problem of cell misidentification is not at all solved. (more…)
Author Interviews, Blood Pressure - Hypertension, Heart Disease, PLoS / 19.10.2017 Interview with: Professor Kazem Rahimi, FRCP MD DM MSc FES Deputy Director, The George Institute for Global Health UK Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Oxford Honorary Consultant Cardiologist, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Mitral regurgitation, the most common heart valve disorder in high-income countries, has until now been considered a degenerative disorder, which results from damage over time due to ‘wear and tear’. As a result, the focus of medical practitioners has been on treating the disorder – by repairing or replacing the valve – rather than preventing it. This is partly because there has been a lack of large-scale, longitudinal studies investigating the effect of risk factors on the condition. We set out to analyse data on 5.5 million patients in the UK over 10 years. Our findings show, for the first time, that elevated blood pressure is an important risk factor for mitral regurgitation. Consistent with prior evidence on blood pressure associations with other cardiovascular disease - such as stroke and heart attacks – we found an association with mitral regurgitation that is continuous across the whole spectrum of blood pressure. More specifically, every 20 mmHg higher baseline systolic blood pressure is associated with a 26% increased risk of mitral regurgitation, with no threshold below or above which this relationship is not true. The association we found was only partially mediated by conditions that are established causes of secondary mitral regurgitation, which suggests that high blood pressure has a direct and independent effect on valve degeneration. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, PLoS / 07.10.2017 Interview with: Colin Sharpe School of Biology Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science School of Biological Sciences University of Portsmouth Portsmouth, United Kingdom What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We have long been fascinated by the question of what underpins the increasing complexity of multicellular animals. In a recent publication we looked at changes to the diversity of the NCoR family corepressors (NCoRs) across the Deuterostomes and found an increase in diversity from sea urchins to humans (1). This is due to gene duplication, an increase in alternative splicing and the encorporation of more protein motifs and domains. In this study we devised a measure of functional diversity based on these three factors and calculated this value for over 12000 genes involved in transcription in nine species from the nematode worm to humans. Orthologues whose increase in diversity correlated with the increase in complexity of these animals were then selected and we looked for common features and interactions between the selected genes. We found that proteins that regulate the dynamic organisation of chromatin were significantly enriched within the selection. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, PLoS / 07.09.2017 Interview with: Hakhamanesh Mostafavi, MS PhD student Department of Biological Sciences Columbia University What is the background for this study? Response: We know very little about the genetic variants that underlie adaptation in humans. This is in part because we have mostly been limited to methods that search for footprints of ancient selection (that has acted for over thousands to millions of years) in the genomes of present-day humans; so by design are indirect and make strong assumptions about the nature of selection. These days, thanks to advances in genomic technologies, genetic data for large numbers of people is being collected, mostly for biomedical purposes. Accompanied by information on survival and reproductive success of these individuals, such large datasets provide unprecedented opportunities for more direct ways to study adaptation in humans. In this work, we introduced an approach to directly observe natural selection ongoing in humans. The approach consists in searching for mutations that change in frequency with the age of the individuals that carry them, and so are associated with survival. We applied it to around 210,000 individuals from two large US and UK datasets. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, PLoS, University of Pennsylvania / 29.08.2017 Interview with: Yuanyuan Xie, PhD Postdoctoral Researcher Department of Neuroscience University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: I joined Dr. Richard Dorsky’s lab in mid 2013 after a lab switch toward the end of the fourth year in my PhD. By then, the Dorsky lab at the University of Utah had published zebrafish lef1 mutants with a hypothalamic neurogenesis phenotype. I was asked to perform an RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) experiment to identify Lef1-dependent genes. In doing so, I also characterized the cellular phenotype in the hypothalamus of our zebrafish mutants in a greater detail. The first transition of this project happened when I proposed in late 2013 to test whether Lef1’s function was conserved in the mouse hypothalamus. Dr. Dorsky liked that idea, but told me that I could only pursue that idea if there was a Lef1-flox mouse strain available, because he did not want me to delay my graduation after a lab switch by making a new mouse line. Fortunately, a quick google search located the right mouse line published from the group of Dr. Hai-Hui Xue, who was generous enough to share some mice with us. Because the Dorsky lab was a zebrafish lab by then, we collaborated with Dr. Edward Levine to maintain our mice under his animal protocol. I was initially trained by Dr. Levine and his lab specialist Anna Clark for general mouse colony management. After Dr. Levine moved to Vanderbilt University in early 2016, we began to maintain our mice under Dr. Camille Fung’s animal protocol. Dr. Dorsky also supported me in attending a 3-week Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Course on Mouse Development, Stem Cells & Cancer in mid 2015, which made me much more confident in handling mouse work afterwards. (more…)
