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    Weekend reads: Peer review “ineffective and unworthy;” science a “profiteering enterprise;” Beall’s boss speaks

    The week at Retraction Watch featured a praiseworthy retraction by a Nobel laureate, a finding of research misconduct in a much-watched case involving fish and microplastics, and death threats against a journalist reporting on a politician’s plagiarism. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Scientific peer review is “an ineffective and unworthy institution,” say Les Hatton and […]

    The post Weekend reads: Peer review “ineffective and unworthy;” science a “profiteering enterprise;” Beall’s boss speaks appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 09, 2017 02:17 PM.

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    Most complete map of Titan reveals connected seas and cookie-cutter lakes

    The latest map of Titan, based on all the data from the Cassini spacecraft, displays new details about the moon’s lakes and seas.

    in Science News on December 08, 2017 05:40 PM.

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    When tumors fuse with blood vessels, clumps of breast cancer cells can spread

    Breast cancer tumors may merge with blood vessels to help the cancer spread.

    in Science News on December 08, 2017 04:42 PM.

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    US court denies virus researcher’s latest appeal challenging 7-year funding ban

    Scott Brodie has almost run out of options. A former professor at the University of Washington, Brodie is currently involved in his third lawsuit challenging a finding of scientific misconduct and a seven-year funding ban handed down in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity. He says that […]

    The post US court denies virus researcher’s latest appeal challenging 7-year funding ban appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 08, 2017 04:00 PM.

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    Journalist gets death threats after reporting plagiarism accusations against Croatian official

    Plagiarism scandals involving top government officials in the Balkans are not rare. But when Croatia’s defense minister Damir Krstičević was accused last week of plagiarizing parts of his research project, things got ugly. The minister summoned a press conference within a day, in which he indignantly downplayed any plagiarism accusation and turned the tables by […]

    The post Journalist gets death threats after reporting plagiarism accusations against Croatian official appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 08, 2017 01:00 PM.

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    Some high-temperature superconductors might not be so odd after all

    Unusual high-temperature superconductors might be explained by standard superconductivity theory.

    in Science News on December 08, 2017 12:00 PM.

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    Replication failure: No evidence that big smilers in vintage baseball photos lived longer

    GettyImages-659908692.jpgBy Emma Young

    What’s in a smile? According to a widely reported 2010 study of US major league baseball players, which we covered here at BPS Research Digest, one important answer is: an indication of how long the smiler will live.

    By analysing official individual photos of players from the 1952 baseball season, and then looking at subsequent death records, Ernest Abel and Michael Kruger at Wayne State University, Detroit, concluded that players who’d smiled like they meant it – with full “Duchenne smiles“, which involve muscles around the eyes as well as the mouth – lived on average seven years longer than players who’d posed with less convincing grins.

    The result was taken to support existing evidence that happier people tend to live longer. It also seemed to show that smiles in posed photos – even on just one occasion – are a fairly reliable signal of people’s underlying emotional disposition and therefore their likely longevity.

    But a new replication and extension of the Baseball photo study has produced very different results. This is important, because the idea that happier people live longer is widely promoted, and has implications both for individuals and policy-makers.

    The original study, published in Psychological Science, involved an analysis of vintage photos of 196 players. They were classed as either Duchenne smilers, non-Duchenne smilers, or non-smilers. By the time of the study, most had already died. Abel and Kruger found that 35 per cent of the variation in lifespan between the players was related to how intensely they had smiled in their photo. Put differently, Duchenne smilers were half as likely to die in any given year after the photos were taken, as compared with non-smilers.

    For the new study, also published in Psychological Science, the researchers, led by Michael Dufner at the University of Leipzig, Germany, were unable to confirm exactly which photos were analysed by Abel and Kruger (who said the information was unavailable), but they used the same photo database and the same selection procedures, and came up with a sample of 224 player photos, which they dubbed the “1952 group”. To extend their investigation, they also identified 527 more photos of players who were from earlier or later cohorts than the 1952 group. These extra players had ended their career in 1951, or they had debuted between 1953 and 1957, meaning they had played around the time of the original group, but could not have been included in Abel and Kruger’s study.

    As in the original study, a team of five facial coders evaluated the players’ expressions, and classified them as full, partial or non-smilers. But this time, the analysis also went further: another group of human raters also judged the “joy intensity” on each player’s face, and, finally, three different emotion-recognition computer systems also assessed the faces for happiness.

    For both the 1952 group, and the extension group, when rated by human coders, smile intensity did not predict lifespan. This null result held whether other variables that might be expected to be related to longevity were taken into account or not, such as birth year, age at debut, career length and BMI. It also didn’t make any difference whether the researchers compared just partial smiles with non-smiles, or full smiles and non-smiles.

    In contrast, the new measures of emotions shown in the photos – greater happiness, as coded by a computer, or greater joy, as rated by human observers – did both correlate with players’ longevity. But as soon as the researchers took the other variables into account (players’ BMI etc) these correlations were no longer statistically significant. One particular variable turned out to be critical: birth-year. “Thus, when we considered that it was uncommon for players from earlier cohorts to smile in photographs and that these players also had reduced life expectancy [also revealed by the data], smiling ceased to predict mortality,” the researchers write in their paper.

    Since the researchers did not know exactly which photographs were used in the original study, it is impossible to be certain why they failed to replicate Abel and Kruger’s finding, but it “appears to be a false positive result,” Dufner and his team write.

    While some research has indeed found a link between happiness and longevity, this new paper isn’t the only recent study to produce apparently contradictory findings. In 2015, for example, a study of 700,000 women in the UK found that those said they were unhappy had about the same chance of dying during the ten year follow-up period as those who reported being mostly or usually happy.

    The new findings don’t provide a direct test of whether happiness and longevity are linked. “However,” the researchers conclude, they do at least “indicate that the degree to which professional baseball players smile on a photograph taken during their career does not contain any genuine information about whether they are still alive half a century later.”

    Does Smile Intensity in Photographs Really Predict Longevity? A Replication and Extension of Abel and Kruger (2010)

    Image: Minnie Minoso #9 of the Chicago White Sox poses with a bat August 12, 1955 at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Hy Peskin/Getty Images)

    Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest


    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on December 08, 2017 08:57 AM.

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    The Remarkable "Curvature Blindness" Illusion

    A new optical illusion has been discovered, and it's really quite striking. The strange effect is called the 'curvature blindness' illusion, and it's described in a new paper from psychologist Kohske Takahashi of Chukyo University, Japan. Here's an example of the illusion: A series of wavy horizontal lines are shown. All of the lines have exactly the same shape - a sine curve. However, half of the lines appear to have a much more triangular, "zig-zag" shape, when they are superimpose

    in Discovery magazine - Neuroskeptic on December 08, 2017 08:54 AM.

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    The Women’s Brain Book / Demystifying the Female Brain

    For women, understanding how the brain works during the key stages of life – in utero, childhood, puberty and adolescence, pregnancy and motherhood, menopause and old age – is essential to their health (knowledge is power!).

    This is not a book about the differences between male and female brains, nor a book using neuroscience to explain gender-specific behaviours, the ‘battle of the sexes’ or ‘Mars-Venus’ stereotypes. This is a book about what happens to the brains of women as we cycle through the phases of life, which are unique to females by virtue of our biology.

    In this book, I give insights into how life shapes and our brains, and in turn, how our brains shape our lives. I’ll take you on a joureny through infancy, childhood and the teenage years (including the onset of puberty) and also take a look at mental health, pregnancy, motherhood, menopause, as well as the ageing brain.

    My book weaves together findings from the research lab, interviews with neuroscientists and clinicians working in the disciplines of neuroendocrinology, brain development, brain health and ageing.

    Chapters:
    In utero
    Childhood
    Puberty
    The Menstrual Cycle
    The Teenage Brain
    Depression and Anxiety
    Pregnancy and Motherhood
    Menopause
    The Ageing Brain

    In Australia and New Zealand, the book will be published by Hachette Australia under the title The Women’s Brain Book. The neuroscience of health, hormones and happiness.

    In the UK, it will be published by Orion Publishing and titled ‘Demystifying the Female Brain. A neuroscientist explores health hormones and happiness’.

    Coming to all good bookshelves in AUS/NZ in April 2018, the UK in July 2018.

     

     

     

    The post The Women’s Brain Book / Demystifying the Female Brain appeared first on Your Brain Health.

    in Yourbrainhealth on December 08, 2017 03:51 AM.

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    How to stop procrastinating (now).

    Is waiting until the last minute an innocuous habit? Or does failure to act on your intentions have more serious health consequences?

    Here I take a look at procrastination and provide five evidence-based tips to help you stop putting things off until tomorrow.

     

    We’ve all been there. The deadline is looming and you know it’s finally time to sit down and complete your annual tax return. Instead, it dawns on you that you haven’t walked the dog since yesterday, you haven’t had your morning coffee, and it’s been at least two hours since you last scrolled through the latest family news on Facebook. The prospect of abiding by tax regulations just doesn’t have the same immediate appeal as social media or caffeine.

    Putting off until tomorrow what you could do today is commonplace. Up to 46% of college students report they procrastinate on specific academic tasks, and about 10% to 20% of adults in the general population are chronic procrastinators.

    Scientists who study procrastination define it as “a voluntary delay of an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay”. Research has found that people who procrastinate have a tendency to choose short-term gratification over long-term more-worthwhile goals, and they may do so even when the delay has serious health, academic or financial implications.

    Of course, it’s not a psychiatric diagnosis, but chronic procrastination is associated with:

    • increased stress and anxiety
    • poor grades in school
    • poor performance at work
    • and reduced wellbeing.

     

    Just poor time management?

     

    Procrastination is often attributed to poor time management. However, Professor Joe Ferrari author of the book Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done, disagrees. He explains chronic procrastination is due to poor self-regulation rather than poor time-management, which is why learning time-management skills doesn’t typically help those afflicted. Telling the chronic procrastinator to ‘just do it’ would be like saying to a clinically depressed person to ‘just cheer up. Instead of trying to manage time, Ferrari suggests procrastinators learn to manage their mindset.

    “If I have a dozen things to do, obviously #10, #11, and #12 have to wait. The real procrastinator has those 12 things, maybe does one or two of them, then rewrites the list, then shuffles it around, then makes an extra copy of it. That’s procrastinating. That’s different.”

     

     A unique form of 21st-century procrastination.

     

    Recently, Dutch scientists from Utrecht University described a new type of procrastination, one that has given insights into the psychology of the phenomenon. Dr Floor Kroese, an assistant professor of health psychology and his team found that going to bed later than intended is a form of procrastination. Kroese explains,

    “Bedtime procrastination is defined as failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so.”

     

    The study supported the notion that procrastination and self-control are closely related. Again, Kroese explains

    “Bedtime procrastination occurs when people have little mental energy, or self-control strength, because the decision to go to bed is inherently made at the end of the day when self-control is typically weaker,”

     

    Another interesting finding from the study is that while procrastination typically involves putting off unpleasant tasks, going to bed is generally not considered unpleasant. Instead, the researchers speculated it is not so much a matter of not wanting to go to sleep, rather not wanting to quit other enjoyable activities especially TV watching or social media. They point out,

    “With the development of electrical devices and the 24/7 entertainment industry, people may be facing many more distractions now compared to several decades ago,”

    The tug of war between your present and future selves

     

    Research points towards procrastinators engaging in a constant tug of war between their emotionally-driven pleasure-seeking ‘current self’ (who would rather watch TV than go to bed), and the rational, reasoning ‘future self’ (who is tired the next day). Carleton University professor Timothy Pychyl explains,

    “In a sense, we’re passing the buck to our future self … Difficulty in bridging the gap between the present and future self is one factor that may contribute to the mood and behaviour regulation failure that are the precursors and products of procrastination.”

    Here are five tips to help chronic procrastinators get started (today).

     

    1. Bridge the gap between your current and future self.

    Developing empathy for your future self is similar to developing empathy for others. Make a conscious effort to step into your future self’s shoes.

    2. Turn a long-term goal into a project complete with micro-goals.

    Treat yourself to a cup of coffee or scroll through social media after accomplishing your micro-goal, rather than wait until finishing the overall goal.

    3. Put obstacles in your way.

    For example, bedtime procrastinators are encouraged to turn off the TV and social media after eating dinner as a way to adhere to their planned bedtime.

    4. Don’t use tough love.

    The best personal remedy for procrastination might actually be self-forgiveness. One study of procrastinating students found those who forgave themselves after procrastinating on the first exam were less likely to delay studying for the second one.

    5. Learn to feel discomfort.

    Procrastinators tend to focus on how to make themselves feel happier at the expense of drawing insight from what makes them feel bad.


    This piece was first published on the now-retired ABC Active Memory site.

     

    The post How to stop procrastinating (now). appeared first on Your Brain Health.

    in Yourbrainhealth on December 07, 2017 11:41 PM.

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    Narwhals react to certain dangers in a really strange way

    After escaping a net, narwhals significantly lower their heart rate while diving quickly to get away from humans.

    in Science News on December 07, 2017 07:41 PM.

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    AI eavesdrops on dolphins and discovers six unknown click types

    An algorithm uncovered the new types of echolocation sounds among millions of underwater recordings from the Gulf of Mexico.

    in Science News on December 07, 2017 07:00 PM.

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    CRISPR/Cas9 can reverse multiple diseases in mice

    A new gene therapy uses CRISPR/Cas9 to turn on dormant genes.

    in Science News on December 07, 2017 05:25 PM.

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    The Neuroscience Behind the Placebo Effect

    As a child, did you ever feel better after your mother kissed your bumped knee? How do you think that worked? The power of suggestion—or the placebo effect—is a powerful psychological phenomenon that affects every aspect of our lives, dictating our preferences for food, drink, medication, social activities, and more.

    Pioneering experiments describing the use of sham drugs date back to the late 18th century. A version of John Quincy’s Lexicon Medicum published in 1811 defines the placebo as ‘an epithet given to any medicine adapted more to please than to benefit the patient’. However, physicians of the past tended to use forms of treatment that they assumed were ineffective, as opposed to the modern day usage of inert substances.

