Highlights of the BMC-series: June 2017

Results-free peer review • consumption of wine and glass size • euthanasia for psychiatric disorders or dementia • gut microbial colonization and asthma development • physical activity in seniors with dogs • high fructose corn syrup drinks and coronary heart disease • monitoring 3D spheroids using beetle luciferase-expressing hepatocytes • toxic effects of iron oxide nanoparticles

BMC Psychology: publication of the first results-free peer review article

Results-free review is a new model of peer review aiming to reduce publication bias, and prevent impressive ends from justifying poor means. BMC Psychology first launched results-free review in December 2016, and the first article to have undergone the full results-free review process has been published and is featured below.

Consumption of wine and glass size

Few studies have explored the psychology of what influences how much alcohol is consumed in a social setting, and this study focuses on what can be done to change drinking behaviors based solely on how the alcohol is presented.

This study tested the effects changing the size of the wine glass had on the drinking rate, sip number, and sip duration of wine in young women. The same amount of wine was provided in either a small or large wine glass, and participates’ behavior was observed. Surprisingly, it was found that larger cup size resulted in women drinking alcohol much slower, and with shorter sip durations.

In addition to the study, please read a Q&A from the authors and editors discussing what the new peer-review process means for authors, reviewers, editors and readers. To learn more about how the size of a drinking glass can influence alcohol consumption the authors of this study have written a blog.

BMC Psychiatry:  Euthanasia for psychiatric disorders or dementia

End of life decisions have become an increasingly common medical choice among terminally ill and suffering patients.  In Belgium, the right to die extends beyond just the terminally ill, and includes patients suffering from psychiatric disorders and dementia.  This study analyzes the anonymous databases of euthanasia cases reported to the Federal Control and Evaluation Committee Euthanasia from the implementation of the euthanasia law in Belgium in 2002 until the end of 2013, and found that the prevalence of euthanize has increased in this vulnerable population since 2008.

For a more in depth discussion on this topic, please read the author blog on this subject.

BMC Microbiology: Gut microbial colonization and asthma development

The authors of this study explored the effects of environmental exposure and asthma development in developing mice. In this study mice were kept in a controlled, germ-free environment at various stages of development to investigate the effect of early-life diverse microbial exposures on gut microbial colonization in an OVA-induced asthma model in BALB/c mice.  The researchers found that exposure to the non-germ free environment lead to the greatest diversity in intestinal flora in the mice, and mice with increased intestinal flora diversity had lower pathological scores of OVA-induced asthma.  The results also suggest that exposure in early life to a diversity of microbes may prevent airway inflammation in asthma by regulating the Th1/Th2 pathway.

BMC Public Health:  Physical activity in seniors with dogs

This study seeks to quantify if older adults can increase their daily activity by owning a pet dog. This longitudinal case-controlled study explores if owning a dog can lead to changes in exercise and behavior amount in elderly adults in the UK.  Researchers compared a dog-owning population to a non-dog owning population, of groups comprised of adults over the age of 65, and measured time spent walking, steps taken, and sedentary time. Results showed that owning a dog did lead to significant changes of behavior, specifically increased walking times, and increased step numbers

For a more in depth analysis of this topic, please see the BMC series blog on this article.

Image of the month

A representative spectrum of morphology and feeding habits of true ladybirds (or ladybugs for our American readers). From Escalona et al. Molecular phylogeny reveals food plasticity in the evolution of true ladybird beetles, BMC Evolutionary Biology.

BMC Nutrition:  High fructose corn syrup drinks and coronary heart disease

It is well known that drinking soda in excess can lead to severe health problems, namely obesity and diabetes.  This study explored the relationship between a diet with drinks containing high levels of high fructose corn syrup and likelihood to develop coronary heart disease in adults in the United States.  The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between the years 2003–2006, and discovered a significant correlation between intake of any combination of HFCS sweetened soft drinks, fruit drinks, and apple juice with CHD.  The correlation may be due to the high ratio of fructose to glucose in these highly sweetened beverages, and a possible mechanism of action would be an underlying inability to absorb fructose contributing to the intestinal in situ formation of pro-inflammatory enFruAGEs, which are eventually absorbed and induce inflammation of the coronary arteries.

BMC BiotechnologyMonitoring 3D spheroids using beetle luciferase-expressing hepatocytes

Monitoring the health of in vitro spheroids is difficult to assess, due to the physical nature of spheroids. In this methods article the authors have constructed a monitoring system in which the cytotoxicity in the same 3D spheroids was continuously and sensitively monitored over a long term using a non-destructive bioluminescence derived from Emerald Luc (ELuc), a green-emitting beetle luciferase from P. termitilluminans. This system can be applied to other cell models, such as human primary cells or stem cells, and is expected to serve as the preferred platform for simple and cost-effective long-term monitoring of cellular events.

BMC Neuroscience: Toxic effects of iron oxide nanoparticles

Iron oxide nanoparticles studies have been ongoing in several fields of medical research, most of which target the central nervous system.  These nanoparticles have a wide variety of uses, including to deliver medication, clarify MRI images, and target amyloid beta plaques.  The authors of this study performed a systematic review of the toxic effects of iron oxide nanoparticles, and the results suggest that depending on the type of nano-particles involved, their use can lead to iron accumulation, oxidative stress and protein aggregation in the neural cells.  Awareness of these results would be important for scientists performing future studies with iron oxide nanoparticles.


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