tRFs and the Argonautes: gene silencing from antiquity


In Greek mythology, the Argonauts are a band of heroes who accompany Jason on his quest to find the Golden Fleece, a garment whose origins likely lie in the use of sheep fleeces as sieves to collect gold flakes from running water.

In a new paper published in BMC Biology, Anindya Dutta and colleagues mine Argonaute (sic) datasets for biology's very own hidden gold: previously neglected fragments of tRNA molecules, known as tRFs.

Here's seven awesome things you need to know about tRFs:

1) tRNA molecules are routinely degraded by the cell into tRNA halves and smaller fragments (tRFs), which can be created from both the 5' and 3' ends of each tRNA. Some studies have argued that these degradation products …

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September blogs digest: gene patenting, Jack the Ripper, Angelina Jolie, and more


If you missed out on any of our blogs in September, never fear! We’ve got all the top content for you right here.

‘You might as well patent oxygen’ 

In the wake of the decision by the Australian Federal Court to uphold gene patenting, BMC Biology’s Naomi Attar took to the blogs to write an ‘unashamedly unbalanced’ take on their decision. You may have gathered from the title that she wasn’t too impressed. In her post she takes us through the ins and outs of why that is.

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

Jack the Ripper hit the headlines in September, as his supposed ‘true’ identity was revealed. It was said to be none …

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BugBitten and the art of war

Image credit: Philip Dyer

According to Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military general, strategist and author of Art of War,  the key to winning a battleis knowing your enemy. And clearly, for those who are trying to eliminate some of the most devastating parasitic diseases known to humans and animals, understanding what makes parasites and their vectors tick [pun intended] AND disseminating this knowledge is crucial in the ‘war’.

In October 2013, a group of parasitologists set out on a quest to create a forum where the latest research, news and events concerning parasites (and of course their vectors) can be brought to our attention fast and that is how BugBitten was born… and today we are celebrating its first birthday.

Right from …

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Which system of peer review for you?


It’s two years now since the journals BMC Pharmacology and BMC Clinical Pharmacology merged to create BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology. Chris Morrey, the Executive Editor for the journal marks the occasion with a birthday post over on the BMC series blog.

In merging a biology journal that has ‘traditional’ anonymous peer review (BMC Pharmacology) with a medical journal that has fully open peer review (BMC Clinical Pharmacology) what should the peer review process be? In the end, openness prevailed (in keeping with all the other medical titles in the BMC series) where the identity of the reviewers is known to all parties – editors, authors and readers.

To see what the Editorial Board – with their variety of …

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MozFest: Bringing the Web to Science


In just a month’s time from now, Mozilla will be hosting their annual Mozilla Festival (“MozFest” for short), which for the 2nd year will feature a Science Track, which this year we will be contributing to through a 3-hour sprint on author contributorship, the journal article, and the Open Badges Infrastructure. We’re organising this with our friends at PLoS, the Wellcome Trust, ORCiD, Digital Science, and Digital Me. Look out for our blog in the next few days where we’ll go into more detail about this session.

MozFest is where communities working in technology, design, education, journalism, and research come together to innovate in the space of the Web. It’s for coders and non-coders alike. Bring everything …

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Ebolavirus – Possibility and reality


The horrible crisis that is unfolding in Africa, with ebolavirus infection now threatening to become endemic, has its roots in many causes, of which the current state of understanding of the virus and the means of its control must be the least.

It’s not that we don’t know what to do

Ebolavirus outbreaks can be brought under control within weeks by established containment measures. But in this case, it was three months before the virus was recognized as the cause of the outbreak and another five before WHO declared a public health emergency, with the humanitarian response following only some weeks after that.

Meanwhile densely populated towns, and not just rural areas, are affected; the populations of the affected areas are …

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Stay pumped up. How your lifestyle, diet, and environment impact heart health


The heart. One of the body’s most vital and hardworking organs. Every day it pumps nearly 2000 gallons of blood. Such a task requires a strong heart, literally. So, you can imagine the importance of having a healthy heart.

The issue is, it’s difficult to know if our hearts are heading down an unhealthy route until it’s too late. You may be slim, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not at risk from cardiovascular disease. The fact remains that in order to keep a healthy heart, we need to adhere to a healthy lifestyle and diet.

 You and your heart – eating for two

The food we eat will impact on the heart. If we drink caffeine the heart speeds up. If …

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Cardiovascular disorders: novel therapies, prevention strategies and lifestyle interventions

Heart 3d square

Today is World Heart Day, and having recently got back from attending the European Congress of Cardiology as part of my role at BMC Medicine, it seemed an opportune moment to take you through some of the important findings discussed there.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that 17 million people die every year from cardiovascular diseases. However, the majority of these deaths could be avoided by managing risk factors such as tobacco smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful alcohol use.

To achieve control of these risk factors the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are developing and implementing appropriate policies to tackle the challenges.

The issue of research in cardiovascular diseases in …

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Understanding the consequences of abortion

Diana Greene Foster

Findings from the Turnaway study, which aims to look at the effects of unwanted pregnancy on women’s lives, were published today in BMC Medicine. In this guest blog, Diana Greene Foster, Principal Investigator of the Turnaway study writes about her experiences in leading it.

When we started the Turnaway study, a main goal was to understand the consequences of abortion for women’s lives. A handful of researchers had posited that many women experience ‘post-abortion trauma syndrome’ – mental health disorders caused by having an abortion. Since nearly one out of three women in the U.S. has an abortion over her lifetime, such a syndrome would potentially affect millions of women.

I’m a demographer, so I naturally think about health conditions …

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Rabies: What do I need to know?


Today is World Rabies Day, an opportunity to raise awareness of the disease and how we can tackle it. We asked the Kennel Club, the society behind the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, to tell us more about rabies and what is being done to protect dogs and dog owners.  Guest blogger Aimee Llewellyn, Kennel Club Health Information Manager, gives us the details.

The chances of a dog or human catching rabies are almost non-existent in many countries, including the UK and US, but it is important for owners of man’s best friend to be aware of the risks to ensure that they, and their pets, stay happy and healthy.

Everyone has heard of rabies, but most …

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