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A Karger Open Access Journal
The interdisciplinary ‘hub’ for researchers, clinicians and public health professionals

The Dipeptidyl Peptidase-4 Inhibitor Teneligliptin Reduces Aortic Damage from Hypercholesterolaemia in Apolipoprotein E-Deficient Mice

Zhang Y. · Wang N. · Zhu L. · Liu Y. · Pei Z. · Wang G. · Luo L. · Liu H.

link - What Is It about?
In this study, we evaluated whether the dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitor teneligliptin reduced kidney damage in hypercholesterolaemia. Lectin-like oxidized low-density lipoprotein receptor-1 (LOX-1) induced aortic damage. Teneligliptin downregulates LOX-1 gene and protein expression via Pho-ERK signal transduction in aortic tissue. Teneligliptin reduces aortic damage according to decreased lipid deposition and inflammation. Usually, the dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitor is used in the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and our study found that teneligliptin reduced aortic damage in hypercholesterolaemia.

Nasal Cavity Paraganglioma: Literature Review and Discussion of a Rare Case

de Almeida Vital J.M. · de Farias T.P. · Dias F.L. · de Oliveira J.F. · Miranda da Paixão J.G. · de Cavalcanti Siebra P.J. · Lopes Moraes A.R.

link - What Is It about?
Paragangliomas can be found from the skull base to the sacrum. This article provides a review of sinonasal paraganglioma, which is infrequent and mainly occurs in middle-aged women, and reports on an illustrative case. Radiologic investigation is essential for the diagnosis of sinonasal paraganglioma and these must be resected, aiming for free margins, using either an endonasal or conventional approach with long-term follow-up.

Trends in Gene Expression Profiling for Prostate Cancer Risk Assessment: A Systematic Review

Chen Z. · Gerke T. · Bird V. · Prosperi M.

link - What Is It about?
We conducted a qualitative review on gene expression profiling in tissue-based prostate cancer research, with a focus on biotechnology development and gene discovery. The advancing technology allows researchers to conduct studies on a larger scale, and more focused targeting was observed in more recent studies. However, inconsistencies in direction of association between genes and prostate cancer outcomes were also observed between studies, which warrant the execution of validation studies and meta-analyses. Future research can also focus on investigating the link between risk loci and gene expression, and address the discrepancy in risk of prostate cancer among different groups
.

The Effect of Antiretroviral Naïve HIV-1 Infection on the Ability of Natural Killer Cells to Produce IFN-γ upon Exposure to Plasmodium falciparum-Infected Erythrocytes

Sake C.S. · Ngu L. · Ambada G. · Chedjou J.P. · Nji N. · Tchadji J.C. · Lissom A. · Tchouangueu T.F. · Djukouo L. · Njambe G. · Garcia R. · Gutierrez A. · Bopda Waffo A. · Park C.G. · Mbacham W. · Etoa F.-X. · Nchinda G.W.

link - What Is It about?
Natural killer cells (NK) contribute to innate immunity to malaria either by direct lysis of Plasmodium falciparum -infected red blood cells (iRBC) or through IFN-γ production after exposure to iRBC. However, HIV-1 infection depletes the immune system and can potentially impair NK cell-mediated innate immunity to P. falciparum infection. In this study we have demonstrated that the consequence of ARV naïve HIV-1 infection was to significantly reduce NK cell IFN-γ production following exposure to iRBC.

Erratum

Rapid Regression of Obstructive Cardiac Rhabdomyoma in a Preterm Neonate after Sirolimus Therapy

Lee S.J. · Song E.S. · Cho H.J. · Choi Y.Y. · Ma J.S. · Cho Y.K.

link - What Is It about?
Most cardiac rhabdomyomas become smaller with time; however, emergency intervention is indicated when severe obstruction induces hemodynamic instability. Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors have been used to treat neonates and children with hemodynamically obstructive cardiac rhabdomyoma. Herein, we report a premature neonate with severe left ventricular outflow tract obstructive cardiac rhabdomyoma who was successfully treated with the mTOR inhibitor sirolimus. Sirolimus could be considered as an alternative medical option for managing premature neonates with obstructive cardiac rhabdomyoma.

