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

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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

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.

Climate change is already putting food security at risk. Rising temperatures and extreme events, such as sudden droughts and floods, mean that it will be even harder to meet the growing demand for food, fiber and fuel, especially for poor countries with high population growth.

Unless immediate action is taken by policy-makers, the impacts on livelihoods will increase over the long-run, especially if agriculture …

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Obesity: exploring the causes, consequences and solutions

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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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Large hypomethylated blocks could be a universal cancer ‘signature’

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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 yet malignant.

The authors focused on a specific epigenetic mark, known as DNA methylation, a molecular modification of DNA which can regulate the activity of nearby …

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

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Iain Frame

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 body, and the pussycats being those cancers that may never cause any harm and won’t go …

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

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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

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Announcing the Great Galaxy GigaScience (G3) Open Science Workshop

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This is a guest post by Dr Nick Wong, a researcher in developmental epigenetics at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Victoria, Australia. Dr Wong is taking part in the G3 workshop. Register for free here.

 

Having been quite versed in the art of research 8 years post PhD, I have been very fortunate to witness a renaissance in publishing in two ways. First, I remember quite well during my PhD training (over 10 years ago), the process of preparing a manuscript for the highest ranked journal—submit, reject, reformat and submit to the next journal, reject, submit . . . you get the story. During that time, Impact Factor was the key metric in which a journal was measured. This evolved quickly …

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The secrets of the ‘little brain’ – what do we really know about the cerebellum?

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The cerebellum is best known for its role in muscle coordination, but what part does it play in cognition and behaviour? Last month, I attended the 6th International Congress of the Society for Cerebellar Research (SRC 2014) where I found there is a lot more to the cerebellum than regulating motor movements…

What is the cerebellum?

The cerebellum (Latin for ‘little brain’) has the appearance of a separate structure to the brain and is located underneath the large mass of the cerebral cortex. Despite being relatively small in size, the cerebellum contains more neurons than any other region of the brain, owing to its unique geometrical structure and large number of tiny granule cells.

The cerebellum and motor control

Traditionally viewed …

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Uprooted: tree communities threatened by great winds

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We’ve all seen images on the news of the aftermath of a storm. Branches, and sometimes whole trees, lying forlorn on the ground amongst a jumble of debris. But while the news focuses on the human impact of these events, there’s also the ecological impact to consider, as a paper published in BMC Ecology earlier this year investigated.

‘A tree that refuses to dance will be made to do so by the wind’ – so the African saying goes, but the wind can be a fearsome force that won’t be satisfied with mere swaying of branches.

The wind, at times a cool welcome breeze on a hot day and at others an almighty tyrant blowing great billowing gales. At least …

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Encouraging walking through changing our surroundings

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walking

A study published at the end of July in International Journal of Health Geographics suggests that changes in the built environment can increase how far a person will walk to get somewhere. So why should we be bothered about getting people walking?

Walking is a big part of my life. Not only do I love getting out to the countryside for a good old ramble, I walk as much as I can in the city (which, for me, is usually London). This wasn’t always the case. A few years ago, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to walk to work, for example. I just opted for the quickest journey time – bus, tube, whichever was faster.

That all changed when I …

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Spotlight on breast cancer: progress, challenges and controversies

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Breast cancer – the most common type of cancer affecting women – is often thought of as a single disease. However, mounting evidence suggests that there are multiple subtypes, all of which occur at different rates, have varying levels of aggressiveness, and respond to different types of treatment.

One of the better understood subtypes is HER2-positive breast cancer, defined by high expression of the HER2 protein. Women with HER2-positive breast cancer are often treated with targeted therapies such as trastuzumab, which has dramatically improved survival rates from HER2-positive breast cancer in the past decade.

Progress in treating HER2-positive breast cancer

In a Q&A podcast published in BMC Medicine to launch our Spotlight on breast cancer

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