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The objective of this study has been to confirm the sex and the affinity of an individual buried in a well-furnished warrior grave (Bj 581) in the Viking Age town of Birka, Sweden. Previously, based on the material and historical records, the male sex has been associated with the gender of the warrior and such was the case with Bj 581. An earlier osteological classification of the individual as female was considered controversial in a historical and archaeological context. A genomic confirmation of the biological sex of the individual was considered necessary to solve the issue.

Concepts: Genetics, Male, Female, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Sex, Gamete, Hermaphrodite


Over a decade ago, the Atacama humanoid skeleton (Ata) was discovered in the Atacama region of Chile. The Ata specimen carried a strange phenotype-6-in stature, fewer than expected ribs, elongated cranium, and accelerated bone age-leading to speculation that this was a preserved nonhuman primate, human fetus harboring genetic mutations, or even an extraterrestrial. We previously reported that it was human by DNA analysis with an estimated bone age of about 6-8 yr at the time of demise. To determine the possible genetic drivers of the observed morphology, DNA from the specimen was subjected to whole-genome sequencing using the Illumina HiSeq platform with an average 11.5× coverage of 101-bp, paired-end reads. In total, 3,356,569 single nucleotide variations (SNVs) were found as compared to the human reference genome, 518,365 insertions and deletions (indels), and 1047 structural variations (SVs) were detected. Here, we present the detailed whole-genome analysis showing that Ata is a female of human origin, likely of Chilean descent, and its genome harbors mutations in genes (COL1A1,COL2A1,KMT2D,FLNB,ATR,TRIP11,PCNT) previously linked with diseases of small stature, rib anomalies, cranial malformations, premature joint fusion, and osteochondrodysplasia (also known as skeletal dysplasia). Together, these findings provide a molecular characterization of Ata’s peculiar phenotype, which likely results from multiple known and novel putative gene mutations affecting bone development and ossification.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Mutation, Evolution, Molecular biology, Human genome, Chile


Despite concerted international effort to track and interpret shifts in the abundance and distribution of Adélie penguins, large populations continue to be identified. Here we report on a major hotspot of Adélie penguin abundance identified in the Danger Islands off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula (AP). We present the first complete census of Pygoscelis spp. penguins in the Danger Islands, estimated from a multi-modal survey consisting of direct ground counts and computer-automated counts of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) imagery. Our survey reveals that the Danger Islands host 751,527 pairs of Adélie penguins, more than the rest of AP region combined, and include the third and fourth largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world. Our results validate the use of Landsat medium-resolution satellite imagery for the detection of new or unknown penguin colonies and highlight the utility of combining satellite imagery with ground and UAV surveys. The Danger Islands appear to have avoided recent declines documented on the Western AP and, because they are large and likely to remain an important hotspot for avian abundance under projected climate change, deserve special consideration in the negotiation and design of Marine Protected Areas in the region.

Concepts: Climate change, Seabird, Penguin, Remote sensing, Antarctica, Aerial photography, Unmanned aerial vehicle, Unmanned vehicles


Background The recurrence score based on the 21-gene breast cancer assay predicts chemotherapy benefit if it is high and a low risk of recurrence in the absence of chemotherapy if it is low; however, there is uncertainty about the benefit of chemotherapy for most patients, who have a midrange score. Methods We performed a prospective trial involving 10,273 women with hormone-receptor-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative, axillary node-negative breast cancer. Of the 9719 eligible patients with follow-up information, 6711 (69%) had a midrange recurrence score of 11 to 25 and were randomly assigned to receive either chemoendocrine therapy or endocrine therapy alone. The trial was designed to show noninferiority of endocrine therapy alone for invasive disease-free survival (defined as freedom from invasive disease recurrence, second primary cancer, or death). Results Endocrine therapy was noninferior to chemoendocrine therapy in the analysis of invasive disease-free survival (hazard ratio for invasive disease recurrence, second primary cancer, or death [endocrine vs. chemoendocrine therapy], 1.08; 95% confidence interval, 0.94 to 1.24; P=0.26). At 9 years, the two treatment groups had similar rates of invasive disease-free survival (83.3% in the endocrine-therapy group and 84.3% in the chemoendocrine-therapy group), freedom from disease recurrence at a distant site (94.5% and 95.0%) or at a distant or local-regional site (92.2% and 92.9%), and overall survival (93.9% and 93.8%). The chemotherapy benefit for invasive disease-free survival varied with the combination of recurrence score and age (P=0.004), with some benefit of chemotherapy found in women 50 years of age or younger with a recurrence score of 16 to 25. Conclusions Adjuvant endocrine therapy and chemoendocrine therapy had similar efficacy in women with hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-negative, axillary node-negative breast cancer who had a midrange 21-gene recurrence score, although some benefit of chemotherapy was found in some women 50 years of age or younger. (Funded by the National Cancer Institute and others; TAILORx number, NCT00310180 .).


