Recent posts from our blogs

From: BioMed Central blog

An update on the Earth Microbiome Project

Penelope Austin on August 29, 2014 at 13:00 - 1 Comment

When BMC Biology launched its iconic image we acknowledged the extreme artistic licence of portraying selected vertebrate phyla pictorially while whole microbial kingdoms were denoted with a single blob. This was not intended to signify a lack of interest in the microbial world on our part, and to update our readers on a major effort to explore its taxonomic diversity and role in the biosphere, we invited the instigators of the Earth Microbiome Project (EMP), launched in 2010 with the aim of sampling the microbial diversity of the planet, to give us a progress report.

In their short comment article on the achievements and aspirations of the EMP, Jack Gilbert, Janet Jansson and Rob Knight deliver a positive...

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From: BioMed Central blog

Twelve reasons you need to read about lactic acid bacteria

Guest on August 29, 2014 at 10:52 - 0 Comments

Eric Johansen

You may not know much about them, but you’ll almost certainly have eaten something that lactic acid bacteria have had a hand in. To mark a new supplement in Microbial Cell Factories, guest editor Eric Johansen tells us his 12 reasons why you ought to read it.

Lactic acid bacteria have a long history of use in the food industry where they are best known for turning milk into cheese or yoghurt, cabbage into sauerkraut or kimchi, and even improving the quality of wine. They’re also consumed in probiotic products for their health-promoting effects.

We’ve dedicated a whole supplement to these ‘friendly’ bacteria, and these are my 12 reasons why you need to read about them:

1. Their surface...

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From: BioMed Central blog

Winners of the BMC Ecology Image Competition

Alanna Orpen on August 29, 2014 at 08:00 - 0 Comments

As well as being an art form, photography is an important tool used by researchers to document their observations. Earlier this year, BMC Ecology launched its second image competition to showcase images of the natural world. Now we have the great pleasure of unveiling the winners.

“The best work often shows that new phenomena – sometimes startling, sometimes beautiful and sometimes both – are always there to be found with the keenest eye, the sharpest act of attention” explains Casper Henderson and his fellow judges.

Images hold scientific value through capturing fascinating interactions and ecological events, whether depicting an intimate encounter between a mother albatross and her chick, or capturing a Phorid fly trying to parasitise a Carpenter ant.

Our image


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From: BMC series blog

Behind the image: A sticky snack for mice

Alanna Orpen on August 29, 2014 at 08:00 - 0 Comments

Petra Wester’s charming shot of a Namaqua rock mouse (Aethomys namaquensis) lapping the nectar of the Pagoda Lily (Whiteheadia bifolia), wowed the judging panel for this year’s BMC Ecology image competition. In this Q&A we find out more about the woman behind the lens and her winning entry.   

Fascinated by nature as a child, Petra Wester went on to study biology, interested in the interactions between plants and animals. She spent many nights on the South African Sevilla rock art trail to study the Namaqua Rock mouse, hoping to capture a rare phenomenon, mouse pollination of the Pagoda Lily.

“Nectar is a snack (sticky in this case) for the mice, such as chocolate for us.” Petra’s live-action shot of


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From: BioMed Central blog

The human resources for health crisis

Guest on August 28, 2014 at 15:15 - 0 Comments

Community health worker gives a vaccination. Credit: Pippa Ranger, Innovation Advisor, DFID/Flickr

This is a guest post by Esmé Lanktree of the Global Health Research Initiative, and editor of supplements in Human Resources for Health and BMC Health Services Research.

Are we really facing a human resources for health (HRH) crisis? If we take crisis to mean a crucial moment in time, then an argument could be made against, as this is not a new problem. However, if we define crisis as ‘a situation that has reached a critical phase’ or ‘a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention’ (see Merriam-Webster), then the current HRH situation is certainly a crisis.

The 2006 World Health Report: Working...

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From: Cell & Bioscience blog

Transcriptional regulation and disease: a new article collection

Jennifer Franklin on August 28, 2014 at 09:14 - 0 Comments

Cell & Bioscience is delighted to bring to you a brand new article collection, Transcriptional regulation and disease, edited by Professor Yi-Ching Wang. This special collection of reviews brings together insightful information on the nature of transcriptional regulation and its dysregulation in diseases, focusing on ribosomal gene transcription, RNA editing, non-histone methylation and DNA methylation regulations.


Yi-Ching Wang is a professor at the National Cheng Kung University of Taiwan, where her lab specialises in research into the molecular mechanisms involved in lung tumorigenesis and further cancer genomics. We thank her for editing this fantastic collection of reviews.


From: BioMed Central blog

Reading the new map of breast cancer

Guest on August 28, 2014 at 09:00 - 0 Comments

Dr Nick Peel of
Cancer Research UK on the classification of breast cancer

Research published today in Genome Biology could improve treatments, and the targeting of treatments, for breast cancer. In this guest post, Cancer Research UK’s Dr Nick Peel describes the history of the findings and what they could mean for future research.

Just over two years ago a landmark study took our knowledge of breast cancer to a new level.

An international team of scientists, led by Professor Carlos Caldas and his team at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, mapped the genetic landscape of breast cancer in unprecedented detail, redefining it as 10 distinct diseases.

But as with many of these vast genetic


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From: BioMed Central blog

Climate-smart agriculture: scientists show agricultural progress in responding to climate change

Guest on August 26, 2014 at 16:40 - 0 Comments

There are over seven billion people living on our planet and this vast population creates an equally vast demand for food and fuel. In this guest post, the authors of an article published today in Agriculture and Food Security tell us how climate-smart agriculture could help us to combat the threat of climate change to these in-demand resources.

