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1.  Differences in dietary pattern between obese and eutrophic children 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:567.
Excessive consumption of energy is a decisive factor of obesity, but a simple quantitative assessment of consumption between obese and eutrophic individuals not always explains the problem, raising questions about the importance of the qualitative aspects of food. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the differences in nutrient composition and meal patterns between eutrophic and obese schoolchildren.
The diet of 83 children (42 obese and 41 eutrophic), aged between 7 and 11 years of age, was assessed by two non-consecutive dietary recalls. After the software analysis of macro and micronutrients composition, the different types and amount of legumes, fruits and vegetables were analyzed to verify the dietary patterns.
No differences were verified in energy consumption between the groups (eutrophic = 1934.2 ± 672.7 kcal, obese = 1835.8 ± 621.2 kcal). In general, children showed consumption within the recommended ranges of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. The average consumption of fiber was higher in the eutrophic group (20.7 g) when compared to the obese group (14.8 g). The dietary fiber was strongly correlated with the number of servings of beans (r = 0.77), when compared to fruits (r = 0.44) and leafy vegetables (r = 0.13). It was also observed that the higher the consumption of fiber and beans, the lower the proportion of dietary fat (r = -0.22) in the diet. Generally, there was a low consumption of fiber (20.7 g = eutrophic group/14.8 g = obese group), beans (1.1 portions in the eutrophic and obese groups), fruits (0.7 portions eutrophic group and 0.6 obese group) and vegetables (1.3 eutrophic group and 1.1 obese group).
It is concluded that the obesity was more related to a dietary pattern of low intake of dietary fiber than excessive energy consumption and macronutrients imbalance.
PMCID: PMC3339399  PMID: 22206728
2.  Real-time PCR quantification of the canine filaggrin orthologue in the skin of atopic and non-atopic dogs: a pilot study 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:554.
Canine atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common inflammatory skin disease associated with defects in the epidermal barrier, particularly in West Highland white terriers (WHWTs). It shares many similarities with human AD, and so may be a useful animal model for this disease. Epidermal dysfunction in human AD can be caused by mutations in the gene encoding the epidermal protein filaggrin (FLG) and, in some atopic patients, be associated with altered FLG mRNA and protein expression in lesional and/or non-lesional skin. In experimental models of canine AD, mRNA expression of the orthologous canine filaggrin gene may be reduced in non-lesional skin compared with healthy controls. However, there is no published data on canine filaggrin mRNA expression in the skin of dogs with naturally-occurring AD. Hence, the aim of this pilot study was to develop a reverse transcriptase real-time PCR assay to compare filaggrin mRNA expression in the skin of atopic (n = 7) and non-atopic dogs (n = 5) from five breeds, including eight WHWTs.
Overall, filaggrin mRNA expression in non-lesional atopic skin was decreased compared to non-lesional non-atopic skin (two fold change); however this difference was only statistically significant in the subgroup of WHWTs (P = 0.03).
Although limited by the small sample size, these results indicate that, comparable to some cases of human AD, altered filaggrin mRNA expression may exist in the skin of some atopic dogs with naturally-occurring disease. Additional studies, including larger sample numbers, will be necessary to confirm this finding and to investigate whether mutations in the filaggrin gene exist and contribute to epidermal lesions of AD in dogs.
PMCID: PMC3339370  PMID: 22188733
3.  Effect of controlled and uncontrolled cooling rate on motility parameters of cryopreserved ram spermatozoa 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:547.
Ram spermatozoa are sensitive to extreme changes in temperature during the freeze-thaw process. The degree of damage depends on a combined effect of various factors including freezing temperature. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of two cooling method (controlled-rate and uncontrolled-rate) on pre-freezing and post-thaw sperm motility parameters.
Ejaculates were collected using the artificial vagina from four Chal rams and three replicates of the ejaculates were diluted with a Tris-based extender and packed in 0.25 ml straws. Then, sample processed according to the two methods. Method 1: straws cooled from 37 to 5°C, at a liner rate of -0.3°C/min in a controlled-rate cooling machine (custom-built) and equilibrated at 5°C for 80 min, then the straws were frozen at rate of -0.3°C/min from 5°C to -10°C and -25°C/min from -10°C to -150°C and plunged into liquid nitrogen for storage. Method 2: straws were transferred to refrigerator and maintained at 5°C for 3 h, then the straws were frozen in liquid nitrogen vapor, 4 cm above the liquid nitrogen for 15 min and plunged into liquid nitrogen. Computer-assisted sperm motility analysis was used to analyze sperm motion characteristics.