Noninvasive Prenatal Testing - When Is It Advantageous to Apply

Liehr T. · Lauten A. · Schneider U. · Schleussner E. · Weise A.

link - What Is It about?
Noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is the most recent development in prenatal diagnostics and based on methods like next-generation sequencing or other high-throughput analysis tools of free placental DNA of the fetus in the serum of maternal blood. As this test is advertised and commercialized in a unique way, we found it interesting to discuss what the basic risks for invasive compared to noninvasive prenatal tests are, what can be expected from NIPT compared to other noninvasive tests, and what the individual pregnant woman can really learn from NIPT. Overall, the medical indications for NIPT are surprisingly limited.

Transient Monocytosis Subjugates Low Platelet Count in Adult Dengue Patients

Tsai J.-J. · Chang J.-S. · Chang K. · Chen P.-C. · Liu L.-T. · Ho T.-C. · Tan S.S. · Chien Y.-W. · Lo Y.-C. · Perng G.C.

link - What Is It about?
Although adult dengue has escalated in recent years globally, hematological parameters have seldomly been systematically investigated and characterized. Retrospective laboratory data of confirmed adult dengue patients as well as specimens of a recent dengue outbreak were examined. Sudden downward platelet counts corresponding to a transient surge of monocytes on day 4 onward were seen. In addition, an inverse correlation between absolute monocyte and platelet counts was observed on day 5 in severe patients. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis of peripheral blood mononuclear cells obtained from recent acute dengue patients and experimental investigations revealed that phagocytic effects of innate immune cells contribute to thrombocytopenia in dengue patients.
-Free Supplementary Material

The Relationship between Stress and Severe Obesity: A Case-Control Study

Koski M. · Naukkarinen H.

link - What Is It about?
Obesity has a multifactorial etiology. Several etiological factors for obesity have been identified, whereas other factors related to obesity, such as stress, remain poorly understood. Stress has been associated with obesity, chronic diseases, and psychosocial factors. Studies on psychological stress have focused on stress-related psychopathologies. In this study, psychiatric interviews and surveys of coping mechanisms were used to identify stressful events among individuals with obesity. One finding of this study was that stress was more prevalent in a group of severely obese individuals than in a control group. This study provides valuable insight into the relationship between obesity and stress.

Effects of Dietary Supplementation with Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) Seed Oil on an Experimental Model of Hypertensive Retinopathy in Wistar Rats

Bouras K. · Kopsidas K. · Bariotakis M. · Kitsiou P. · Kapodistria K. · Agrogiannis G. · Vergados I. · Theodossiadis P. · Perrea D.

link - What Is It about?
Sea buckthorn (SBT) oil is a rich source of phytosterols, flavonoids, unsaturated fatty acids, and carotenoids, which are known for their antioxidant and neuroprotective activity. In this study, we investigated the neuroprotective and antioxidant effect of SBT oil on rat retinopathy secondary to systemic hypertension. The antiapoptotic effect of SBT was determined by measuring glial fibrillary acidic protein, caspase-3, and glutamine synthetase levels with immunohistochemistry and Western blot. Our findings revealed that nephrectomy and salt intake resulted in an increase in systemic blood pressure. Furthermore, we showed that SBT could notably protect the retina from damage induced by hypertensive retinopathy.

BioMedMix contains short reviews of interesting research and the latest trends in biomedicine and STM publishing, as well as interviews with leading and up-and-coming scientists.


Spotlight on Lukas Bock

What’s the point of doing research if nobody finds out about it? The University of Basel has an innovative program – the so-called WIMO (Wissenschaftsmonat) – that teaches its medical students how to effectively communicate their research and findings. For one month, WIMO participants learn the basics of scientific writing, work on writing up their own research, and practice presenting their findings in the setting of a congress. The best presentations are awarded the Karger Prize. One of this year’s winners was Lukas Bock (3rd place), who researched the biomarker troponin. In the interview below, he tells us a little about his topic, what he sees as his next steps, and what he learned during WIMO 2017.

WIMO_BMH_260417

Your work was honored with the Karger Prize. Could you tell us a little bit about your topic and what led you to it?
Cardiac troponin is a molecule that can only be found in the heart and can be measured in the blood if heart muscle cells are destroyed, for instance during a myocardial infarction. I was part of a research team that investigated troponin levels in patients who underwent surgery. Any surgery is a huge stress for the body and particularly the heart, so it is quintessential to be able to judge the risk of a surgery before starting.
Therefore, we investigated whether this biomarker, troponin, can predict cardiac risk in patients before they undergo surgery and which of its subunits are better suited to be measured in this context. We found that troponin can in fact be used to predict the risk of surgery, and we also found that the different subunits also do well, but differently depending on which surgery is performed.

