Posts tagged: Biology

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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Keeping it clean: Spotlight on contamination in microbiome studies

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Figure 1 Summary of 16S rRNA gene sequencing taxonomic assignment from ten-fold diluted pure cultures and controls. Salter et al. BMC Biology 2014, 12:87

A study published today in BMC Biology has found that many published microbiome studies may have been contaminated. In this guest post, Susannah Salter and Alan Walker, authors on the paper, tell us more about what they found.


The last decade has seen amazing developments in DNA sequencing technology. One area that has benefitted tremendously from these advances is the field of microbiology, as it is now possible to characterise microbial communities (“microbiota”) at previously unimaginable depths.


As a result microbiota research is currently booming, led by many recent large-scale, world-wide initiatives such as The Human Microbiome Project, MetaHIT, and the Earth Microbiome Project, which use the power of sequencing to try and understand …

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Questioning regeneration: answers from Alejandro Sánchez-Alvarado


Alejandro Sánchez-Alvarado’s dynamic enthusiasm comes through as he talks about his passion: regeneration. In an interview for Biome he reflects on his personal experiences in science that have shaped his current research.


Planarian flatworms have remarkable regenerative capacity, being able to regenerate a whole organism from a tiny fragment of its body (for a general introduction see his Q&A  in BMC Biology ) but what led Alejandro to work on this organism?


A focus on the past and a chance meeting at a conference were his inspiration. His interest was aroused on finding the book ‘Regeneration’ by TH Morgan, who is as Alejandro comments “the father of modern genetics on Drosophila”, and who undertook “forgotten classic” …

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Congratulations it’s a boy: the impact of climate change on turtle gender

Flatback turtle hatchling

Climate change is predicted to cause sweeping effects on the world’s biomes, but one of the most peculiar will be on certain reptilian species who employ a physiological mechanism called Temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD).

Research published last week in Climate Change Responses has highlighted an anomalous trend in the future sex-ratios of flatback turtles. Where most of the existing literature has warned of an increasing feminized trend in turtles, the rookery of this study has shown quite the opposite. The Cape Domett rookery is a hatching ground for flatback turtles (Natator depressus) located on the northern coast of Western Australia and has been the subject of intensive, long-term study in turtle ecology.

TSD is a type of environmental sex determination only …

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Responding to climate change

Frank Seebacher

Our new journal Climate Change Responses launches today, and to mark the occasion, we’ve asked co-Editor-in-Chief Frank Seebacher to tell us all about it.

What exactly will Climate Change Responses cover and why is it important to have a journal in this field?

Changing climate affects species and ecosystems at all levels of organization, from molecular interactions within cells, to global patterns of species distributions. This recent video by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) provides some graphic examples of how climate change and interactions with humans affects wildlife in many parts of the world.

As research progresses, our understanding of climate change is shifting all the time, both with respect to climate dynamics and their consequences for the …

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Biology – The foreseeable future

BMC Biol iconic image

It’s a year and a half since we last looked at what our Editorial Board thinks we still need to know about biology, and it’s Biology Week in the UK. Good enough reason for another look at the open questions our expert Board thinks are most pressing, interesting or neglected in biological science.

Do we know our planet?

Ecology, not surprisingly is replete with open questions. We don’t know how biodiversity comes about (Anne Magurran), or how to predict what our blundering footprints will do to it (Anne Magurran and Charles Godfray, who roped in Robert May to help frame the questions), or whether biodiversity offsetting is a real possibility for making good the damage done by …

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From plants to publishing – a biologist’s story

"I still remember those classic experiments, counting bugs and plants in a quadrat, covering a leaf with black paper and seeing what happened."

As part of this year’s Biology Week celebrations, organised by the Society of Biology, we interviewed Elizabeth Moylan, Biology Editor here at BioMed Central and asked her about what first got her interested in biology and how she ended up working in publishing.

Tell us about what first got you interested in biology, and what you went on to study.

I can’t really remember a ‘light bulb’ moment where I fell in love with the subject so to speak. I guess growing up, the natural world is all around you and it was just fascinating to find things out.

I liked messing around in the garden, and enjoyed all those Attenborough programmes, and at school biology lessons were fun! I still remember those classic …

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