Controlled rate of freezing (Method 1) significantly improve the pre-freezing and post-thaw total and progressive motility compared to uncontrolled rate (Method 2). In specific kinetic parameters, Method 1 gives significantly higher value for VSL and VCL in comparison with Method 2. There are no significant differences between the two methods for VAP and LIN. In conclusion, controlled rate of cooling conferred better cryopreserving ability to ram spermatozoa compared to uncontrolled rate of cooling prior to programmable freezing.
PMCID: PMC3349620  PMID: 22185483
4.  Clinical outcome of skin yaws lesions after treatment with benzathinebenzylpenicillin in a pygmy population in Lobaye, Central African Republic 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:543.
Yaws is a bacterial skin and bone infectious disease caused by Treponema pallidum pertenue. It is endemic, particularly among pygmies in Central African Republic. To assess the clinical cure rate after treatment with benzathinepenicillin in this population, we conducted a cohort survey of 243 patients in the Lobaye region.
Findings and conclusion
The rate of healing of lesions after 5 months was 95.9%. This relatively satisfactory level of therapeutic response implies that yaws could be controlled in the Central African Republic. Thus, reinforcement of the management of new cases and of contacts is suggested.
PMCID: PMC3309964  PMID: 22171605
Yaws; Treatment; Central African Republic
5.  Clustering of classical swine fever virus isolates by codon pair bias 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:521.
The genetic code consists of non-random usage of synonymous codons for the same amino acids, termed codon bias or codon usage. Codon juxtaposition is also non-random, referred to as codon context bias or codon pair bias. The codon and codon pair bias vary among different organisms, as well as with viruses. Reasons for these differences are not completely understood. For classical swine fever virus (CSFV), it was suggested that the synonymous codon usage does not significantly influence virulence, but the relationship between variations in codon pair usage and CSFV virulence is unknown. Virulence can be related to the fitness of a virus: Differences in codon pair usage influence genome translation efficiency, which may in turn relate to the fitness of a virus. Accordingly, the potential of the codon pair bias for clustering CSFV isolates into classes of different virulence was investigated.
The complete genomic sequences encoding the viral polyprotein of 52 different CSFV isolates were analyzed. This included 49 sequences from the GenBank database (NCBI) and three newly sequenced genomes. The codon usage did not differ among isolates of different virulence or genotype. In contrast, a clustering of isolates based on their codon pair bias was observed, clearly discriminating highly virulent isolates and vaccine strains on one side from moderately virulent strains on the other side. However, phylogenetic trees based on the codon pair bias and on the primary nucleotide sequence resulted in a very similar genotype distribution.
Clustering of CSFV genomes based on their codon pair bias correlate with the genotype rather than with the virulence of the isolates.
PMCID: PMC3341591  PMID: 22126254
6.  Studies of the transmissibility of the agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to the domestic chicken 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:501.
Transmission of the prion disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) occurred accidentally to cattle and several other mammalian species via feed supplemented with meat and bone meal contaminated with infected bovine tissue. Prior to United Kingdom controls in 1996 on the feeding of mammalian meat and bone meal to farmed animals, the domestic chicken was potentially exposed to feed contaminated with the causal agent of BSE. Although confirmed prion diseases are unrecorded in avian species a study was undertaken to transmit BSE to the domestic chicken by parenteral and oral inoculations. Transmissibility was assessed by clinical monitoring, histopathological examinations, detection of a putative disease form of an avian prion protein (PrP) in recipient tissues and by mouse bioassay of tissues. Occurrence of a progressive neurological syndrome in the primary transmission study was investigated by sub-passage experiments.
No clinical, pathological or bioassay evidence of transmission of BSE to the chicken was obtained in the primary or sub-passage experiments. Survival data showed no significant differences between control and treatment groups. Neurological signs observed, not previously described in the domestic chicken, were not associated with significant pathology. The diagnostic techniques applied failed to detect a disease associated form of PrP.
Important from a risk assessment perspective, the present study has established that the domestic chicken does not develop a prion disease after large parenteral exposures to the BSE agent or after oral exposures equivalent to previous exposures via commercial diets. Future investigations into the potential susceptibility of avian species to mammalian prion diseases require species-specific immunochemical techniques and more refined experimental models.
PMCID: PMC3341577  PMID: 22093239
7.  Allyl isothiocyanate induced stress response in Caenorhabditis elegans 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:502.
Allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) from mustard is cytotoxic; however the mechanism of its toxicity is unknown. We examined the effects of AITC on heat shock protein (HSP) 70 expression in Caenorhabditis elegans. We also examined factors affecting the production of AITC from its precursor, sinigrin, a glucosinolate, in ground Brassica juncea cv. Vulcan seed as mustard has some potential as a biopesticide.
An assay to determine the concentration of AITC in ground mustard seed was improved to allow the measurement of AITC release in the first minutes after exposure of ground mustard seed to water. Using this assay, we determined that temperatures above 67°C decreased sinigrin conversion to AITC in hydrated ground B. juncea seed. A pH near 6.0 was found to be necessary for AITC release. RT-qPCR revealed no significant change in HSP70A mRNA expression at low concentrations of AITC (< 0.1 μM). However, treatment with higher concentrations (> 1.0 μM) resulted in a four- to five-fold increase in expression. A HSP70 ELISA showed that AITC toxicity in C. elegans was ameliorated by the presence of ground seed from low sinigrin B. juncea cv. Arrid.
• AITC induced toxicity in C. elegans, as measured by HSP70 expression.
• Conditions required for the conversion of sinigrin to AITC in ground B. juncea seed were determined.
• The use of C. elegans as a bioassay to test AITC or mustard biopesticide efficacy is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3471387  PMID: 22093285
Brassica; myrosinase; glucosinolate; HSP70; toxicity; ELISA
8.  Constitutive expression of a grapevine polygalacturonase-inhibiting protein affects gene expression and cell wall properties in uninfected tobacco 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:493.
Polygalacturonase-inhibiting proteins (PGIPs) directly limit the effective ingress of fungal pathogens by inhibiting cell wall-degrading endopolygalacturonases (ePGs). Transgenic tobacco plants over-expressing grapevine (Vitis vinifera) Vvpgip1 have previously been shown to be resistant to Botrytis infection. In this study we characterized two of these PGIP over-expressing lines with known resistance phenotypes by gene expression and hormone profiling in the absence of pathogen infection.
Global gene expression was performed by a cross-species microarray approach using a potato cDNA microarray. The degree of potential cross-hybridization between probes was modeled by a novel computational workflow designed in-house. Probe annotations were updated by predicting probe-to-transcript hybridizations and combining information derived from other plant species. Comparing uninfected Vvpgip1-overexpressing lines to wild-type (WT), 318 probes showed significant change in expression. Functional groups of genes involved in metabolism and associated to the cell wall were identified and consequent cell wall analysis revealed increased lignin-levels in the transgenic lines, but no major differences in cell wall-derived polysaccharides. GO enrichment analysis also identified genes responsive to auxin, which was supported by elevated indole-acetic acid (IAA) levels in the transgenic lines. Finally, a down-regulation of xyloglucan endotransglycosylase/hydrolases (XTHs), which are important in cell wall remodeling, was linked to a decrease in total XTH activity.
This evaluation of PGIP over-expressing plants performed under pathogen-free conditions to exclude the classical PGIP-ePG inhibition interaction indicates additional roles for PGIPs beyond the inhibition of ePGs.
PMCID: PMC3339426  PMID: 22078230
9.  Analytical variables influencing the performance of a miRNA based laboratory assay for prediction of relapse in stage I non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:424.
Laboratory assays are needed for early stage non-small lung cancer (NSCLC) that can link molecular and clinical heterogeneity to predict relapse after surgical resection. We technically validated two miRNA assays for prediction of relapse in NSCLC. Total RNA from seventy-five formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) specimens was extracted, labeled and hybridized to Affymetrix miRNA arrays using different RNA input amounts, ATP-mix dilutions, array lots and RNA extraction- and labeling methods in a total of 166 hybridizations. Two combinations of RNA extraction- and labeling methods (assays I and II) were applied to a cohort of 68 early stage NSCLC patients.
RNA input amount and RNA extraction- and labeling methods affected signal intensity and the number of detected probes and probe sets, and caused large variation, whereas different ATP-mix dilutions and array lots did not. Leave-one-out accuracies for prediction of relapse were 63% and 73% for the two assays. Prognosticator calls ("no recurrence" or "recurrence") were consistent, independent on RNA amount, ATP-mix dilution, array lots and RNA extraction method. The calls were not robust to changes in labeling method.
In this study, we demonstrate that some analytical conditions such as RNA extraction- and labeling methods are important for the variation in assay performance whereas others are not. Thus, careful optimization that address all analytical steps and variables can improve the accuracy of prediction and facilitate the introduction of microRNA arrays in the clinic for prediction of relapse in stage I non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
PMCID: PMC3221722  PMID: 22011393
12.  The RICORDO approach to semantic interoperability for biomedical data and models: strategy, standards and solutions 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:313.