    A wide variety of conditions have been proven to be amenable to placebos, including depression, sleep disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and pain2. The placebo effect has been shown to impart tangible changes on the immune system similar to those who received real medication, where patients given syrup had increased white blood cell counts. Remarkably, patients with Parkinson’s disease stopped experiencing tremors and muscle stiffness after taking inert sugar pills. The success of mirror therapy in relieving phantom pain in amputees can be thought of as another example of the power of suggestion.

    How our minds are fooled is not fully understood. The placebo effect may be an evolutionary adaptation that allows the brain to make quick decisions and assumptions about the environment. Consider this: if we had to analyse every single stimulus that our environment threws at us, we’d go mad in no time.

    Scientists have identified that the psychological mechanisms of the placebo effect lie in both conscious expectations and learning. Although learning and expectations are not mutually exclusive, they are heavily dependent on each other.

    To explain, when we expect a drug to reduce pain levels, our brains release endogenous endorphins that in turn are responsible for alleviating pain. On the other hand, the learning process involves integrating environmental and social cues in order to generate an internal expectation and subsequent placebo response. Experiencing repeated patterns of learning conditions (as in classical conditioning – think Pavlov’s dogs), causes a person to respond in a way that has spill-over-effects effects that influence unconscious physiological processes.

    Multiple studies have singled out the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) as a main player in mediating the placebo effect. Other areas of significant importance are the dorsolateral PFC, lateral orbitofrontal cortex, periaqueductal grey area, rostroventral medulla, and nucleus accumbens-ventral striatum.

    In short, the complex underlying neuronal circuits involve the higher functioning areas of the brain (frontal cortices) and the seat of unconscious processes such as breathing, the brainstem. Interestingly, rsearch reports that the placebo effect is absent in those with Alzheimer’s disease (due to degeneration of the frontal cortex) and in patients subjected to external suppression of frontal cortex function via transcranial magnetic stimulation.

    The endogenous opioid system and its role in placebo-induced analgesia is perhaps the best studied neurotransmitter system involved in the placebo effect. Naloxone, an opioid receptor antagonist, has been found to nullify the effects of placebo pain-killers. Other systems that have been implicated include the cannabinoid system.

    These neuroanatomical and neurobiological findings likely have much room for growth and refinement considering that different placebo responses have been found to invoke different parts of the placebo circuit.

    Given the complicated psychological mechanisms behind the placebo, it comes as no surprise that various factors are able to modulate its strength. Social context has a real impact on the placebo effect, as it fosters preconceived notions regarding treatment. For example, several trials showed that similar benefits were experienced by both groups of patients who underwent either traditional or sham Chinese acupuncture (the latter involving superficial needling at non-acupuncture points). The physician attitude and appearance of competency, as well as the cost, branding, shape, size, color, and taste of the pills were able to affect the perceived treatment efficacy.

    It is common beleif that one must be unaware of the placebo in order for the placebo effect to work. Not so, argue a group of researchers from the University of Basel (Switzerland) and Harvard Medical School. They demonstrated that participants who were told that they were getting placebos and who received detailed explanations of the placebo effect experienced significant relief from heat-induced pain compared to those that were not told that they were given bogus drugs.

    These surprising results underscore the formidable effects of the placebo effect and how much more there is still left to learn. Furthermore, this study opens doors to more ethically designed placebo-controlled studies. Withholding potentially beneficial treatment from patients in placebo-controlled trials is considered inherently unethical. However, with this study, it appears that full disclosure may not be that different to the traditional practices of keeping placebo patient groups in the dark.

    In order to manipulate the placebo effect for clinical benefit, the notion of placebo responders and non-placebo responders was investigated. Are some people more amenable to the power of suggestion than others? If so, is it due to unchangeable genetic makeup or individual personality? Other questions that come to mind regard the persistency of the placebo effect. For how long does it last and does it transfer to other types of placebos? To illustrate, will a person responding to placebo painkillers for pain relief also respond to placebo antidepressants for improved moods?

    In conclusion, we know that the placebo is a strong weapon in the clinician’s armamentarium. Despite that, the unpredictable variability of its effects obligates future research that enables us to get a better understanding of exactly when and for how long the placebo effect will work.

    References:

    de craen A, Kaptchuk T, Tijssen J et al. Placebos and placebo effects in medicine: historical overview. J R Soc Med. 1999;92:511-515. PMCID: PMC1297390

    Price DD, Finniss DG, Benedetti F. A comprehensive review of the placebo effect: recent advances and current thought. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 2008. 59:565–90. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.59.113006.095941

    Colloca L, Miller FG. How placebo responses are formed: a learning perspective. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2011;366(1572):1859-1869. doi:10.1098/rstb.2010.0398.

    Geuter S, Koban L, Wager TD. The cognitive neuroscience of placebo effects: concepts, predictions and physiology. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 2017. 40:167–88. doi:10.1146/annurev-neuro-072116-031132.

    Wager TD, Atlas LY. The neuroscience of placebo effects: connecting context, learning and health. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2015 Jul;16(7):403-18. doi:10.1038/nrn3976.

    Miller FG, Colloca L, Kaptchuk TJ. The placebo effect: illness and interpersonal healing. Perspectives in biology and medicine. 2009;52(4):518. doi:10.1353/pbm.0.0115.

    Buckalew LW, Coffield KE. An investigation of drug expectancy as a function of capsule color and size and preparation form. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1982 Aug;2(4):245-8. PMID: 7119132

    Howe LC, Goyer, J. P., & Crum, A. J. Harnessing the placebo effect: Exploring the influence of physician characteristics on placebo response. Health Psychology. 2017;36(11):1074-82. doi:10.1037/hea0000499.

    Locher C, Frey Nascimento A, Kirsch I et al. Is the rationale more important than deception? A randomized controlled trial of open-label placebo analgesia. Pain. 2017 Dec;158(12):2320-2328. doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001012.

    Image via frolicsomepl/Pixabay.

    in Brain Blogger on December 07, 2017 04:30 PM.

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    Author of controversial Science fish-microplastics paper committed “intentional” misconduct, says Uppsala

    An investigation at Uppsala University has found the authors of a retracted Science paper — which explored the threat of human pollution on fish — guilty of misconduct.   The decision, published yesterday, states that both authors—Peter Eklöv and Oona Lönnstedt—“violated the regulations on ethical approval for animal experimentation,” and Lönnstedt, the paper’s corresponding author, […]

    The post Author of controversial Science fish-microplastics paper committed “intentional” misconduct, says Uppsala appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 07, 2017 03:55 PM.

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    Professor sues UC Davis over forced retirement following misconduct inquiry

    Last year, a professor brought a suit against his former university after it forced him to retire. Now, he’s adding defamation to his list of allegations. In a lawsuit filed July 14, 2016, Ishwarlal “Kenny” Jialal, a cardiovascular researcher who worked at the University of California, Davis Medical Center from 2002 to 2016, alleges the […]

    The post Professor sues UC Davis over forced retirement following misconduct inquiry appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 07, 2017 01:00 PM.

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    Microwaved, hard-boiled eggs can explode. But the bang isn’t the worst part.

    Microwaved eggs can explode with a loud, but probably not ear-splitting, bang when pierced.

    in Science News on December 07, 2017 12:00 PM.

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    What is the secret to being more assertive? Having self respect

    GettyImages-172982903.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

    Why are some of us more inclined than others to stick up for ourselves, not aggressively, but assertively. Assertive people let others know when they feel mistreated and they’re confident saying “no” to unwanted demands.

    Presumably it has to do with how see ourselves, yet past research has established that two key aspects of the self-concept – good feelings about the self (“self-liking” or “self-confidence”) and seeing oneself as competent – are not strongly related to assertive behaviour.

    Daniela Renger, a researcher at the Institute of Psychology at Kiel University in Germany, believes this is because most relevant to assertiveness is self-respect – “a person’s conviction that they possess the universal dignity of persons and basic moral human rights and equality”. Across three studies published in Self and Identity, Renger shows that self-respect is a distinct psychological concept and that it is uniquely correlated with assertive behaviour.

    For her studies, Renger devised a new, four-item self-report measure of self-respect. Participants rated their strength of agreement with:

    • In everyday life I always see myself as a person with equal rights
    • I always see myself as a person of equal worth compared with other people in my life
    • I am always aware that I have the same dignity as all other human beings
    • If I look at myself, I see a person who is equally worthy compared with others

    In an initial study, 343 women and men in Germany (average age 33) completed this measure, plus questionnaires tapping their self-competence (e.g. “I am almost always able to accomplish what I try for”) and self-confidence (e.g. “I look at myself with warmth and affection”; “It is always worth taking good care of myself”). They also completed an 8-item measure of assertiveness, for example saying whether they would feel comfortable “telling a companion you don’t like a certain way he or she has been treating you”. Nearly a hundred of the participants completed these same questionnaires again nine months later.

    Based on her analysis of the participants’ answers to the various measures, including  the correlations within and between them, Renger concluded that self-competence, self-confidence and self-respect are distinct aspects of the self-concept. Also, while all three factors correlated with assertiveness, only self-respect had a unique association with assertiveness when accounting for the other two factors. Finally, there was some tentative causal evidence: having greater self-respect at Time 1 correlated with increased assertiveness as measured 9 months later, but the reverse was not true (having greater assertiveness initially was not associated with increased self-respect).

    A second study with nearly 300 German participants (average age 27) included Renger’s measure of self-respect and the previous measure of self-competence, but this time she also added measures of self-esteem (e.g. “On the whole I am satisfied with myself”), self-acceptance (“I like most aspects of my personality”) and psychological entitlement (e.g. “I honestly feel I’m just more deserving than others”).

    After completing these questionnaires, the participants considered scenarios in which they had suffered an indignity (such as a medical receptionist blurting out the participant’s private problem) or a violation of their property (such as a colleague damaging the participant’s new notebook), and they stated how likely it was that they would respond assertively (e.g. telling the receptionist in private that his or her words were in appropriate) or aggressively (e.g. making a public joke about the receptionist’s appearance).

    Once again, self-respect was correlated with assertiveness, above and beyond the contribution of self-confidence, self-competence, psychological entitlement, self-acceptance and self-esteem (and self-respect was the only factor that remained related to assertiveness after accounting for all the others). In contrast, unlike psychological entitlement, self-respect was not related to aggressiveness.

    A final study confirmed these patterns with an English-speaking sample of 60 participants, the majority resident in the US. Again, self-respect correlated with assertive behaviour as revealed in participants’ responses to various hypothetical scenarios, whereas psychological entitlement correlated with both assertive and aggressive behaviour.

    “The aim of the present contribution is to introduce self-respect as a novel concept to psychological research,” Renger concluded. Her studies have some obvious limitations, perhaps most significant being the lack of any behavioural measure of real-life assertiveness. However, she has highlighted a potentially useful aspect of the self-concept that appears to have been overlooked before now. It will be interesting for future research to explore why some people have more self-respect that others, and how self-respect might influence behaviours beyond everyday assertiveness, such as a willingness and desire to take part in political protest.

    Believing in one’s equal rights: Self-respect as a predictor of assertiveness

    Christian Jarrett(@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest


    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on December 07, 2017 08:57 AM.

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    How data scientists are tackling hunger and social change

    Data has made businesses more effective than ever – and now its applications are extending to new realms

    in Elsevier Connect on December 07, 2017 08:06 AM.

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    What hospitals can do to help keep excess opioids out of communities

    Guidelines for prescribing opioids following a routine surgery prevented thousands of unnecessary pills from leaving the hospital, a new study finds.

    in Science News on December 06, 2017 10:23 PM.

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    This new dinosaur species was one odd duck

    Weird dino swimmer had flipperlike limbs and a swanlike neck.

    in Science News on December 06, 2017 06:29 PM.

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    The most distant quasar ever spotted hails from the universe’s infancy

    The new record-holder for faraway quasars comes from a period of rapid change in the universe.

    in Science News on December 06, 2017 06:00 PM.

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    Caught Our Notice: Forgot to make your article open access? It’ll cost you (with a correction)

    Title: Industrial antifoam agents impair ethanol fermentation and induce stress responses in yeast cells What Caught Our Attention: When authors decide they want to make their articles freely available after they’ve already been published, how should publishers indicate the change, if at all? Recently, Ross Mounce (@rmounce) thought it was odd a Springer journal issued a […]

    The post Caught Our Notice: Forgot to make your article open access? It’ll cost you (with a correction) appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 06, 2017 04:00 PM.

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    Human Rights Day: Advancing Human Rights for Global Health through the World Health Organization

    This blog was written by Benjamin Mason Meier, Hanna Huffstetler, Claudia Quiros & Rebekah Thomas

    “Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: The neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

    Eleanor Roosevelt, remarks delivered at the United Nations in New York on March 27, 1958.

    Committing to equal rights

    During this week nearly seventy years ago, the nations of the world convened the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Developed in the wake of World War II, the UDHR proclaimed the powerful idea that all individuals, by virtue of their humanity, are born free and equal in dignity and rights. This groundbreaking commitment to social progress—to protect universal values of equality, justice, and human dignity—would come to be celebrated each year on International Human Rights Day. Celebrated on the December 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UDHR, Human Rights Day is part of an enduring effort to place human rights at the forefront of the global conscience. This commemoration presents an opportunity not only to take stock of the progress the world has made in its efforts to realize health-related human rights, but also to reflect on the health and human rights challenges that lie ahead.

    Proclaiming the UDHR as “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations,” states worked under the auspices of the nascent UN to enumerate the universal and inalienable rights of all individuals throughout the world.[1] In defining an interrelated set of human rights for the public’s health, states declared in the UDHR that:

    Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services….[2]

    There was widespread international agreement that this “standard of living” included both the fulfillment of medical care and the realization of underlying determinants of health, including within this right public health obligations for food safety and nutrition, sanitary housing, disease prevention, and comprehensive social security.

    While not a legally binding document, the UDHR has retained widespread normative supremacy in health and human rights discourses, and “nations (states) have endowed it with great legitimacy through their actions, including its legal and political invocation at the national and international levels.”[3] Where the UDHR has inspired the creation of nearly 100 human rights instruments since World War II, establishing legal frameworks for rights-based justice in health, states have moved in increasing numbers to develop these universal norms under international law and implement human rights through public policy.