What do you see as the next step in your research? What would you like to investigate further with this topic?
I plan to focus on improving my clinical skills as a treating physician and will only return to the bench after seeing how medicine works in day-to-day practice. I feel proper research requires understanding how research findings can be implemented in clinical routine, and that this can only be done after seeing illnesses in real life.
If I were to continue researching troponin, I would be interested in its molecular background, as there are still many gaps to be filled. For instance, we still don't completely understand how troponin is eliminated from the body or how exactly it is released from heart muscle cells. A better understanding of its physiology would certainly represent a huge leap forward in the use of troponin as a diagnostic marker.

You took part in the WIMO 2017. What did you take away from it? What did you find to be challenging? What was the most helpful?
WIMO made me aware of how crucial it is to present science in a simple, yet appealing manner to your audience. Working on a subject for a long time in an area where no other research group has been before inevitably transforms you into a partly nerdish person, and it is hard to imagine how people not working on your subject might find it difficult to follow your reasoning. By showing my presentation to other colleagues, I realized how often we tend to make things more complicated than they actually are. Their feedback was extremely valuable to me to avoid this trap.

WIMO_BMH_2

Published 05/09/2017


Obesity Not To Be Taken Lightly

The problem of overweight and obesity is nothing to take lightly – the WHO reports that overweight/obesity is responsible for more deaths than being underweight, and that obesity in the world has doubled since 1980. In fact, it can lead to serious health repercussions such as cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke), diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders (osteoarthritis), and cancer (breast, prostate, colon, etc.).

The primary cause is no big mystery: more calories are consumed than are burned off. It probably doesn’t help matters that globally we are eating more high-fat energy-dense foods like potato chips, fast food, and ice-cream. Stress may also be a part of the problem, especially when we think about the consequences of “emotional eating,” i.e., eating not out of hunger, but instead in the search of comfort. However, the role stress plays in obesity is poorly understood, and this was the topic of a recent study from Finland which sought to investigate this relationship. The researchers conducted a case-control study of people in a stressful situation, and found that they tended to me more overweight/obese than controls, and that they had a higher prevalence of stress in their lives. The authors also identified stress factors that affect obesity. You can read their article in full on Biomedicine Hub.

What do you eat when you are stressed? What “comfort food” do you reach for? Below you will find some examples of comfort food from the Karger team.

Alan_ComfortFood

Rachèle_ComfortFood

Sophie_Comfortfood

    Sources
  • http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/
  • http://www.webmd.com/diet/stop-emotional-eating
  • Koski M, Naukkarinen H: The Relationship between Stress and Severe Obesity: A Case-Control Study. Biomed Hub 2017;2:458771.

Published 04/19/2017


Spotlight on George Patrinos

This week, we shine a light on George Patrinos, one of the Senior Editors of Biomedicine Hub, an Associate Editor of Public Health Genomics, and an Associate Professor of Pharmocogenomics of the University of Patras School of Health Sciences in Greece. He tells us about some of his current projects, such as pharmacogenomics and building up genetic databases; how translating genomics from bench to bedside is like an ancient Greek temple; and the Golden Helix Conferences®, which he is active in.

George_Patrinos
George Patrinos outside of the lab.

What are some exciting developments your field is experiencing?
Our group is active in the field of pharmacogenomics, which aims to customize drug dosing according to one’s genetic profile, and the most important and exciting developments at the moment are the translation of pharmacogenomics findings and implementation of pharmacogenomics in the clinic. This is particularly important since successful implementation of pharmacogenomics in the clinic, especially if performed pre-emptively, will not only improve the quality of life of the patients by increasing drug efficacy and minimizing adverse drug reactions that are often life-threatening, but is also expected to reciprocally reduce the overall national health care expenditure. This can be particularly important for health care systems in countries with economic constraints, for example in Europe and Southeast Asia, where certain genome-guided treatment modalities have already been demonstrated to be cost-effective.

