Guinea pig teenagers are highly domesticated

Guinea pig wikimedia

Unlike their human counterparts, adolescent guinea pigs  display highly domesticated behavior says a new paper published today in Frontiers in Zoology.  They have  reduced levels of cortisol (a hormone commonly associated with stress) and display less risk-taking behavior, in comparison with their wild relatives.

Domestication of animals has been key to the success of humans and our expansion across a broad range of environments. For example, it was in the harsh environment of the Andes that guinea pigs are thought to have been first domesticated as a food source to supplement protein-poor diets.

The process of domestication of animals can have strong effects on their behavior, physiology and morphology. These changes are a result …

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Peer Review – ‘chipped’, not broken


This blog was written jointly by Tim Sands and Anna Perman

Peer review: it’s an old, and possibly slightly dusty practice, but it is also tried and tested. As the internet is turning many established practices upside down, and in the light of some well publicised failures, many people have suggested ways to improve the system. Maria, one of our crack team of Biology Editors, took part in a debate last week asking ‘Is peer review broken?’, organised by the students of City University’s Science Journalism course. The general consensus was that peer review is flawed, but not broken. It was a great chance to talk about what works, what could be improved.

Why might peer review be broken?

Peer review is the …

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Looking forward to the Global Health and Innovation Conference


I will be attending the Global Health & Innovation Conference next month in New Haven (Yale University), and looking through the programme brought to mind again  our recently published Born Too Soon supplement which I’ve been working on for  Reproductive Health.

The Maternal and Child Health speakers at the conference are plentiful, and focus is very much centred on infant and maternal mortality, particularly in low resource settings and poor rural environments. The supplement’s focus was on preterm birth and reducing both maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity – particularly within middle- and low-income countries, so I’m looking forward to hearing some new insights on these topics from experts in the field.

In fact, as I’ve talked …

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Reverse innovation – does it really exist?

light bulb

To progress and explore the on-going reverse innovation in global health systems thematic series published in Globalization and Health, tweeters gathered on 28 March to discuss and share  thoughts on what reverse innovation in health really means by answering a set of questions provoking a compelling debate.

[View the story "Do low-income countries hold the key to health innovation?" on Storify]

Just one bite…

Anopheles mosquito

When you think of an animal with a deadly bite, what comes to mind? A lion, a great white shark or possibly a crocodile. True, these animals can certainly take a large chunk out of you but, in the whole scheme of things, they have nothing on the deadliest biters: small arthropods such as mosquitoes, sandflies and ticks.

And what makes their bite so deadly?

When these arthropods hone in on humans for a blood meal, they transmit disease-causing parasites into our blood during the feeding process. These arthropods are known as disease vectors because they transmit disease causing parasites from person to person – or indeed between humans and other animals.

It is thought that more than half the world’s population …

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Rabies – does it have to be fatal?


Rabies is a reliable killer – the only known infection with a near 100% fatality rate. That is until 2004 when a pediatrician in Milwaukee, USA, tried an experimental protocol that saved the life of 15-year-old Jeanna Geise. Dr Willoughby’s treatment, published here, was to induce a coma to protect her brain from the disease, while waiting for her to develop antibodies that could fight the virus.

While in a coma, Jeanna was given anti-viral drugs ribavirin and amantadine, although neither of these is proven to be effective against rabies. She had been bitten by a bat over a month earlier, too late for post-exposure vaccination, but the novel treatment worked, making Jeanna the sixth documented person to ever …

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OA: it’s not just about the access


It has been over a decade since the launch of the first major open access (OA) journals by  BioMed Central and PLoS, but controversies still  surround the field. Many of these concern the legitimacy of some of the many open access journals that are now available. Of these, a subset of OA journals have collectively been termed ‘predatory’ due to their questionable publication practices. As with every new business model, there are people who try to exploit it, and it is important to know who to trust and how to identify the miscreants. In this blog, I want to continue that discussion about how you - as readers, researchers and prospective authors -  can know which journals to …

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Arthritis discovery hailed as ‘exceptional example’ of translational research outcome


Sir Ravinder Maini and Sir Professor Marc Feldmann were last week awarded a prestigious 2014 Canada Gairdner International Award for their discovery of anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.


Rheumatoid arthritis is a common, chronic, painful and disabling autoimmune disease that affects over 21 million people worldwide. In the mid-1980s, Professors Maini and Feldmann discovered the first treatment for it using monoclonal antibodies, which are genetically engineered natural defense molecules, against the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα – this became known as ‘anti-TNF’.


Not only was this a novel treatment, but it was the first demonstration of the efficacy of a biological therapy for a chronic autoimmune disease. This led to recognition by …

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Final countdown for the EU Clinical Trials Regulation

Transfer of documents.

“Truth never damages a cause that is just” – Mahatma Gandhi

Today, European Parliament will vote on the EU Clinical Trials Regulation, including changes to legislation regarding transparency in Europe.

Over the last 30 years, the battle for increased access to clinical trial data has grown in strength. Without publically-available clinical trial results and methods, it is impossible to make informed clinical decisions. The huge, collaborative support seen for the AllTrials initiative is a clear sign that campaigns for greater transparency are gaining momentum.

The estimated percentage of unpublished clinical trials is hotly debated, and lies somewhere between 10% and 50%, depending on what methodologies were used or what article you read. Furthermore, positive results are more likely to be published than …

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Identifying and supporting informal carers

Young carer

In this guest post, Dr Emma Carduff and Dr Anne Finucane, co-authors on a new paper published today in BMC Family Practice explain why it’s important to support the carers of people approaching the end of their lives.

Approx. 10% of the UK population have an unpaid caring role for a family member or friend. Many of these carers make a significant contribution to supporting people who are approaching the end of their lives.  With increasing numbers of older and frailer people in the population, informal carers will play a vital role in caring for family members as health deteriorates and end of life approaches. In particular, care from informal carers, …

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