The practice and research of medicine generates considerable quantities of data and model resources (DMRs). Although in principle biomedical resources are re-usable, in practice few can currently be shared. In particular, the clinical communities in physiology and pharmacology research, as well as medical education, (i.e. PPME communities) are facing considerable operational and technical obstacles in sharing data and models.
We outline the efforts of the PPME communities to achieve automated semantic interoperability for clinical resource documentation in collaboration with the RICORDO project. Current community practices in resource documentation and knowledge management are overviewed. Furthermore, requirements and improvements sought by the PPME communities to current documentation practices are discussed. The RICORDO plan and effort in creating a representational framework and associated open software toolkit for the automated management of PPME metadata resources is also described.
RICORDO is providing the PPME community with tools to effect, share and reason over clinical resource annotations. This work is contributing to the semantic interoperability of DMRs through ontology-based annotation by (i) supporting more effective navigation and re-use of clinical DMRs, as well as (ii) sustaining interoperability operations based on the criterion of biological similarity. Operations facilitated by RICORDO will range from automated dataset matching to model merging and managing complex simulation workflows. In effect, RICORDO is contributing to community standards for resource sharing and interoperability.
PMCID: PMC3192696  PMID: 21878109
13.  Simple parametric survival analysis with anonymized register data: A cohort study with truncated and interval censored event and censoring times 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:308.
To preserve patient anonymity, health register data may be provided as binned data only. Here we consider as example, how to estimate mean survival time after a diagnosis of metastatic colorectal cancer from Norwegian register data on time to death or censoring binned into 30 day intervals. All events occurring in the first three months (90 days) after diagnosis were removed to achieve comparability with a clinical trial. The aim of the paper is to develop and implement a simple, and yet flexible method for analyzing such interval censored and truncated data.
Considering interval censoring a missing data problem, we implement a simple multiple imputation strategy that allows flexible sensitivity analyses with respect to the shape of the censoring distribution. To allow identification of appropriate parametric models, a χ2-goodness-of-fit test--also imputation based--is derived and supplemented with diagnostic plots. Uncertainty estimates for mean survival times are obtained via a simulation strategy. The validity and statistical efficiency of the proposed method for varying interval lengths is investigated in a simulation study and compared with simpler alternatives.
Mean survival times estimated from the register data ranged from 1.2 (SE = 0.09) to 3.2 (0.31) years depending on period of diagnosis and choice of parametric model. The shape of the censoring distribution within intervals did generally not influence results, whereas the choice of parametric model did, even when different models fit the data equally well. In simulation studies both simple midpoint imputation and multiple imputation yielded nearly unbiased analyses (relative biases of -0.6% to 9.4%) and confidence intervals with near-nominal coverage probabilities (93.4% to 95.7%) for censoring intervals shorter than six months. For 12 month censoring intervals, multiple imputation provided better protection against bias, and coverage probabilities closer to nominal values than simple midpoint imputation.
Binning of event and censoring times should be considered a viable strategy for anonymizing register data on survival times, as they may be readily analyzed with methods based on multiple imputation.
PMCID: PMC3748025  PMID: 21867515
14.  Pathological features of Breast Cancer seen in Northwestern Tanzania: a nine years retrospective study 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:214.
Breast cancer is more common in Western Countries compared to African populations. However in African population, it appears that the disease tends to be more aggressive and occurring at a relatively young age at the time of presentation. The aim of this study was to describe the trend of Breast Cancer in Northwestern Tanzania.
This was a retrospective study which involved all cases of breast cancer diagnosed histologically at Bugando Medical Center from 2002 to 2010. Histological results and slides were retrieved from the records in the Pathology department, clinical information and demographic data for patients were retrieved from surgical wards and department of medical records. Histology slides were re-evaluated for the histological type, grade (By modified Bloom-Richardson score), and presence of necrosis and skin involvement. Data was entered and analyzed by SPSS computer software version 15.