What would you like to see happen in your field?
Although there have been major leaps in pharmacogenomic research, facilitated by the genomic technology revolution, the pace of these discoveries and the generation of pharmacogenomics knowledge has not met with reciprocal advances in the translation of these findings into the clinic. To this end, there are often significant barriers that hamper the smooth incorporation of pharmacogenomics research findings in the daily medical practice, which have to do more with disciplines related to public health genomics than pharmacogenomics research itself. If we view the translation of genomics from research to the clinic as an ancient Greek temple, with genomics and pharmacogenomics research representing the foundation and genomic medicine the roof, the various public health genomics subdisciplines can be metaphorically represented as the supporting pillars that must be carefully erected for the superstructure of genomic medicine to hold. As such, although the foundations of genomic medicine are presently becoming stronger and being ascribed ever-increasing hopes and expectations, the pillars themselves are still weak and largely under construction. Hence, we should ensure that the various public health genomics subdisciplines are properly developed, such that they can contribute towards paving the way for a smoother transition from genomics research to genomic medicine.

What are you currently working on?
Our group is one of the few worldwide that is involved in multidisciplinary work in pharmacogenomics. This work includes genome discovery work, genome informatics analysis, and public health research. In particular, we are working on establishing the role of cis- and trans-regulatory elements in the reactivation of fetal hemoglobin production and the role of several genomic loci in the individualization of hydroxyurea treatment in β-type hemoglobinopathy patients. We are also involved in elucidating the genes involved as pharmacogenomic biomarkers in lithium treatment efficacy in bipolar disease patients and the role of TPMT promoter variants in 6-MP treatment toxicity. Since 2010, we have been engaged in a pan-European project to determine the prevalence of clinically relevant (actionable) pharmacogenomic biomarkers in 18 European populations and the application of whole-genome sequencing in pharmacogenomics. We have also conceived and successfully implemented the notion of microattribution as a means to incentivize genomic data sharing in the public domain. In 2005 we established the National Genetic Database concept and developed software for its development and curation. We have also developed FINDbase, a global National Genetic Database, documenting clinically relevant genomic variation allele frequencies in over 100 populations worldwide and a Web-based tool to help translate pharmacogenomics information into a clinically meaningful format. Finally, we have been working on expanding the concept of public health genomics in pharmacogenomics, bridging the notions of stakeholder analysis, economic evaluation in pharmacogenomics, and ethics in genomics, and we have been very active in increasing genomics awareness to the general public and pharmacogenomics education for health care professionals.

BMM_Afea_Tempel
The Afea Temple as a symbol of the translation of genomics from research to the clinic.

Tell us about the Golden Helix® Conferences. How did they get started? What topic is planned for this year?

The Golden Helix® Conferences are international meetings on genomic medicine and consist of The Golden Helix Symposia, The Golden Helix Pharmacogenomics Days, and The Golden Helix Summer Schools. These conferences are named after the house of Francis Crick (“The Golden Helix”; 19/20 Portugal Place, Cambridge, UK) to emphasize their focus on human genomics and personalized medicine. The themes of these conferences revolve around the fields of genomics, pharmacogenomics, and personalized medicine. The conferences were launched in 2008 and take place in developing countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, attracting very high-profile academics and researchers from research centers of excellence and large corporate entities. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies as well as charitable entities have sponsored the series, which over the years have helped to reduce the costs for participants. The conferences are a well-orchestrated effort to enrich genomics education among health care professionals and to increase genomic literacy among patients and the general public, specifically addressing the needs of participants from developing countries. This year, the major Golden Helix Conference will be held again in Athens, Greece jointly with the Global Genomic Medicine Collaborative (G2MC), on April 27–29, 2017 with the theme “Implementing Genomic Medicine into Practice”.

Published 03/20/2017


Encouraging Breastfeeding with Dextrose Gel

The list of health benefits from breastfeeding is long. According to the Cleveland Clinic in the USA, breastfed babies have stronger immune systems; less cases of serious illnesses such as pneumonia, whooping cough, and bacterial meningitis; and are just overall healthier. It’s not just the babies, though – mothers also enjoy many positive effects from nursing their infants: faster weight loss after giving birth (making the baby’s milk burns up about 500 calories a day), and a decreased risk of several diseases such as breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis are just a couple of them.

Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has many health benefits for infants and mothers. Picture by pexels.com/unsplash.com

The World Health Organization recommends starting breastfeeding within one hour after birth. It also encourages the mother and baby to be in skin-to-skin contact shortly after birth, citing evidence that such contact is important for initiating breastfeeding and increases the likelihood that it will be successful for several months.

Of course, complications can arise during birth and with infants, interfering with breastfeeding. This was the topic of a popular Biomedicine Hub article that reported on neonatal hypoglycemia, which can affect up to 15% of newborns and require a trip to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for intravenous dextrose. The researchers noted, however, that asymptomatic hypoglycemic infants are also transferred to the NICU at significant cost and loss of mother-baby contact at this critical time when breastfeeding patterns are just beginning to get established. They conducted a review of cases and found that using a dextrose gel supplement with feeds, which is already used in adults to treat hypoglycemia, reduced the need for intravenous dextrose therapy in newborns affected by asymptomatic hypoglycemia. This in turn reduced the need for transfer to the NICU and the ensuing high costs, and resulted in more mother-baby time, thus promoting breastfeeding.

This Biomedicine Hub article has created a lot of attention, earning a high Altmetric Attention Score. In outputs of similar age, the article ranked 8,083 out of 233,772 – that means it scored higher than 96% of articles that came out about the same time. Such a ranking shows good resonance and the high interest the public has in this topic.

Published 03/10/2017


After Publishing: Tracking Your Work

After months or years of research, nobody wants to spend untold hours writing up their hard work only to find it has gone unnoticed and unread. To combat this, there are ways to create buzz about your work and track the attention it receives.

kudos

Kudos, the UK-based provider of author services, dedicates itself to getting authors the attention they deserve. It’s an easy process that all authors should take advantage of. First the author explains his/her work in easy-for-anyone-to-understand language and highlights the important bits. Then there is the sharing step: of course e-mail and social media figure prominently in this stage, but Kudos also brings it to a wider audience by sharing content and placing links across search engines and subject indexes. And as everyone wants to see the fruits of their labor, Kudos makes it possible for authors to measure their efforts with a number of metrics including downloads, citations, and altmetrics.


Altmetric

Altmetric, famous for its attention score that looks like a “donut,” is also a valuable resource for researchers. This company provides information on the online attention and engagement published works are generating, and keeps authors up to date on what others are saying about their research. Altmetric monitors a variety of sources, such as public policy documents, blogs, social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), Wikipedia, YouTube, citations, and many others, to track articles. One of the advantages of this is that it lets researchers demonstrate the impact their work is making on the scientific world, i.e., show where important people in the field have commented on it, where it has been mentioned in public policies, or when it has resonated in specific localities, which in turn could be instrumental in securing grants and funds for further research.

Now go out and see what impact your research is making – you might discover some new bragging rights.

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Published 02/17/2017


Write Like a Pro: Get Your Papers Published


lavender
Karger Publication Manager Paul Lavender

Although most biomedical scientists did not enter the world of clinical research out of a desire to write, publishing their findings and results so the scientific community can read about them is important. We asked Paul Lavender, a Publication Manager at Karger and former medical writer and editor, how to approach the task of writing up a study or case report and what he thinks are some important things to remember. Below is a summary of what he had to say.

  1. Do good research. If you are clearly presenting sound data in an interesting field then it will be published. It is really that simple. However, if the methodology or analyses are questionable, then it is very difficult to be published – regardless of how well the paper is written.
  2. Have a target journal before you write – know what section it can appear in and what the editors look for. Write specifically for this journal. Don’t try to make a one-size-fits-all piece to shop around. In the end, you might not get the audience you want to reach.
  3. Consider the impact factor (IF) of a journal. This does not mean, however, to choose the journal with the highest IF. Such journals sometimes only choose articles they think will receive a lot of citations to protect their IF, with the result that highly specialized, even if high-quality, research is rejected in favor of something that appeals more to the researching masses. How many times would you honestly expect (not hope!) your paper will be cited in the next 2 years? That can give you an idea of your target IF.
  4. Use a checklist before you start writing. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, so follow established and recognized checklists to give your paper a solid structure that does not leave out any important aspects. You can find information about checklists on the EQUATOR Network website.
  5. Finally, don’t try to be too clever – keep your language simple. You want to make it as easy as possible for a peer reviewer to say ‘yes’ to your paper. If the reviewer has to spend a lot of time struggling through dense or unclear language, he/she might reject it regardless of the science. Think of the times you have struggled to read papers and other times you have glided through. How grateful do you feel when a paper is easy to understand?
Happy writing, and next time we’ll look at how to get your paper noticed and how to track all the attention it is getting.

