Highlights of the BMC-series: March 2014

• Great tits hide their success • Soccer surface injury risk • Can students afford to specialise? • Cognitive enhancement in the healthy? • Coffee can help! • Nanoscale chromatin changes precede cancer • Liver transplant of inverted organs •

BMCWordleEvolutionary biology: Great tits hide their success

Pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) have been shown to derive fitness benefits (measured as number of eggs laid) when nesting in close proximity to great tits (Parus major), presumably because they are able to obtain information about what makes a good nesting site. New experimental evidence also suggests that great tits actively cover their eggs as a counter-adaptation to this ‘information parasitism’, a tactic that discourages the flycatchers from nesting nearby and outcompeting them for resources.

Sports science: Soccer surface injury risk

A survey of 99 professional soccer players from six teams competing in US Major League Soccer (MLS) during the 2011 season provides an insight into player attitudes to injury and playing surfaces.  Professional soccer players believe that the risk of injury differs according to surface type, and that artificial turf is most likely to lead to non-contact injury, longer recovery times, and greater muscle and joint soreness

Oral health: Can students afford to specialise?

As the cost of education rises, educational debt starts to play a major role in affecting the career choices of dental students. Increasing debts has the potential to push graduates into private practice immediately after graduation rather than pursuing further specialization. Nashleanas et al examine the importance of debt on career decision-making while also considering the role of other influences such as those of a spouse or other family member, the importance of a mentoring dentist and how students perceive the burden of their debt.

Image of the month:

Snail eating snake

Frontal view of the head of a snail eating snake (Dipsas alternans) from Consuming viscous prey: a novel protein-secreting delivery system in neotropical snail-eating snakes” Zaher et al, BMC Evolutionary Biology 14:58

Video of the month:Predation sequence of adult “Goo-eating snake” Dipsas albifrons on a snail of the genus Bradybaena

Medical ethics: Cognitive enhancement in the healthy?

The use of Methylphenidate for cognitive enhancement is increasing in select circles of society. Beyer et al discuss whether this can lead to greater inequities in countries with vast economic disparities and call for public debate on the use of such cognitive enhancements. They advise that if research demonstrates Methylphenidate is safe and the outcomes tangible, its regulated use by the healthy should be advocated and that doctors and medical students are a good group to initially implement this policy.

Women’s health: Coffee can help!

Endometrial cancer comprises about 4% of all cancers in women globally and occurs predominantly after menopause. Coffee and its compounds have been proposed to inhibit endometrial carcinogenesis. In a Norwegian population, selected for its high numbers of daily coffee consumption and increasing incidences of endometrial cancer, drinking more than 8 cups a day is shown to be associated with a lower risk of postmenopausal endometrial cancer, independent of brewing methods.

Cancer: Nanoscale chromatin changes precede cancer

Tissue in the neoplastic field of a tumor can be used to identify and study the initiating events of carcinogenesis. Here, the authors use transmission electron microscopy to detect and measure the changes in chromatin density and heterochromatin structure that occur very early during carcinogenesis. They confirm that characterization of chromatin alterations in the early stages of cancer can provide insight into cancer progression, with the potential to serve as a biomarker for early detection, risk stratification and prevention.

Gastroenterology: Liver transplant of inverted organs

Situs inversus is a rare congenital anomaly characterized by the complete inversion of thoracic and abdominal organs. This case report describes a rare case of organ transplant from a situs inversus donor to an adult situs inversus recipient.  The successful liver transplantation between patients – despite different blood types, suggests that ABO-incompatibility is acceptable when both recipient and donor have inverted organs.

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