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…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Critical Care - Intensive Care - ICUs, PLoS, Surgical Research / 27.07.2017 Interview with: Dr. Joanna Shepherd Centre for Trauma Sciences Blizard Institute Queen Mary, University of London What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Recent advances in resuscitation and treatment of life-threatening critical injuries means that patients with previously unsurvivable injuries are now surviving to reach hospital.  However, many of these patients develop Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome (MODS), which is a failure of several organs including the lung, heart, kidney, and liver. We studied immune cell genes in the blood of critically injured patients within the first few minutes to hours after injury, a period called the ‘hyperacute window’. We found a small and specific response to critical injury during this window that then evolved into a widespread immune reaction by 24 hours.  The development of MODS was linked to changes in the hyperacute window, with central roles for innate immune cells (including natural killer cells and neutrophils) and biological pathways associated with cell death and survival.  By 24 hours after injury, there was widespread immune activation present in all critically injured patients, but the MODS signal had either reversed or disappeared. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, PLoS / 26.07.2017 Interview with: Carla Aimé PhD Institute of Evolutionary Sciences of Montpellier France What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response:  In all human populations, regardless of environmental and socioeconomic conditions, menopause occurs in women well before the end of their expected lifespan. Conversely, extensive post-reproductive life-span is rare in other species; except in some cetaceans. Evolutionary theory predicts that menopause and extensive post-reproductive lifespan should emerge and persist in populations only if it is advantageous for gene transmission. Identifying this advantage is a long-standing issue, and some hypotheses has already been suggested by other researchers. However, testing these hypotheses about the emergence of menopause is difficult, in particular because menopause exists today in all human populations. It is thus not possible to measure in real life the evolutionary advantage related to menopause by comparing gene transmission of women who stop reproduction and women who don't stop reproduction. Here, we used computer simulations to overcome this difficulty by modeling the emergence of menopause in simulated human populations. The main finding were the following : - Physiological constraints are not required for menopause to emerge. - The increasing cost of reproduction with age cannot explain menopause. - Grandmothering is part of the process leading to menopause : stopping reproduction allow reallocating resources to existing children and grand-children, thus leading to increase gene transmission via increased fertility of children and survival of grand children - Cognitive resources are also important. Indeed, cognitive abilities allow accumulation of skills and experience over the lifespan, thus providing an advantage for resource acquisition. These surplus resources can then be used to increase the number of offspring or be transmitted to existing offspring and grandoffspring. Stopping reproduction during aging allows allocating more resources to assist offspring and grandoffspring, thus increasing children’s fertility and grandchildren’s survival. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, HPV, PLoS / 22.06.2017 Interview with: Prof. Dr. med. Sigrun Smola Institute of Virology, Saarland University Homburg/Saar, Germany What is the background for this study? Response: Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), the most common cancer in humans, is caused by UV-irradiation. The potential co-factor role of cutaneous genus beta-human papillomaviruses (beta-HPV) in skin carcinogenesis, particularly in immunosuppressed patients, has become a major field of interest. However, the underlying mechanisms were unclear. The skin has natural mechanisms providing protection against UV-induced damage. One important factor suppressing UV-induced skin carcinogenesis is the transcription factor C/EBPα belonging to the CCAAT/enhancer binding protein family. C/EBPα can induce cellular differentiation and is regarded as a tumor suppressor in various tissues. When C/EBPα expression is blocked in these tissues, tumorigenesis is enhanced. Another important factor is the microRNA-203. It has been shown to control “stemness” in normal skin by suppressing a factor called p63. In many tumors miR-203 expression is shut off releasing this “brake”. In our study we demonstrate that cutaneous beta-HPV interferes with both protective factors providing an explanation how cutaneous beta-HPV enhances the susceptibility to UV-induced carcinogenesis. Moreover, we provide evidence that these viruses regulate miR-203 via C/EBPα. We have investigated this mechanism in Epidermodysplasia verruciformis (EV) patients that serve as a human model disease for studying the biology of genus beta-HPVs. They are highly susceptible to persistent genus beta-HPV infection, such as HPV8, and have an increased risk to develop non-melanoma skin cancer at sun-exposed sites. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Education, PLoS, Sleep Disorders / 21.06.2017 Interview with: Dr. Dorothee Fischer Department of Environmental Health Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts Center for Injury Epidemiology, Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety Hopkinton, Massachusetts, What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Chronotypes are a result of how the circadian clock embeds itself into the 24h light-dark cycle, producing earlier and later individuals ("larks and owls") with regards to rhythms in physiology, cognition and behavior, including sleep. It can be beneficial for health and safety to sync forced wake times (work, school) with individual chronotypes, thereby reducing the misalignment between sleep, circadian rhythms and external demands. To better inform potential interventions such as tailored work schedules, more information is needed about the prevalence of different chronotypes and how chronotype differs by age and sex. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first large-scale and nationally representative study of chronotypes in the US. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Opiods, PLoS / 10.06.2017 Interview with: A. Simon Pickard, PhD Professor, Dept of Pharmacy Systems, Outcomes and Policy University of Ilinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The heroin epidemic, which has left virtually no part of American society unscathed, can be viewed as an illness.  Unlike some illnesses, however, it was largely manufactured by stakeholders in the healthcare system, wittingly or unwittingly. The main finding, that heroin addiction costs us just over $50 billion per year, is likely a conservative estimate. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, HIV, Opiods, PLoS / 31.05.2017 Interview with: Cora Bernard, MS, PhD candidate Pre-doctoral Student in Management Science and Enginnering Affiliate, Center for Health Policy and the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research Stanford Health Policy What is the background for this study? Response: The US opioid epidemic is leading to an increase in the US drug-injecting population, which also increases the risks of HIV transmission. It is critical to public health that the US invests in a coherent and cost-effective suite of HIV prevention programs. In our model-based analysis, we considered programs that have the potential both to prevent HIV and to improve long-term health outcomes for people who inject drugs. Specifically, we evaluated opioid agonist therapy, which reduces the frequency of injection; needle and syringe exchange programs, which reduce the frequency of injecting equipment sharing; enhanced HIV screening and antiretroviral therapy programs, which virally suppress individuals and decrease downstream transmission; and oral HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is taken by an uninfected individual and lowers the risk of infection. (more…)
Author Interviews, OBGYNE, PLoS / 31.05.2017 Interview with: Sarka Lisonkova, MD, PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of British Columbia. Children’s and Women’s Health Centre What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Adverse fetal and infant outcomes associated with maternal age were known and our study confirms that the risk of fetal and neonatal death and severe neonatal morbidity increases among mothers over 30 years. We also knew that older mothers are more likely to have hypertension, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, and they are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, hypertension during pregnancy, and preeclampsia. These complications may put the fetus or newborn at risk, but are generally not considered to be potentially life threatening to the mother. Our study adds new information on the rates of severe maternal morbidities that have a high case-fatality rate, lead to organ damage, or have serious health implications such as hysterectomy. Our study also adds the information on the rates of any severe adverse birth outcome - for baby or mom - in the association with maternal age, which is important for counseling. Women usually want to know ‘what are the chances that anything bad happens’. (more…)
