Posts tagged: Biology

Let’s talk about sex

Man and woman

This is a guest post by Lucy Maddox, Clinical Psychologist and BSA Media Fellow. You can read more from Lucy on her blog, Psychology Magpie, and on Twitter @Lucy_Maddox.

Sex differences in brain connections found in a recent PNAS article have caused a media stir. The BBC reported that “men and women’s brains are wired differently” and that this might result in differences between what each sex does well. A backlash of comment debated whether this is a helpful position for gender equality, and whether the media story had covered the science accurately enough.

We seem to have endless appetite for knowledge on whether or how the sexes differ, with whole …

Read more

Cerebellum & Ataxias is now open for submissions!

Cerebellum & Ataxias, a new journal from BioMed Central

There is a major interest in the role of the cerebellum in behavioural and cognitive tasks, and the field of cerebellar ataxias is now evolving as a clinical discipline internationally.

As an exciting development in keeping with the direction of the field  Cerebellum & Ataxias, a new open access journal from BioMed Central, is now accepting submissions.

Led by Editor-in-Chief Mario Manto, FNRS, Belgium, the journal hopes to mirror the success of its older, sister journal The Cerebellum, and complement its focus on the fundamental neurosciences of the cerebellum in providing a platform for more clinical cases and scientific reports of the numerous forms of ataxias.

Cerebellum & Ataxias welcomes both research and clinical …

Read more

Fred Sanger: I think you should try harder


Genome Biology was sad to learn of Frederick Sanger’s death on Tuesday, November 19th. Although Sanger retired from scientific research 30 years ago, long before the journal Genome Biology ever started, it is safe to say that without his work we wouldn’t even be here.

The journal was launched in 2001, the same year that the completion of sequencing of the human genome was reported. The sequencing was done entirely using the method Sanger had devised for determining genetic sequences. Although his was not the first technique for reading DNA sequence, it was the first really practical one and, like many methods that revolutionize fields, it was an elegant and conceptually simple idea. Sanger had, in …

Read more

Fire ants – queens, clones, and burning bites



The 5th of November is upon us, the day Guy Fawkes decided to blow up Parliament (and failed). With bonfires and fireworks lighting up throughout the UK, we thought we’d highlight some fiery research. Don’t worry, we won’t be discussing the adverse health risks of fumes or  the danger of wildfires. Instead we’ll be looking at the fire ant in all its blazing glory.

The fire ant is just a name for ants of the Solenopsis genus. You may also know them as the ‘red ant’. There are about 285 species of fire ant worldwide.

Flame fatales

The ladies are, like most female ants, born into royalty as a queen. As a virgin, the …

Read more

Data curveballs and variant strikeouts: Genome Biology plays the perfect game at ASHG2013

- 1 Comment

Two rarities seldom seen by Bostonians are the American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting (aka ASHG) and the baseball World Series. The former was last in Boston 60 years ago, in 1953 – the year of the double helix. The latter, a contest between grown men – as evidenced by a dazzling roster of beards – playing some sort of rounders derivative, has not been won on home turf by the city's Red Sox since 1918. But both events converged this year, with the geneticists of ASHG more than equal to the task of keeping all four bases covered. That is, the DNA bases A, C, G and T.

Mo' data, mo' solutions?

The most inventive session …

Read more

Publishing House of Horrors – Spooky Science

- 1 Comment

As Halloween begins, and night inevitably creeps closer, we’ve been scouring our open access research for the creepiest, weirdest, and grossest research we can get our claws into.

The world’s cutest vampire

The kodkod, also known as the guiña, is the smallest cat in the Americas. Not many people have heard of the kodkod, which seems to have stayed under the radar. While the kodkod looks not unlike your typical domestic cat (though perhaps with  fluffier fur and rounder ears), it has a rather dramatic reputation, according to a recent study.

The people of Chile mostly regard the kodkod as a vampire. Not just a vampire, but a sadistic murderer, a demon, or a …

Read more

Open-Phylo: give science back to the people


It seems that scientific research in the last two hundred years or so has made a full conceptual circle. In the good old days of the nineteenth century, any Englishman with a vaguely middle-class background, a source of modest income and an insatiable curiosity could treat research as an eccentric pastime. Whether that meant sea voyages and bird watching or hiking trips and rock collecting, what mattered first of all was the pursuit of the understanding of how the world works.

But times changed, and the world changed, and research moved from gentleman’s clubs to academic institutions. And although it gained more structure, and although, as hobbyists turned into professionals, scientific dillydallying turned into a rigorous process, we …

Read more

CSI: Genome Biology

gratuitous photo of ted danson

The writers of popular forensics drama franchise CSI would be well advised to read Genome Biology today, as we publish an article that employs a widely used epigenetics assay to show that age can be predicted with reasonable accuracy from pretty much any human DNA sample, so long as it is sourced from healthy tissue.

In other words, a swab of the perp's DNA, even if not matched to an individual on a database, could yield seriously good clues about the age of a suspect, alongside what the wiliest of TV detectives have already shown we can determine about gender and obscure genetic diseases.

Incredibly, the 'epigenetic clock' characterized by UCLA biostatistican Steve Horvath, from which he develops an …

Read more

Fluids and Barriers of the CNS welcomes two new Editors-in-Chief


We are delighted to welcome Prof Lester Drewes (University of Minnesota) and Prof Richard Keep (University of Michigan) to their new positions as co-Editors-in-Chief of Fluids and Barriers of the CNS, working alongside Hazel Jones (King’s College London, UK).

Lester Drewes is Professor and Head of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Minnesota Duluth Medical School.  Prof Drewes is a leading expert known to many researchers in the blood-brain barrier field. He is founding President of the International Brain Barriers Society (IBBS), a forum for scientists to share their research and fast track discoveries related to the blood-brain barrier, and he also initiated the Cerebrovascular Biology meetings currently held every other year. His …

Read more

Nobel prizes, peer review, Open Access and bioinformatics: four awesome things

Alfred Nobel: the man who started it all

Nobel prizes can sometimes set me a-wondering what the point in journals is. One of the most well-known Nobel-winning papers, that of Watson & Crick, was published in Naturesixty years agowithout peer review (readers of Science's recent so-called 'sting' on Open Access and peer review might want to take note of the fact that Nature is not, nor has it ever been, an Open Access journal).

Reverse to the trigger-happy antics at Nature, which generally did not bother with peer review in the 1950s (and when it did, viewed a bit of a chinwag in a Pall Mall gentleman's club to be up to the task), was the Journal of Experimental

Read more