Dogs may be beneficial in reducing cardiovascular risk in their owners by providing social support and motivation for physical activity. We aimed to investigate the association of dog ownership with incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death in a register-based prospective nation-wide cohort (n = 3,432,153) with up to 12 years of follow-up. Self-reported health and lifestyle habits were available for 34,202 participants in the Swedish Twin Register. Time-to-event analyses with time-updated covariates were used to calculate hazard ratios (HR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI). In single- and multiple-person households, dog ownership (13.1%) was associated with lower risk of death, HR 0.67 (95% CI, 0.65-0.69) and 0.89 (0.87-0.91), respectively; and CVD death, HR 0.64 (0.59-0.70), and 0.85 (0.81-0.90), respectively. In single-person households, dog ownership was inversely associated with cardiovascular outcomes (HR composite CVD 0.92, 95% CI, 0.89-0.94). Ownership of hunting breed dogs was associated with lowest risk of CVD. Further analysis in the Twin Register could not replicate the reduced risk of CVD or death but also gave no indication of confounding by disability, comorbidities or lifestyle factors. In conclusion, dog ownership appears to be associated with lower risk of CVD in single-person households and lower mortality in the general population.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Demography, Blood vessel, Cardiovascular disease, Actuarial science, Physical exercise, Dog breed


In 1965, the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) secretly funded a review in the New England Journal of Medicine that discounted evidence linking sucrose consumption to blood lipid levels and hence coronary heart disease (CHD). SRF subsequently funded animal research to evaluate sucrose’s CHD risks. The objective of this study was to examine the planning, funding, and internal evaluation of an SRF-funded research project titled “Project 259: Dietary Carbohydrate and Blood Lipids in Germ-Free Rats,” led by Dr. W.F.R. Pover at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom, between 1967 and 1971. A narrative case study method was used to assess SRF Project 259 from 1967 to 1971 based on sugar industry internal documents. Project 259 found a statistically significant decrease in serum triglycerides in germ-free rats fed a high sugar diet compared to conventional rats fed a basic PRM diet (a pelleted diet containing cereal meals, soybean meals, whitefish meal, and dried yeast, fortified with a balanced vitamin supplement and trace element mixture). The results suggested to SRF that gut microbiota have a causal role in carbohydrate-induced hypertriglyceridemia. A study comparing conventional rats fed a high-sugar diet to those fed a high-starch diet suggested that sucrose consumption might be associated with elevated levels of beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme previously associated with bladder cancer in humans. SRF terminated Project 259 without publishing the results. The sugar industry did not disclose evidence of harm from animal studies that would have (1) strengthened the case that the CHD risk of sucrose is greater than starch and (2) caused sucrose to be scrutinized as a potential carcinogen. The influence of the gut microbiota in the differential effects of sucrose and starch on blood lipids, as well as the influence of carbohydrate quality on beta-glucuronidase and cancer activity, deserve further scrutiny.

Concepts: Gut flora, Metabolism, Nutrition, Glucose, Triglyceride, Case study, Carbohydrate, Blood lipids


Psilocybin with psychological support is showing promise as a treatment model in psychiatry but its therapeutic mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, cerebral blood flow (CBF) and blood oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) were measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after treatment with psilocybin (serotonin agonist) for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Quality pre and post treatment fMRI data were collected from 16 of 19 patients. Decreased depressive symptoms were observed in all 19 patients at 1-week post-treatment and 47% met criteria for response at 5 weeks. Whole-brain analyses revealed post-treatment decreases in CBF in the temporal cortex, including the amygdala. Decreased amygdala CBF correlated with reduced depressive symptoms. Focusing on a priori selected circuitry for RSFC analyses, increased RSFC was observed within the default-mode network (DMN) post-treatment. Increased ventromedial prefrontal cortex-bilateral inferior lateral parietal cortex RSFC was predictive of treatment response at 5-weeks, as was decreased parahippocampal-prefrontal cortex RSFC. These data fill an important knowledge gap regarding the post-treatment brain effects of psilocybin, and are the first in depressed patients. The post-treatment brain changes are different to previously observed acute effects of psilocybin and other ‘psychedelics’ yet were related to clinical outcomes. A ‘reset’ therapeutic mechanism is proposed.