There were 328 patients histologically confirmed to have breast cancer, the mean age at diagnosis was 48.7 years (+/- 13.1). About half of the patients (52.4%) were below 46 years of age, and this group of patients had significantly higher tendency for lymph node metastasis (p = 0.012). The tumor size ranged from 1 cm to 18 cm in diameter with average (mean) of 5.5 cm (+/- 2.5), and median size of 6 cm. Size of the tumor (above 6 cm in diameter) and presence of necrosis within the tumor was significantly associated with high rate of lymph node metastasis (p = 0.000). Of all patients, 64% were at clinical stage III (specifically IIIB) and 70.4% had lymph node metastasis at the time of diagnosis. Only 4.3% of the patients were in clinical stage I at the time of diagnosis. Majority of the patients had invasive ductal carcinoma (91.5%) followed by mucinous carcinoma (5.2%), Invasive lobular carcinoma (3%) and in situ ductal carcinoma (0.3%). In all patients, 185 (56.4%) had tumor with histological grade 3.
Breast cancer in this region show a trend towards relative young age at diagnosis with advanced stage at diagnosis and high rate of lymph node metastasis. Poor Referral system, lack of screening programs and natural aggressive biological behavior of tumor may contribute to advanced disease at the time of diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3155835  PMID: 21696617
Breast Cancer; North Western Tanzania
15.  Tattoo removal in the typical adolescent 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:209.
Although popular tattoos are often regretted later on for different reasons. Nevertheless, tattoo removal is a complicated and costly procedure seldom providing satisfactory results. The aim of this study was to investigate the awareness of the implications of tattoo removal among a substantial sample of Italian secondary school adolescents.
Students were recruited by a stratified convenience sample and surveyed by a self administered questionnaire. Logistic regression analysis was performed, reporting adjusted Odds Ratios (OR), with 95% Confidence Interval (CI).
4,277 pupils returned a usable questionnaire. Piercings were more frequently undertaken than tattoos. Only 40% of the respondents were aware of the issues related to tattoo removal. Males and pupils with younger fathers were less likely to be aware, whereas students satisfied with their physical appearance and those with a positive attitude towards body art were more likely to be aware.
Male adolescents with younger fathers can be regarded as the ideal target of corporate health education programs driven by school counsellors and primary care physicians.
PMCID: PMC3145586  PMID: 21693015
survey; epidemiology; tattoo removal; piercing; secondary school adolescents; health education
16.  Is there an ideal way to initiate antiplatelet therapy with aspirin? A crossover study on healthy volunteers evaluating different dosing schemes with whole blood aggregometry 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:106.
Guidelines recommend an early initiation of aspirin treatment in patients with acute cerebral ischemia. Comparative studies on the best starting dose for initiating aspirin therapy to achieve a rapid antiplatelet effect do not exist. This study evaluated the platelet inhibitory effect in healthy volunteers by using three different aspirin loading doses to gain a model for initiating antiplatelet treatment in acute strokes patients.
Using whole blood aggregometry, this study with a prospective, uncontrolled, open, crossover design examined 12 healthy volunteers treated with three different aspirin loading doses: intravenous 500 mg aspirin, oral 500 mg aspirin, and a course of 200 mg aspirin on two subsequent days followed by a five-day course of 100 mg aspirin. Aspirin low response was defined as change of impedance exceeding 0 Ω after stimulation with arachidonic acid.
Sufficient antiplatelet effectiveness was gained within 30 seconds when intravenous 500 mg aspirin was used. The mean time until antiplatelet effect was 74 minutes for 500 mg aspirin taken orally and 662 minutes (11.2 hours) for the dose scheme with 200 mg aspirin with a high inter- and intraindividual variability in those two regimes. Platelet aggregation returned to the baseline range during the wash-out phase within 4 days.
Our study reveals that the antiplatelet effect differs significantly between the three different aspirin starting dosages with a high inter- and intraindividual variability of antiplatelet response in our healthy volunteers. To ensure an early platelet inhibitory effect in acute stroke patients, it could be advantageous to initiate the therapy with an intravenous loading dose of 500 mg aspirin. However, clinical outcome studies must still define the best way to initiate antiplatelet treatment with aspirin.
PMCID: PMC3088887  PMID: 21466682
Aspirin; Stroke; Loading Dose; Pharmacokinetics; Aggregometry
17.  A microarray analysis of full depth knee cartilage of ovariectomized rats 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:63.
This short communication focuses the on articular cartilage and the subchondral bone, both of which play important roles in the development of osteoarthritis (OA). There are indications that estrogen-deficiency, as the post-menopausal state, accelerate the development of OA.
We investigated, which extracellular matrix (ECM) protein, proteases and different pro-inflammatory factors was up- or down-regulated in the knee joint tissue in response to estrogen-deficiency in rats induced by ovariectomy. These data support previous findings that several metalloproteinases (MMPs) and cysteine proteases are co-regulated with numerous collagens and proteoglycans that are important for cartilage integrity. Furthermore quite a few pro-inflammatory cytokines were regulated by estrogen deprivation.