    Human Rights Day was first developed to build support for the UDHR and the seminal 1996 covenants that would codify its obligations – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. To raise global awareness in support of human rights, the UN developed these anniversary celebrations for the UDHR to (1) recognize past UN accomplishments in promoting human rights, (2) publicize specific substantive rights of the UDHR, and (3) stimulate public policy discussions on human rights advancement. Where these UN celebrations sought to advance human rights within the respective purview of UN specialized agencies, such celebrations would have particular relevance to the advancement of health-related human rights obligations through the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Through its engagement with human rights as a basis for the advancement of global health, WHO has long grappled with its responsibilities for the development and implementation of health-related human rights.[4]  Human Rights Day has historically offered an opportunity for WHO to critically examine its rights-based efforts, and in recent years, WHO has sought expand this engagement to provoke thoughtful reflection throughout the world about how human rights can contribute to the realization of health.

    Human Rights Day and the World Health Organization

    Echoing this year’s call for Human Rights Day, with the UN launching a movement to “stand up for someone’s rights today” through its #StandUp4HumanRights Campaign, WHO is addressing health inequalities rooted in discrimination—on the basis of age, sex, race, health status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identify, migration status, and other factors. WHO this year signed the Joint United Nations statement on ending discrimination in health care settings, committing UN entities to: support states to align national and international laws and standards; to empower health workers and users of health services to fulfill their roles and responsibilities and claim their rights; and foster accountability by declaring discrimination in health care settings unacceptable. WHO’s new Director-General has already signaled his determination to shift toward greater accountability for rights-based results and has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to collaborate in addressing human rights “to health and through health.”[5] The current drafting of WHO’s next Global Programme of Work reflects this commitment to human rights. Developed through an expansive, bottom-up consultative process that focuses explicitly on reaching health equity and advancing gender equality and human rights, the Global Programme of Work builds on the groundbreaking Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which, like human rights, acknowledge that health is indivisible from its social determinants. Commemorating this Human Rights Day, WHO seeks to ensure that health and human rights become the defining success of the SDG era.

    The celebration of International Human Rights Day provides a reminder that human rights are universal and inalienable, and yet are all too often flouted in meeting health goals, raising an imperative to take stock of how far global actors have come in delivering on the right to health, health-related human rights, and rights-based approaches to health. Increasingly explicit statements of support for human rights in health augur well for the future of human rights in global health. Human Rights Day offers the opportunity to measure these commitments against the standards laid out under the UDHR and the larger human rights framework, providing an opportunity to raise our voices in support for those ambitions that have yet to be realized.

    [1] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Preamble (1948).

    [2] Ibid., article 25(1).

    [3] Jonathan M. Mann et al., Health and Human Rights, in Health and Human Rights 7, 9 (Jonathan M. Mann et al., eds. 1999).

    [4] Rebekah Thomas and Veronica Magar, Mainstreaming Human Rights Across WHO, in Human Rights in Global Health: Rights-Based Governance for a Globalizing World (Benjamin Mason Meier and Lawrence O. Gostin, eds. forthcoming).

    [5] WHO, Agreement signed between WHO and UN Human Rights agency to advance work on health and human rights, 21 November 2017, at http://www.who.int/life-course/news/who-unhcr-agreement-on-health-and-human-rights/en/.

    Submit your work

    Are you carrying out research on health and human rights? BMC International Health and Human Rights would love to consider your work! Submit your manuscript via the following link: https://www.editorialmanager.com/ihhr

    The post Human Rights Day: Advancing Human Rights for Global Health through the World Health Organization appeared first on BMC Series blog.

    in BMC Series blog on December 06, 2017 01:05 PM.

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    University investigation finds misconduct by bone researcher with 23 retractions

    As a bone researcher continues to accrue retractions, an investigation at his former university has found misconduct in more than a dozen papers. On Nov. 15, Japan’s Hirosaki University announced it had identified fabrication and authorship issues in 13 papers by Yoshihiro Sato, and plagiarism in another. Sato, a professor at Hirosaki University Medical School […]

    The post University investigation finds misconduct by bone researcher with 23 retractions appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 06, 2017 01:00 PM.

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    For teen boys at risk of psychopathy, laughter isn’t catching

    gettyimages-857386041.jpgBy guest blogger Lucy Foulkes

    When you see someone laughing hysterically, do you often find yourself laughing too? Laughter is usually extremely contagious. In fact, we are up to 30 times more likely to laugh with someone else than when alone. It’s a powerful bonding tool: we enjoy seeing other people happy, we enjoy laughing with them, and this brings us closer together.

    But is this equally true for everyone, or is laughter more contagious for some people than others? For a paper in Current Biology, a team of researchers at UCL, led by Elizabeth O’Nions and César F. Lima, has investigated whether adolescent boys at risk of psychopathy are less likely to find laughter catching.

    Psychopathic personality traits include reduced levels of empathy and guilt and a tendency to manipulate. Youths under the age of 18 who show these traits are at increased risk of developing psychopathy in adulthood. If it’s true that these young people find other people’s laughter less contagious or enjoyable than normal, that might contribute to their difficulty in forming close, loving relationships.

    The researchers scanned the brains of three groups of boys aged 11-16. One group was “typically developing” – they didn’t show any problem behaviour and weren’t at risk of developing psychopathy. Boys in the other two groups all showed high levels of antisocial behaviour (e.g. violence, theft, destruction of property), and in one group they also showed the personality traits that put them at risk of psychopathy. While their brains were scanned, all the boys listened to audio recordings of laughter. They didn’t have to do anything other than listen to the clips.

    The researchers found that both groups of antisocial boys showed reduced brain activity when listening to the clips of laughter, compared to the typically developing boys. The reduced activation was seen in the supplementary motor area – a region that’s important for helping us prepare to make movements and that previous research has shown is more active when we join in with others’ laughter. In addition, the boys at risk of psychopathy showed reduced activity in a part of the brain called the anterior insula, which among other things is involved in processing sounds and linking actions to emotional feelings, and is also known to be activated by hearing other people laughing. So, when listening to the clips, the boys at risk of psychopathy showed the least activation in areas of the brain that process the contagious and enjoyable aspects of others’ laughter.

    After the scan, the boys listened to the clips again and rated how much they wanted to join in with the laughter in each recording – this was a subjective measure of how contagious they found the clips. The boys at risk of psychopathy had the least desire to join in, as compared with boys in the other groups. Importantly, the antisocial boys not at risk of psychopathy reported wanting to join in with the laughter just as much as the typically developing group, suggesting that a reduced interest in shared laughter was specific to those with callous, manipulative personality traits.

    Individuals with psychopathic traits often bully, hurt and manipulate other people, and do not seem to care about developing close, intimate friendships. This research gives one reason why. For most people, laughing with others is a powerful way of bonding, but this doesn’t seem to be the case for young people at risk of psychopathy. We don’t know whether this muted response to laughter comes first, or whether it’s a consequence of having traits like a lack of empathy; future research that tracks children from a young age might help to figure this out.

    Most previous research has focused on how those at risk of psychopathy process other people’s negative emotions. For example, these individuals don’t tend to feel guilty when they make people upset, and find it more difficult to recognize when other people are afraid. This laughter research is an extra piece of the puzzle, showing that they might respond less to other people’s happiness, too. Together, this reduced responsiveness to the emotional experiences of those around them, both good and bad, may help explain the troubling social behavior seen in young people at risk of developing psychopathy.

    Reduced Laughter Contagion in Boys at Risk for Psychopathy

    Post written by Dr Lucy Foulkes (@lfoulkesy) for the BPS Research Digest. Lucy is currently working as a postdoctoral research associate in Prof Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s lab at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience on the MYRIAD project – a Wellcome Trust-funded project assessing the feasibility of teaching mindfulness in schools, and the ways in which mindfulness might promote mental health and resilience in adolescents.


    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on December 06, 2017 09:32 AM.

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    What does it feel like to hold a human brain in your hands?

    Heavier than I expected.

    I feel like the answer should be that it was profound the first time. Enlightening. Humbling. But I just remember thinking how heavy it was.

    The existential uppercut came later.

    For years I'd heard that the human brain weighs just around 1.3 kg. But the thing I was holding was much heavier than that. It turns out that the human brain is very fragile. It has a consistency somewhat like jello: soft and squishy.

    Without preservation and chemical hardening you couldn't pick a brain up. Couldn't dissect it. But this process adds significant weight.

    Over the years I've handled a lot of brains at a lot of events--from teaching neuroanatomy at UC Berkeley for three semesters to public speaking engagements--and my perspective has shifted.




    I've watched a person lie awake while their brain is operated on.



    I've seen a brain extracted from the skull and cut apart to determine neuropathology. I've sat in a room having a chat with a neuropath colleague when a nurse came running in with a slice of tissue from a patient currently undergoing surgery. My colleague excused himself while he diagnosed their glioblastoma.

    As with many people in neuroscience, I have a deeply personal first-hand knowledge of the vicissitudes of some neurons doing something wrong in a loved one's brain.

    It's hard for me not to stand there, mass of tissue in hand, the somewhat sickening odor from the solution wafting up into my glomeruli, and get hit with the gravity of what's actually happening. The realization that in my hands I hold what just a few weeks before was a person's everything. Every petty jealousy. Every insecurity and fear. Every hope and joy and pleasure.

    But I was taught gallows humor by the one with the noose around his neck, and I've grown to appreciate that. So though I may joke and speak lightly and do really goofy crap (like the zombie brain stuff), those are all part of my process.

    For that reason, before launching into my lectures and jokes and interesting factoids, I always remind my students or the crowd of what they're actually seeing and touching.

    My job is amazing, but there is an existential weight that is easily forgotten on a day-to-day basis, but whose shadow is always there.

    So I guess not much has changed since I held that first human brain after all; they're still much heavier that I'd first imagined, but in a very different way.

    (From my answer on Quora)

    in Oscillatory Thoughts on December 06, 2017 06:33 AM.

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    Selective silencing of euchromatic L1s revealed by genome-wide screens for L1 regulators

    Transposable elements (TEs) are now recognized not only as parasitic DNA, whose spread in the genome must be controlled by the host, but also as major players in genome evolution and regulation1–6. Long INterspersed Element-1 (LINE-1 or L1), the only currently autonomous mobile transposon in humans, occupies 17% of the genome and continues to generate inter- and intra-individual genetic variation, in some cases resulting in disease1–7. Nonetheless, how L1 activity is controlled and what function L1s play in host gene regulation remain incompletely understood. Here, we use CRISPR/Cas9 screening strategies in two distinct human cell lines to provide the first genome-wide survey of genes involved in L1 retrotransposition control. We identified functionally diverse genes that either promote or restrict L1 retrotransposition. These genes, often associated with human diseases, control the L1 lifecycle at transcriptional or post-transcriptional levels and in a manner that can depend on the endogenous L1 sequence, underscoring the complexity of L1 regulation. We further investigated L1 restriction by MORC2 and human silencing hub (HUSH) complex subunits MPP8 and TASOR8. HUSH/MORC2 selectively bind evolutionarily young, full-length L1s located within transcriptionally permissive euchromatic environment, and promote H3K9me3 deposition for transcriptional silencing. Interestingly, these silencing events often occur within introns of transcriptionally active genes and lead to down-regulation of host gene expression in a HUSH/MORC2-dependent manner. Together, we provide a rich resource for studies of L1 retrotransposition, elucidate a novel L1 restriction pathway, and illustrate how epigenetic silencing of TEs rewires host gene expression programs.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature25179

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Enhancing mitochondrial proteostasis reduces amyloid-β proteotoxicity

    Alzheimer’s disease is a common and devastating disease characterized by aggregation of the amyloid-β peptide. However, we know relatively little about the underlying molecular mechanisms or how to treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Here we provide bioinformatic and experimental evidence of a conserved mitochondrial stress response signature present in diseases involving amyloid-β proteotoxicity in human, mouse and Caenorhabditis elegans that involves the mitochondrial unfolded protein response and mitophagy pathways. Using a worm model of amyloid-β proteotoxicity, GMC101, we recapitulated mitochondrial features and confirmed that the induction of this mitochondrial stress response was essential for the maintenance of mitochondrial proteostasis and health. Notably, increasing mitochondrial proteostasis by pharmacologically and genetically targeting mitochondrial translation and mitophagy increases the fitness and lifespan of GMC101 worms and reduces amyloid aggregation in cells, worms and in transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. Our data support the relevance of enhancing mitochondrial proteostasis to delay amyloid-β proteotoxic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature25143

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Moving beyond microbiome-wide associations to causal microbe identification

    Microbiome-wide association studies have established that numerous diseases are associated with changes in the microbiota. These studies typically generate a long list of commensals implicated as biomarkers of disease, with no clear relevance to disease pathogenesis. If the field is to move beyond correlations and begin to address causation, an effective system is needed for refining this catalogue of differentially abundant microbes and to allow subsequent mechanistic studies. Here we demonstrate that triangulation of microbe–phenotype relationships is an effective method for reducing the noise inherent in microbiota studies and enabling identification of causal microbes. We found that gnotobiotic mice harbouring different microbial communities exhibited differential survival in a colitis model. Co-housing of these mice generated animals that had hybrid microbiotas and displayed intermediate susceptibility to colitis. Mapping of microbe–phenotype relationships in parental mouse strains and in mice with hybrid microbiotas identified the bacterial family Lachnospiraceae as a correlate for protection from disease. Using directed microbial culture techniques, we discovered Clostridium immunis, a previously unknown bacterial species from this family, that—when administered to colitis-prone mice—protected them against colitis-associated death. To demonstrate the generalizability of our approach, we used it to identify several commensal organisms that induce intestinal expression of an antimicrobial peptide. Thus, we have used microbe–phenotype triangulation to move beyond the standard correlative microbiome study and identify causal microbes for two completely distinct phenotypes. Identification of disease-modulating commensals by microbe–phenotype triangulation may be more broadly applicable to human microbiome studies.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature25019

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    piRNA-mediated regulation of transposon alternative splicing in the soma and germ line

