Improbable Research: The 2011 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

Unprecedented insight into fighting viral infections

This concerns a stuctural analysis of the viral RNA sensor RIG-1

Harnessing the Power of Metagenomics: Applications, Methods, and Real World Examples

Depiction of the human body and bacteria that ...Image via Wikipedia
Science/AAAS | Science Webinar Series: Upcoming Webinar (October 19, 2011) and Archived Webinar (September 21, 2011)

The term metagenomics has been in the lexicon of life scientists for a number of years now. More recently this field has been showing rapid progress, particularly as DNA sequencing technology advances in leaps and bounds. The power of metagenomics has been clearly demonstrated in its application to many diverse areas—including characterizing the microbiomes of the human gut, seawater samples, and soil samples—impacting human health, ecology, and agriculture/agronomy. All microbes in a particular specimen can now be catalogued—and useful biomarkers identified—without the need for culturing of these organisms. This type of analysis also provides a truer representation of the in situ conditions present when sampling occurred. This live, video webinar will introduce the viewer to the important field of metagenomics and provide insight into how it can be integrated into their research. 
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Scientists Discover a 'Master Key' to Unlock New Treatments for Autoimmune Disorders - ScienceNewsline

Model of Talin-Induced Integrin Activation.Image via Wikipedia
This autoimmunity master key relates to the integrin ITGA5/ITGB6which is involved in food antigen uptake in the intestine Chen et al, 2011
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When chefs move the fruit: Want to double fruit sales in schools?

Fruit Bowl Lighting ChallengeA Cornell University study shows it is as easy as putting the fruit in a colorful bowl. According to research presented this week at the American Dietetic Association Conference in San Diego, CA by Brian Wansink, Professor at Cornell University, "Moving the fruit increased sales by 104%." This is only one of the changes proposed through the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (BEN).
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The Toxoplasma Blog: The first detection of Toxoplasma gondii DNA in environmental fruits and vegetables samples

Toxoplamosis , caused by T.Gondii, has been implicated in schizophrenia and several other diseases (see microbiome page) : Previously asssociated mainly with cats, this study detected  the parasite in fruit and vegetables, suggesting an unsuspected route of infection.
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Toward the blood-borne miRNome of human diseases : Nature Methods : Nature Publishing Group

Modified blood microrna profiles were observed in all tested diseases (Cancers and non-cancers); This profile correlated with the genomic location of disease-associated genetic variants and deregulated microRNAs.
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Reactive oxygen species drive herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1-induced proinflammatory cytokine production by murine microglia

Reactive oxygen species drive herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1-induced proinflammatory cytokine production by murine microglia

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First detection of pregnancy protein in older people destined for Alzheimer's disease

The protein is pregnancy zone protein (PZP) a wide spectrum protease inhibitor (See IHOP )
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Big Tobacco knew radioactive particles in cigarettes posed cancer risk but kept quiet / UCLA Newsroom

Invasion of genomic parasites triggered modern mammalian pregnancy, study finds


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How Tiny Errors in Africa Led to a Global Triumph

Medicine might never have achieved its greatest triumph to date — eradicating smallpox — if small errors had not been made in a measles immunization program.
The bureacratic bungles and  vested interests in this article also make interesting reading.
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Low vitamin B12 levels may lead to brain shrinkage, cognitive problems

Compound kills highly contagious flu strain by activating antiviral protein

BBC News - Coffee may prevent depression, scientists say

Can vitamin B pills prevent Alzheimer's? - Health News - NHS Choices

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Pollution 'linked to heart attack risk' - Health News - NHS Choices

Air pollution impairs cognition, provokes depressive-like behaviors and alters hippocampal cytokine expression and morphology

Air pollution has also been associated with deprsssion and a number of other disorders in the clinical setting.

Depression genes and risk factors
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N-methyl D-Aspartate Channels Link Ammonia and Epithelial Cell Death Mechanisms in Helicobacter pylori Infection.

Helicobacter pylori is able to activate NMDA receptors in gastric epithelial cells. Glutamatergic overactivation in the brain , via NMDA (and other) receptors has long been known to play a role in neurotoxicity , playing a potential role in many degeneratative disorders. This is a new twist suggesting gastric cytotoxicity.
Helicobacter interactome
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An estimate of the global reduction in mortality rates through doubling vitamin D levels.

