Highlights of the BMC Series: May 2016

Attitudes to incorporating genomic risk assessments into population screening programs • Clinical decision-making and secondary findings in systems medicine • To share or not to share? • Patient and interest organizations’ views on personalized medicine • Survival of the oldest • Sour grapes • The Holy Grail • Bringing home more than memories…Olympics 2016 • You’ve got mail! • A personalized puzzle • How safe are anti-epileptic drugs in canine epilepsy – who knows?

BMC Evolutionary Biology: Survival of the oldest

Researchers from the University of Lausanne identified which factors render some species more vulnerable to extinction than others, and found that there are large differences in the ability of species to persist over evolutionary time scales.

The oldest surviving species of vertebrates, such as the lamprey and the frilled shark, which have endured past extreme environmental events, will be more likely to adapt to future climate changes; in contrast, a recently evolved taxon would not have been tested to the same degree.

They found that species with varying colored individuals, those that give birth to live young, and/or those that live at low latitudes, were the most resilient to past environmental changes. These findings may be useful for conservationists, helping them to predict which species are most at risk from climate change.

BMC Plant Biology: Sour grapes

Drought associated with global climate change can severely impact growth of grapevine, a major crop worldwide. To identify genes involved in tolerance to drought, Grant R. Cramer and colleagues from the University of Nevada constructed transcriptomic profiles from grapevine leaves that were dehydrated in experimental drought conditions. Certain genes – typically involved in abscisic acid and ethylene hormone signaling – responded to dehydration differently in species known to be either tolerant of drought, like the Ramsey grape from Texas, or more sensitive to drought, such as Riparia Gloire that grows in a cooler and wetter North American climate. These valuable datasets of genetic changes and regulation of drought response can be used in continued efforts to prevent drought damage in grapevine crops.

Video of the month:

Research from the University of Florida shows how nematosomes are capable of immobilizing live brine shrimp. To find out more see the full article.

BMC Cancer: The holy grail

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) has previously been referred to as a unique cancer due to the apparent independence from tumor suppressors’ deletions/mutations in the early stages of the disease. However, it is now well documented that the inactivation of tumor suppressors can lead to tumorigenesis (the production of new tumors).

Tumor suppressors’ functions can be impaired by subtle variations of protein levels, changes in cellular compartmentalization and post-transcriptional/post-translational modifications. Notably, tumor suppressors’ inactivation offers challenging therapeutic opportunities.

The reactivation of an inactive and genetically wild-type (as it occurs naturally in nature) tumor suppressor could indeed promote selective apoptosis of cancer cells without affecting normal cells.

This review by Sabrina Crivellaro and colleagues from the University of Turin describes new insights on the role of tumor suppressors in CML pathogenesis and strategies to promote tumor suppressor reactivation in CML.

BMC Infectious Diseases: Bringing home more than memories…Olympics 2016

A mathematical model proposed by Raphael Ximenes and colleagues calculates the risk of developing dengue for foreign tourists attending the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The Dengue virus is spread by the same mosquito responsible for spreading the Zika virus.

If dengue returns in 2016 with the pattern observed in the worst month of August in history (2007), the expected number of symptomatic and asymptomatic dengue cases among tourists will be 23 and 206 cases, respectively. This worst case scenario would have an incidence of 5.75 (symptomatic) and 51.5 (asymptomatic) per 100,000 individuals.

BMC Psychology: You’ve got mail!

Psychological wellbeing can be increased by simple exercises, such as naming good things that have occurred during the day or doing good deeds. Minna Torniainen-Holm and co. took the simple exercise of emails, and used this as a platform to increase wellbeing.

The emails included assignments aimed at increasing optimism, decreasing rumination, promoting forgiveness and letting go of past experiences, changing the view on negative experiences and recognizing one’s own coping strategies.

Where participants fully engaged, the benefits were sustained until the two year follow-up. For more on this research go to the blog or full article.