    Transposable elements can drive genome evolution, but their enhanced activity is detrimental to the host and therefore must be tightly regulated. The Piwi-interacting small RNA (piRNA) pathway is vital for the regulation of transposable elements, by inducing transcriptional silencing or post-transcriptional decay of mRNAs. Here we show that piRNAs and piRNA biogenesis components regulate precursor mRNA splicing of P-transposable element transcripts in vivo, leading to the production of the non-transposase-encoding mature mRNA isoform in Drosophila germ cells. Unexpectedly, we show that the piRNA pathway components do not act to reduce transcript levels of the P-element transposon during P–M hybrid dysgenesis, a syndrome that affects germline development in Drosophila. Instead, splicing regulation is mechanistically achieved together with piRNA-mediated changes to repressive chromatin states, and relies on the function of the Piwi–piRNA complex proteins Asterix (also known as Gtsf1) and Panoramix (Silencio), as well as Heterochromatin protein 1a (HP1a; encoded by Su(var)205). Furthermore, we show that this machinery, together with the piRNA Flamenco cluster, not only controls the accumulation of Gypsy retrotransposon transcripts but also regulates the splicing of Gypsy mRNAs in cultured ovarian somatic cells, a process required for the production of infectious particles that can lead to heritable transposition events. Our findings identify splicing regulation as a new role and essential function for the Piwi pathway in protecting the genome against transposon mobility, and provide a model system for studying the role of chromatin structure in modulating alternative splicing during development.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature25018

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Alcohol-abuse drug disulfiram targets cancer via p97 segregase adaptor NPL4

    Cancer incidence is rising and this global challenge is further exacerbated by tumour resistance to available medicines. A promising approach to meet the need for improved cancer treatment is drug repurposing. Here we highlight the potential for repurposing disulfiram (also known by the trade name Antabuse), an old alcohol-aversion drug that has been shown to be effective against diverse cancer types in preclinical studies. Our nationwide epidemiological study reveals that patients who continuously used disulfiram have a lower risk of death from cancer compared to those who stopped using the drug at their diagnosis. Moreover, we identify the ditiocarb–copper complex as the metabolite of disulfiram that is responsible for its anti-cancer effects, and provide methods to detect preferential accumulation of the complex in tumours and candidate biomarkers to analyse its effect on cells and tissues. Finally, our functional and biophysical analyses reveal the molecular target of disulfiram’s tumour-suppressing effects as NPL4, an adaptor of p97 (also known as VCP) segregase, which is essential for the turnover of proteins involved in multiple regulatory and stress-response pathways in cells.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature25016

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Atmospheric trace gases support primary production in Antarctic desert surface soil

    Cultivation-independent surveys have shown that the desert soils of Antarctica harbour surprisingly rich microbial communities. Given that phototroph abundance varies across these Antarctic soils, an enduring question is what supports life in those communities with low photosynthetic capacity. Here we provide evidence that atmospheric trace gases are the primary energy sources of two Antarctic surface soil communities. We reconstructed 23 draft genomes from metagenomic reads, including genomes from the candidate bacterial phyla WPS-2 and AD3. The dominant community members encoded and expressed high-affinity hydrogenases, carbon monoxide dehydrogenases, and a RuBisCO lineage known to support chemosynthetic carbon fixation. Soil microcosms aerobically scavenged atmospheric H2 and CO at rates sufficient to sustain their theoretical maintenance energy and mediated substantial levels of chemosynthetic but not photosynthetic CO2 fixation. We propose that atmospheric H2, CO2 and CO provide dependable sources of energy and carbon to support these communities, which suggests that atmospheric energy sources can provide an alternative basis for ecosystem function to solar or geological energy sources. Although more extensive sampling is required to verify whether this process is widespread in terrestrial Antarctica and other oligotrophic habitats, our results provide new understanding of the minimal nutritional requirements for life and open the possibility that atmospheric gases support life on other planets.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature25014

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Inhibition of soluble epoxide hydrolase prevents diabetic retinopathy

    Diabetic retinopathy is an important cause of blindness in adults, and is characterized by progressive loss of vascular cells and slow dissolution of inter-vascular junctions, which result in vascular leakage and retinal oedema. Later stages of the disease are characterized by inflammatory cell infiltration, tissue destruction and neovascularization. Here we identify soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) as a key enzyme that initiates pericyte loss and breakdown of endothelial barrier function by generating the diol 19,20-dihydroxydocosapentaenoic acid, derived from docosahexaenoic acid. The expression of sEH and the accumulation of 19,20-dihydroxydocosapentaenoic acid were increased in diabetic mouse retinas and in the retinas and vitreous humour of patients with diabetes. Mechanistically, the diol targeted the cell membrane to alter the localization of cholesterol-binding proteins, and prevented the association of presenilin 1 with N-cadherin and VE-cadherin, thereby compromising pericyte–endothelial cell interactions and inter-endothelial cell junctions. Treating diabetic mice with a specific sEH inhibitor prevented the pericyte loss and vascular permeability that are characteristic of non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy. Conversely, overexpression of sEH in the retinal Müller glial cells of non-diabetic mice resulted in similar vessel abnormalities to those seen in diabetic mice with retinopathy. Thus, increased expression of sEH is a key determinant in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy, and inhibition of sEH can prevent progression of the disease.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature25013

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    KAT2A coupled with the α-KGDH complex acts as a histone H3 succinyltransferase

    Histone modifications, such as the frequently occurring lysine succinylation, are central to the regulation of chromatin-based processes. However, the mechanism and functional consequences of histone succinylation are unknown. Here we show that the α-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase (α-KGDH) complex is localized in the nucleus in human cell lines and binds to lysine acetyltransferase 2A (KAT2A, also known as GCN5) in the promoter regions of genes. We show that succinyl-coenzyme A (succinyl-CoA) binds to KAT2A. The crystal structure of the catalytic domain of KAT2A in complex with succinyl-CoA at 2.3 Å resolution shows that succinyl-CoA binds to a deep cleft of KAT2A with the succinyl moiety pointing towards the end of a flexible loop 3, which adopts different structural conformations in succinyl-CoA-bound and acetyl-CoA-bound forms. Site-directed mutagenesis indicates that tyrosine 645 in this loop has an important role in the selective binding of succinyl-CoA over acetyl-CoA. KAT2A acts as a succinyltransferase and succinylates histone H3 on lysine 79, with a maximum frequency around the transcription start sites of genes. Preventing the α-KGDH complex from entering the nucleus, or expression of KAT2A(Tyr645Ala), reduces gene expression and inhibits tumour cell proliferation and tumour growth. These findings reveal an important mechanism of histone modification and demonstrate that local generation of succinyl-CoA by the nuclear α-KGDH complex coupled with the succinyltransferase activity of KAT2A is instrumental in histone succinylation, tumour cell proliferation, and tumour development.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature25003

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Structures of the calcium-activated, non-selective cation channel TRPM4

    TRPM4 is a calcium-activated, phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate (PtdIns(4,5)P2) -modulated, non-selective cation channel that belongs to the family of melastatin-related transient receptor potential (TRPM) channels. Here we present the electron cryo-microscopy structures of the mouse TRPM4 channel with and without ATP. TRPM4 consists of multiple transmembrane and cytosolic domains, which assemble into a three-tiered architecture. The N-terminal nucleotide-binding domain and the C-terminal coiled-coil participate in the tetrameric assembly of the channel; ATP binds at the nucleotide-binding domain and inhibits channel activity. TRPM4 has an exceptionally wide filter but is only permeable to monovalent cations; filter residue Gln973 is essential in defining monovalent selectivity. The S1–S4 domain and the post-S6 TRP domain form the central gating apparatus that probably houses the Ca2+- and PtdIns(4,5)P2-binding sites. These structures provide an essential starting point for elucidating the complex gating mechanisms of TRPM4 and reveal the molecular architecture of the TRPM family.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature24997

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Runx3 programs CD8+ T cell residency in non-lymphoid tissues and tumours

    Tissue-resident memory CD8+ T (TRM) cells are found at common sites of pathogen exposure, where they elicit rapid and robust protective immune responses. However, the molecular signals that control TRM cell differentiation and homeostasis are not fully understood. Here we show that mouse TRM precursor cells represent a unique CD8+ T cell subset that is distinct from the precursors of circulating memory cell populations at the levels of gene expression and chromatin accessibility. Using computational and pooled in vivo RNA interference screens, we identify the transcription factor Runx3 as a key regulator of TRM cell differentiation and homeostasis. Runx3 was required to establish TRM cell populations in diverse tissue environments, and supported the expression of crucial tissue-residency genes while suppressing genes associated with tissue egress and recirculation. Furthermore, we show that human and mouse tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes share a core tissue-residency gene-expression signature with TRM cells that is associated with Runx3 activity. In a mouse model of adoptive T cell therapy for melanoma, Runx3-deficient CD8+ tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes failed to accumulate in tumours, resulting in greater rates of tumour growth and mortality. Conversely, overexpression of Runx3 enhanced tumour-specific CD8+ T cell abundance, delayed tumour growth, and prolonged survival. In addition to establishing Runx3 as a central regulator of TRM cell differentiation, these results provide insight into the signals that promote T cell residency in non-lymphoid sites, which could be used to enhance vaccine efficacy or adoptive cell therapy treatments that target cancer.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature24993

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Electron cryo-microscopy structure of a human TRPM4 channel

    Ca2+-activated, non-selective (CAN) ion channels sense increases of the intracellular Ca2+ concentration, producing a flux of Na+ and/or K+ ions that depolarizes the cell, thus modulating cellular Ca2+ entry. CAN channels are involved in cellular responses such as neuronal bursting activity and cardiac rhythm. Here we report the electron cryo-microscopy structure of the most widespread CAN channel, human TRPM4, bound to the agonist Ca2+ and the modulator decavanadate. Four cytosolic C-terminal domains form an umbrella-like structure with a coiled-coil domain for the ‘pole’ and four helical ‘ribs’ spanning the N-terminal TRPM homology regions (MHRs), thus holding four subunits in a crown-like architecture. We observed two decavanadate-binding sites, one in the C-terminal domain and another in the intersubunit MHR interface. A glutamine in the selectivity filter may be an important determinant of monovalent selectivity. Our structure provides new insights into the function and pharmacology of both the CAN and the TRPM families.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature24674

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Force loading explains spatial sensing of ligands by cells

    Cells can sense the density and distribution of extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules by means of individual integrin proteins and larger, integrin-containing adhesion complexes within the cell membrane. This spatial sensing drives cellular activity in a variety of normal and pathological contexts. Previous studies of cells on rigid glass surfaces have shown that spatial sensing of ECM ligands takes place at the nanometre scale, with integrin clustering and subsequent formation of focal adhesions impaired when single integrin–ligand bonds are separated by more than a few tens of nanometres. It has thus been suggested that a crosslinking ‘adaptor’ protein of this size might connect integrins to the actin cytoskeleton, acting as a molecular ruler that senses ligand spacing directly. Here, we develop gels whose rigidity and nanometre-scale distribution of ECM ligands can be controlled and altered. We find that increasing the spacing between ligands promotes the growth of focal adhesions on low-rigidity substrates, but leads to adhesion collapse on more-rigid substrates. Furthermore, disordering the ligand distribution drastically increases adhesion growth, but reduces the rigidity threshold for adhesion collapse. The growth and collapse of focal adhesions are mirrored by, respectively, the nuclear or cytosolic localization of the transcriptional regulator protein YAP. We explain these findings not through direct sensing of ligand spacing, but by using an expanded computational molecular-clutch model, in which individual integrin–ECM bonds—the molecular clutches—respond to force loading by recruiting extra integrins, up to a maximum value. This generates more clutches, redistributing the overall force among them, and reducing the force loading per clutch. At high rigidity and high ligand spacing, maximum recruitment is reached, preventing further force redistribution and leading to adhesion collapse. Measurements of cellular traction forces and actin flow speeds support our model. Our results provide a general framework for how cells sense spatial and physical information at the nanoscale, precisely tuning the range of conditions at which they form adhesions and activate transcriptional regulation.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature24662

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Gigadalton-scale shape-programmable DNA assemblies

    Natural biomolecular assemblies such as molecular motors, enzymes, viruses and subcellular structures often form by self-limiting hierarchical oligomerization of multiple subunits. Large structures can also assemble efficiently from a few components by combining hierarchical assembly and symmetry, a strategy exemplified by viral capsids. De novo protein design and RNA and DNA nanotechnology aim to mimic these capabilities, but the bottom-up construction of artificial structures with the dimensions and complexity of viruses and other subcellular components remains challenging. Here we show that natural assembly principles can be combined with the methods of DNA origami to produce gigadalton-scale structures with controlled sizes. DNA sequence information is used to encode the shapes of individual DNA origami building blocks, and the geometry and details of the interactions between these building blocks then control their copy numbers, positions and orientations within higher-order assemblies. We illustrate this strategy by creating planar rings of up to 350 nanometres in diameter and with atomic masses of up to 330 megadaltons, micrometre-long, thick tubes commensurate in size to some bacilli, and three-dimensional polyhedral assemblies with sizes of up to 1.2 gigadaltons and 450 nanometres in diameter. We achieve efficient assembly, with yields of up to 90 per cent, by using building blocks with validated structure and sufficient rigidity, and an accurate design with interaction motifs that ensure that hierarchical assembly is self-limiting and able to proceed in equilibrium to allow for error correction. We expect that our method, which enables the self-assembly of structures with sizes approaching that of viruses and cellular organelles, can readily be used to create a range of other complex structures with well defined sizes, by exploiting the modularity and high degree of addressability of the DNA origami building blocks used.

    Nature 552 78 doi: 10.1038/nature24651

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Biotechnological mass production of DNA origami

    DNA nanotechnology, in particular DNA origami, enables the bottom-up self-assembly of micrometre-scale, three-dimensional structures with nanometre-precise features. These structures are customizable in that they can be site-specifically functionalized or constructed to exhibit machine-like or logic-gating behaviour. Their use has been limited to applications that require only small amounts of material (of the order of micrograms), owing to the limitations of current production methods. But many proposed applications, for example as therapeutic agents or in complex materials, could be realized if more material could be used. In DNA origami, a nanostructure is assembled from a very long single-stranded scaffold molecule held in place by many short single-stranded staple oligonucleotides. Only the bacteriophage-derived scaffold molecules are amenable to scalable and efficient mass production; the shorter staple strands are obtained through costly solid-phase synthesis or enzymatic processes. Here we show that single strands of DNA of virtually arbitrary length and with virtually arbitrary sequences can be produced in a scalable and cost-efficient manner by using bacteriophages to generate single-stranded precursor DNA that contains target strand sequences interleaved with self-excising ‘cassettes’, with each cassette comprising two Zn2+-dependent DNA-cleaving DNA enzymes. We produce all of the necessary single strands of DNA for several DNA origami using shaker-flask cultures, and demonstrate end-to-end production of macroscopic amounts of a DNA origami nanorod in a litre-scale stirred-tank bioreactor. Our method is compatible with existing DNA origami design frameworks and retains the modularity and addressability of DNA origami objects that are necessary for implementing custom modifications using functional groups. With all of the production and purification steps amenable to scaling, we expect that our method will expand the scope of DNA nanotechnology in many areas of science and technology.