This study estimated that global mortality rates, from a large number of conditions, could be reduced by 20% by doubling Vitamin D levels.
The diseases in which Vitamin D has been implicated include,  Cardiovascular disease , cancer, respiratory infections, respiratory diseases, tuberculosis and diabetes mellitus , Alzheimer's disease, falls, meningitis, Parkinson's disease, maternal sepsis, maternal hypertension (pre-eclampsia) and multiple sclerosis and many others.
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The Microbial Immune System Can Be Likened To A Vaccination Program

Goats could increase the risk of a rare lung cancer, researchers find

A pair of goats.Image via Wikipedia
The risk of developing pneumonic-type lung adenocarcinoma was increased five fold in people who had experienced a professional exposure to goats during their lifetime.
A sheep virus, the Jaagsiekte sheep retrovirus, is able to produce pulmonary adenocarcinoma Martineau et al, 2011

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XMRV accelerates cellular proliferation, transformational activity, and invasiveness of prostate cancer cells by downregulating p27(Kip1).

It's not over yet - despite the rageing polemic concerning the XMRV virus , this study shows that it accelerates the growth of prostate cancer cells.
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OpenHelix: Tutorials and resources

Access over 100 tutorial suites on web-based bioinformatics and genomics resources
  • Quickly learn how to use a resource when you need it.
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More efficient use of the most relevant resources means quicker and more effective research. With a subscription, you and your institution can further enable breakthrough research.

About - DAnCER - Wodak Lab: Disease Annotated Chromatin Epigenetic Resource

Epigenetics plays a key role in DNA replication, transcription and repair, and its disruption is implicated in the development of many forms of cancer and other diseases. As a result, there is now a growing number of projects dedicated to the study of chromatin modification - a crucial component of epigenetic processes. Similarly to other cellular processes, chromatin modification is carried out by groups of physically interacting proteins, and anomalies in protein interactions often lead to disease phenotypes. Yet there remains a dearth of public databases and analysis tools that explore the relationship between chromatin machinery and human disease, especially in the context of protein-interaction networks. DAnCER's goal is to fill this gap. I
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Mice lacking major brain gangliosides develop parkinsonism.

Gangliosides are components of the cell membrane.
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Prevalence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in Parkinson's disease.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth was shown to be very common in Parkinson's disease . Gastrointestinal motility abnormalities might explain this association:
One might also consider the influence of the microbiome.
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Regulation by Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3 of Inflammation and T Cells in CNS Diseases.

Glycogen synthase kinase GSK3B, blocked by lithium , is involved in a raft of diseases (Alzheimer's .bipolar disorder, schizophrenia , among others), many characterised by inflammation and immune activation. Its effects on T cells may offer an important clue.
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Poor diet linked to teen mental health problems

Targeting HIV's sugar coating: New microbicide may block AIDS virus from infecting cells

A micro-RNA as a key regulator of learning and Alzheimer's disease

EGAN: Exploratory Gene Association Networks. Leverage organic intelligence.

EGAN is a software tool that allows a bench biologist to visualize and interpret the results of high-throughput exploratory assays in an interactive hypergraph of genes, relationships (protein-protein interactions, literature co-occurrence, etc.) and meta-data (annotation, signaling pathways, etc.). EGAN provides comprehensive, automated calculation of meta-data coincidence (over-representation, enrichment) for user- and assay-defined gene lists, and provides direct links to web resources and literature (NCBI Entrez Gene, PubMed, KEGG, Gene Ontology, iHOP, Google, etc.).
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Virus discovery helps scientists predict emerging diseases

Obese now outnumber hungry: Red Cross

This links to the Red Cross report: Obesity now outumbers hunger in the human population - a sad indictement .

Over-the-counter dietary supplement may lower risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome / UCLA Newsroom

The supplement is GABA, the inhibitory neurotransmitter , which, when given orally to obese diabetic mice, was able to suppress the inflammatory immune response.
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Immunolocalization of influenza A virus and markers of inflammation in the human Parkinson's disease brain.

The Influenza virus was identified within neuromelanin granules as well as on tissue macrophages in the Pars compacta of the Substantia nigra in Parkinson's disease  .

Parkinson's disease risk factors
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Researchers discover how 'promiscuous parasites' (T.Gondii) hijack host immune cells

One of the T.Gondii proteins ROP16 suppresses inflammatory responses and lowers cytokine production.
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How microbes train our immune system : Nature News

Solve Puzzles for Science | Foldit

Gamers.This is the Foldit game that allowed gamers to solve the structure of a monomeric retroviral protease from the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus, that had resisted scientific research for 15 years. Turn over your incomprehensible data to them.
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Naturally transmitted segmented filamentous bacteria segregate with diabetes protection in nonobese diabetic mice.

IgM-mediated autoimmune responses directed against multiple neoepitopes in depression: New pathways that underpin the inflammation...

Inflammation and immune activation appears to be present, and pathogens implicated in most diseases : There is surely a link.

Depression genes risk factors and pathways
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Expression Profiling of Autism Candidate Genes during Human Brain Development Implicates Central Immune Signaling Pathways.