Allergies, Asthma, Author Interviews, Dermatology, PLoS, Vitamin D / 10.05.2017 Interview with: Brent Richards, MD, MSc Associate Professor of Medicine William Dawson Scholar / FRQS Clinical Research Scholar Departments of Medicine, Human Genetics, Epidemiology and Biostatistics McGill University Senior Lecturer, King's College London (Honorary) What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Some previous epidemiological studies have suggested that low vitamin D levels are associated with increased rates of asthma, atopic dermatitis—an itchy inflammation of the skin—and elevated levels of IgE, an immune molecule linked to atopic disease (allergies). In our study, we looked at genetic and health data on more than 100,000 individuals from previous large studies to determine whether genetic alterations that are associated with vitamin D levels predispose people to the aforementioned conditions. We found no statistically significant difference between rates of asthma (including childhood-onset asthma), atopic dermatitis, or IgE levels in people with and without any of the four genetic changes associated with lower levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, the form of vitamin D routinely measured in the blood. (more…)
Author Interviews, Pediatrics, PLoS, Toxin Research / 05.05.2017 Interview with: Dr. Antonio J. Signes-Pastor, PhD Institute for Global Food Security Queen’s University Belfast Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Department of Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine Dartmouth College Lebanon, NH What is the background for this study? Response: Inorganic arsenic is a human carcinogen, which has also been associated with several adverse health effects including neurological, cardiovascular, respiratory, and metabolic outcomes. Early life exposure is of particular concern since it may adversely impact on lifetime health outcomes. If low inorganic arsenic drinking water is available the main source of exposure is the diet, especially rice and rice-based products, which are widely used during weaning and to feed infants and young children. In order to reduce exposure, the EU has recently regulated (1st January 2016) the inorganic arsenic maximum level of 0.1 mg/kg for rice products addressed to infants and young children. This level is also under consideration by the US FDA. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Nutrition, PLoS / 19.04.2017 Interview with: Huaidong Du Senior Research Fellow China Kadoorie Biobank Medical Research Council Population Health Research Unit Clinical Trial Service Unit & Epidemiological Studies Unit Nuffield Department of Population Health Oxford UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This research article describes findings from the China Kadoorie Biobank study which is a large population based prospective cohort study including about 0.5 million adults recruited from 10 areas in China. The main reason for us to perform this study is because previous evidence on potential benefit of fruit consumption in diabetes prevention and management is very limited. The sugar content of fruit has led to concerns in many parts of the world (e.g. China and several other Asian countries) about its potential harm for people with (high risk of) diabetes. This has consequently Chinese people diagnosed with diabetes tend to restrict their fruit intake. With the rapid increase of diabetes incidence in China and many other Asian countries, it is critically important to investigate the associations of fruit consumption with the incidence diabetes and, among those with diabetes already, diabetic macro- and microvascular complications. Through analysing data collected during 7 years of follow-up, the study found that people who eat fresh fruit more frequently are at lower risk of developing diabetes and diabetes related vascular complications. Compared with non-consumers, those who ate fresh fruit daily had a 12% lower risk of developing diabetes. Among participants with diabetes at the start of the study, higher fresh fruit consumption also showed health benefits, with a 100g portion of fruit per day associated with 17% lower overall mortality, 13% lower risk of developing diabetes-related complications affecting large blood vessels (e.g. ischaemic heart disease and stroke) and 28% lower risk of developing complications affecting small blood vessels (e.g. kidney and eye diseases). (more…)
Author Interviews, Baylor College of Medicine Houston, Genetic Research, PLoS / 18.04.2017 Interview with: Daryl Armstrong Scott, M.D., Ph.D Associate Professor Molecular and Human Genetics Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX, US What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This case started with a male child with intellectual disability, developmental delay, hypotonia, hypermobile joints and relative macrocephaly (large head size). Clinical testing showed that he carried a small deletion on chromosome Xp11.22. Since the deleted region had not been previously associated with human disease, the patient was referred to our clinic for additional testing. However, a more detailed analysis revealed that mice that were missing one of the genes located in the deletion interval, Maged1, had neurocognitive and neurobehavioral problems. This sparked additional inquiries which resulted in the identification of three other males from two other families who carried small, overlapping Xp11.22 deletions and had similar features. In all cases, their deletions were inherited from their asymptomatic mothers. We concluded that deletion of an ~430 kb region on chromosome Xp11.22 that encompasses two pseudogenes (CENPVL1 and CENPVL2) and two protein-coding genes (MAGED1 and GSPT2) causes a novel, syndromic form of X-linked intellectual disability characterized by developmental delay, hypotonia, hypermobile joints and relative macrocephaly. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Neurological Disorders, PLoS / 18.04.2017 Interview with: Dr. Hector Zenil Co-director Information Dynamics Lab Unit of Computational Medicine, SciLifeLab Center for Molecular Medicine Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The generation of randomness is known to be related to cognitive abilities. It has also recently been shown that animals can recur to random behaviour to outsmart other animals or overcome certain situations. Our results that humans can best outsmart computers in generating randomness at a certain age (25). The results correspond to what it was suspected, that cognitive abilities peak at an early age before declining and that no other factor was important. We quantified a type of mathematical randomness that is known to be the true type of randomness as opposed to e.g. 'statistical randomness'. Something that is random is difficult to describe in a succinct way. Unlike 'statistical randomness', 'algorithmic randomness' does not only produce something that appears random but also that is very difficult to generate or produce. Conversely, something that may look random for the standard of statistical randomness may not turn out to be truly random. (more…)
Author Interviews, Gastrointestinal Disease, Pediatrics, PLoS, Vitamin D / 10.04.2017 Interview with: Benjamin Udoka Nwosu, MD, FAAP Associate Professor of Pediatrics Division of Endocrinology University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester, Massachusetts What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Vitamin D deficiency has been reported in various gastrointestinal disorders but the vitamin D status of children and adolescents with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has not been previously characterized. Secondly, the vitamin D status in IBS has not been compared to those of other malabsorption syndromes such as irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, and celiac disease. (more…)
Aging, Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, PLoS / 04.03.2017 Interview with: Emma van Bussel MD, MSc Academic Medical Center | University of Amsterdam Amsterdam | The Netherlands What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Dementia forms a high social and economic burden on society. Since there is a growing number of older people, the occurrence of dementia is expected to increase over the years to come. For future planning of care, it is important to have reliable predictions on new dementia cases for the population at large. Studies in Western countries suggested that the incidence per 1000 person years is declining. We studied the incidence trend of dementia in the Netherlands in primary care registry data, in a population of over 800,000 older people (60 years and over) for the years 1992 to 2014. Our results indicate a small increase of 2.1% (95% CI 0.5% to 3.8%) per year in dementia incidence over the past decades. The trend did not change in the years after 2003, when a national program was developed to support dementia care and research, compared to the years prior to 2003. (more…)
Author Interviews, Exercise - Fitness, Gender Differences, Menopause, OBGYNE, PLoS / 28.02.2017 Interview with: Dr. Eija K. Laakkonen PhD Assistant professor Gerontology Research Center Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences University of Jyväskylä What is the background for this study? Response: Physical activity improves health and may delay the onset of chronic diseases. For women in particular, the rate of some chronic diseases accelerates at middle age around the time of menopause; therefore it is important to identify the determinants of health-enhancing physical activity during midlife in this population. The main aim of this study was to characterize the level of physical activity and to examine the association between different female reproductive factors and objectively-measured physical activity in middle-aged women. The reproductive factors included cumulative reproductive history index, and perceived menopausal and pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Genetic Research, PLoS, Prostate Cancer / 23.02.2017 Interview with: G. Andrés Cisneros, Ph.D. Associate Professor Department of Chemistry Center for Advanced Scientific Computing and Modeling, University of North Texas What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The accurate maintenance of DNA is crucial, if DNA damage is not addressed it can lead to various diseases including cancer. Therefore, the question arises about what happens if enzymes in charge of DNA repair are themselves mutated. We previously developed a method to perform targeted searches for cancer-related SNPs on genes of interest called HyDn-SNP-S. This method was applied to find prostate-cancer SNPs on DNA dealkylases in the ALKB family of enzymes. Our results uncovered a particular mutation on ALKBH7, R191Q, that is significantly associated with prostate cancer. Subsequent computer simulations and experiments indicate that this cancer mutation results in a decreased ability of ALKBH7 to bind its co-factor, thus impeding its ability to perform its native function. (more…)