We found multiple genes where regulated in the joint by estrogen-deficiency, many of which correspond well with our current knowledge of the pathogenesis of OA. It supports that estrogen-deficiency (e.g. OVX) may accelerate joint deterioration. However, there are also data that draw attention the need for better understanding of the synergy between proteases and tissue turnover.
PMCID: PMC3068969  PMID: 21406075
18.  Comparison of different methods for DNA-free RNA isolation from SK-N-MC neuroblastoma 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:3.
RNA quality and quantity are important factors for ensuring the accuracy of gene expression analysis and other RNA-based downstream applications. Extraction of high quality nucleic acids is difficult from neuronal cells and brain tissues as they are particularly rich in lipids. In addition, most common RNA extraction methods are phenol-based, resulting in RNA that may be incompatible with downstream applications such as gene expression.
In this work, a comparative analysis of the RNA quality obtained from SK-N-MC cells was performed using six commonly used RNA isolation kits: two phenol-based kits and four non-phenol based kits. The non-phenol based kits tested AxyPrep Multisource Total RNA Miniprep, RNeasy® Mini, EasySpin and Ilustra RNAspin Mini RNA Isolation, all performed well and resulted in the isolation of high quality RNA, as evaluated by A260/A280. The RNA extracted with AxyPrep Multisource Total RNA Miniprep, RNeasy® Mini and EasySpin provided the highest RNA yields. In particular, the RNA isolated by AxyPrep Multisource Total RNA Miniprep Kit did not show any detectable genomic DNA contamination even without previous DNase treatment or after RNA direct PCR amplification using universal 18S primers.
The RNA extracted from SK-N-MC cells with AxyPrep Multisource Total RNA Miniprep Kit was superior with respect to the RNA quality and concentration. This kit does not use aggressive organic solvents and RNA free of genomic DNA was isolated without the need for DNase treatment.
PMCID: PMC3050700  PMID: 21211020
19.  Comparison of RNA extraction methods from biofilm samples of Staphylococcus epidermidis 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:572.
Microbial biofilms are communities of bacteria adhered to a surface and surrounded by an extracellular polymeric matrix. Biofilms have been associated with increased antibiotic resistance and tolerance to the immune system. Staphylococcus epidermidis is the major bacterial species found in biofilm-related infections on indwelling medical devices. Obtaining high quality mRNA from biofilms is crucial to validate the transcriptional measurements associated with the switching to the biofilm mode of growth. Therefore, we selected three commercially available RNA extraction kits with distinct characteristics, including those using silica membrane or organic extraction methods, and enzymatic or mechanical cell lysis, and evaluated the RNA quality obtained from two distinct S. epidermidis bacterial biofilms.
RNA extracted using the different kits was evaluated for quantity, purity, integrity, and functionally. All kits were able to extract intact and functional total RNA from the biofilms generated from each S. epidermidis strain. The results demonstrated that the kit based on mechanical lysis and organic extraction (FastRNA® Pro Blue) was the only one that was able to isolate pure and large quantities of RNA. Normalized expression of the icaA virulence gene showed that RNA extracted with PureLink™ had a significant lower concentration of icaA mRNA transcripts than the other kits tested.
When working with complex samples, such as biofilms, that contain a high content extracellular polysaccharide and proteins, special care should be taken when selecting the appropriate RNA extraction system, in order to obtain accurate, reproducible, and biologically significant results. Among the RNA extraction kits tested, FastRNA® Pro Blue was the best option for both S. epidermidis biofilms used.
PMCID: PMC3260333  PMID: 22208502
20.  PTPN22 polymorphisms may indicate a role for this gene in atopic dermatitis in West Highland white terriers 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:571.
Canine atopic dermatitis is an allergic inflammatory skin disease common in West Highland white terriers. A genome-wide association study for atopic dermatitis in a population of West Highland white terriers identified a 1.3 Mb area of association on CFA17 containing canine protein tyrosine phosphatase non-receptor type 22 (lymphoid) PTPN22. This gene is a potential candidate gene for canine atopic dermatitis as it encodes a lymphoid-specific signalling mediator that regulates T-cell and possibly B-cell activity.
Sequencing of PTPN22 in three atopic and three non-atopic West Highland white terriers identified 18 polymorphisms, including five genetic variants with a bioinformatically predicted functional effect. An intronic polymorphic repeat sequence variant was excluded as the cause of the genome-wide association study peak signal, by large-scale genotyping in 72 West Highland white terriers (gene-dropping simulation method, P = 0.01).