Diversified landscapes offer benefits to farmers by providing many cropping options for climate change. And agroforestry and reduced deforestation increase carbon storage and reduce greenhouse emissions. Research helps determine ways to build resilience in different agricultural contexts. Image courtesy of Louise E Jackson

Climate change is already putting food security at risk. Rising temperatures and extreme events, such as sudden droughts and floods,


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From: BioMed Central blog

Obesity: exploring the causes, consequences and solutions

Sabina Alam on August 26, 2014 at 15:48 - 0 Comments

The World Health Organization estimates that global levels of obesity have doubled since 1980. In 2012, more than 40 million children under the age of 5 were estimated to be overweight or obese, which is an issue of serious concern as excess body weight is believed to be the driver of many non-communicable diseases, namely type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer.

To tackle what is, in most cases, a preventable condition, there is increasing focus on research into understanding the mechanisms behind obesity, including our genetics and the influence of lifestyle and the environment. There is also now increased focus on introducing public health initiatives to aid long-term weight loss, which range from improving public,...

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From: BioMed Central blog

Large hypomethylated blocks could be a universal cancer ‘signature’

Guest on August 26, 2014 at 15:06 - 0 Comments

Figure 1 Many of the methylation changes at single probes between cancer and normal are far from CpG islands. Irizarry et al. Genome Medicine

In this guest post, Dr Andrew Teschendorff of University College London and the CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology, Shanghai, examines a new Genome Medicine study.

In an exciting research article published today in Genome Medicine, Rafa Irizzary and colleagues provide evidence for a gradual systems-level deregulation of the epigenome in stages prior to the onset of cancer and which later is seen to progress further in cancer. Thus, these insights could potentially lead to a clinical test with the ability to predict cancer risk in cells that are not...

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From: Bugbitten

Ebola outbreak takes its toll on West Africa

Srimathy Sriskantharajah on August 26, 2014 at 14:34 - 0 Comments

Ebola River – Democratic Republic of Congo – Googlemaps

This is an aerial photo of a river just like any other river – except that this rather innocuous looking waterway lends its name to the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD) which is currently spreading through West Africa.

News agencies are reporting that over 1400 people have died since the start of the outbreak, making it the worst known outbreak of the disease in history – and, to give you an idea of how rapidly the disease is spreading and killing, the number of fatalities has doubled since I first considered writing this blog article only a few weeks ago.

The first ever cases of EVD were recorded in 1976 in


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From: BioMed Central blog

‘Prostate cancers’ not ‘prostate cancer’ – revealing the many faces of ‘one’ disease

Guest on August 26, 2014 at 09:00 - 0 Comments

Dr Iain Frame of Prostate Cancer UK on the personalization of prostate cancer treatment

New research published today in Genome Biology shows that RNA sequencing could lead the way towards more personalized treatments for prostate cancer. In this guest post, Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK discusses what this could mean for patients and health services, and what more is needed to provide effective support and treatment for men with prostate cancer.

We are used to hearing and talking about prostate cancer as a single disease.  Albeit a disease with its tigers and pussycats – the tigers being the aggressive cancers that move out of the prostate gland to other parts of the


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From: BMC series blog

Influenza: it's wise to immunize

Natalie Pafitis on August 25, 2014 at 12:51 - 0 Comments

Influenza is a contagious viral respiratory infection, which typically occurs as epidemics during the winter months in temperate zones. It is usually mild and uncomplicated, but may occasionally cause severe disease, particularly in vulnerable populations.

Seasonal influenza vaccination is the single most effective protective measure against the virus.

Since 2008, annual surveys of influenza vaccination policies, practices and coverage have been undertaken in 29 European Union (EU)/ European Economic Area (EEA) countries. In December 2009 the EU Council of Ministers agreed to take action to mitigate the impact of seasonal influenza by encouraging vaccination among older people, people with chronic conditions and healthcare workers. The aim? To increase vaccination coverage of older age groups to a target of 75% vaccination coverage


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From: BMC series blog

It’s an eyeball with legs! Discovering more about the extinct, enigmatic and altogether bizarre Thylacocephlans

Christopher Foote on August 22, 2014 at 13:36 - 0 Comments

The origins of Thylacocephalans, bizarre arthropods extinct for over 80 million years, has long been shrouded in mystery. The discovery of a new species, the oldest yet found, is described today in BMC Evolutionary Biology, giving us new insight into the evolution and lifestyle of this remarkable predator.


Extinct and enigmatic

The fossil record contains many bizarre types of animals unlike any species alive today. Thylacocephalans are an excellent example of such a group. Extinct for over 84 million years, they are assumed to be related to crustaceans. However their bizarre morphology, so unlike any modern crustaceans, means their exact relationship to existing animals remains controversial.


Research published today in BMC Evolutionary Biology, sheds new light on these enigmatic animals. New...

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From: BioMed Central blog

Global health research: managing the burden of mental illnesses, diabetes and HIV

Lin Lee on August 22, 2014 at 12:26 - 0 Comments

The past two decades have shown an increase in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), affecting high-income as well as low- and middle-income countries. In fact, 63% of all deaths worldwide were due at least in part to NCDs, and around three quarters of the world’s chronic disease-related deaths that year occurred in low- and middle-income countries. These countries have to contend with a dual burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases, which pose not only a health burden, but also an economic burden. Three studies published in BMC Medicine this week explore some of these important issues.


Mental health disorders in Ethiopian homeless

Despite being a leading cause of disability and ill health globally, mental health Read more