ALS, Author Interviews, Brain Injury, Mental Health Research, PLoS, Technology / 12.02.2017 Interview with: Dr. Ujwal Chaudhary, PhD Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology University of Tübingen Tübingen, Germany What is the background for this study? Response: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder which causes an Individual to be in Locked-in state (LIS), i.e. the patients have control of their vertical eye movement and blinking, and ultimately in Completely Locked-in state (CLIS), i.e, no control over their eye muscle. There are several assistive and augmentative (AAC) technology along with EEG based BCI which can be used be by the patients in LIS for communication but once they are in CLIS they do not have any means of communication.  Hence, there was a need to find an alternative learning paradigm and probably another neuroimaging technique to design a more effective BCI to help ALS patient in CLIS with communication. (more…)
Author Interviews, Exercise - Fitness, Karolinski Institute, Mental Health Research, PLoS / 11.02.2017 Interview with: soccer; creative commons imageTorbjörn Vestberg Licensed Psychologist & Researcher Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet Stockholm, Sweden What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The aim of our research is to study the importance of executive functions for successful behaviour. In our first study published in 2012 (Executive Functions Predict the Success of Top-Soccer Players) we showed that the level of elite soccer players’ higher executive functions was in general 2 standard deviations above the normal population. It was the same for both men and women. Moreover, we also found a strong correlation between the capacities of higher executive functions and the number of goals and assists the player made after two and a half year. In our new study we were interested in how the situation is at a younger age, from twelve to nineteen years of age. Because of the maturation of the brain, higher executive functions do not reach their full capacity before nineteen years of age. On basis of this, our question was whether there were other parts of the executive functions that correlated with success in soccer. In this new study, we focused on core executive functions like the working memory, as it reaches its full capacity in the early teens. We found that there was a moderate correlation with the accuracy of the working memory and the number of goals the junior elite players made during a period of two years. When we made a composite measurement of both the demanding working memory and the test for the capacity of the higher executive functions, we found a strong correlation between these results and the number of goals that the players made during the two years of time. When we measured IQ and physical features, like length, we found out that those did not influence the results. (more…)
Author Interviews, Lung Cancer, PLoS / 09.02.2017 Interview with: Kevin ten Haaf MSc Scientific researcher, Public Health Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam What is the background for this study? Response: Lung cancer screening is currently recommended in the United States, for persons aged 55 through 80 who smoked at least 30 pack-years (the average number of cigarettes smoked per day multiplied by the number of years the person has smoked) and who currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years. Other countries, such as Canada, are investigating the feasibility of implementing lung cancer screening policies. However, the cost-effectiveness of lung cancer screening in a population-based setting is uncertain. Concerns have been raised on the feasibility of implementing lung cancer screening policies, especially with regards to the potential costs. In this study, the benefits, harms and costs of implementing lung cancer screening in the province of Ontario, Canada were assessed. (more…)
Author Interviews, OBGYNE, Pediatrics, PLoS, Weight Research / 27.01.2017 Interview with: Dr Rebecca Richmond PhD Senior Research Associate in the CRUK Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit School of Social and Community Medicine University of Bristol What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We have been involved in earlier work which applied the same methods used here (using genetic variants to provide causal evidence) and showed that higher maternal pregnancy body mass index (BMI) causes greater infant birth weight. The paper here aimed to build on that earlier research and asked whether maternal BMI in pregnancy has a lasting effect, so that offspring of women who were more overweight in pregnancy are themselves likely to be fatter in childhood and adolescence. Our aim was to address this because an effect of an exposure in pregnancy on later life outcomes in the offspring could have detrimental health consequences for themselves and future generations. However, we did not find strong evidence for this in the context of the impact of maternal BMI in pregnancy on offspring fatness. (more…)
