Eggs are for science, not just for Easter


Eggs are a staple part of our diet. But is there more to them than being tasty and full of protein? We take a look at their potential uses, and the recent findings researchers are frying up. No eggs were harmed during the writing of this blog.

Easter approaches, and with Easter we usually find eggs. You won’t be hearing about eggs of the chocolate variety, however. Just regular old shelled eggs. Boring? Not exactly. We crack open our journals and dish out recent egg-based research that bring new insights into the potential uses of eggs.

Cracking down on allergies

Could eggs hold the key to gaining control over allergic reactions? Research findings are suggesting there’s some potential here.


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Genetics link found in search for sweet strawberries

Holding strawberries

This post by Madeleine Martiniello looks at findings from two new papers on strawberries published in BMC Genomics today, and is republished with kind permission from The Conversation.

If you’ve ever bitten into a strawberry and wondered why it doesn’t taste as sweet or as good as others in the punnet, you could blame the fruit’s genetics.

Two studies, published today in BMC Genomics, found that the distinct flavour of strawberry has been linked to a specific gene, present in some varieties of the fruit – but not in others.

The gene FaFAD1 controls a key flavour volatile compound in strawberries called gamma-decalactone, which is described as “fruity”, “sweet” or “peachy” and …

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Weapons of low-mass destruction: small ORFs in the uncharted parasite genome

bmc biol

In our genomes, there is a whole host of genes hiding in plain sight. These genes are not included in major genome annotation efforts and are widely ignored in the literature, even though in some cases they have been conserved for as long as 550 million years.

So how have these genes remained hidden? There is a short answer to this. Literally so: the genes are short.

Scientists and computer algorithms that hunt for genes expect their prey to take the form of long sequences of hundreds of nucleotides, and quite simply ignore or discard candidates that do not meet this criterion.

But they are perhaps unwise to do so, suggest a number of recent reports, including an article in BMC

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Knowledge sharing: key to improving dog health

golden retriever

To mark today’s launch of Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, we asked the Kennel Club’s Health Information Manager, Aimée Llewellyn, to tell us more about the journal’s background and its potential impact on the wellbeing of dogs:

The Kennel Club had been working to improve their educational resources for many years. In late 2011, it was agreed to investigate developing or potentially linking with a canine-focused scientific journal to make the newly emerging genetic research more accessible to the general public and dog breeders, as well as a more centralized resource for the veterinary community.

The problem was there wasn’t a journal already in place that focused purely, or even mainly, on dog health. So we looked into the …

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Help me: I’m interdisciplinary! – A blog post about interdisciplinary health services research

Different ways of thinking

In this post, new guest blogger Jay Shaw looks at the challenges of working across disciplines in research and what can be done to address them.

I have a dilemma. I am a postdoctoral researcher in health services and policy research at University Health Network in Toronto, Canada. I am trained as a physiotherapist; I did my PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, which was supervised by a physiotherapist, a psychologist, and a nurse; and my postdoctoral advisory committee includes a geographer, a sociologist, and an anthropologist. I guess I’m still sorting through my disciplinary identity crisis.

This might sound a bit like an educational carnival (thanks to Mikhail Bakhtin for that one), but it’s actually just a reflection of …

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Farm animals are more intelligent than they seem

Credit to Brian Squibb (35)

Following on from our post last month about research into the intelligence of goats, we asked one of the authors of the article, Elodie Briefer, to tell us more about why she studies goats and what is was like to carry out the research. Here’s what she had to say…

My main research interests are vocal communication and cognition. I carried out my PhD in the Bioacoustics team of Paris South University, on the song of skylarks. After my PhD, I moved to Queen Mary University of London to work with Alan McElligott on mother-offspring vocal recognition and vocal ontogeny in goats, and later on, on goat personality and emotions.

Expanding the breadth of research on cognition

After a few …

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Tamiflu: A poster child for transparency in clinical trials?


Thursday 10 April saw the publication of the Cochrane systematic review on oseltamivir and zanamivir, or Tamiflu (Roche) and Relenza (GlaxoSmithKline) to give them their better-known trade names. In short, the review found that Tamiflu doesn’t work quite as well as we thought; a finding that is the culmination of a four-and-a-half year battle for access to the raw data from the clinical trials.

The authors – Jefferson, Heneghan and colleagues – uncovered what they characterized as ‘multisystem failure’, with poorly-defined endpoints and confusion as to the authorship and contribution of the clinical trials. They also found that all studies were conducted against placebo, rather than against current best practice. Overall, the reviewers felt that the published studies were …

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Are journals ready to abolish peer review?

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Debate at City University

Scientific journal publishing has undergone significant changes in the last couple of decades with the digital revolution and the rise of open access journals. However, the process of manuscript peer review remains essentially the same as it was in the age of typewriters, even if we now do it by email rather than by post. Typically two or three copies of the manuscript are sent to two or three referees, and the decision to publish is based on their reports. Is this system quaint and outdated in today’s world of instant communication, social media and crowdsourcing? Or has it prevailed because it actually works?

John Bohannon’s sting published in Science, the rise in retractions and disillusionment with the …

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Borderline personality disorder – the ‘good prognosis diagnosis’?

Perry Hoffman

The new journal Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation (BPDED) launches today. In this guest blog, Dr Perry Hoffman, President of the NEA.BPD, tells us about borderline personality disorder and the impact this new journal can have, not just for researchers but for patients and their families.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a disorder that occurs in the context of relationships. With its hallmark symptoms of rapid mood changes, fears of abandonment, self-injury, suicide/suicide attempts, impulsivity and stormy relationships, it is a challenging diagnosis. And yet it is also termed the ‘good prognosis diagnosis’.  

Fortunately, the past two decades have seen a sea change in the disorder, with evidenced-based treatments, albeit not readily available, offering hope for symptom …

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Donating normal breast tissue – a gift to cancer researchers

Susan Clare

In this guest post, Dr Susan Clare of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and co-author of a recent paper published in Breast Cancer Research, writes about the importance of research on the ‘normal’ breast and what’s needed to allow this research to take place.

Our limited understanding of the developmental biology and genetics of normal breast tissue is a barrier to progress in understanding the causes of breast cancer and to developing successful prevention strategies and improved treatments. This oft repeated refrain is found in the periodic reviews of the state of breast cancer research and dates back at least to the NCI’s Report of the Breast Cancer Progress Review Group (1997).

Tissues banks and other initiatives mean there

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