SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

502

The spreadsheet software Microsoft Excel, when used with default settings, is known to convert gene names to dates and floating-point numbers. A programmatic scan of leading genomics journals reveals that approximately one-fifth of papers with supplementary Excel gene lists contain erroneous gene name conversions.

Concepts: Microsoft Excel, Microsoft, Spreadsheet, Microsoft Office, Lotus 1-2-3, Spreadsheet software, Pivot table, VisiCalc

329

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in the UK is declining; however, CVD burden comes not only from deaths, but also from those living with the disease. This review uses national datasets with multiple years of data to present secular trends in mortality, morbidity, and treatment for all CVD and specific subtypes within the UK. We produced all-ages and premature age-standardised mortality rates by gender, standardised to the 2013 European Standard Population, using data from the national statistics agencies of the UK. We obtained data on hospital admissions from the National Health Service records, using the main diagnosis. Prevalence data come from the Quality and Outcome Framework and national surveys. Total CVD mortality declined by 68% between 1980 and 2013 in the UK. Similar decreases were seen for coronary heart disease and stroke. Coronary heart disease prevalence has remained constant at around 3% in England and 4% in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Hospital admissions for all CVD increased by over 46 000 between 2010/2011 and 2013/2014, with more than 36 500 of these increased admissions for men. Hospital admission trends vary by country and CVD condition. CVD prescriptions and operations have increased over the last decade. CVD mortality has declined notably for both men and women while hospital admissions have increased. CVD prevalence shows little evidence of change. This review highlights that improvements in the burden of CVD have not occurred equally between the four constituent countries of the UK, or between men and women.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Heart, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland

201

Two recent studies have reanalyzed previously published data and found that when data sets were analyzed independently, there was limited support for the widely accepted hypothesis that changes in the microbiome are associated with obesity. This hypothesis was reconsidered by increasing the number of data sets and pooling the results across the individual data sets. The preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses guidelines were used to identify 10 studies for an updated and more synthetic analysis. Alpha diversity metrics and the relative risk of obesity based on those metrics were used to identify a limited number of significant associations with obesity; however, when the results of the studies were pooled by using a random-effect model, significant associations were observed among Shannon diversity, the number of observed operational taxonomic units, Shannon evenness, and obesity status. They were not observed for the ratio of Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes or their individual relative abundances. Although these tests yielded small P values, the difference between the Shannon diversity indices of nonobese and obese individuals was 2.07%. A power analysis demonstrated that only one of the studies had sufficient power to detect a 5% difference in diversity. When random forest machine learning models were trained on one data set and then tested by using the other nine data sets, the median accuracy varied between 33.01 and 64.77% (median, 56.68%). Although there was support for a relationship between the microbial communities found in human feces and obesity status, this association was relatively weak and its detection is confounded by large interpersonal variation and insufficient sample sizes.

Concepts: Bacteria, Gut flora, Taxonomy, Ratio, Diversity index, Shannon index, Measurement of biodiversity, Index numbers

190

Ground-level ozone is adverse to human and vegetation health. High ground-level ozone concentrations usually occur over the United States in the summer, often referred to as the ozone season. However, observed monthly mean ozone concentrations in the southeastern United States were higher in October than July in 2010. The October ozone average in 2010 reached that of July in the past three decades (1980-2010). Our analysis shows that this extreme October ozone in 2010 over the Southeast is due in part to a dry and warm weather condition, which enhances photochemical production, air stagnation, and fire emissions. Observational evidence and modeling analysis also indicate that another significant contributor is enhanced emissions of biogenic isoprene, a major ozone precursor, from water-stressed plants under a dry and warm condition. The latter finding is corroborated by recent laboratory and field studies. This climate-induced biogenic control also explains the puzzling fact that the two extremes of high October ozone both occurred in the 2000s when anthropogenic emissions were lower than the 1980s and 1990s, in contrast to the observed decreasing trend of July ozone in the region. The occurrences of a drying and warming fall, projected by climate models, will likely lead to more active photochemistry, enhanced biogenic isoprene and fire emissions, an extension of the ozone season from summer to fall, and an increase of secondary organic aerosols in the Southeast, posing challenges to regional air quality management.

Concepts: Chemistry, Florida, North Carolina, Southern United States, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia

132

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of disability and mortality in children and young adults worldwide. It remains unclear, however, how TBI in childhood and adolescence is associated with adult mortality, psychiatric morbidity, and social outcomes.

