- QMachine: commodity supercomputing in web browsers (>189,000 views)
Big Data is becoming ever more important in biomedical research. Traditionally, processing and analysing such data required high-power computer workstations and specialist software available only to the few. However the increasing use of cloud computing for such high performance tasks now means powerful software can be run by any user in a web-browser. QMachine is one such package; this open source, freely available software, described in this BMC Bioinformatics article by Sean Wilkinson and Jonas Almeida at the University of Alabama, allows users to conduct complex bioinformatics tasks via their web-browser. The substantial popularity of the software suggests many biomedical researchers are only too happy to move away from a reliance on expensive hardware and software.
- Peering through the mist: systematic review of what the contaminants in electronic cigarettes tells us about health risks(>102,000 views)
E-cigarettes have become one of the most controversial topics in public health research. To some, they provide an opportunity to convert tobacco smokers to a less harmful substitute; to others, they threaten to create a new generation of nicotine addicts. One key question is just what potential harms, beyond nicotine addiction, e-cigarettes pose to their users. In this systematic review, published in BMC Public Health, Igor Burstyn of Drexel University examined the available data on the potential harms from the chemicals contained in the aerosols and liquids ‘vapers’ are exposed to. He concludes that there is no evidence that e-cigarette users are exposing themselves to harmful levels of contaminants (although further research is needed on the declared ingredients of e-cigarettes).
- Parent-reported measures of child health and wellbeing in same-sex parent families: a cross-sectional survey(>52,000 views)
In the largest study of its kind to date, Simon Crouch and colleagues at the University of Melbourne found no evidence to support reduced wellbeing in children of same-sex parented families. The research, published in BMC Public Health, found that children in these families scored higher than the population norm on measures of health, behaviour and family cohesion. However, many parents did feel their children suffer from the perceived social stigma of having same-sex parents.
- Skewer: a fast and accurate adapter trimmer for next-generation sequencing paired-end reads(>25,800 views)
Adapter sequences are widely used in next-generation DNA sequencing. Short oligonucleotides, they are attached to the end of target DNA sequences and combine with amplification primers. However they can interfere with sequence reading, making it hard to distinguish target DNA sequences from the adapter sequence. To deal with this, these adapter sequences need to be identified and trimmed. Many tools exist to do this, but they often struggle to meet the levels of efficiency and accuracy required. In this BMC Bioinformatics article, Hongshan Jiang and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine describe Skewer, their newly developed tool that allows adapter trimming within short time frames with an as yet unmatched accuracy.
- Postgraduate education in nutrition in South Asia: a huge mismatch between investments and need(>23,900 views)
Poor child nutrition continues to be a significant concern in many South Asian countries. Shweta Khandelwal and her colleagues at the Public Health Foundation of India suggest that this places a premium on post-graduate training in nutrition; individuals educated in this area will be necessary to build the capacity to combat under-nutrition. Yet in this BMC Medical Education article, they found that Master’s degree programmes with a focus on nutrition are sparse in South Asia. They call for governments in these countries to prioritise the creation of postgraduate programmes in public health nutrition.
- Development and validation of a high density SNP genotyping array for Atlantic salmon(>21,300 views)
The genetics of Atlantic salmon are of considerable interest, both for improving selective breeding programmes for farmed salmon and as this is a model species for the study of the salmonid family. However, our understanding of salmon genetics has been hampered by the lack of a high-throughput, high-density genotyping array for this species. Such arrays, available for most farmed land animals, enable genome-wide screening for genetic variants that may be of agricultural or ecological relevance. This gap was filled by researchers based in Edinburgh and Stirling who developed such an array for the Atlantic Salmon, described and validated in this BMC Genomics article. The existence of this array, now publically available, will undoubtedly enable many new insights into the genetics of the Atlantic salmon.
- A systematic review of barriers to and facilitators of the use of evidence by policymakers(>19,800 views)
In this systematic review, published in BMC Health Services Research, Kathryn Oliver and co-authors searched for evidence on how best to encourage policymakers to be informed by scientific evidence. The biggest barriers were policymakers having poor access to research, or the complete lack of timely research. How to get policymakers to listen? Building relationships between researchers and policymakers seems to be the key.
The use of newly developed disease mapping techniques has allowed us to uncover geographical variations in disease patterns. Gonzalo López-Abente and colleagues at the Spanish National Centre for Epidemiology used these techniques to investigate variations in cancer mortality across Spain. Their findings, published in BMC Cancer, were that mortality patterns were maintained over the period from 1989-2008, with geographical patterns also remaining stable for many common cancers. They did find some signs of an emerging spatial pattern in mortality rates for women with breast, colorectal and bladder cancer, which it will be important to monitor in the future.
- Factors associated with the utilisation of postnatal care services among the mothers of Nepal: analysis of Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2011(>19,100 views)
Increasing access to postnatal care is crucial for reducing neonatal death rates in the developing world. Yet in this study, published in BMC Women’s Health, Vishnu Khanal and colleagues found that there are many challenges to achieving this in Nepal. The majority of mothers surveyed reported not attending postnatal care sessions, with rural mothers particularly likely not to do so. An increase in the capacity and promotion of postnatal care is necessary to remedy this situation.
A second entry in the list for research on the potential negative effects of using e-cigarettes. In their study, published in BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, Konstantinos Farsalinos and colleagues at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center examined the effects of e-cigarette use on cardiovascular function; smoking of regular cigarettes is of course a major risk factor for heart disease. Echocardiograms were performed on participants before and after the smoking of either a regular cigarette or an e-cigarette. Substantial differences were seen before and after smoking a regular cigarette, with a delay in myocardial relaxation, but there were no changes in the echocardiogram measurements in participants who smoked an e-cigarette, suggesting there may be some short-term health benefits over traditional cigarettes.