This study identified 18 genetic variants in PTPN22 that might be associated with atopic dermatitis in West Highland white terriers. This preliminary data may direct further study on the role of PTPN22 in this disease. Large scale genotyping and complementary genomic and proteomic assays would be required to assess this possibility.
PMCID: PMC3271996  PMID: 22208456
21.  Occurrence of the invasion associated marker (iam) in Campylobacter jejuni isolated from cattle 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:570.
The invasion associated marker (iam) has been detected in the majority of invasive Campylobacter jejuni retrieved from humans. Furthermore, the detection of iam in C. jejuni isolated from two important hosts, humans and chickens, suggested a role for this marker in C. jejuni's colonization of multiple hosts. However, no data exist regarding the occurrence of this marker in C. jejuni isolated from non-poultry food-animals such as cattle, an increasingly important source for human infections. Since little is known about the genetics associated with C. jejuni's capability for colonizing physiologically disparate hosts, we investigated the occurrence of the iam in C. jejuni isolated from cattle and assessed the potential of iam-containing cattle and human isolates for chicken colonization and human cell invasion.
Simultaneous RAPD typing and iam-specific PCR analysis of 129 C. jejuni isolated from 1171 cattle fecal samples showed that 8 (6.2%) of the isolates were iam-positive, while 7 (54%) of human-associated isolates were iam-positive. The iam sequences were mostly heterogeneous and occurred in diverse genetic backgrounds. All iam-positive isolates were motile and possessed important genes (cadF, ciaB, cdtB) associated with adhesion and virulence. Although certain iam-containing isolates invaded and survived in INT-407 cells in high numbers and successfully colonized live chickens, there was no clear association between the occurrence, allelic sequence, and expression levels of the iam and the aforementioned phenotypes.
We show that the prevalence of iam in cattle C. jejuni is relatively lower as compared to isolates occurring in humans and chickens. In addition, iam was polymorphic and certain alleles occur in cattle isolates that were capable of colonizing and invading chickens and human intestinal cells, respectively. However, the iam did not appear to contribute to the cattle-associated C. jejuni's potential for invasion and intracellular survival in human intestinal cells as well as chicken colonization.
PMCID: PMC3289066  PMID: 22208406
Campylobacter jejuni; Cattle; Invasion; Host colonization; Invasion associated marker (iam)
22.  17-Hydroxyprogesterone caproate to prolong pregnancy after preterm rupture of the membranes: early termination of a double-blind, randomized clinical trial 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:568.
Progestational agents may reduce the risk of preterm birth in women with various risk factors. We sought to test the hypothesis that a weekly dose of 17-hydroxyprogesterone caproate (17P) given to women with preterm rupture of the membranes (PROM) will prolong pregnancy and thereby reduce neonatal morbidity.
Double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. Women with PROM at 23.0 to 31.9 weeks of gestation were randomly assigned to receive a weekly intramuscular injection of 17P (250 mg in 1 mL castor oil) or placebo (1 mL castor oil). The primary outcome was the rate of continuing the pregnancy until 34.0 weeks of gestation or until documentation of fetal lung maturity at 32.0 to 33.9 weeks of gestation. Planned secondary outcomes were duration of latency period and rate of composite neonatal morbidity. Enrollment of 111 participants per group, 222 total, was planned to yield 80% power to detect an increase in the primary outcome from 30% with placebo to 50% with 17P.
Twelve women were enrolled of whom 4 were randomly assigned to receive 17P and 8 to receive placebo. The trial was terminated prematurely because of two separate issues related to the supply of 17P. No adverse events attributable to 17P were identified.
Because of premature termination, the trial does not have adequate statistical power to evaluate efficacy or safety of 17P in women with PROM. Nonetheless, ethical principles dictate that we report the results, which may contribute to possible future metaanalyses and systematic reviews.
Trial Registration NCT01119963
Supported by a research grant from the Center for Research, Education, and Quality, Pediatrix Medical Group, Sunrise, FL
PMCID: PMC3260323  PMID: 22206581
23.  Modularity detection in protein-protein interaction networks 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:569.