    Nature 552 84 doi: 10.1038/nature24650

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on December 06, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Predicting Suicide: Return of a Scandal (Part 2)

    In the first post in this series, I looked at the work of Swedish psychiatrist Lars Thorell, who has developed a test which, he claims, is able to predict suicides in depressed patients. Thorell's test is called electrodermal orientation reactivity (aka electrodermal hyporeactivity), and while Thorell's work on the technique goes back to the 1980s, it has recently been commercialized by a company called Emotra AB, who named the product EDOR®. Previously, I expressed scepticism over the pu

    in Discovery magazine - Neuroskeptic on December 05, 2017 09:48 PM.

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    Staring into a baby’s eyes puts her brain waves and yours in sync

    Brain waves line up when adults and babies lock eyes.

    in Science News on December 05, 2017 08:30 PM.

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    How freezing a soap bubble turns it into a ‘snow globe’

    Frigid air makes soap bubbles shimmering orbs thanks to surface tension.

    in Science News on December 05, 2017 08:00 PM.

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    ”Definitely embarrassing:” Nobel Laureate retracts non-reproducible paper in Nature journal

    A Nobel Laureate has retracted a 2016 paper in Nature Chemistry that explored the origins of life on earth, after discovering the main conclusions were not correct.   Some researchers who study the origins of life on Earth have hypothesized that RNA evolved before DNA or proteins.  If true, RNA would have needed a way […]

    The post ”Definitely embarrassing:” Nobel Laureate retracts non-reproducible paper in Nature journal appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 05, 2017 04:00 PM.

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    Advancing Evaluation: Moving Forward with DORA

    “The declaration itself remains unchanged, but our aim is to spread the word much more effectively—about DORA and, especially, about the good practices it has already helped to establish in many institutions.” – Stephen Curry, Imperial College, London

    Five years ago at the American Society of Cell Biology Annual Meeting in San Francisco, leading cell biologists, editors and publishers dissatisfied with the near exclusive reliance on journal impact factor as the primary means of measuring success in academia began creation of what would several months later become known as the San Francisco Declaration of Research Assessment, or DORA. The declaration calls attention to the inappropriate and flawed use of journal impact factors and the community need for assessment tools to measure research outcomes other than peer-reviewed publications.

    The Current State

    DORA states there is a “pressing need to improve the ways in which the output of scientific research is evaluated by funding agencies, academic institutions, and other parties.” The erroneous and inflated value of publishing in high-impact journals is seriously affecting the way that scientists judge each other, as well as adversely impacting the reproducibility of research. To make more fair and broaden the way scientists are evaluated, within DORA specific recommendations for publishers, funders, institutions, metrics organizations and, perhaps most importantly, researchers themselves, were built around the following tenets:

    • eliminate the use of journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, in funding, appointment, and promotion considerations
    • assess research on its own merits rather than on the basis of the journal in which the research is published
    • capitalize on the opportunities provided by online publication (relaxing page, figure and reference limits, and exploring new indicators of significance and impact)

    Anniversaries are often a time for retrospection, and as this year’s ASCB/EMBO meeting marks the fifth anniversary of the ASCB conference where DORA was born, those involved are taking the opportunity not only to look back at what has been achieved, but also to look forward at what more can be done. “DORA has been very useful in stimulating discussion and action on what truly robust processes of research and researcher evaluation should look like. It is focused on addressing the deleterious effects that the journal impact factor have had, particularly on research careers, but also on the pace and integrity of the scientific record,” says Stephen Curry of Imperial College London, one of the original signatories. Now, he says, is time for the initiative to “gain new ground, not just in Europe and North America, but all around the world.”

    Grassroots Transitions

    Those working now on revitalizing DORA see this upcoming anniversary year as an opportune window for an energetic transition from consensus-building to action. Says Bernd Pulverer, also an original signatory, “We’re seeing three stages, if you will, of DORA. The original declaration of the critical need to move away from journal impact factors was followed by a phase of community-building and signature gathering through the website. The stage has been set; all stakeholders, from scientists and policymakers to funders and publishers, need us to take action.”

    Curry hopes that those stakeholders (especially researchers, funders, universities) who have been thinking about how to improve their research evaluation processes will be motivated to actually implement alternative or additional evaluation tools once they hear what is already taking place, often under the radar. “At my own institution, Imperial College, which is now a signatory, DORA was a valuable element in helping us to think through how to improve our hiring and promotion procedures.” The problem however, is that a critical mass of grassroots initiative and effort are needed to help propel the scientific community forward in this area. “To be sure,” says Pulverer, “change is not trivial to implement at either individual or institutional level, and one important function of the revitalized DORA project is to point to concrete examples of positive change and best practice.”

    The barriers to shifting conversation to action are real: some countries offer direct financial incentives to authors for publishing in certain impact factor journals, in other places tenure and funding are often linked to those same publications. Early career researchers often feel compelled to restrict themselves to those journals (or have no input as to where their work is submitted), delaying publication. Sharing stories of change, both small and large, will help remove institutional and individual bias, integral considerations for DORA to be successful moving forward.

    The Future State

    To enable the revitalization, coming in 2018 are a new DORA website, extended outreach, and real-world examples of practices at institutions already thinking about and implementing innovative assessment mechanisms. There is no one size fits all solution to the research assessment quagmire, but those actively engaged with DORA believe that the scientific community is empowered to change the system in a grassroots manner. “Every one of us can act to change the system for the better—even without formal policy changes,” says Pulverer. “Research assessment invariably involves the research community, either directly as referees, as hiring principal investigators or in an institutional leadership function.”

    The fact that misuse of journal impact factors transcends geography and subject area is illustrated by the wide variety of disciplines and countries represented both in the list of institutional and individual signatories of DORA. Plans for 2018 are shaping up. An influx of new funding has facilitated the hiring of a community manager to help promote DORA online and at conferences and meetings. Says Curry, “There are lots of exciting plans for 2018!” With discussions of appropriate recognition and credit for openly sharing data, datasets, microscopy images and analytical tools, the next five years hold promise for bringing the rhetorical concepts of DORA into practical implementation for the benefit of science and scientists of all career stages and in all geographies.

     

    *********************

    For this post PLOS interviewed Stephen Curry, Assistant Provost (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) and Professor of Structural Biology, Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College in London and Bernd Pulverer, Chief Editor, The EMBO Journal, and Head of Scientific Publications at EMBO in Heidelberg.

    in The Official PLOS Blog on December 05, 2017 03:55 PM.

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    When publishers mess up, why do authors pay the price?

    Springer has retracted two papers, which appeared online earlier this year in different journals, after discovering both were published by mistake. A spokesperson at Springer explained that the retractions are “due to a human error.” According to one of the retraction notices, published in Archive for Mathematical Logic, the paper had not yet undergone peer […]

    The post When publishers mess up, why do authors pay the price? appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 05, 2017 01:00 PM.

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    Brain scan study provides new clues as to how electroconvulsive “shock” therapy helps alleviate depression

     

    Screenshot 2017-12-05 09.46.40.pngPre-treatment, functional connectivity (FC) between fusiform face area and amygdala was reduced in depressed patients compared with healthy controls (HC), but increased after electroconvulsive therapy (from Wang et al 2017)

    By Christian Jarrett

    In the UK, thousands of people with depression continue to undergo electroconvulsive “shock” therapy (ECT) each year, usually if their symptoms have not improved following talking therapy or anti-depressants, and especially if they are considered to be at high risk of suicide, and the numbers may be rising. The technique, which involves using an electric shock to induce a seizure, carries risks, such as memory problems, but the majority of patients experience symptom improvements, and patient surveys show they generally view it positively. However, some experts remain opposed to its use and question its evidence base.

    Despite the continued use of ECT, and its apparent benefits, exactly how it works remains largely unexplained. However, new clues come from a Chinese study, published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, in which patients showed increased grey matter volume in the amygdala, a brain structure involved in emotional processing.

    Jiaojian Wang at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, and her colleagues, recruited 23 patients (average age 39; 12 women) with major depression who had not responded to other treatments and/or were acutely suicidal, and who were due to receive a course of ECT.

    The researchers scanned the patients’ brains using fMRI 12-24 hours before their first ECT session and then again 24-72 hours after their last session (the patients averaged seven sessions over a 2-3 week period). The scan was used to assess basic brain structure and to look for connectivity patterns between brain areas while the patients rested. For comparison, the researchers also scanned the brains of 25 healthy controls of similar age and educational background.

    After treatment, the patients with depression showed not only improved symptoms but also increased grey matter volume in the left amygdala, specifically in a subregion known as the superficial nuclei. The amygdala is involved in emotional processing; the superficial nuclei is involved specifically in interpreting facial expressions.

    Post-treatment, the patients also showed increased connectivity between the fusiform face area (FFA) in the temporal lobe, so-called because of its role in processing faces, and the amygdala. Statistical analysis suggested this was because of an increased effect of the FFA on the amygdala, but this remains somewhat speculative.

    At pre-treatment, the patients had reduced grey matter in the amygdala and reduced amygdala–FFA connectivity as compared with the healthy controls, and the more extreme these structural and connectivity features, the more severe the patients’ depression symptoms. This suggests the ECT had acted on aspects of brain structure and function relevant to depression.

    Wang and her colleagues speculated that the brain changes they observed in the depressed patients may indicate that ECT “alleviates the symptoms of depression by improving … social abilities to enhance the gaze fixation of face stimuli”. More generally the findings are consistent with previous suggestions that ECT helps promote neuronal growth.

    This was a small study and the patients were taking different anti-depressants throughout, so larger, more tightly controlled research is needed to confirm and build on the results.

    Electroconvulsive therapy selectively enhanced feedforward connectivity from fusiform face area to amygdala in major depressive disorder

    Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest and author of Great Myths of the Brain


    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on December 05, 2017 09:59 AM.

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    5 reasons data is a key ingredient for AI applications

    Reinforcement learning may change the way AI thinks, but data is still king

    in Elsevier Connect on December 05, 2017 09:10 AM.

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    Caught Our Notice: What if you find out a paper relied on expired herbal supplement?

    Title: Exploration of inhibitory mechanisms of curcumin in lung cancer metastasis using a miRNA- transcription factor-target gene network What Caught Our Attention: The researchers were studying how curcumin, a component of the spice turmeric, can inhibit lung cancer metastases. But upon learning that the primary material had been expired at the time of testing (and […]

    The post Caught Our Notice: What if you find out a paper relied on expired herbal supplement? appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 04, 2017 04:00 PM.

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    Journal bans author for three years after retracting paper with “serious ethical” problems

    An anatomy journal has banned a researcher from submitting papers for three years after determining one of his recently published papers suffered from “serious ethical” issues. According to Jae Seung Kang, associate editor at the journal Anatomy and Cell Biology (ACB), the paper’s sole author—Jae Chul Lee—falsified both his affiliation and approval for conducting animal […]

    The post Journal bans author for three years after retracting paper with “serious ethical” problems appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 04, 2017 01:00 PM.

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    New setup for image recognition AI lets a program think on its feet

    Researchers are revamping image recognition programs to better identify familiar objects in new situations.

    in Science News on December 04, 2017 01:00 PM.

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    In a first, Galileo’s gravity experiment is re-created in space

    A key principle of general relativity holds up in a new space-based test.

    in Science News on December 04, 2017 11:00 AM.

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    The four ways to promote creativity in children come more naturally to some mothers than others

    GettyImages-542092344.jpgBy Alex Fradera

    What kind of parents produce creative children? Aside from the clear and substantial influence of the genes they pass on, evidence suggests that parents can also influence their children’s creativity through providing encouragement and the right environment. To understand what kind of parents are more inclined to take these steps, a new study in the journal Thinking Skills and Creativity investigates the links between mothers’ personality and how much they cultivate for their child a ”climate of creativity”.

    The research team led by Joanna Maria Kwaśniewska’s surveyed over 3000 mothers from different cities, towns and villages in Poland, the majority with one or two children. The researchers chose to focus on mothers because in Poland they tend to be the primary caregivers. The survey measured personality based on the well-established Big Five Trait model (Extraversion, Conscientiousness etc). There were two survey items per personality trait, which is a potential weakness to the study, as it is unlikely to be as reliable as longer versions.

    The survey also included a questionnaire measuring four aspects of the climate of creativity provided by the parent. For instance, it asked the mothers to say how often they engaged in behaviours understood to play a role in fostering creativity such as  “I try to show my child different sides of the same situation”.

    Kwaśniewska’s team found that the mothers’ personalities were related to their creation of a creative climate in a number of ways. Mothers who were extraverted and emotionally stable (low in Neuroticism) were more likely to encourage out-of-the-box thinking, improvisation, and unconventional approaches in their child, covered under the concept of encouraging innovation.

    More extraverted, emotionally stable mothers, along with more agreeable ones, also more often provided another aspect of creative climate, encouragement to persevere in creative efforts, through behaviours like encouraging their children to see failures as opportunities for learning.

    Mothers higher in Openness to Experience created the most creative conditions of all. They were more likely to support innovation and perseverance, as well as encouragement to fantasise and encouragement to nonconformism – unsurprising, as Openness is the trait most strongly associated with creativity.

    Perhaps the most interesting finding was that mothers’ with higher conscientiousness encouraged kids to persevere in creative efforts but also discouraged nonconformism. This makes sense: if you picture the child of the highly conscientious mother as smart, obedient and Grade Eight on the piano, with their low-conscientious counterpart a punky-looking dilettante. The finding shows the value of this sort of research: if you just tried to relate conscientiousness to a single measure of creative behaviour, you might find no association, missing the fact that the trait has opposing associations with two different creativity-cultivating behaviours.