Concepts: Medicine, Longitudinal study, Brain, Traumatic brain injury, Childhood, Coming of age

91

At a distance of 1.295 parsecs, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri (α Centauri C, GL 551, HIP 70890 or simply Proxima) is the Sun’s closest stellar neighbour and one of the best-studied low-mass stars. It has an effective temperature of only around 3,050 kelvin, a luminosity of 0.15 per cent of that of the Sun, a measured radius of 14 per cent of the radius of the Sun and a mass of about 12 per cent of the mass of the Sun. Although Proxima is considered a moderately active star, its rotation period is about 83 days (ref. 3) and its quiescent activity levels and X-ray luminosity are comparable to those of the Sun. Here we report observations that reveal the presence of a small planet with a minimum mass of about 1.3 Earth masses orbiting Proxima with a period of approximately 11.2 days at a semi-major-axis distance of around 0.05 astronomical units. Its equilibrium temperature is within the range where water could be liquid on its surface.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, Planet, Star, Astronomical unit, Proxima Centauri, Stellar classification, Red dwarf

75

The notion of self-regulating mantle convection, in which heat loss from the surface is constantly adjusted to follow internal radiogenic heat production, has been popular for the past six decades since Urey first advocated the idea. Thanks to its intuitive appeal, this notion has pervaded the solid earth sciences in various forms, but approach to a self-regulating state critically depends on the relation between the thermal adjustment rate and mantle temperature. I show that, if the effect of mantle melting on viscosity is taken into account, the adjustment rate cannot be sufficiently high to achieve self-regulation, regardless of the style of mantle convection. The evolution of terrestrial planets is thus likely to be far from thermal equilibrium and be sensitive to the peculiarities of their formation histories. Chance factors in planetary formation are suggested to become more important for the evolution of planets that are more massive than Earth.

Concepts: Earth, Temperature, Planet, Thermodynamics, Heat, Convection, Terrestrial planet, Mantle

61

Zika virus (ZIKV)-related neuropathology is an important global health concern. Several studies have shown that ZIKV can infect neural stem cells in the developing brain, but infection in the adult brain has not been examined. Two areas in the adult mouse brain contain neural stem cells: the subventricular zone of the anterior forebrain and the subgranular zone of the hippocampus. Here, using 6-week-old mice triply deficient in interferon regulatory factor (IRF) as a model, we show that blood-borne ZIKV administration can lead to pronounced evidence of ZIKV infection in these adult neural stem cells, leading to cell death and reduced proliferation. Our data therefore suggest that adult as well as fetal neural stem cells are vulnerable to ZIKV neuropathology. Thus, although ZIKV is considered a transient infection in adult humans without marked long-term effects, there may in fact be consequences of exposure in the adult brain.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Neuron, Gene, Brain, Virus, Infection, Cerebrum, Neurogenesis

60

The Pliocene fossil ‘Lucy’ (Australopithecus afarensis) was discovered in the Afar region of Ethiopia in 1974 and is among the oldest and most complete fossil hominin skeletons discovered. Here we propose, on the basis of close study of her skeleton, that her cause of death was a vertical deceleration event or impact following a fall from considerable height that produced compressive and hinge (greenstick) fractures in multiple skeletal elements. Impacts that are so severe as to cause concomitant fractures usually also damage internal organs; together, these injuries are hypothesized to have caused her death. Lucy has been at the centre of a vigorous debate about the role, if any, of arboreal locomotion in early human evolution. It is therefore ironic that her death can be attributed to injuries resulting from a fall, probably out of a tall tree, thus offering unusual evidence for the presence of arborealism in this species.

Concepts: Bone, Ethiopia, Human evolution, Australopithecus afarensis, Hominina, Lucy, Afar Region, Afar Depression

54

Soft robots possess many attributes that are difficult, if not impossible, to achieve with conventional robots composed of rigid materials. Yet, despite recent advances, soft robots must still be tethered to hard robotic control systems and power sources. New strategies for creating completely soft robots, including soft analogues of these crucial components, are needed to realize their full potential. Here we report the untethered operation of a robot composed solely of soft materials. The robot is controlled with microfluidic logic that autonomously regulates fluid flow and, hence, catalytic decomposition of an on-board monopropellant fuel supply. Gas generated from the fuel decomposition inflates fluidic networks downstream of the reaction sites, resulting in actuation. The body and microfluidic logic of the robot are fabricated using moulding and soft lithography, respectively, and the pneumatic actuator networks, on-board fuel reservoirs and catalytic reaction chambers needed for movement are patterned within the body via a multi-material, embedded 3D printing technique. The fluidic and elastomeric architectures required for function span several orders of magnitude from the microscale to the macroscale. Our integrated design and rapid fabrication approach enables the programmable assembly of multiple materials within this architecture, laying the foundation for completely soft, autonomous robots.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Fluid, Robotics, Robot, Autonomous robot, Humanoid robot, Pneumatics, Evolutionary robotics