The problem of antibiotic resistance, recently described as “apocalyptic” by Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer of the UK, is getting worse and cannot be expected to get better quickly. In a Question and Answer article in BMC Biology, Gerard Wright explains the reasons for the worsening situation, and why, despite the acute need, there are few new antibiotics on the horizon.
Antibiotic resistance is a natural and ancient phenomenon, and the emergence and spread of resistance in human pathogens inevitable, he argues, though widespread clinical and agricultural use of antibiotics makes it much worse; and the problem can only be met by the development of new drugs.
The point that antibiotic resistance predates our development of antibiotic drugs was …
Inside insects there is an open cavity called the hemocoel, in which fluid and cells known as hemocytes circulate due to the pumping of a heart. The hemocytes have a primary role in immune defense, killing pathogens by phagocytosis and via the production of anti-microbial factors. A study by Jonas King and Julian Hillyer published in BMC Biology adds to our understanding of insect hemocyte biology in three ways. First, it provides a quantitative map of their anatomical distribution, and shows that hemocytes attached to tissues (i,e sessile rather than circulating) form a major component of the mosquito immune system. Second it finds that their numbers diminish with age, but increase in response to infection. Third, it …
This was the opening question Lewis Wolpert posed at the Royal Society’s conference on Cell Polarity in London on April 15. If you think the answer is obvious, check the end of this blog. The conference, organized by Human Frontier Science Program collaborators Rafael Edgardo Carazo Salas, Attila Csikasz-Nagy and Masamitsu Sato, focused on what regulates cell polarity in the context of the oocyte, Drosophila, C. elegans, the gut, skin and T cells – with the main question of how does a cell break symmetry?
Asymmetric cell division is one answer, but that immediately raises the question of how and where microtubule spindle formation is regulated: we still don’t know how the centrosome knows where to position itself …
Often referred to as the ‘the worst system imaginable except for all others’, peer review itself was under review on Monday 21 April, at the Experimental Biology conference in Boston. A panel, organised by BioMed Central and energetically chaired by Gregory Petsko, took on the issues faced by academics and editors in peer review.
The Oxford English Dictionary definition of peer review is ‘the evaluation of scientific, academic, or professional work by others working in the same field’. Participants in the panel discussion painted a rather more vivid picture of the painful reality of that evaluation, with its consequences for funding and careers.
Commentaries highlighting the inefficiencies, even failings, of peer review have seemingly been on the increase since …
Each year BioMed Central’s Annual Research Awards celebrate excellence in scientific research made freely available through open access publishing within our portfolio of biology and medical journals. Now in their 7th year, they are intended to recognize the achievements of particular research teams in ten diverse subject-specific award categories spanning all areas of Biology, Medicine and Health Services Research. We also have an Open Data award recognizing leadership in the sharing of data and a Case Report of the Year Award for the best case report recognized for its originality and significance to clinical practice.We are pleased to announce the winners for the ten subject-specific award categories:
Animal Science, Veterinary Research and Zoology
Cancer sponsored by
BMC Biology began ten years ago, and BioMed Central three years earlier, right at the beginning of open-access publishing in biology. As part of BMC Biology’s 10-year anniversary, Editorial Board member Pat Brown (right) talks about the origins of open access and the circumstances that led him to become one of the early open access agitators. The rapid growth of the internet and the possibility of publishing without print is one obvious enabler of open access, but Brown also discusses another …
Edouard Van Beneden and Theodor Boveri first described the centrosome as “the organ for cell division” in the 1880s, so you might think it is an essential component of cells. Not so, according to Monica Bettencourt-Dias in her Question and Answer article in BMC Biology, where she assembles accumulating recent evidence that despite its apparent ubiquity in animals and classical appearance at the poles of the mitotic spindle, it’s optional. This is particularly surprising because in the course of the hundred-plus years since Beneden and Boveri, it has become clear that centrosomes also function in the positioning of the microtubule cytoskeleton in non-dividing cells in which they play a part in motility, signalling, protein traffic …
In the five years since the publication of the ‘Painful publishing’ letter in Science by Martin Raff , Alexander Johnson and Peter Walter, and the four since we (then Journal of Biology, now BMC Biology) started our experimental re-review opt-out policy, many voices have been raised in protest at the tyranny (sic) of reviewers, and solutions of various kinds have been offered – among the recent ones perhaps most prominently by eLife, and most radically by F1000Research.
The editorial leash
The aim of all of them, whatever their approach, is to reduce the frustration of authors who find current peer review practices obstructive to the point of being destructive. Our approach, inspired by the personal experience …
The evolution of predator-prey interactions yields interesting adaptations, resulting in some quirky phenomena. Snakes are a commonly-feared predator and people are familiar with (and dread) the venomous ones. There are two ways in which snakes have evolved to utilize their venom to capture prey. One method is to strike and hold, whereby the snake maintains its grip on the prey after biting and injecting its venom. This seems a perfectly reasonable strategy on the part of the snake. Alternatively, some snakes use a strike and release process: once envenomation occurs, the snake releases its prey, which seems on the face of it less reasonable but can be explained as a way of reducing the chances of retaliation. However, this …
Biologists have become wary of claiming that any cellular system is now understood but for the odd t left uncrossed, or i undotted, at least since the discovery of introns in the late 1970s opened up a new world of questions undreamed-of in the philosophy of the time.
So Sean Munro opens his contribution to the BMC Biology 10th anniversary collection ‘Open questions in biology’ by declaring firmly that there is no danger that cell biologists will become bored for the duration of the century. He does risk predicting some of the questions that may be answered in that time frame, though we note that as we are still quite close to the beginning of the 21st century, …