    There are sure to be parents who are keen, in principle, to foster a creative climate for their children, but disinclined to act on this due to their own temperament. This article is a heads-up for them of where their blind spots might be and where they might benefit from putting in some intentional effort. Not every child will turn out to be a creative genius, but if a bit of thought prevents you stifling the instincts they have, I reckon they’ll thank you for it.

    Mothers’ personality traits and the climate for creativity they build with their children

    Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest


    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on December 04, 2017 09:37 AM.

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    Brief Guide to the CTE Brains in the News. Part 1: Aaron Hernandez

    Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the neurodegenerative disease of the moment, made famous by the violent and untimely deaths of many retired professional athletes. Repeated blows to the head sustained in contact sports such as boxing and American football can result in abnormal accumulations of tau protein (usually many years later). The autopsied brains from two of these individuals are shown below.



    Left: courtesy of Dr. Ann McKee in NYT.  Right: courtesy of Dr. Bennett Omalu in CNN. These are coronal sections1 from the autopsied brains of: (L) Aaron Hernandez, aged 27; and (R) Fred O'Neill, aged 63.


    Both men played professional football in the NFL. Both came upon some troubled times after leaving the game. And although the CTE pathology in their brains has been attributed directly to football — repeated concussive and sub-concussive events — other potential factors have been mostly ignored. Below I'll discuss these events and phenomena, and whether they could have contributed to the condition of the post-mortem brains.


    Aaron Hernandez


    Illustration by Sean McCabe for Rolling Stone


    Talented ex-NFL football star, PCP addict, convicted murderer, and suicide by hanging. The Rolling Stone ran two riveting articles that detailed the life (and death) of Mr. Hernandez. Despite a difficult upbringing surrounded by violence and tragedy, he was a serious and stellar athlete at Bristol High School. The tragic death of his father from a medical accident led Aaron to hang out with a less savory crowd. He fortunately ended up at the University of Florida for college football. There he failed several drug tests, but the administration mostly looked the other way. He was on a national championship team, named an all-American, and involved in a shooting where he was not charged.

    Most NFL teams took a pass because of his use of recreational drugs and reputation as a hot-head:
    After seeing his pre-draft psychological report, where he received the lowest possible score, one out of 10, in the category of “social maturity” and which also noted that he enjoyed “living on the edge of acceptable behavior,” a handful of teams pulled him off their boards, and 25 others let him sink like a stone on draft day.

    But he ended up signing with the New England Patriots in a $40 million deal. He smoked pot constantly and avoided hanging out with the other players. “Instead of teammates, Hernandez built a cohort of thugs, bringing stone-cold gangsters over to the house to play pool, smoke chronic and carouse.” Things spiraled downwards, in terms of thug life, use of PCP (angel dust), and ultimately the murder of a friend that ended in a life sentence without parole.

    He was also tried and acquitted of a separate double homicide, but his days were numbered. Two days later he hanged himself with a bedsheet in his jail cell. He was rumored to have smoked K2 (nasty synthetic cannabis) just before his death, but this was ultimately unsubstantiated.

    These complicating factors lengthy history of drug abuse, death by asphyxiation must have had some effect on his brain, I mused in another post.




    Meanwhile, the New York Times had a splashy piece about how the pristine brain of Aaron Hernandez presented an opportunity to study a case of “pure” CTE:
    What made the brain extraordinary, for the purpose of science, was not just the extent of the damage, but its singular cause. Most brains with that kind of damage have sustained a lifetime of other problems, too, from strokes to other diseases, like Alzheimer’s. Their samples are muddled, and not everything found can be connected to one particular disease.

    This was a startling statement, as I said in my secondary blog:
    I’ve been struggling to write a post that highlights the misleading nature of this claim. How much of that was [the writer's] own hyperbole? Or was he merely paraphrasing the famous neuropathologists who presented their results to the media, not to peer reviewers? Is it my job to find autopsied brains from PCP abusers and suicides by hanging? Searching for the latter, by the way, will turn up some very unsavory material in forensic journals and elsewhere. At any rate, I think much of this literature glosses over any complicating elements, and neglects to mention all of the cognitively intact former football players whose brains haven’t been autopsied.

    In the next post, I'll discuss the case of Fred O'Neill.


    Footnote

    1 Illustration of the coronal plane of section.





    Further Reading  
    I've written about CTE a lot, you can read more below.

    FDA says no to marketing FDDNP for CTE

    Is CTE Detectable in Living NFL Players?

    The Ethics of Public Diagnosis Using an Unvalidated Method

    The Truth About Cognitive Impairment in Retired NFL Players

    Lou Gehrig Probably Died of Lou Gehrig's Disease

    Blast Wave Injury and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: What's the Connection?

    Little Evidence for a Direct Link between PTSD and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy




    New York Times: A neuropathologist and her associate examined slices of the brain of a 27-year-old man. Credit: Boston University.

    in The Neurocritic on December 04, 2017 08:54 AM.

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    Weekend reads: Problems in studies of gender; when scholarship is a crime; a journal about Mark Zuckerberg photos

    The week at Retraction Watch featured a call to make peer reviews public, lots of news about Cornell food researcher Brian Wansink, and a request by the U.S. NIH that the researchers it funds don’t publish in bad journals. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: A new journal is devoted to “unpacking” photos of Facebook CEO Mark […]

    The post Weekend reads: Problems in studies of gender; when scholarship is a crime; a journal about Mark Zuckerberg photos appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 02, 2017 03:01 PM.

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    New 3-D printed materials harness the power of bacteria

    The three-dimensional materials contain live bacteria and could generate wound dressings or clean up pollutants.

    in Science News on December 01, 2017 07:22 PM.

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    Giving back: the emerging role of data and technology

    December's theme focuses on how we are harnessing untapped knowledge for the benefit of society

    in Elsevier Connect on December 01, 2017 05:10 PM.

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    We still don’t know where the first interstellar asteroid came from

    Astronomers are tracking stars to see if one of them launched the first interstellar asteroid at Earth.

    in Science News on December 01, 2017 04:38 PM.

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    Caught Our Notice: Don’t count your chicken (genes) before they’re hatched

    Title: Molecular Characterization and Biological Activity of Interferon-α in Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) What Caught Our Attention: Soon after the paper appeared, the journal was alerted to the fact its findings were at odds with others in the field. When the editor approached the authors, everything fell apart: The authors couldn’t repeat the experiments, and […]

    The post Caught Our Notice: Don’t count your chicken (genes) before they’re hatched appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 01, 2017 04:05 PM.

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    Using the ScienceDirect API to increase visibility and access to research articles

    Free access to content feeds boosts the availability of research articles by University of Florida researchers in Elsevier journals

    in Elsevier Connect on December 01, 2017 02:32 PM.

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    NIH to researchers: Don’t publish in bad journals, please

    The U.S. National Institutes of Health has noticed something: More of the research it’s funding is ending up in questionable journals. Recently, the agency issued a statement highlighting some qualities of these journals — aggressively soliciting submissions, failing to provide clear information about pricing — and urging researchers to avoid them. The NIH’s goal: to […]

    The post NIH to researchers: Don’t publish in bad journals, please appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on December 01, 2017 01:00 PM.

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    Collision illuminates the mysterious makeup of neutron stars

    Scientists size up neutron stars using gravitational waves and light.

    in Science News on December 01, 2017 12:00 PM.

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    “Significant loss of neurons is a normal part of ageing” and other brain cell myths

    GettyImages-480406339.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

    Basic facts about the brain are a key part of many introductory psychology courses, including information about brain cells. For instance, for years, students (and the public) have been taught that, thanks to the ageing process, the older we get, the more brain cells we lose. But as outlined in a new review in the Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy by Christopher von Bartheld at the University of Nevada, many established facts about brain cells (like the idea we lose lots of them as we get older) have been shown by modern techniques to be misconceptions. Taken mostly from the review, here are four myths about brain cells, plus one unresolved issue.

    Myth: Significant loss of neurons is a normal part of ageing

    Studies into brain cell loss conducted in the 1950s to 1980s, mostly on animal brains, painted a dispiriting picture. The findings suggested we lose about one per cent of our brain cells per year through adulthood, meaning that the brains of the elderly were estimated to have lost between 35 per cent to 55 per cent of their peak number. Through the 70s and 80s this led to the received wisdom that neuronal “fall out” is a normal part of ageing and contributes to loss of intellectual prowess in old age. von Bartheld even speculates that this widespread misconception may have led to the observed spike in suicidal ideation among older people in the 70s and 80s, “since mental decline is among the disabilities most feared in old age”.

    In fact, it’s now known that these early estimates of brain cell loss through age were distorted by a failure to adjust for the brain shrinkage associated with ageing. Although older brains get smaller, they retain most of their neurons (which become more densely packed). Using more modern techniques that adjusted for shrinkage, studies through the 1990s and 2000s either found no neuronal loss or minimal loss with ageing. Combining data from all these different studies, the best estimate is that ageing leads to just a 2 to 4 per cent loss of neurons across the lifespan. “It now appears well-established that cortical neuron numbers in humans decline very little during normal ageing,” writes von Bartheld, “and intellectual decline with age may rather be due to numerical reductions of relatively small, specific neuronal populations, or changes in ageing neurons’ chemistry or morphology.”

    Myth: Glial cells are mere housekeeping cells

    Cells in the brain can be crudely divided into neurons and glial cells. Until very recently, most research and interest has been on neurons, with glial cells either ignored or seen as occupying a kind of support role or house-keeping function for the neurons. However, and as I report in Great Myths of the Brain, it’s now known that some glial cells (specifically astrocytes) have a direct role in information processing in the brain because they can influence the signalling that goes on between neurons. They even seem to play an architectural role in neural networks, helping to create and eliminate synapses (the points of communication) between neurons. Based on this, a key researcher in this area, Maiken Nedergaard, says that we should see glial cells not as the servants of neurons, but as their parents.

    Myth: Glial cells outnumber neurons 10 to 1

    Given that glial cells are incredibly important, including being involved in cognitive functioning, it’s rather alarming that for many decades we collectively had a complete misunderstanding of how many of these cells there are – the popular estimate, considered “common knowledge”, was that there are approximately ten times as many of them as there are neurons. Part of the reason for the perseverance of this wildly mistaken figure was that it was cited with authority in numerous editions of the “bible of neuroscience”, Nobel laureate Eric Kandel’s Principles of Neural Science.

    von Bartheld says the myth originated from studies in 1960s that focused on cells counts in parts of the brainstem where glial cells do dramatically outnumber neurons. Counter evidence was largely overlooked until the 2000s when a new technique was developed for counting cells – isotropic fractionation – which effectively turns the whole brain into a soup-like state allowing the easy and accurate counting of different cell types across the entire brain. Pioneering work by Brazilian neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel using this technique has established there are roughly equal numbers of glial cells and neurons. “The concept that glial cells are not more abundant than neurons in human brains is now becoming increasingly accepted in the field,” writes von Bartheld.

    Myth: Alcohol abuse causes widespread major brain cell loss

    Alcohol abuse is clearly harmful to health in general and to our brains in particular. However, yet another misconception related to brain cells, at least in the 1970s and 1980s, was that they are literally destroyed throughout the brain by excessive alcohol consumption. von Bartheld says this idea originated from animal studies that showed exposure to alcohol did indeed lead to significant, widespread loss of neurons or glial cells. The present understanding, he says, is that in humans, alcohol abuse mostly harms the fatty insulation (the “white matter”) that surrounds the axons of neurons, which will impair functioning but not lead to cell death. However, some neuronal loss can occur in especially vulnerable regions, principally the frontal cortex. “This refined concept of regional, restricted losses provides more hope to former and recovering alcoholics,” von Bartheld writes, “because axonal (white matter) and myelination deficits may be potentially reversible, while dead neurons in the central nervous system generally cannot be replaced.” As for moderate alcohol consumption, various authorities state that this will not kill your brain cells. For instance on its Brain Facts website, the Society for Neuroscience states plainly: “Moderate amounts of alcohol do not kill brain cells”.

    Unresolved issue: Men have more neurons, on average, than women

    It’s an established fact that men’s brains are bigger, on average, than women’s, but does that also equate to having more brain cells? Not necessarily because it’s possible that the cells are packed more densely into the female brain. Based on a combination of data from four major studies published in the 1990s and 2000s, together involving 80 male brains and 73 female brains, von Bartheld estimates that men average 16 per cent more neurons than women (“23.7 billion cortical neurons in males vs. 19.8 billion cortical neurons in females”). However, given the lack of studies using the modern isotropic fractionation (brain soup) technique, and also taking into account “the considerable variability between individuals”, von Bartheld says that while it is likely that men average a greater number of neurons, this has yet to be “conclusively shown”. It’s perhaps also worth adding that more neurons doesn’t equate to greater intelligence (and that average IQ is virtually identical across the two sexes). “It is … possible,” says von Bartheld, “that instead of neuron number, the number of synapses and/or circuits is the crucial parameter for intelligence.”

    Overall, when it comes to studying the basic cellular make-up of the human brain, von Bartheld says that “we need to be vigilant about assumptions that are taken for granted, as shown by the evidence that ‘text-book knowledge’ may not be correct.” Something for us to bear in mind when studying Biological Psychology 101. In the brain cell field, von Bartheld adds that “it is important to keep an open mind and be inquisitive and creative, in order to separate truths from myths” – wise words that might fairly be applied to any form of scientific discovery.

    Myths and truths about the cellular composition of the human brain: A review of influential concepts

    Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest and author of Great Myths of the Brain


    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on December 01, 2017 09:46 AM.

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    Scientist to chemistry journal: “Plse retract this ms ASAP”

    The presence of allegedly obvious manipulations in a 2017 chemistry paper has prompted a reader outcry. Over the last couple of days, a user on PubPeer and others on Twitter have accused the paper of containing clear duplications; the paper was already corrected in August, in which one scientist alleges the authors replaced “an obviously […]

    The post Scientist to chemistry journal: “Plse retract this ms ASAP” appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on November 30, 2017 07:17 PM.

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    Scallops’ amazing eyes use millions of tiny, square crystals to see

    Each of a scallop’s many eyes contains an intricate mirror made from millions of crystals.

    in Science News on November 30, 2017 07:08 PM.