Many recent studies have investigated modularity in biological networks, and its role in functional and structural characterization of constituent biomolecules. A technique that has shown considerable promise in the domain of modularity detection is the Newman and Girvan (NG) algorithm, which relies on the number of shortest-paths across pairs of vertices in the network traversing a given edge, referred to as the betweenness of that edge. The edge with the highest betweenness is iteratively eliminated from the network, with the betweenness of the remaining edges recalculated in every iteration. This generates a complete dendrogram, from which modules are extracted by applying a quality metric called modularity denoted by Q. This exhaustive computation can be prohibitively expensive for large networks such as Protein-Protein Interaction Networks. In this paper, we present a novel optimization to the modularity detection algorithm, in terms of an efficient termination criterion based on a target edge betweenness value, using which the process of iterative edge removal may be terminated.
We validate the robustness of our approach by applying our algorithm on real-world protein-protein interaction networks of Yeast, C.Elegans and Drosophila, and demonstrate that our algorithm consistently has significant computational gains in terms of reduced runtime, when compared to the NG algorithm. Furthermore, our algorithm produces modules comparable to those from the NG algorithm, qualitatively and quantitatively. We illustrate this using comparison metrics such as module distribution, module membership cardinality, modularity Q, and Jaccard Similarity Coefficient.
We have presented an optimized approach for efficient modularity detection in networks. The intuition driving our approach is the extraction of holistic measures of centrality from graphs, which are representative of inherent modular structure of the underlying network, and the application of those measures to efficiently guide the modularity detection process. We have empirically evaluated our approach in the specific context of real-world large scale biological networks, and have demonstrated significant savings in computational time while maintaining comparable quality of detected modules.
PMCID: PMC3292542  PMID: 22206604
24.  A comparative study of total quality management of health care system in India and Iran 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:566.
Total quality management (TQM) has a great potential to address quality problems in a wide range of industries and improve the organizational performance. The growing need to take initiatives by hospitals in countries like India and Iran to improve the service quality and reduce wastage of resources has inspired the authors to develop a survey instrument to measure health care quality and performance in the two countries.
Based on the Baldrige health care criteria for performance excellence 2009-2010 and the guidelines proposed by the American Hospitals Association for hospitals in pursuit of excellence, compared health care services in three countries. The data are collected from the capital cities and their nearby places in India and Iran. Using ANOVAs, three groups in quality planning and performance have been compared.
Results showed there is significantly difference between groups and in no case the hospitals from India and Iran are found scoring close to the benchmarks. The average scores of Indian and Iranian hospitals on different constructs of the IHCQPM model are compared with the major results achieved by the recipients of the MBNQ award.
In no case the hospitals from India and Iran are found scoring close to the benchmarks (Baldrige health care criteria for performance excellence 2009-2010 and the guidelines proposed by the American Hospitals Association for hospitals). These results suggested to health care services more attempt to achieve high quality in management and performance.
PMCID: PMC3260328  PMID: 22204664
25.  Diversity, mobility, and structural and functional evolution of group II introns carrying an unusual 3' extension 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:564.
Group II introns are widespread genetic elements endowed with a dual functionality. They are catalytic RNAs (ribozymes) that are able of self-splicing and they are also mobile retroelements that can invade genomic DNA. The group II intron RNA secondary structure is typically made up of six domains. However, a number of unusual group II introns carrying a unique extension of 53-56 nucleotides at the 3' end have been identified previously in bacteria of the Bacillus cereus group.
In the present study, we conducted combined sequence comparisons and phylogenetic analyses of introns, host gene, plasmid and chromosome of host strains in order to gain insights into mobility, dispersal, and evolution of the unusual introns and their extension. We also performed in vitro mutational and kinetic experiments to investigate possible functional features related to the extension.
We report the identification of novel copies of group II introns carrying a 3' extension including the first two copies in bacteria not belonging to the B. cereus group, Bacillus pseudofirmus OF4 and Bacillus sp. 2_A_57_CT2, an uncharacterized species phylogenetically close to B. firmus. Interestingly, the B. pseudofirmus intron has a longer extension of 70 bases. From sequence comparisons and phylogenetic analyses, several possible separate events of mobility involving the atypical introns could be identified, including both retrohoming and retrotransposition events. In addition, identical extensions were found in introns that otherwise exhibit little sequence conservation in the rest of their structures, with the exception of the conserved and catalytically critical domains V and VI, suggesting either separate acquisition of the extra segment by different group II introns or a strong selection pressure acting on the extension. Furthermore, we show by in vitro splicing experiments that the 3' extension affects the splicing properties differently in introns belonging to separate evolutionary branches.
Altogether this study provides additional insights into the structural and functional evolution of unusual introns harboring a 3' extension and lends further evidence that these introns are mobile with their extension.
PMCID: PMC3261151  PMID: 22204608
Group II intron; Unusual extension; Evolution; pXO1-42; Plasmid; Mobility

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