Concepts: Brain, Magnetic resonance imaging, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Serotonin, Schizophrenia, Major depressive disorder


Background The prognosis of patients with recurrent World Health Organization (WHO) grade IV malignant glioma is dismal, and there is currently no effective therapy. We conducted a dose-finding and toxicity study in this population of patients, evaluating convection-enhanced, intratumoral delivery of the recombinant nonpathogenic polio-rhinovirus chimera (PVSRIPO). PVSRIPO recognizes the poliovirus receptor CD155, which is widely expressed in neoplastic cells of solid tumors and in major components of the tumor microenvironment. Methods We enrolled consecutive adult patients who had recurrent supratentorial WHO grade IV malignant glioma, confirmed on histopathological testing, with measurable disease (contrast-enhancing tumor of ≥1 cm and ≤5.5 cm in the greatest dimension). The study evaluated seven doses, ranging between 107 and 1010 50% tissue-culture infectious doses (TCID50), first in a dose-escalation phase and then in a dose-expansion phase. Results From May 2012 through May 2017, a total of 61 patients were enrolled and received a dose of PVSRIPO. Dose level -1 (5.0×107 TCID50) was identified as the phase 2 dose. One dose-limiting toxic effect was observed; a patient in whom dose level 5 (1010 TCID50) was administered had a grade 4 intracranial hemorrhage immediately after the catheter was removed. To mitigate locoregional inflammation of the infused tumor with prolonged glucocorticoid use, dose level 5 was deescalated to reach the phase 2 dose. In the dose-expansion phase, 19% of the patients had a PVSRIPO-related adverse event of grade 3 or higher. Overall survival among the patients who received PVSRIPO reached a plateau of 21% (95% confidence interval, 11 to 33) at 24 months that was sustained at 36 months. Conclusions Intratumoral infusion of PVSRIPO in patients with recurrent WHO grade IV malignant glioma confirmed the absence of neurovirulent potential. The survival rate among patients who received PVSRIPO immunotherapy was higher at 24 and 36 months than the rate among historical controls. (Funded by the Brain Tumor Research Charity and others; number, NCT01491893 .).


Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) is one of the most abundantly produced synthetic polymers and is accumulating in the environment at a staggering rate as discarded packaging and textiles. The properties that make PET so useful also endow it with an alarming resistance to biodegradation, likely lasting centuries in the environment. Our collective reliance on PET and other plastics means that this buildup will continue unless solutions are found. Recently, a newly discovered bacterium, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, was shown to exhibit the rare ability to grow on PET as a major carbon and energy source. Central to its PET biodegradation capability is a secreted PETase (PET-digesting enzyme). Here, we present a 0.92 Å resolution X-ray crystal structure of PETase, which reveals features common to both cutinases and lipases. PETase retains the ancestral α/β-hydrolase fold but exhibits a more open active-site cleft than homologous cutinases. By narrowing the binding cleft via mutation of two active-site residues to conserved amino acids in cutinases, we surprisingly observe improved PET degradation, suggesting that PETase is not fully optimized for crystalline PET degradation, despite presumably evolving in a PET-rich environment. Additionally, we show that PETase degrades another semiaromatic polyester, polyethylene-2,5-furandicarboxylate (PEF), which is an emerging, bioderived PET replacement with improved barrier properties. In contrast, PETase does not degrade aliphatic polyesters, suggesting that it is generally an aromatic polyesterase. These findings suggest that additional protein engineering to increase PETase performance is realistic and highlight the need for further developments of structure/activity relationships for biodegradation of synthetic polyesters.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Evolution, Amino acid, Crystal, Polymer, Materials science, Polyester


Since 2010, England has experienced relative constraints in public expenditure on healthcare (PEH) and social care (PES). We sought to determine whether these constraints have affected mortality rates.

Concepts: Health care, Epidemiology, Barack Obama, Massachusetts