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Published 02/02/2017


Citizen Scientists to the Rescue: A New Tool for Translational Medicine


citizen_scientists_group
Knowledge network created from the data mined by "citizen scientists" (reproduced with permission from the Su Lab, The Scripps Research Institute)

It is no easy task for scientists and researchers to stay up-to-date with the latest biomedical news in their fields, and even harder to keep up with what is going on in other areas that may also be of interest to them. The volume of published works is breathtaking. PubMed already boasts more than 26 million entries from the body of biomedical literature, and adds 1 million more each year.

Bioinformatics scientists from the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) in La Jolla, CA (USA), have started a project, Mark2Cure, which they hope will provide researchers some much needed help in sifting through the vast reams of literature and perhaps uncover some hidden gems. Mark2Cure is a web-based platform that utilizes crowdsourcing, i.e., volunteers or "citizen scientists" as they call them, to mine data from the biomedical literature.

The only requirement for becoming a "citizen scientist" is the ability to read texts in English. Most of these volunteers are motivated to “advance science” and for “learning” purposes, while others come from the communities of those affected by rare diseases. Aspiring “citizen scientists” take a short online tutorial that familiarizes them with the platform. After this, they first identify relevant concepts, e.g., genes, diseases, and medicines, in a text and then secondly look for relationships between these concepts, e.g., drugs that are used to treat certain diseases. A simple example would be coding the key terms from a text as: axitinib (drug) treats cancer (disease). This is then fed into computers which use algorithms to organize the data into more useful and manageable forms. Hopefully, researchers can then use this pool of knowledge to discover new connections between diseases and treatments, and perhaps make new discoveries or form new hypotheses. Ultimately, the stated goal of Mark2Cure is to “identify key terms in all biomedical research abstracts enabling researchers to identify new relationships and ideas that would otherwise remain hidden.”

Mark2Cure performed a small trial to test the effectiveness of the “citizen scientists” against experts. Overall, the volunteers were very accurate in highlighting mentions of diseases, comparable to the experts. Now, the platform is being used in its first project to search for material related to N-glycanase 1 (NGLY1) deficiency, an extremely rare disease with few published reports. The "citizen scientists" have already uncovered 10,000 documents of interest.

Sources
1. https://ncats.nih.gov/pubs/features/citizen-science
2. https://mark2cure.org/about/
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Published 01/27/2017


Spotlight on Rossana Roncato, PhD


p_Rossana_Roncato

    Affiliations
  • Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology Unit CRO-National Cancer Institute, Aviano, Italy
  • Doctoral Course in Pharmacological Sciences, University of Padova, Padova, Italy

    Research interests
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Pharmacogenomics, primarily related to oncology
  • Pharmacogenomic and outcome research
  • Public health policy and regulatory research
  • Pharmacoepidemiology and drug safety


Rossana Roncato is a pharmacogenetics researcher at the National Cancer Institute of Aviano, Italy. She recently took part in the 2016 Golden Helix Summer School, held on Syros Island, Greece, where she won the Golden Helix Prize for presenting her research on predicting the prognosis of epithelial ovarian cancer through tumor genetic signatures. This program of the Golden Helix Foundation and the Genomic Medicine Alliance is designed to give researchers from around the world a forum to expand their knowledge in the exciting field of genomic medicine. This year’s theme was “Cancer Genomics and Individualized Treatment” and included such topics as genomics and pharmacogenomics, public health, informatics, and drug design. You can read the abstract of Rossana Roncato’s work here.


Rossana_Roncato
Rossana Roncato presenting at the 2016 Golden Helix Summer School.

How did you come to your chosen field?

