Highlights of the BMC Series – June 2021

The effect of COVID-19 on athletes with disabilities; treatment options for dogs with osteoarthritis; characterizing mutant p53's effects of chromatin accessibility; understanding inequalities in accessing affordable and healthy food in the USA; improving the fit of re-used N95 and KN95 masks using 3D printing

A study of Polish athletes with disabilities highlights the impact of COVID-19 on training – BMC Research Notes

Ilgar Jafarov, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt in all areas of human life, from the impact on healthcare and the economy to education and the movement of people. The pandemic has also affected many sporting events, including the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo which was due to be hosted in 2020 but was postponed to 2021. With regional and national lockdowns and stay-at homes orders, training schedules for athletes have also been disrupted. To better understand the impacts on athletes with disabilities Piotr Urbański from Poznan University of Physical Education, Poland and colleagues decided to survey 166 athletes who were members of either the Polish Paralympic Committee or the Polish Sports Association for the Disabled’Start. The study found that the athletes were strongly affected by the pandemic and whilst a majority reported training at home, 12% stopped training altogether. Across the group the athletes reduced their training from 9.4h/week to 5.3h/week, highlighting the impact the pandemic has had on these athletes many of whom will be hoping to compete in the Paralympic games in August and September this year.

Plasma-rich platelet products could help treat bilateral hip osteoarthritis in dogs – BMC Veterinary Research

PvOberstein, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common disease affecting companion animals. In dogs, OA commonly affects the hip joint leading the reduced function and pain for the animals. There are limited treatment options available with most treatment focused on alleviating pain and improving joint function rather than treating the disease. Recently there has been interest in using of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to treat musculoskeletal disorders such as OA. Alves from the University of Evora, Portugal and colleagues from the Portuguese National Guard set out to test the use of PRP to treat police working dogs with bilateral hip OA.  After intra-articular administration of the PRP the team used a variety of scales including the Canine Brief Pain and Canine Orthopedic Indices to measure response to treatment. Compared to a control group receiving a saline treatment, the dogs treated with PRP saw improvements in pain and functional scores and no additional medication was required during the study’s follow-up period. The team concluded that PRP product could be a good therapeutic option for Hip OA in dogs.

Mutant p53 affects chromatin accessibility in tumor cells through direct and indirect mechanisms – BMC Cancer

Dhaka & Sabarinathan 2021 BMC Cancer CC-BY 4.0

The transcription factor, p53 encoded by the TP53 is a well characterized tumor suppressor and mutations in the gene sequence can affect its tumor suppressor activity. Some mutations can also result in a gain-of-function oncogenic activity. The effects of mutations on p53 binding to the genome has been well documented, but changes to chromatin accessibility has not been previously characterized. In their study, Bhavya Dhaka and Radhakrishnan Sabarinathan from National Centre for Biological Sciences, India use chromatin accessibility data from the The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) to identify regions in the genome where chromatin accessibility is altered in tumors with mutant p53. The pair identified 1587 and 984 areas where chromatin accessibility was lost and gained, respectively, in breast cancer and 1143 lost and 640 gained in colon cancer. Surprisingly, less than half the sites identified contained sequence motifs for p53 binding. However, these are regions associated with other transcriptional regulators, suggesting that gain-of-function p53 mutants utilizes both direct and indirect mechanisms to affect chromatin accessibility.

USA National representative survey provides insight into factors affecting inequalities in accessing affordable, healthy food – BMC Nutrition

Pixabay CC0

In recent years, inequalities in accessing high-quality and affordable food within the United States have been identified. This is primarily due the existence of food deserts – geographical regions where it is difficult to buy affordable, high-quality food –  within minority neighborhood. Much of the research to date has focused on assessing access and food-quality by using directories, census data and/or Geographic Information Systems. In their study Sansom and Hannibal from Texas A&M School of Public Health, USA conducted a nationally representative survey to better understand the motivations and efforts that minority groups encounter to reach stores providing healthy food options. Their survey of 1612 participants found that saving money, having a good selection of food including organic foods were important factors for minority populations when choosing where to purchase food. In addition, driving less was a major consideration however, the survey demonstrated that minority groups across the USA need to drive for significantly longer their white counterparts to reach stores. The study from Sansom and Hannibal highlights the variety of issues that need to be tackled to reduce inequalities.

Inexpensive 3D printing mask frames can prolong the life of N95 and KN95 masks – BMC Biomedical Engineering

McAvoy et al. 2021 BMC Biomedical Engineering CC-BY 4.0

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused supply shortages of various forms of personal protective equipment, including N95 and KN95 respirators used by healthcare professionals. This has led to masks being used for prolonged periods of time and in some cases being reused after decontamination procedures. However, the reusability of these masks is hampered by degradation of the fit of the masks. To try to improve the reusability, Malia McAvoy from Harvard Medical School, USA and colleagues set out to develop a mask frame for damaged and/or poor fitting masks. Using inexpensive 3D printing, the team developed a mask frame consisting of two printed side pieces connected by malleable wired links that allowed the user to mould the frame and mask against their face to recreate the tight fit. The frame is then held in place by elastic around the head. The team tested the fit on 45 volunteers with and without the mask frames on four different brands of either N95 or KN95 standard. For volunteers using masks with broken and effective straps an average of 85% passed the fit test, suggesting that the mask frames can prolong the lifespan of the masks.

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