Posts tagged: Biology

Pubic hair microbes as a forensic tool

male female

After watching CSI, and with forensic science being more advanced than ever, it’s easy to presume that criminals leave DNA traces everywhere that can help to make a conviction if they are caught.

Human hairs come to mind as a great place to start, however, the majority of samples recovered at crime scenes are shed hairs containing insufficient levels of nuclear DNA, meaning they cannot be used to make an identification. This is because short tandem repeat (STR) analysis is performed on crime-scene DNA, where probes are attached to the sample, then it is amplified in length by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to create a DNA fingerprint. Two samples can then be compared to find if there’s a match. With …

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Acetate helps hypoxic cancer cells get fat


Today’s guest blog is a Cancer Research UK Career Development Fellow, Jurre Kamphorst, a researcher focusing on the metabolic stress responses in cancer cells and lead author of a study published in Cancer & Metabolism.

Unlike normal cells, cancer cells are wired to just keep on growing. This continued growth requires a constant supply of cellular building blocks, including fatty acids for cell membranes. Normally, fatty acids are mostly being made from glucose. However, tumors often face reduced oxygen levels (hypoxia), causing glucose to be only partially metabolized and secreted as lactate, instead of being used for fatty acid synthesis. We discovered that acetate substitutes for glucose as a source for fatty acid synthesis in hypoxic cancer cells.

We were initially …

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Making sense of methylation and methodology

ClEp blog

New research published today in Clinical Epigenetics questions the methods used in some studies for assessing DNA methylation in cancer, calling for the use of only quantitative techniques. This is a guest blog by Dr Annette Lim (Peter MacCallum Cancer Center, Australia) and Dr Alexander Dobrovic (Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, Australia) to explain more about the importance of how we measure DNA methylation in cancer.

Given the critical role of methylation in embryogenesis, it is not difficult to expect that dysregulation of methylation will be a fundamental element in the evolution of uncontrolled cell cycling within the cancer genome. As such, the identification of altered methylation in tumours has held promise of unlocking …

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A ticking time bomb? Ebola and the neglected tropical diseases


Ripudaman K Bains is the Assistant Editor of Genome Biology, and the in-house editor of the journal’s special issue on the ‘genomics of infectious diseases

In recent months, infectious diseases have been at the forefront of public attention. The deepening Ebola crisis in West Africa has now claimed nearly 6,000 lives, and although the international response is increasing the disease continues to strain already overextended medical infrastructure in affected countries.

It is perhaps surprising that Ebola is officially classed as a ‘neglected tropical disease’. The 2014 outbreak is the worst on record; between 1976 and 2013 there were 26 outbreaks of the virus, almost all of which occurred in sub-Saharan African nations, resulting in a total of 1,716 …

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How can tagging a hammerhead shark help save the species?

Researcher releasing a tagged hammerhead shark

Hammerhead sharks, which recently received new protections from the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, have suffered drastic population declines in excess of 90% in some parts of the world.

In the Gulf of California, Mexico particularly, scalloped hammerheads are susceptible to being caught by fishing nets while moving into the open sea. However, little information exists on their exact movements, especially those of juvenile sharks as they go through their critical period of adolescence.

New research published in Animal Biotelemetry has now for the first time tracked the precise movements of a young hammerhead shark over a 10-month period, revealing important gaps in current efforts to protect this endangered species. The study is the first …

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The long-lasting impact of El Niño on child growth in Peru





A study published today in Climate Change Responses explains how the El Niño can stunt children’s growth. Heather Danysh, is a doctoral candidate in Epidemiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health and an author of this study. In this guest post, she explains what El Nino is and the affect of climate change on its cyclical nature.




For centuries, the El Niño phenomenon has wreaked havoc on populations around the world through its accompanying extreme weather variability, leading to drought and flood disasters. El Niño-related disasters affect more than four times the number of people affected by other natural disasters worldwide.

El Niño is part of a normal climate phenomenon occurring every 2-7 years, and typically lasts for …

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Unusual case of a tapeworm moving across the brain sparks genomic insight

Brain MRI Scan over time Credit Nagui Antoun

Dr Hayley Bennett is a researcher from the parasite genomics group at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. She is the lead author of an article published in Genome Biology which has revealed the genome of a rare tapeworm found living inside a patient’s brain. In this post she talks about new developments in genome sequencing that are managing to reveal an impressive amount of detail on potential drug targets for rare infections.

We have recently collaborated with pathologists, radiologists and clinicians looking at an exceptionally rare case of a tapeworm in a patient’s brain. The worm was removed by surgery and the material was used to find out more about a hitherto unsequenced order of tapeworms.

The case had baffled clinicians …

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Sealed with a kiss – and 80 million oral bacteria


Christmas seems to come earlier each year. Our thoughts turn to the exchange of gifts, time with family and friends and the inevitable office party. But you may find that you exchange more than a secret santa gift this year. A drunken kiss with a colleague could leave you with many million of their oral bacteria, according to a new study in Microbiome.

It is an oft-quoted fact that we have more bacterial cells living on us than the number of human cells we’re made from. Less well understood is how bacteria move between us, travelling from human to human, from human to animal (including our pets) and to and from our built environment.

The oral microbiome has been …

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An open future for neuroscience – join BioMed Central at SfN 2014!


SfN 2014 starts tomorrow, and I will be there, along with several of my colleagues. It’s a big event in the neuroscience research calendar, and every year the conference is an opportunity to hear about the latest and most cutting edge research in the field.

Over the last few years I’ve seen open access becomes increasingly popular within the field of neuroscience (and rightly so, I think), and it’s great to be part of that. I work with some of the first high-quality open access neuroscience journals, edited and supported by a community of leading experts, and we’re proud of that here at BioMed Central.

This year, as we’ve been gearing up for SfN, we decided to mark the occasion by summing up in …

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Chemical sterilization: A safe alternative for dogs?


Could chemical sterilization be an affordable solution to keeping stray dog populations under control? Raffaella Leoci, DVM, PhD, is a researcher at the University Bari Aldo Moro in Italy and a specialist in pet reproduction. She is the lead author of two articles published in Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica on chemical sterilization of dogs using calcium chloride, which identified the most effective concentration and the optimal solution. In this guest post she tells us why she thinks use of calcium chloride sterilization could be the answer to stray overpopulation.


Pet overpopulation is a serious problem across much of the world. In some regions such as where I live, the number of stray dogs is not under control and many dogs …

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