My field is the study and development of innovative strategies to personalize therapy for oncologic patients based on their genotype. My “first steps” were as a visiting master’s student at the University of California, San Diego, where I worked on an experimental research project focused on the study of protein kinase C signaling in cancer. However, it wasn’t until I had to choose the subject for my PhD that I considered moving from molecular to clinical pharmacology. From all the possible projects, I chose one in pharmacogenetics because of a seminar I attended as an undergraduate student at the University of Padova. The lecturer, Erika Cecchin, is now my supervisor at the National Cancer Institute of Aviano.
As a PhD student, I had the opportunity to research the different stages of pharmacogenetic marker development: from the exploratory setting related to both the colorectal and ovarian fields to the clinical implementation of genetic screening of well-acknowledged markers for severe chemotherapy-related toxicities in everyday practice at our hospital.

Who or what inspires you in your profession?

I have found inspiration in the brilliant women scientists I have met throughout my studies and career, from the principal investigator of my former lab, Alexandra Newton, a visionary scientist and role model both personally and professionally, to Corina Antal, my former supervisor who, through her endless dedication to science, taught me the discipline, precision, and rigor that I still carry with me. My current supervisor and mentor, Erika Cecchin, challenges me on a daily basis to see where I cannot. I am grateful to all of them.

How can your research offer hope to cancer patients?

Pharmacogenetics aims to make drug use safer: someone may need a lower dosage, while another patient needs the standard dose and others perhaps a double dose -- all still being equal in response and toxicity. Chemotherapeutic-related toxic effects may be severe and life-threatening, endangering the adherence of cancer patients to therapy as well as their possibility to get cured. However, tailored medicine has the potential to motivate more patients to adhere to their treatment since a personalized regimen increases their involvement in their own care. This is also important in the context of the increasing usage of complementary and alternative medicine among cancer patients over the years. Furthermore, with the constant rise in oncology treatment costs, the use of chemotherapeutic drugs needs to become more targeted and focused on where they have the best chances of producing an effective clinical benefit.

What are the most exciting changes you see for cancer patients in the next 20 years?

Considering that genotyping costs will drop in the near future, becoming increasingly inexpensive and widely accessible, the introduction of pharmacogenetics profiling in clinical practice could deliver an efficient and personalized care that ultimately cuts public health costs.

What are the biggest challenges in oncology research?

The introduction of next-generation DNA sequencing machines has exponentially increased the rate of biological data generation. The management of “big data” in genomics is, in my opinion, the greatest challenge that researchers in oncology will have to face in the near future. Knowledge of statistics and bioinformatics together with genomics will make the difference.

Published 01/23/2017


Spotlight on Prof. Marcel Tanner


p_Marcel_Tanner

    Affiliations
  • President of the Swiss Academy of Sciences
  • Professor of Epidemiology and Medical Parasitology, Faculties of Science and Medicine, University of Basel
  • Director emeritus, Swiss Tropical & Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland

    Research interests
  • Infection biology, primarily neglected tropical diseases
  • Basic research in cell biology and immunology on malaria, schistosomiasis, trypanosomiasis, and filariasis
  • Epidemiological and public health research on risk assessment, vulnerability, health impact, and district health planning
  • Extensive work in Africa and Asia


Prof. Tanner has worked extensively in developing countries in Africa and Asia, and feels at home both in the lab and in the field. He is a senior editor for Biomedicine Hub and tells us a little about his background, what he would like to see happen in public health, and why crosstalk between science disciplines is important.

What is your field and what led you to it?

Infection biology is my field, primarily diseases of poverty and neglected tropical diseases. In 1979, I went to Cameroon as a young post-doc, with the goal of isolating new antigens from worms that cause river blindness. We went to some villages and took nodulectomies out of the skin of the villagers, and we also treated them. Being there showed me that the local people also had other health issues, not just the disease we were investigating, which made a big impression on me. That’s how I came to be more interested in epidemiology and public health and made the decision to focus on field work and leave the lab.


Marcel Tanner and Omari Juma
Marcel Tanner and Omari Juma of the Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania, (photo: Peter Jaeggi, 2014).

What are some exciting developments in your field?

In 2015, the Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine was awarded to three researchers for their work in developing new treatments for malaria and combating infections caused by roundworms. From discoveries like these, we’ve been able to drastically alleviate the burdens caused by malaria, lymphatic filariasis, and river blindness. It’s even conceivable that we will be able to eliminate some of these diseases in some areas.

What would you like to see happen in infection biology?

