Open Reading Frame brings together a selection of recent publication highlights from elsewhere in the open access ecosystem. This week we take a look at the past few weeks in medicine.
The potential of online tools to reduce global TB spread
Although the global incidence of tuberculosis (TB) is declining, infection rates are still high and TB remains a global health emergency. In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reversing TB spread by 2015, improvements are needed in diagnosing TB, coordinating international control programs and overcoming drug resistance. The internet has brought new opportunities to improve TB control across the globe, and in a review article, Ann Chapman and colleagues discuss current and future web-based tools that could help in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of TB. The authors recommend that the development of these tools should be prioritised at a national level in order to maximize their potential in the fight against TB.
Chapman et al. Clinical Epidemiology
Implanted gene regulators: a new approach to tackle obesity?
With the obesity epidemic becoming an increasing public health concern, it is important to identify new strategies to help people lose weight. Researchers have designed a new ‘genetic circuit’ that results in weight loss when implanted in obese mice. The genetic circuit, which functions as a lipid-controlled regulator of gene expression, constantly monitors fatty acid levels in the blood and alters expression of the appetite-suppressing hormone pramlintide. Mice with the device implanted had reduced food consumption and body weight compared with untreated mice, suggesting that implants linking diet and hormone expression could provide new therapeutic avenues for obesity-linked diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
Rössger et al. Nature Communications
Gene aberrations in breast cancer: personalised therapeutic targets
In recent years, researchers have shown that breast cancer consists of many more molecular subtypes than previously thought, which has opened up exciting new avenues for personalised treatment. In a meta-analysis, researchers from Denmark have synthesized gene expression data linking breast cancer subtypes with outcomes, and found that molecular subtypes account for the majority of signaling pathways involved in metastatic cancer development. Interestingly, the authors showed that different genes are associated with poor survival in basal-like cancers and ERBB2-like tumors, suggesting that distinct pathways should be targeted therapeutically in patients with different tumor types.
Thomassen et al. Cancer Informatics
Oral cholera vaccination in Haiti
Oral cholera vaccination (OCV) was recommended by the World Health Organization in 2010 as part of a multidisciplinary approach to control cholera outbreaks, but some argue that vaccine administration could result in reduced hygiene practices. In order to investigate these concerns further, a recent study assessed knowledge and practices in Haiti before and after an OCV campaign. The results of the survey showed that participants had significantly improved knowledge of cholera and other waterborne diseases, as well as better hygiene practices, following the OCV campaign, suggesting that OCV can be an effective part of cholera control strategies.
Aibana et al. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Strategies to improve diabetes care
Strategic clinical networks have recently been established in Canada to bring together clinicians, patients, researchers and policy makers in order to improve the quality of healthcare. New collaborative research involving these groups has been carried out in Alberta, Canada, to identify barriers to effective diabetes care. The researchers found that conflicting clinical practice guidelines and lack of communication across clinical specialties are key barriers to the provision of good care, and barriers at the patient level include difficulties in making recommended lifestyle changes. The authors conclude that these obstacles could be overcome through quality improvement interventions that make use of collaborative clinical networks.
Manns et al. CMAJ Open
Linking eating disorders and bipolar spectrum comorbidity
Patients with eating disorders often suffer from other psychiatric problems. Now, research has been carried out to assess the presence of bipolar spectrum disorders in patients with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and other eating disorders. The researchers found that almost 70 percent of eating disorder patients also suffered from bipolar spectrum comorbidity, and the presence of both disorders was associated with substance abuse. The authors caution that further studies are required to establish whether this relationship is causal, but these results emphasise the importance of carefully evaluating eating disorder patients for other psychiatric problems.
Campos et al. International Journal of Bipolar Disorders
Mechanisms of brain recovery following injury
Zolpdiem, a drug used to treat insomnia, has previously been shown to recover speech, cognitive and motor function in some patients with severe brain damage. However, responses vary from limited signs of consciousness to complete recovery of speech within an hour of zolpdiem administration. The reasons behind these hugely variable responses are not known. New research has identified distinct patterns of electrical activity, measured by EEG, in the brains of three patients responding to the drug. While these results must be interpreted with caution due to the limited sample size, the authors propose a new model to explain why zolpdiem has a therapeutic effect in some patients, which could be used in the future to predict which patients might benefit from treatment.
Williams et al. eLife
Written by Simon Harold, Senior Executive Editor for the BMC Series.