September blogs digest: gene patenting, Jack the Ripper, Angelina Jolie, and more

If you missed out on any of our blogs in September, never fear! We’ve got all the top content for you right here.

‘You might as well patent oxygen’ 

In the wake of the decision by the Australian Federal Court to uphold gene patenting, BMC Biology’s Naomi Attar took to the blogs to write an ‘unashamedly unbalanced’ take on their decision. You may have gathered from the title that she wasn’t too impressed. In her post she takes us through the ins and outs of why that is.

Was it really the barber? A look at Jack the Ripper’s DNA test

Jack the Ripper hit the headlines in September, as his supposed ‘true’ identity was revealed. It was said to be none other than Aaron Kosminski, a 23-year-old Polish immigrant and hairdresser. ‘Jack the Ripper’ trended on Twitter, news outlets were dishing out the details, and everyone was surprised that the mask had finally been lifted after 126 years. But that’s not quite the whole story. James Balm took a look at just how much weight we can give to this new theory on who the Ripper really was.

The Jolie effect – increasing options for patients

Last summer, actress and human rights campaigner Angelina Jolie published a moving article, ‘My medical choice’, in the New York Times about her decision to be tested for the BRCA gene mutation and subsequently to have a double mastectomy. Research published in Breast Cancer Research  in September suggested that Jolie’s decision to publicise her choice had a long lasting effect. Ruth Francis went into the background of what the researchers termed the ‘Jolie effect’.

From combating malaria to cutting down on sugar

Combating malaria: mechanisms of immunity and vaccination strategiesMalaria is present in over 100 countries worldwide, and it is estimated that around 3.4 billion people – half of the world’s population – are at risk of infection. BMC Medicine’s Claire Barnard wrote about some of their latest published research on the disease.

A whole new world. How physiological anthropology helps study our modern livesOur environment has changed a lot since our hunter-gatherer days, but how is this having an impact on our health? Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Physiological Anthropology, Akira Yasukouchi, explained how studying physiological anthropology helps us understand our relationship with this new world.

For the ‘greater good’ would you share your biological data?: In September the National Institutes of Health released its genomic data sharing policy. From next year, study participants need to give researchers permission to re-use and share their data. Michele Cote and colleagues wondered what would happen if people from a 15-year old study were re-contacted and asked to share their data.

We are all sweet enough; it’s time for less sugar nowKatharine Jenner is a Registered Public Health Nutritionist and the Campaign Director of Action on Sugar, a new campaign group concerned with the effects of sugar on our diet. In a guest blog, she commented on a new article published in BMC Public Health and told us why there should be less sugar in our lives.

Together we are stronger: charities join forces to support open access: Six leading UK charities will support the costs of making articles from their funded research immediately openly available, through the recently announced Charity Open Access Fund. Wellcome Trust’s David Carr, British Heart Foundation’s Sanjay Thakrar and Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research’s Matt Kaiser told us more.

Slothful trends in evolution; from walking giants to tiny tree-dwellers: Today, sloths are all small tree-climbing animals. However new research, published in BMC Evolutionary Biology last month, suggests this makes them the black sheep of the sloth family; instead most species in this group have been more like the giant ground sloths, now long extinct. Chris Foote investigated why.

Contraception is key to reproductive healthLast Friday was World Contraception Day, a worldwide campaign with a mission to improve awareness, knowledge and understanding of contraception so that a world exists where every pregnancy is planned. To mark it, Natasha Salaria looked back at research from two recent supplements on reproductive health and broke down the stats in our new infographic.

Community Genomes: From the People’s Parrot, to “Crowdfernding”One of the goals of journal GigaScience is to help promote more open ways of carrying out science. Editor Scott Edmunds wrote on the journal’s blog at the end of the month about some community-funded genome sequencing. From the Puerta Rican ‘people’s parrot’ to Azolla fern, he explained how online fundraising is helping to sequence new genomes and expand our understanding. 

And finally…

Frontiers in Zoology article wins IgNobel Prize: In mid-September, the IgNobel Prizes were awarded during a ceremony that took place at Harvard University. The winner in the Biology category was Hynek Burda and colleagues for their article ‘Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field’. Shane Canning took another look at this highly-accessed research.

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