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    Bats in China carry all the ingredients to make a new SARS virus

    Viruses infecting bats could recombine to re-create SARS.

    in Science News on November 30, 2017 07:00 PM.

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    Jackpot of fossilized pterosaur eggs unearthed in China

    A treasure trove of pterosaur eggs and embryos gives tantalizing clues to the winged reptile’s early development.

    in Science News on November 30, 2017 07:00 PM.

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    The Bottom of the Barrel of Science Fraud

    Sometimes, scientific misconduct is so blatant as to be comical. I recently came across an example of this on Twitter. The following is an image from a paper published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry C: As pointed out on PubPeer, this image - which is supposed to be an electron microscope image of some carbon dot (CD) nanoparticles - is an obvious fake. The "dots" are identical, and have clearly been cut-and-pasted. Where one copy has been placed over the top of another, the overlap

    in Discovery magazine - Neuroskeptic on November 30, 2017 05:16 PM.

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    How Mendeley supports your research career (including finding one)

    Exploring the impact of open science on career opportunities, data sharing and collaboration

    in Elsevier Connect on November 30, 2017 04:46 PM.

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    Brazil research foundation sues scientist over $103k scholarship

    The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), a state-level agency in Brazil that funds scientific research, is suing Paty Karoll Picardi, a protégé of Brazilian diabetes researcher Mario Saad. According to a São Paulo Court of Justice website, the reason stated is for “recebimento of bolsa de estudos,“ which translates to “receipt of scholarship.” FAPESP is […]

    The post Brazil research foundation sues scientist over $103k scholarship appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on November 30, 2017 04:26 PM.

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    Elsevier’s US technology hub city is a front-runner for the new Amazon headquarters

    Philadelphia's mayor explained why that makes sense for a city brimming with young talent

    in Elsevier Connect on November 30, 2017 02:03 PM.

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    Studying giant tortoise flips without tipping the animals over is a delicate business

    Giant tortoise shells go domed or saddlebacked, but which is better when navigating treacherous ground?

    in Science News on November 30, 2017 02:00 PM.

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    Publisher: “We are disappointed to be parting company with the editorial board”

    After the editorial board of a public health journal resigned in protest last week, the publisher is trying to “move on.” In a statement from Taylor & Francis, the publisher laments that the board of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health “did not wish to take the opportunities offered by ourselves and the […]

    The post Publisher: “We are disappointed to be parting company with the editorial board” appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on November 30, 2017 01:00 PM.

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    50 years ago, folate deficiency was linked to birth defects

    50 years ago, scientists found that a lack of folic acid in pregnant women could cause birth defects. But now, how much is too much?

    in Science News on November 30, 2017 12:00 PM.

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    The Science of Variable Stars and Transient Sources

    Philip will be presenting a talk on 'The Science of Variable Stars and Transient Sources'.

    Many astronomical sources vary in brightness, for a wide variety of reasons, e.g. pulsating stars, exploding stars and quasars. The 1-dimensional time series contains a wealth of physical information that has been used to measure the size of the universe, to detect and characterise new solar systems and to study the structure and history of our Milky Way galaxy. Major new "big data" time domain projects such as VVV, LSST and TESS are seeking to further advance the field, requiring us to develop new methods to classify the vast number of variable sources and search for new types of behaviour. Astronomical time series datasets tend to be unevenly sampled and to have non-uniform uncertainties, influenced by correlated noise. Philip will introduce the field, outline some of the existing tools developed by astronomers to analyse periodic and non-periodic variables and indicate some of the new approaches being developed.

    Date: 01/12/2017
    Time: 16:00
    Location: LB252

    in UH Biocomputation group on November 30, 2017 11:41 AM.

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    Introducing the Editor-in-Chief for BMC Biophysics

    Until recently, like most other journals in the series, BMC Biophysics has been overseen by an Editor at BMC. However, as the field one that is constantly evolving, we are pleased to be able to announce the recent appointment of Editor-in-Chief , Professor Dimitrios Morikis from the University of California, Riverside to steer its growth and development and ensure it meets the needs of the Biophysics scientific community.

    BMC Biophysics will, of course, still uphold the ethos of the BMC series, being open, inclusive and trusted, and committed to a fair, friendly and efficient peer-review service.  Editorial decisions are not made based upon novelty or impact; instead we publish all scientifically valid research, including a scientifically sound question and using suitable methods and analysis, as long as some advance has been made.

    To mark the launch of the new editorial model, we have asked Professor Morikis to introduce themselves and to tell us more about their plans for the journal.

    What inspired you to study biophysics?

    As a graduate student in physics, I recognized the immense opportunities offered by using physics-based thinking and physical methods and approaches to study biological function. At the time, I became intrigued by the complexity of biological phenomena, and was captivated by the challenges of reducing this complexity to basic physical principles at molecular level. I was impressed by the progress of structural and computational biology, based largely on physical techniques, that enable us to look intimately into three-dimensional structures of proteins and nucleic acids and the forces that keep structures together, influence biomolecular dynamics, and drive biomolecular interactions. As time passed, I developed an appreciation for pathways and networks, cellular processes, tissues, organs, and organisms, as well as for bioengineering applications based on biophysical studies.

    Why did you decide to get involved with publishing?

    Scientific research and publication are interweaved. Publication is the only credible way to disseminate sound research to a broader audience of peer scientists and the public. When I was a young researcher I valued the benefits of the peer-review process in publishing my work, and I become a peer-reviewer myself to contribute to, and continue, this tradition. Now, as a senior researcher in the field of biophysics, I feel that I should serve my scientific community from the position of the Editor-in-Chief of BMC Biophysics. It is my goal to maintain high standards in the peer-review process, more so in these times of an abundance of publication types and venues.

    What do you hope to achieve as Editor-in-Chief of BMC Biophysics?

    I am interested in enhancing the influence of BMC Biophysics within the field by increasing the number of submissions while maintaining high quality standards of peer review and publication. BMC-series subject-journals do not make editorial decisions on the basis of perceived interest of a study or its likely impact. Instead, the focus is on publishing sound science for the advancement of knowledge. I will continue serving BMC Biophysics by adhering to the ethos of publication and editorial standards of BMC journals. My interest is in publishing studies that address scientifically thorough questions with suitable methods and quantitative data presentation and analysis, using physical principles for modeling and understanding biological processes. Currently, there are eight general sections of biophysical research in BMC Biophysics: (i) computational and theoretical biophysics, (ii) membrane biophysics, (iii) mesoscale cellular processes, (iv) novel biophysical methods, (v) nucleic acids, (vi) signaling and interaction networks, (vii) structural stability and dynamics, and (viii) thermodynamics, energy transduction and kinetics. In addition to the established biophysics research directions within the eight sections of the journal, I am interested in introducing topics that translate biophysical studies into understanding health and disease, and development of treatments, by focusing on the biophysical origins of diseases. I am also interested in introducing a bioengineering flavor by publishing studies of biophysical applications in bioengineering and biotechnology.

    We are living exciting times for biophysics research, and the future outlook is very promising!

    What do you think the future holds for the biophysics field?

    The future of biophysics is bright! I expect to see more biophysics-based research aiding bioengineering and biotechnology applications. I anticipate seeing more biophysics work geared towards understanding diseases at molecular and cellular level, and designing diagnostics and therapeutics. Network biophysics and systems biophysics are areas of promise and expansion. Advances in structural and cellular biology are being made based on physical methods, and contribute to our understanding of biophysical mechanisms of function at molecular and cellular levels. New technologies originating from physics allow for imaging of cells and tissues at higher resolution than ever before. Innovations in computational methods and computer hardware are rapidly growing, and can be used to study biophysical function from molecular to organismal length scales, and from femtosecond to second time scales. We are living exciting times for biophysics research, and the future outlook is very promising!

    There are some exciting developments planned for the journal in the coming year.

    We will implement an internal editorial re-organization to improve the efficiency of the editorial and review processes, with the ultimate goal of reducing the time between submission and publication.

    We are excited about launching a number of thematic series in the coming year, starting with Biophysics in Disease and Drug Discovery; this series will accept articles describing research using biophysical methods, both experimental and computational, to elucidate molecular and cellular mechanisms of disease. The focus will be on hypothesis-driven research as well as on database-driven research. Research articles describing diagnostic and drug discovery based on biophysical knowledge will also be welcome.

    The post Introducing the Editor-in-Chief for BMC Biophysics appeared first on BMC Series blog.

    in BMC Series blog on November 30, 2017 11:37 AM.

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    How crowdsourcing can spur innovation in hepatitis B and C testing

    In 2015 more people died of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection than received direct acting antivirals, a stark reminder of the need for expanded hepatitis services around the world. Together Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HCV cause more than one million deaths each year.

    Global hepatitis testing guidelines are necessary to help guide program managers and policy makers in diverse settings. Yet how can experts at the World Health Organization develop comprehensive, practical guidelines for global hepatitis B and C testing when there are so few examples of best practices? This was the conundrum that inspired the HepTestContest, a global innovation contest to solicit case studies on hepatitis B and C testing. The complete description of this innovation contest was recently published in BMC Infectious Diseases.

    The purpose of the HepTestContest was to identify best practice cases of hepatitis B or C testing in order to enrich and supplement the World Health Organization Global Hepatitis Testing Guidelines.

    First, our team reached out to many organizations that are on the frontlines of implementing hepatitis testing, creating a steering committee. The call for entries (including a website and short video) was widely distributed using social media, eliciting descriptions of potential hepatitis testing programs. Then each case description was evaluated by a panel of judges.

    We received 64 cases from 27 countries around the world. Thirty-one cases were deemed excellent and received a commendation from the steering committee. Ultimately, sixteen cases were sufficiently strong to be directly included in the 2017 WHO Hepatitis Testing Guidelines. Cases covered a broad range of topics, including HIV-hepatitis testing integration, harm reduction and hepatitis testing integration, and using electronic medical records to support targeted testing.

    The innovation contest was useful for community-based organizations, policy-makers, and researchers. From a community-based organization perspective, the contest provided recognition and support for many excellent organizations. Five finalists from the contest were invited to present their findings at the International Liver Conference in 2016.

    From a policy perspective, this project provides case studies that may help enrich local hepatitis testing guideline development. From a research perspective there is still lots of work to be done: few of the selected programs have been rigorously evaluated, suggesting the need for further research on hepatitis testing.

    The concept of innovation challenges has picked up momentum in the global hepatitis field. The 2017 World Hepatitis Summit included an innovation category for submissions, encouraging local implementers to contribute.

    The post How crowdsourcing can spur innovation in hepatitis B and C testing appeared first on BMC Series blog.

    in BMC Series blog on November 30, 2017 09:45 AM.

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    Why you’re more likely to remember something if you read it to yourself out loud

    GettyImages-626070562.jpgBy guest blogger Bradley Busch

    Dr. Seuss wrote “the more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”. The trouble is, we forget so much of what we read. Is there a way to read that makes it more likely we’ll remember things?

    Keen to answer this question, researchers Noah Farrin and Colin MacLeod, from the University of Waterloo in Ontario Canada, ran a study published in Memory. Their results shed new light on how to study more effectively.

    It’s already known that reading aloud can aid memory, but it’s not clear why: is it the act of reading, or is it hearing oneself speaking, or both? To tease apart these possibilities, the researchers first invited 75 students to their psych lab and recorded them saying 160 words out loud. At this point, the students knew they’d be returning to the lab in two weeks’ time, but didn’t know why.

    When the students returned to the lab, they studied half of the words that they’d encountered earlier, in preparation for an immiment memory test. They revised these words in four different ways: they read 20 of the words to themselves silently; they heard a recording of someone else reading 20 words; they heard the earlier recording of themselves saying 20 more of the words; and they read the last 20 words out loud to themselves (the participants varied in the order they completed these different revision methods).

    The memory test that followed was a recognition test, made up of the 80 words they’d just studied and the other 80 words used two weeks’ earlier (it was assumed that these would largely be forgotten). On seeing each word, the students’ had to indicate whether it was one they had just studied or not.

    The most effective revision method was reading the words aloud in the study phase. This led to, on average, 77 per cent correct answers (i.e. words correctly categorised as just studied or old). In order of decreasing effectiveness, this was followed by revising by listening to a recording of themselves, hearing a recording of someone else say the words, and then finally by reading in silence.

    These results suggest that the reading aloud advantage comes from both the act of reading and the experience of hearing oneself. However, the gap between reading aloud and hearing a recording of oneself was quite small, with only 3 per cent difference in performance. The biggest gap (12 per cent) was between reading the words out loud and reading them in silence.

    In discussing these results, the researchers used the term “the production effect”. This describes the memory advantage one obtains if you say things aloud instead of just hearing the information. The production effect is likely caused through the combined advantage of three factors. First, reading things aloud involves motor processing, making it a more active process. Second, when students read words, it requires an element of visual processing, which may lead to deeper learning rather than just listening. Third, reading aloud is self-referential (i.e. “I said it”), which can make the information more salient.

    When the students read in silence (the least effective method) they didn’t experience any self-referential or auditory stimulation. These results also confirm previous findings suggesting it is advantageous to learn information using a combination of senses.

    A recent review indicated that many students spend time rereading as a form of revision, rather than testing themselves, which would be more effective. If rereading is a strategy that students are going to use, then the current study’s findings are important as they indicate that doing so aloud will likely be more effective than doing so silently.

    It would be interesting to see if the current results replicate when using materials that students have to study as part of their course, rather than simple word lists.

    This study is a step forward in our understanding of how people can remember more information. Next time you come to read another brilliant BPS Research article, try doing so out loud (although your office or roommates may not thank you for this!).

    This time it’s personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself

    Post written by Bradley Busch (@Inner_Drive) for the BPS Research Digest. Bradley is a registered psychologist and director of InnerDrive. He has work with Premiership and International footballers and is the author of Release Your InnerDrive


    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on November 30, 2017 12:46 AM.

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    Huge haul of rare pterosaur eggs excites palaeontologists

    Embryos found in some fossil eggs suggest that hatchlings struggled to fly.

    Nature 552 14 doi: 10.1038/nature.2017.23049

    in Nature News & Comment on November 30, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Gravity signals could speedily warn of big quakes and save lives

    The trick lies in capturing the weak gravitational shifts in the ground.

