Highlights of the BMC-series: June 2014

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Genetic differences of island wolves • Black widow spider venom eQTL expression in the blood • Mobile phones support adherence to paediatric health Lipid metabolism in glioblastoma Capnography for intensive care

BMCWordleEcology:  Genetic differences of island wolves

Variation in environment could explain genetic differences observed between mainland and island wolf populations, even over very short distances. Genetic analysis of faecal samples collected in coastal British Columbia revealed that wolves found in island archipelagos are genetically different from nearby populations living on the mainland, being significantly correlated to geographic distance between habitats. Despite wolves being seen swimming between landmasses, gene flow does not appear to be restricted by barriers such as water, further suggesting that genetic differentiation may be due to the marine resources available to this population.

Genomics:  Black widow spider venom

The venom peptides and proteins produced by spiders constitute the largest of most venomous invertebrates. Although widely researched, less is known about the venom from western black widow spiders. Using RNA-Seq and proteomic analysis 695 venom gland specific transcripts and 61 proteins were identified in the venom. Of these transcripts, latrotoxins were the most diverse whilst putative unknown and ICK toxins, previously unreported in this genus of spiders were identified together with unknown secreted proteins. Together this data is suggestive of a rapid evolutionary expansion of toxins in these spiders.

Medical Genomics:  eQTL expression in the blood

The identification of eQTL variants in brain tissue may be valuable for the study of neurological and psychiatric conditions. However, such studies may be limited by the availability of tissue. To date, samples collected from multiple brain regions or from different neuropathologies have been used to investigate eQTL . Comparison of these studies with a meta-analysis in which blood was used as a surrogate for brain tissue indicate that, although only found in small proportions in the blood, overlapping eQTLs are functionally similar with those found in brain tissue. These finding suggest that although using tissues specific to a particular disease is the current gold standard, using blood samples may also have value.

Image of the month

june imageEyespots and stripes highlight the structural diversity among Kalligrammatidae. From “Mesozoic lacewings from China provide phylogenetic insight into evolution of the Kalligrammatidae (Neuroptera)” Yang et al BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:126

Public Health:  Mobile phones support adherence to paediatric health

Interventional studies on minority populations are required to provide more information on clinical outcomes and health attitudes. Research has focussed on defining health surveillance and chronic diseases in adults and less emphasis has been placed on paediatric conditions. Whilst conducting a randomised trial on indigenous children with bronchiolitis, researchers recruited families that had access to mobile phones; parents could be contacted as needed, revealing a high adherence, retention and follow-up rate to the trial. Although widely used in other studies, mobile phones have been shown to be a simple and effective strategy to facilitate adherence in clinical trials involving indigenous children.

Cancer:  Lipid metabolism in glioblastoma

Glioblastoma multiforme contain a subset of tumor cells known as “cancer stem cells” due to their stem-like features, which are believed to contribute to tumour growth and recurrence. Growth of tumours have previously been attributed to lipid metabolism, since malignancies require lipids for biosysnthesis and energy during tumour progression. Having already been found to be elevated in tumour tissues, expression of the lipid-metabolising enzyme acyl-CoA synthase VL3 (ACSVL3) has now been shown to be increased in glioblastoma multiforme stem cells. Depletion of ACSVL3 inhibited cell growth, thereby suggesting that this enzyme is capable of initiating and propagating tumours and highlighting a potential therapeutic target for some cancers.

Pediatrics:  Capnography for intensive care

In non-intubated neonates, methods used to assess the effectiveness of ventilation have had the disadvantage of being intermittent and or invasive. Albeit a safe procedure, tissue injury at the measuring site has been observed in procedures such as transcutaneous monitoring. By monitoring exhaled carbon dioxide using the alternative capnography method – which is now in regular use – a new study demonstrates accurate measurements captured using side stream nasal cannula, correlating to levels found using transcutaneous monitoring. As well as being non-invasive, capnography has the benefit of allowing continuous monitoring, avoiding secondary complications sometimes observed with other methods.

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