While the development of new medications and therapies is, of course, important, it isn’t the only part of the equation. The local social and health systems that deliver these treatments are equally crucial to combating these diseases, and it would be nice to see this important work in setting up and running these systems also be recognized.

Biomedicine Hub is an interdisciplinary journal – how has crosstalk between different disciplines of medicine been important for your research?

In our research portfolio, we aim to cover the whole value chain from innovation to the validation of scientific findings towards application. Clearly, our goal at the Swiss TPH and all organizations that strive for inter- and transdisciplinary approaches is to combine research, teaching/training, and direct applications in public health practice. This approach and the prerequisite that we undertake our science endeavors in the spirit of mutual learning for change will ensure a high degree of harmoniously created inter- and transdisciplinarity, thus leading to a comprehensive impact in health and social systems.

Published 01/16/2017


Nature’s Adhesives

Nature has long been a source of inspiration to scientists, artists, and everyday people. Recently, Ashton et al., bioengineers from the University of Utah, have found their muse in the caddisfly larvae, which tapes together the armor it needs for the fast-flowing streams in which it lives. What’s amazing is that this 'tape' can be applied underwater. An Internet video from NPR recently explained the work they are doing and the promising applications it has for the medical world.
Caddisfly larvae are able to ‘tape’ together a protective case made out of small pebbles underwater. The ‘tape’ is actually silk, and is incredibly sticky and resilient. Although the researchers are only just beginning to understand its structure and how it works, uncoding its secrets will hopefully show us how to create strong synthetic adhesive materials that work in wet environments, such as inside the human body. The implications for medicine are huge – in the future, surgeons may be able to add tape to their armamentarium of stitches and screws to put us back together again.
Read the original research article from Ashton et al.

Nature's Adhesives
M. Großmann / pixelio.de

Published 12/01/2016


The CT Challenge

Is your attention to detail impeccable? Does nothing get past you? Click on the following link and test your skills: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY.
If you are one of the 50% who missed the gorilla, then chalk it up to ‘inattentional blindness’. When given a demanding task that requires our full attention, we tend to focus on the matter at hand and are not on the lookout for the unexpected. However, since few of us are professional gorilla counters, it could also just be a rookie mistake.
To see if professionals also miss gorillas, Trafton Drew, from Harvard Medical School, and his fellow researchers did a similar test with radiologists. Drew put a small picture of a man dressed in a gorilla suit on CT slides of lungs, gave the slides to a group of radiologists, and asked them to look for nodules. Most of them (83%) missed the gorilla. So how can the experts miss something so obvious? One explanation is simple -- they weren’t asked to look for gorillas, they were looking for small nodules.
Drew and his colleagues stress they are not implying radiologists are not good at what they do. Instead, they want to show that even highly trained professionals are not immune to the limits of human attention and perception. They feel the results show that medical search tasks should be optimized to account for these limitations.
Trafton Drew spoke to NPR about his research earlier in the year. The transcripts and article can be found at http://www.npr.org/…/why-even-radiologists-can-miss-a-goril…. The original paper can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3964612/.

 CT scan picture by tushchakorn/123RF
CT scan picture by tushchakorn/123RF

Published 11/30/2016


A Little Bit of Chocolate can do a Lot for Arterial Stiffnes

While we all know that chocolate does have some health benefits, for many of us chocolate is still a guilty pleasure. A new study recently published in Pulse http://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/445876 , however, might give chocolate lovers cause to pat themselves on the back.
In a 5-year study, Crichton et al. investigated the long-term effects of chocolate consumption on arterial stiffness. The authors looked at pulse wave velocity, a good predictor of cardiovascular disease, in people who never or rarely eat chocolate, those who eat moderate amounts (defined as once per week), and frequent consumers (more than once a week). Chocolate intake was ascertained via questionnaire. The researchers found that the never-eaters had the highest pulse wave velocity, followed by the frequent eaters. The group that practiced moderation in their chocolate pursuits had the lowest levels of PWV, and was thus seen to be at lower risk for arterial stiffness.
Crichton et al. view their findings as novel as their results suggest a threshold effect of chocolate, i.e. moderate amounts are better than none, but that higher chocolate consumption does not necessarily increase the benefit.

Chocolate

Published 11/30/2016


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