    Nature News doi: 10.1038/nature.2017.23045

    in Nature News & Comment on November 30, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    New York psychiatry researcher charged with embezzlement, faces jail time

    A researcher specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder is facing jail time for allegedly embezzling tens of thousands of dollars of federal grant money. Yesterday, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced criminal charges against Alexander Neumeister, […]

    The post New York psychiatry researcher charged with embezzlement, faces jail time appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on November 29, 2017 09:10 PM.

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    Would you opt to see the future or decipher the past?

    Acting Editor in Chief Elizabeth Quill wonders what it would be like if scientists could see into the past and the future.

    in Science News on November 29, 2017 08:45 PM.

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    Readers debate ethics of resurrecting extinct species

    Readers raised questions about using gene editing tools to bring species back from the dead.

    in Science News on November 29, 2017 08:36 PM.

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    Scientists are seeking new strategies to fight mutiple sclerosis

    Facing so many unknowns about multiple sclerosis, researchers explore the immune system, the neurons and the gut to fight the disease.

    in Science News on November 29, 2017 08:30 PM.

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    Scientists are seeking new strategies to fight multiple sclerosis

    Facing so many unknowns about multiple sclerosis, researchers explore the immune system, the neurons and the gut to fight the disease.

    in Science News on November 29, 2017 08:30 PM.

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    Strong-armed women helped power Europe’s ancient farming revolution

    Intensive manual labor gave ancient farm women arms that female rowers today would envy.

    in Science News on November 29, 2017 07:00 PM.

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    STED: Small Scale, Big Breakthroughs

    By Corey Moran

    Watching Dr. Christian Wurm boot up the Imspector software for the very first time filled me with a mixture of fascination and trepidation. At first glance, Abberior’s software interface for the STED microscope is reminiscent of a pilot’s cockpit; blinking lights, snippets of recognizable phrases, and a multitude of virtual buttons all laid out in a seemingly organized, but completely unfamiliar fashion. I continued to watch as he masterfully navigated through the myriad of submenus, adjusting this and that to his liking and preparing the microscope for the day’s imaging. It struck me in that moment that Dr. Wurm, the CEO of Aberrior Instruments America, would only be here to train us for one week. In that short time, I needed to become a proficient helmsman of this foreign vessel. Daunting? By all means, yes, but I was excited to take on the challenge and add another piece of microscopy to my arsenal.

    You might be wondering now who the “me” is in this story. Hello to everyone reading, my name is Corey Moran and I am a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in microbiology and cell science, with an emphasis in neuroscience. I had the good fortune to intern in Dr. Ryohei Yasuda’s lab two summers during my undergraduate work and two years now full time. MPFI served as my first foray into neurobiological research and what an incredible experience it has been.

    Working in Dr. Yasuda’s lab at MPFI, I have become versed in microscopy techniques ranging from 2-photon to FLIM-FRET to confocal. These imaging techniques, which I can only describe as simply elegant, provide a novel avenue to the inner working and function of the complex tapestry of cells that comprise the human brain. In Dr. Yasuda’s lab, the main focus of research involves the study of the intricate symphony of signaling proteins that interact during the process of learning and memory. To study these neurological events, we look directly at a protein’s behavior during the physiological process called synaptic plasticity, which is the ability of a synapse (communicational connections between neurons) to change over time.

    Specifically using the STED, I have been working with my colleague, Dr. Jie Wang, who has been studying a particular endosomal protein. Research has established the critical importance of this protein as it relates to the packaging and shipping of cellular material within brain cells. An important new discovery made by Dr. Wang takes us one view deeper into the multifunctional roles that proteins play. Her research shows that the protein in question attenuates the process of synaptic plasticity, acting as a molecular brake. This action slows the process of learning and memory for reasons that are not yet fully clear. Once we learned of the protein’s particularly unique role, the next logical step was to investigate the region of the cell where its biological effect is exhibited.

    STED super resolution localization of a small GTPase protein.

    The endosome is a dense and complex intracellular network that is responsible for packaging and shipping cellular cargo like proteins, lipids and other macromolecules all throughout the cell. This network is difficult to study due to the fact that it consists of varying types of unique mini-compartments. Our protein in question could associate with any number of these smaller compartments or even reside in multiple locations. The size of these endosomal compartments can be well under the 200nm resolution limit of traditional light microscopy. So to parse this information out, we needed the superior resolution that only the STED could provide us.

    Currently, we are embarking on a set of co-localization studies. These types of studies involve looking at hundreds of neurons to see if our protein of interest resides in the same locations of other previously identified proteins within the cell. Uncovering this piece of the puzzle will provide a greater understanding of the protein’s location within this network. Knowing the location, we can then extrapolate what type of function our protein may have based on the identified functions of the compartment itself and what other proteins also localize to it. This information will ultimately give us a more complete picture of how this protein contributes to the overall process of learning and memory.

    Concurrently, I am utilizing the STED to validate research tools to study a secondary protein that looks to be critically involved in the pathological cascade of Alzheimer’s disease. My work in conjunction with my mentor Dr. Erzsebet Szatmari is still in the very preliminary stages. Hopefully, this work will lead to disease relevant discoveries as our experiments progress.
    The intersection of super-resolution microscopy and neuroscience is a relatively new phenomenon and a frontier where only the surface has been scratched. The capability of super-resolution microscopy will continue to develop and expand exponentially in the very near future. One of the most exciting goals is to dynamically fuse these two highly specialized fields in order to study complex neuronal functions, such as synaptic plasticity, in real time with nanoscale, crystal clear resolution. Currently, at MPFI, we are working on just that, pushing our optics further into the future to make an immediate impact.

    in Max Plank Florida Institute for Neuroscience on November 29, 2017 05:00 PM.

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    Caught Our Notice: 1,376 words of overlap in paper by food researcher Brian Wansink

    Title: Change Their Choice! Changing Behavior Using the CAN Approach and Activism Research What Caught Our Attention: Food researcher Brian Wansink has had a rough time lately. After researchers began scrutinizing his work, he has racked up five retractions and multiple corrections. (We’re counting one retracted paper twice, as Wansink first retracted and replaced it with a […]

    The post Caught Our Notice: 1,376 words of overlap in paper by food researcher Brian Wansink appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on November 29, 2017 04:00 PM.

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    Where’s the data? Authors can’t support figures in 2017 kidney paper

    Researchers have retracted a 2017 paper exploring a novel approach to treat kidney injury, because three images were “constructed inappropriately.” That’s about as much as we know: The retraction notice provides few details about the nature of the issue, only that the authors—most of whom work at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey—could […]

    The post Where’s the data? Authors can’t support figures in 2017 kidney paper appeared first on Retraction Watch.

    in Retraction watch on November 29, 2017 01:00 PM.

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    First controlled nuclear chain reaction achieved 75 years ago

    The anniversary of the first controlled nuclear chain reaction marks an achievement of immigrants who served America in World War II.

    in Science News on November 29, 2017 12:00 PM.

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    For World AIDS Day, check out this top HIV research

    Curated research is helping scientists tackle HIV; here’s free access to 20 articles from Elsevier’s journals

    in Elsevier Connect on November 29, 2017 10:37 AM.

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    Belief in our moral superiority is the most irrational self-enhancing bias of all

    GettyImages-185266971.jpgBy Emma Young

    Most of us believe we are smarter, harder-working and better at driving than average. Clearly we can’t all be right. When it comes to moral qualities, like honesty and trustworthiness, our sense of personal superiority is so inflated that even jailed criminals consider themselves to be more moral than law-abiding citizens.

    Why should the “better-than-average” effect be so pronounced for moral traits? In new work, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, Ben Tappin and Ryan McKay at Royal Holloway, University of London have found that it’s because we’re especially irrational when it comes to evaluating moral traits. Moral superiority appears to be “a uniquely strong and prevalent form of positive illusion,” they write.

    Tappin and McKay showed a list of 30 traits to 270 participants. Ten traits related to sociability (like being sociable, cooperative, rude or uptight); ten to agency (like being determined, creative, unmotivated or illogical) and ten to morality (like being principled, fair, manipulative or deceptive). They asked the participants to rate how much each trait applied to them and to the “average person”, and to rate the desirability of the traits.

    As expected, the participants gave themselves higher scores than they gave the “average person” for almost all the desirable traits (being sociable was a notable exception), and lower scores for the undesirable traits. They were, as the researchers expected, guilty of “self-enhancement”.

    But if you really are a particularly high or low scorer on certain traits, self-enhancement isn’t necessarily irrational. We tend to be less certain about what other people are like, compared with ourselves, which means it sometimes makes sense to form less extreme judgements about their scores. As the researchers noted: “Perceived differences between ourselves and other people may even reflect rationally cautious judgements, made under uncertainty.”

    To explore to what extent the participants’ self-enhancement was rational or irrational, Tappin and McKay factored in how typical their scores were, overall, compared with the average. For instance, if across the board an individual’s personality is very average, and this shows up in most of their self-ratings, it looks a lot like irrational self-enhancement if on a given desirable trait they tend to inflate their own scores relative to the “average person”. In contrast, for someone whose personality is overall more atypical, there’s arguably more rational justification for them to infer that they are more extreme than average on various traits.

    Following this logic, the researchers found that self-enhancement pertaining to sociability was mostly quite rational. Self-enhancement related to agency (being intelligent, determined and so on) was less rational. Least justified of all, or most irrational, was moral self-enhancement. “Virtually all individuals irrationally inflated their moral qualities, and the absolute and relative magnitude of this irrationality was greater than that in the other domains of positive self-evaluation,” the researchers noted.

    According to the prevailing theory of self-serving positive illusions, we hold inaccurate, overly rosy views of ourselves because they make us feel better about ourselves, and so boost our psychological wellbeing. Consistent with this, in the current study, greater irrational social and agency self-enhancement was correlated with having more self-esteem. Intriguingly, however, irrational moral superiority was not.

    The study can’t explain why we are most irrational when it comes to downplaying other people’s moral qualities compared with our own, which was a surprise to the researchers. But there could be an evolutionary reason: from a survival perspective, the safe bet is to assume someone is less trustworthy than you, unless you know otherwise.

    Future work could explore this. And, as the researchers also noted in their paper, it’s important to dig into our inflated beliefs that we’re just, virtuous and moral in part because these kinds of beliefs – in contrast to inflated ideas about our own determination, say, or cooperativeness – “likely contribute to the severity of human conflict. When opposing sides are convinced of their own righteousness,” the researches noted, “escalation of violence is more probable, and the odds of resolution are ominously low”.

    The Illusion of Moral Superiority

    Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest


    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on November 29, 2017 09:57 AM.

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    Here’s yet more evidence that the mythical yeti was probably a bear

    A more complete genetic analysis amps up the evidence that the legendary creatures known as yetis are actually bears.

    in Science News on November 29, 2017 12:06 AM.

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    Health agency reveals scourge of fake drugs in developing world

    WHO data suggest around 10% of medications in poorer countries are fraudulent or substandard.

    Nature News doi: 10.1038/nature.2017.23051

    in Nature News & Comment on November 29, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Rise in malaria cases sparks fears of a resurgence

    Progress in the fight against a curable disease that kills hundreds of thousands of children has stalled, according to the World Health Organization.

    Nature News doi: 10.1038/nature.2017.23046

    in Nature News & Comment on November 29, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    ‘Alien’ DNA makes proteins in living cells for the first time

    Expanded genetic alphabet could allow for the production of new protein-based drugs.

    Nature 551 550 doi: 10.1038/nature.2017.23040

    in Nature News & Comment on November 29, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    China to roll back regulations for traditional medicine despite safety concerns

    Scientists fear plans to abandon clinical trials of centuries-old remedies will put people at risk.

    Nature 551 552 doi: 10.1038/nature.2017.23038

    in Nature News & Comment on November 29, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    Maternal age generates phenotypic variation in Caenorhabditis elegans

    Genetically identical individuals that grow in the same environment often show substantial phenotypic variation within populations of organisms as diverse as bacteria, nematodes, rodents and humans. With some exceptions, the causes are poorly understood. Here we show that isogenic Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes vary in their size at hatching, speed of development, growth rate, starvation resistance, fecundity, and also in the rate of development of their germline relative to that of somatic tissues. We show that the primary cause of this variation is the age of an individual’s mother, with the progeny of young mothers exhibiting several phenotypic impairments. We identify age-dependent changes in the maternal provisioning of the lipoprotein complex vitellogenin to embryos as the molecular mechanism that underlies the variation in multiple traits throughout the life of an animal. The production of sub-optimal progeny by young mothers may reflect a trade-off between the competing fitness traits of a short generation time and the survival and fecundity of the progeny.

    Nature 552 106 doi: 10.1038/nature25012

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on November 29, 2017 12:00 AM.

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    RNA polymerase III limits longevity downstream of TORC1

    Three distinct RNA polymerases transcribe different classes of genes in the eukaryotic nucleus. RNA polymerase (Pol) III is the essential, evolutionarily conserved enzyme that generates short, non-coding RNAs, including tRNAs and 5S rRNA. The historical focus on transcription of protein-coding genes has left the roles of Pol III in organismal physiology relatively unexplored. Target of rapamycin kinase complex 1 (TORC1) regulates Pol III activity, and is also an important determinant of longevity. This raises the possibility that Pol III is involved in ageing. Here we show that Pol III limits lifespan downstream of TORC1. We find that a reduction in Pol III extends chronological lifespan in yeast and organismal lifespan in worms and flies. Inhibiting the activity of Pol III in the gut of adult worms or flies is sufficient to extend lifespan; in flies, longevity can be achieved by Pol III inhibition specifically in intestinal stem cells. The longevity phenotype is associated with amelioration of age-related gut pathology and functional decline, dampened protein synthesis and increased tolerance of proteostatic stress. Pol III acts on lifespan downstream of TORC1, and limiting Pol III activity in the adult gut achieves the full longevity benefit of systemic TORC1 inhibition. Hence, Pol III is a pivotal mediator of this key nutrient-signalling network for longevity; the growth-promoting anabolic activity of Pol III mediates the acceleration of ageing by TORC1. The evolutionary conservation of Pol III affirms its potential as a therapeutic target.

    Nature doi: 10.1038/nature25007

    in Nature Biological Sciences Research on November 29, 2017 12:00 AM.