Immune signaling through NFκB, Tnf, and Jnk was central to ASD networks at multiple levels Autism :

Intracerebral borna disease virus infection of bank... [PLoS One. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI

This study showed that Bornavirus RNA is capable of integrating into the host genome : This was previously thought to be restricted to retroviruses: No longer the case:
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Emerging roles of pathogens in Alzheimer's disease

Global attention and action is needed to support this emerging field of research because dementia might be prevented by combined antibiotic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory therapy.

Related articles
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Researchers identify pathways leading to activation of good fat

Researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center have identified two molecular pathways that are critical to activating a type of "good" fat found in the body, a discovery that could play an important role in the fight against obesity and diabetes.
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The effects of hourly differences in air pollution on the risk of myocardial infarction: case crossover analysis of the MINAP database -- Bhaskaran et al. 343 --

The Cardiac Organellar Protein Atlas Knowledgebase

The COPa knowledgebase is a resource of proteome biology configured specially for cardiovascular investigators. This project is developed under NHLBI proteomics center program with the partnership of Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), European Bioinformatics Institute , Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), the Zhejiang University (ZJU) and UCLA. We hope it will serve as a useful tool for advancing cardiovascular biology and medicine.
The innovations in proteome biology offer unprecedented opportunities towards translational medicine. Advancing cardiovascular medicine requires an understanding of cardiac function at the systems level but with sufficient molecular details at the same time. Proteomics technologies are large scale in nature and their datasets come in various forms. The integration of these resources inspires innovative insights and bridges data-driven discoveries with hypothesis-driven investigations. The effective and comprehensive characterization of proteome biology holds the promise to advance cardiovascular medicine.
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Human genetics study identifies the most common cause of ALS and dementia

The gene is a repeat expansion" within the non-coding region of C9ORF72, whose function is not known.It is highly expressed in CD33 myeloid cells of the immune system BioGPS
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Inhibition of enveloped virus infection of cultured cells by valproic acid.

Plant RNAs Found in Mammals | The Scientist

diagram showing how the translation of the mRN...Image via Wikipedia
As if viruses and bacteria weren't enough, it now appears that plant microRNA's can be found in the blood and tissues of humans and other plant-eating mammals, and that they can affect gene expression. One microRNA , MIR168a, which is highly enriched in rice, inhibits a protein that helps removes low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from the blood, suggesting that microRNAs can influence gene expression across kingdoms.We are what we eat takes on a new meaning.
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World Alzheimer Report 2011 | Alzheimer's Disease International

The World Alzheimer Report 2011 shows that there are interventions that are effective in the early stages of dementia, some of which may be more effective when started earlier, and that there is a strong economic argument in favour of earlier diagnosis and timely intervention.

New Tick-Borne Disease, Distantly Related to Lyme, Is Found -

Abnormal activation of a protein may explain deadly link between high salt intake and obesity

When obese "salt-sensitive" rats were fed a high-salt diet, Rac1 activated the mineralocorticoid aldosterone receptor on the rats' kidney cells. This receptor is normally activated by the hormone aldosterone.  Aldosterone promotes salt reabsorption

Childhood obesity:
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Dark Matter Of Life Sequenced - Science News - redOrbit

This is all about new technology that could be used to rapidly sequence microbiomes
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Shark compound proves potential as drug to treat human viruses, says researcher

Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) at the Josep...Image via Wikipedia
The compound is squalamine, found in the livers of dogfish and sharks
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Cell Symposia : Autism Spectrum Disorders: From Mechanisms to Therapies

The aim of this meeting is to bring together key researchers working on autism spectrum disorders at multiple levels, with a specific goal of considering how current basic research findings and candidate mechanisms can be directed towards therapies and treatments.

November 9-11, 2011 Sheraton National Hotel, Arlington, VA, USA
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Diabetes triples risk of dementia

Advances and Controversies in B-Vitamins and Choline: B-Vitamins2012

Hauptgebäude der Universitätsbibliothek Leipzi...Image via Wikipedia
Choline and B-vitamins are the most important nutrients linking our diet to our health. With the continual interest in choline and B-vitamins functions, deficiency, supplementation, metabolic aspects and the related diseases, researchers, doctors and medical practi-tioners from around the world are keen to present their latest results, exchange knowledge, and to be up-to-date in this field. The conference is at the University of Leipzig (Germany) from 5–8 March 2012.
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Low-fat yogurt intake when pregnant linked to increased risk of child asthma and hay fever, study suggests

Milk intake during pregnancy protected against asthma development in the offspring. Women who ate low-fat yogurt with fruit once a day were  more likely to have children who developed asthma by age 7, compared with children of women who reported no intake. They were also more likely to have allergic rhinitis and to display current asthma symptoms.
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Worms, your unlikely allies | Science News

Certain parasites have developed the ability to turn down the immune system - an effect that may be put to use in autoimmune disorders.
Viruses and pathogens involved in human diseases from the Microbiome
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