Author Interviews, Eating Disorders, PLoS, Weight Research / 26.01.2017 Interview with: Dr Maria Kekic PhD Research Worker | The TIARA study: Transcranial magnetic stimulation and imaging in anorexia nervosa Section of Eating Disorders | Department of Psychological Medicine Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience | King’s College London What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings? Response: Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by repeated episodes of binge-eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviours. It is associated with multiple medical complications and with an increased risk of mortality. Although existing treatments for bulimia are effective for many patients, a sizeable proportion remain symptomatic following therapy and some do not respond at all. Evidence shows that bulimia is underpinned by functional alterations in certain brain pathways, including those that underlie self-control processes. Neuroscience-based techniques with the ability to normalise these pathways may therefore hold promise as treatments for the disorder. One such technique is called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) – a form of non-invasive brain stimulation that delivers weak electrical currents to the brain through two electrodes placed on the head. It is safe and painless, and the most common side effect is a slight itching or tingling on the scalp. (more…)
Author Interviews, Critical Care - Intensive Care - ICUs, Exercise - Fitness, PLoS / 31.12.2016 Interview with: Michelle Kho, PT, PhD Canada Research Chair in Critical Care Rehabilitation and Knowledge Translation Assistant Professor School of Rehabilitation Science McMaster University What is the background for this study? Response: Patients who survive the ICU are at risk for muscle weakness and can experience physical functional disability lasting 5 to 8 years after the ICU. From a study conducted in Belgium, patients who were randomized to receive cycling after being in ICU for 2 weeks walked farther at ICU discharge than those who did not. Other research supported physiotherapy starting within days of starting mechanical ventilation to improve functional outcomes. Our CYCLE research program combines these 2 concepts – Can we start cycling very early in a patient’s ICU stay, and will this improve functional outcomes post-ICU? (more…)
Author Interviews, Blood Pressure - Hypertension, Genetic Research, PLoS, Race/Ethnic Diversity, Social Issues / 25.12.2016 Interview with: Connie J. Mulligan, PhD Professor, Department of Anthropology University of Florida Gainesville, FL What is the background for this study? Response: Lance Gravlee (UF Dept of Anthropology, UF Genetics Institute) started this research over 10 years ago. As a cultural anthropologist, Lance uses ethnographic (open-ended questions) interviews and discovered that over half of the participants in our study talked about experiences of discrimination that happened to people close to them. As a geneticist (UF Dept of Anthropology, UF Genetics Institute), I came into the project because I was interested in seeing how genetics and sociocultural stressors, like discrimination, interact. In our project, we look at blood pressure because hypertension is a disease that shows racial disparities and also because it is a complex disease that is caused by both genetic and environmental factors (like discrimination). (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, PLoS, Psychological Science / 02.12.2016 Interview with: Dr-Gunther-Meinlschmidt.jpg Prof. Dr. Gunther Meinlschmidt, Psych University of Basel, Department of Psychology, Division of Clinical Psychology and Epidemiology Faculty of Medicine Switzerland What is the background for this study? Response: Physical diseases and mental disorders affect a person’s quality of life. Further, they present a huge challenge for the healthcare system. It has been reported that physical and mental disorders systematically co-occur already early in life. What we wanted to know is whether there are certain temporal patterns between mental disorders and physical diseases during childhood and adolescence. A better understanding of such patterns may help to reveal processes that could be relevant both to the origins of physical diseases and mental disorders and to their treatment. (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections, PLoS / 30.11.2016 Interview with: Romolo Nonno, DVM, PhD Istituto Superiore di Sanità Dipartimento di Sanità Pubblica Veterinaria e Sicurezza Alimentare Roma Italy What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Previous studies have suggested that prion populations are composed of a variety of conformational variants subjected to Darwinian evolution driven by selective regimes. However, the exact molecular mechanisms that make prions able to self-replicate and mutate are still poorly understood. A major technical advance in this field