Author Interviews, OBGYNE, PLoS, Weight Research / 23.08.2017 Interview with: Prof. Deborah A Lawlor MSc(Lond), MBChB, PhD(Bristol), MPH(Leeds), MRCGP, MFPHM Professor of Epidemiology MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: As the obesity epidemic has occurred there has been increasing concern about pregnant women being more adipose (having higher levels of fat) during their pregnancy. One particular concern is that women who are on average fatter will have more extreme changes in pregnancy on their lipid, fatty acid, amino acid and glucose levels. In normal ‘healthy’ pregnancy these metabolites increase during pregnancy as part of the physiological response to pregnancy which ensures that the developing fetus has sufficient fuel (nutrients – fats, proteins, sugars) for healthy growth and development. Women who are more adipose tend to have a more extreme change in these fuels and as a consequence the developing fetus is ‘overfed’. There is a linear relationship between a pregnant woman’s body mass index and her infants birth weight, such that each increment greater adiposity (body mass index) of the mother there is on average and increment greater infant birth weight. Recently, using a method that uses genetic variants (Mendelian randomization) we have shown that this association is likely to be causal (JAMA 2016). But whether there is a lasting effect on offspring health of being overfed in the uterus is unknown. There are concerns that there will be a lasting effect and that for daughters of more adipose women, this would mean that they go into their pregnancies on average fatter and with higher levels of the metabolites that could then overfeed their developing fetus. If this were the case it would mean the obesity epidemic could be accelerated across generations. There are associations of mothers body mass index with later offspring body mass index, BUT this might not be anything to do with developmental overfeeding of the feeding in the uterus – it could simply reflect shared lifestyles that offspring adopt from their mother (and father) or shared genetic effects. In this study we tried to separate out whether there was evidence for a long-term offspring effect on their lipids, fatty acids, amino acids, glucose, and an inflammatory marker, of having a mother who was on average fatter during her pregnancy that was due to overfeeding in the uterus, as opposed to shared family lifestyle and genetics. We did this by comparing associations of mothers pre-pregnancy BMI with offspring outcomes to the same associations of fathers pre-pregnancy BMI with the same outcomes. Our assumption here was that fathers BMI could not directly result in overfeeding of the fetus and so if the associations were similar this would suggest that they were largely driven by family factors. (more…)
Author Interviews, Pain Research, Pharmacology, PLoS / 17.08.2017 Interview with: Harsha Shanthanna MBBS, MD, MSc Associate Professor, Anesthesiology Chronic Pain Physician St Joseph's Healthcare,McMaster University Hamilton, Canada Diplomate in National Board, Anesthesiology (India) Fellow in Interventional Pain Practice (WIP) European Diplomate in Regional Anesthesia and Pain What is the background for this study? Response: Pregabalin (PG) and gabapentin (GB) are increasingly used for nonspecific Chronic Low Back Pain (CLBP) despite a lack of evidence. There have been concerns expressed over their increased prescribing for various non cancer pain indications in recent years. Their use requires slow titration to therapeutic doses and establishing maintenance on a long-term basis. With prolonged treatment, the potential gain over possible adverse effects and risks could become unclear. We searched Cochrane, MEDLINE and EMBASE databases for randomized control trials reporting the use of gabapentinoids for chronic lower back pain treatment of 3 months or more in adult patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, OBGYNE, PLoS / 11.08.2017 Interview with: Jane McElroy, Ph.D. Associate professor Department of Family and Community Medicine MU School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: More than 31,000 new cases of endometrial cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2017. Through a five-year observational study, we found that women with increased levels of cadmium had an increased risk of endometrial cancer. Cadmium is a metal commonly found in foods such as kidneys, liver and shellfish as well as tobacco It’s a finding we hope could lead to new treatments or interventions to prevent the fourth most common cancer in women. (more…)