Highlights of the BMC-series: July 2014

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Decline in HIV-1 resistant mutations • Beyond ENCODE? • As dead as the Dodo and twice as mysterious• Back pain beliefs • Circulating tumour cells: prognosis in metastatic breast cancer?

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Infectious Diseases : Decline in HIV- 1 resistant mutations
Drug resistant strains of HIV-1 remain a major constraint on the long term control of HIV-1 infection. Analysis of HIV-1 polymerase mutations in treatment failing patients between 2003-2012, according to class of antiretroviral regimen used at failure, suggests a reduction in acquired drug resistance with time irrespective of the specific antiretroviral class in use. The marked decline in resistance could be due to updated prescription guidelines and frequent use of resistance testing to guarantee the most favourable antiretroviral treatment regime.

Genomics: Beyond ENCODE?
With the development of ENCODE and ModEncode to determine functional elements in human and model organism DNA respectively, interest is peaking for a similar proposal for non model organisms. In their open peer reviewed correspondence piece, Tagu and colleagues discuss the application of a community system biology initiative for Non Model Organisms (neoEncode). A key requirement being the functional annotation of DNA elements, which  are targets of natural selection, under varying environmental conditions.
To facilitate community discussion and debate surrounding this issue BMC Genomics (which normally operates closed peer review), have published the peer reviewers comments associated with this piece. Find out more on the discussion in our blog.

Image of the month

Wilts et al, BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:160

Parides species with differently structured and coloured wing scales, analysed using photomicroscopy and scanning electron microscopy . From  Pigmentary and photonic coloration mechanisms reveal taxonomic relationships of the Cattlehearts (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae: Parides) Wilts et al. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:160

Evolutionary Biology: As dead as the Dodo and twice as mysterious
The origin of the extinct spotted green pigeon has been something of an enigma, with only a single museum specimen in existence. Isolation of heavily fragmented mitochondrial 12S DNA identifiers from feathers of this specimen and phylogenetic reconstruction by Tim Hepupnik et al, have revealed that the Nicobar pigeon of the same genus Caloenas , is its closest living relative. The findings confirm that the spotted green pigeon is in fact a separate species and not a juvenile Nicobar pigeon, as previously suggested. Furthermore this genetic analysis also provides insight into the morphological evolution of its close extinct relative, the Dodo, with indication that the ancestors of both species shared a characteristic combination of terrestrial and arboreal qualities. You can discover more on how this mystery was solved in our blog.

Musculoskeletal Disorders: Back pain beliefs
Lower back pain is often rated as the leading cause of disability worldwide, with its management an important concern. Beliefs held by healthcare professionals on back pain have a significant impact on treatment advice for patients, emphasizing the requirement for research into the factors which influence these attitudes. A survey in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders demonstrated that age, educational attainment and personal experience of lower back pain in healthcare professionals are amongst factors affecting attitudes.

Cancer: Circulating tumour cells: prognosis in metastatic breast cancer?
There are only a limited amount of prognostic markers for treatment efficacy in metastatic breast cancer, amongst these being expression of hormone and human epidermal growth factor receptors. Early predictors of response can prevent unnecessary and potentially harmful exposure to certain therapies. In this study by Markus Wallwiener and colleagues, differences in circulating tumour cell kinetics between baseline and after one cycle of treatment were associated with survival and treatment response; this suggests serial circulated tumour cell enumeration could be a viable mechanism for predicting treatment outcome in metastatic breast cancer.

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