has been the discovery of techniques that allow to replicate prions in vitro, outside live organisms. One of these techniques, Protein Misfolding Cyclic Amplification (PMCA), allows to grow prion populations for a very high number of replications in a relatively short time period. Furthermore it is conceivable that the in vitro environment offers less constraint to prion replication than live animals or cells, due to the absence of active clearance and cell division, which are key players of conformers selection in ex vivo models. These features make PMCA an attractive tool to investigate prion replication, mutation and evolution. By using PMCA, we investigated the in vitro evolution of prion populations derived from natural scrapie. Unexpectedly, we found that the cloud of conformational variants which compose a natural scrapie isolate also includes “defective” variants which, once isolated, are unable to self-sustain in vivo. Importantly, we found that the defective prion mutant that we have isolated possesses unique biochemical properties in that its prion domain lacks the central region of prion protein, which is invariably present in known infectious mammalian prions. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Nutrition, PLoS, University of Michigan / 06.11.2016 Interview with> Katarina Borer, Ph.D. Professor Po-Ju Lin,PhD School of Kinesiology The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI What is the background for this study? Response: This study was part of the doctoral dissertation of Po-Ju Lin, who is now a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Rochester. With this study, we wanted to answer three questions: (1) Is daily carbohydrate load responsible for evening glucose intolerance and post-meal insulin resistance. (Evening glucose intolerance represents well-documented higher glucose and insulin responses in the evening than in the morning when the same quantity of glucose is eaten or infused intravenously) To answer this question we offered two daily meals containing about 800 Kcal and either 30% or 60% of carbohydrates. (2) Will exercise before the meals improve glucose tolerance (glucose clearance from the blood and insulin response) after eating? (Exercise is a well-known means of increasing glucose uptake by the muscle and of increasing muscle sensitivity to insulin action for a number of hours after exercise). To answer this question we had the subjects exercise for two hours walking on a treadmill at 45% of their maximal aerobic effort one hour before each meal. (3) Is the upper-intestinal hormone GIP involved in any effects associated with variation in dietary carbohydrate? (GIP or glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide, stimulates insulin secretion in advance of absorbed glucose). (more…)
Author Interviews, Gastrointestinal Disease, Infections, PLoS / 10.10.2016 Interview with: Brian K. Coombes, PhD Professor & University Scholar Associate Chair, Graduate Education Department of Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences Assistant Dean, Biochemistry Graduate Program Canada Research Chair in Infectious Disease Pathogenesis What is the background for this study? Response: North Americans have among the highest reported prevalence and incidence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the world. This is a lifelong disease that often strikes people in their early years, leading to decades of suffering, increased risk of colorectal cancer, and 50% increased risk of premature death. Compared to the general population, quality of life for those with Crohn’s disease is low across all dimensions of health. The need to understand the root origins of this disease and to use this information to invigorate a new pipeline of treatments and preventions has never been more pressing. (more…)
Author Interviews, HIV, Pediatrics, PLoS / 28.09.2016 Interview with: Kenneth K. Mugwanya MBChB, MS Department of Epidemiology andDepartment of Global Health University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA Division of Disease Control, School of Public Health Makerere University Kampala, Uganda What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Women living in regions with high HIV prevalence are at high risk of HIV acquisition in pregnancy and postpartum because they infrequently use condoms, do not know their partner's HIV status, and have biologic changes or changes in their partner's sexual partnerships that increase susceptibility. Moreover, acute HIV infection during pregnancy or breastfeeding period is associated with high rates of mother-to child HIV transmission because of high circulating level of HIV virus in blood. Oral antiretroviral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a powerful HIV prevention strategy recommended by both the World Health organization and US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. PrEP is an attractive prevention strategy for women as it can be used discreetly and independent of sexual partners. However, there is limited research about the safety of PrEP in HIV-uninfected pregnant or breastfeeding mothers and their infants. (more…)