Together we are stronger: charities join forces to support open access


A consortium of six leading UK medical research charities will support the costs of making research articles from their funded research immediately and freely openly available to scientists, patients, and donors alike, through the recently announced joint Charity Open Access Fund. David Carr of the Wellcome Trust, Sanjay Thakrar of the British Heart Foundation and Matt Kaiser of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research explain how this new partnership came about.

As charitable funders of medical research, we are dedicated to maximizing the societal benefits that flow from the research we fund. We know that making research publications openly available ensures that the knowledge and data they contain can be more widely accessed, corroborated and used to advance research …

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Implementing nature’s solution to dirty bacteria with the bioinspired Sharklet™ micropattern


A guest blog from Dr. Ethan Mann, a research scientist at Sharklet Technologies, Inc, in which he discusses how different materials can prevent the spread of human disease bacteria.

Microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses  are contacted during interaction with everyday surfaces. Picking up germs from surfaces contributes to transmission of infectious diseases. Bacteria are able to survive on hard surfaces for days to weeks before they are reintroduced to a host. Once in a host, the bacteria are able to cause an illness often resulting in further propagation of the microorganism and potentially the need for treatment.

High touch public surfaces such as door handles and railings would benefit from a self-cleaning surface technology to reduce the amount of microorganisms …

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Top-predator control does not always initiate trophic cascades


Guest post by: Benjamin Allen, University of Queensland  &  Robert Wicks Pest Animal Research Centre, Biosecurity Queensland, Australia.


Trophic cascades are an ecological chain reaction, where changes to one organism flow through the food chain and indirectly influence many other organisms. The study of trophic cascades has become very popular in the last few decades. Ecological theory now predicts that where and when large carnivores, top-predators or apex predators (such as lions, wolves or sharks) are removed, smaller predator and herbivore populations increase, putting increased pressure on plants and animals further down the food chain. In short, top-predator removal = biodiversity decline. This has led to calls for cessation of top-predator control globally, which is often practiced …

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We are all sweet enough; it’s time for less sugar now


Katharine Jenner is a Registered Public Health Nutritionist and the Campaign Director of Action on Sugar, a new campaign group concerned with the effects of sugar on our diet, and of Consensus Action on Salt and Health; who have already been successful in reducing the UK’s salt intake and are expanding worldwide. Katharine is also Chief Executive of Blood Pressure UK, Chair of the Better Hospital Food campaign, and a lecturer in nutrition and public health at Queen Mary University of London.

A gold standard of evidence in nutritional science is notoriously hard to achieve. Calls for double blind trials of free sugars, or systematic reviews on intakes are often used as delaying tactics favoured by organisations that are …

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A new angiogenesis inhibitor targeting multiple tyrosine kinases offers new hope for treating tumors


A guest blog from co-Editor-in-Chief of Vascular Cell, Jan Kitajewski, in which he discusses the potential of using the newly developed lenvatinib as an anti-angiogenic therapy in the treatment of thyroid cancer.

Blood vessels can be thought to function as do the roots of a tree, acting to nourish both near and far reaches of the living organism. Despite the amazing capacity of blood vessels to keep your tissues healthy, your blood vessels can be diverted toward more insidious purpose. Tumors attract and accept new blood vessels that they recruit from neighboring tissues. This process of tumor angiogenesis acts to assure that the growing tumor is nourished and provides a path for tumor cells to travel to distant sites.

Targeting …

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Was it really the barber? A look at Jack the Ripper’s DNA test


Jack the Ripper hit the headlines this week, as his supposed ‘true’ identity was revealed. It was said to be none other than Aaron Kosminski, a Polish immigrant and hairdresser of 23 years of age. It’s not a huge shock that the public has been in uproar: ‘Jack the Ripper’ trended on Twitter, news outlets are dishing out the details, and everyone is surprised the mask has finally been lifted 126 years later. But while the media world is blowing up, we’d do well to remember these are only claims.


Aaron Kosminski was a relatively young barber, only 23 years old. I’ve always imagined our famed murderer to be much older, but instead we’re faced with a suspect …

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A new impact factor, a model modeler, and how to make a syllabub


This year, the impact factor of BMC Biology has increased for the second year in succession, to reach 7.4. Although like (probably) most of you, we have serious reservations about the value and validity of impact factors as a measure of quality, we know how much they matter in practice to research biologists competing for jobs and funds; so it would be silly to say we don’t care about them. And it is especially important to acknowledge our debt to all the Editorial Board members, off-Board experts, and referees, without whose help we should not have been able to achieve this.

Our saddest news this year is the loss of Julian Lewis, one of the most thoughtful and sagacious of our …

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Combating malaria: mechanisms of immunity and vaccination strategies

Malaria pic

Malaria is present in over 100 countries worldwide, and it is estimated that around 3.4 billion people – half of the world’s population – are at risk of infection. There were an estimated 627,000 deaths caused by malaria infection in 2012, with over 90% of deaths occurring in African children.

The disease is caused by Plasmodium parasites including P. falciparum and P. vivax, which are carried by infected Anopheles mosquitoes. Antimalarial drugs can be used to prevent and treat malaria, but resistance to these agents frequently develops. Recent research found that P. falciparum parasites are becoming increasingly resistant to artemisinin therapies in Southeast Asia, highlighting that radical action is required to prevent the spread of malaria …

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‘You might as well patent oxygen’ – an unashamedly unbalanced take on Australia’s support for gene patents


Last year, a rainbow coalition of civil liberties campaigners, cancer patients and eminent geneticists – heck, even Jim Watson! – argued before the US Supreme Court that gene sequences are a product of nature and therefore ineligible for patent protection.

And the Supreme Court replied, in all its refined wisdom:

'Well, duh!'

A nine-to-nothing unanimous decision.

A difference of opinion

But the US has long known that truths held to be 'self-evident' are not always in for a smooth ride, and so we perhaps should not be too surprised – if still perplexed and saddened – to learn that the Australian Federal Court, when faced with the same question, responded: 'um, maybe not'.

I do not pretend to understand what brand of logic could …

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For the ‘greater good’ would you share your biological data? Science’s need for study participants’ consent

Cote picture

Last week the National Institutes of Health released its genomic data sharing policy. From next year, study participants will need to give researchers permission to re-use and share their data. But, what about many older studies that were obtained years before re-use of samples was envisaged? Michele Cote and colleagues from Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute, USA, wondered what would happen if people from a 15-year old lung cancer study were re-contacted and asked to share their de-identified data.

Fifteen years ago when I embarked upon a career in medical research as a project coordinator, the world of high-throughput genomics was in its infancy.  The Human Genome Project was nearing completion, but most …

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