Image of the Month:

Research from Sandra R. Schachat and Richard L. Brown published in BMC Evolutionary Biology focused on fore-wing color pattern in Micropterigidae (Insecta: Lepidoptera). Comparison of the wing pattern of Sabatinca doroxena with the nymphalid groundplan. a The observed wing pattern of Sabatinca doroxena. b The wing pattern of Sabatinca doroxena plotted onto a typical wing venation groundplan for Nymphalidae, preserving the relationship between venation and pattern outlined by the “wing-margin” model. c The nymphalid groundplan [26, 46], with the discal spot/Discalis 1 (DS/D1) and the distal band of the central symmetry system (dBC) labeled and indicated with red asterisks; these two features of the nymphalid groundplan have no counterpart in the wing pattern of Sabatinca doroxena
Research published in BMC Evolutionary Biology focused on fore-wing color pattern in Micropterigidae butterflies. Check out the full paper for more fantastic images!
10.1186/s12862-016-0687-z

BMC Medical Genomics: A personalized puzzle

Precision medicine incorporates and integrates genetic information, microbiome data, and information on patients’ environment and lifestyle to better identify and classify disease processes, and to provide custom-tailored therapeutic solutions.

In spite of its promise, precision medicine faces several challenges. This debate article prepared by researchers from the University of Nebraska at Omaha identifies four main areas that require attention: data, tools and systems, regulations, and people.

They discuss several studies which highlight how primary care physicians and clinicians in general feel under-equipped to interpret genetic tests and direct-to-consumer genomic tests. Considering the importance of genetic information for precision medicine applications, this is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed.

Several strategies are proposed to increase the number of professionals with the necessary expertise to correctly interpret the genomics profiles of their patients. For more on this research go to the blog or full article.

BMC Veterinary Research: How safe are anti-epileptic drugs in canine epilepsy – who knows?

Researchers from the Royal Veterinary College canine epilepsy clinic have carried out the first ever systematic review and meta-analysis on the tolerability and safety of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) for canine epilepsy.

Their results identified that the effectiveness of testing AED safety and tolerability for this disease has been below the expected standard, with an insufficient level of evidence available to permit firm conclusions on what AED has the best safety profile in canine epilepsy. Only in recent years can the quality of studies investigating AEDs be considered adequate.

It is therefore important for clinicians to evaluate both AEDs effectiveness and safety on an individual basis before the selection of the appropriate monotherapy or adjunctive AED therapy is made.

BMC Medical Ethics and BMC Medical Genomics: A cross-journal collection

The ‘Translation in Healthcare: Exploring the Impact of Emerging Technologies’ conference 2015 hosted by the Centre for Health, Law and Emerging Technologies (HeLEX) at the University of Oxford brought together a wide range of voices to explore the technological, legal, ethical, and social challenges raised by new technologies in healthcare. We invited delegates to submit articles to a cross-journal collection reflecting the wide range of topics covered.

The first 4 articles of this collection are now available:

Attitudes to incorporating genomic risk assessments into population screening programs

Brenda J. Wilson and co-authors, on behalf of the CIHR Emerging Team in Genomics and Screening, explore the attitudes of potential candidates to hypothetical uses of genomic profiling, including practical implementation and acceptability.

Clinical decision-making and secondary findings in systems medicine

The clinical translation of systems medicine poses a number of important challenges both for researchers working to generate systems medicine knowledge and clinicians working to apply it.

To share or not to share?

Researchers in the life sciences are faced with conflicting ethical responsibilities to share data as widely as possible, but prevent it being used for bioterrorist purposes. This discussion from Bezuidenhout and Morrison suggests that approaches should focus more on the everyday practices of laboratory scientists and less on abstract conceptions of data.

Patient and interest organizations’ views on personalized medicine

Personalized medicine (PM) aims to tailor disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment to individuals on the basis of their genes, lifestyle and environments. Research from Budin-Ljøsne and Harris investigates the views and perspectives of patient and interest organizations regarding PM.

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