Daniel Lemire's blog

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Science and Technology links (September 8th, 2018)

  1. Most research articles are not available for free to the public, even when the research was fully funded by the public. To legally access research articles, one typically needs to go through a college library which pays for access (often with public dollars). Major European agencies have thus decided that by 2020, research that they fund should be immediately accessible to the public, after it is published.

It sounds very strict, doesn’t it?

Here is the dirty little secret behind these mandates: they are not enforced. Funding agencies do not check that the work is actually made available. Past compliance with the mandate is simply not a criterion when applying for a new research grant. I have never heard of anyone losing a research grant for failing to abide by an open-access mandate.

It does not mean, of course, that there is no impact from these mandates. But they need to be viewed more as encouragements than as requirements.

  1. Lysosomes are the components of our cells that a responsible for recycling the trash. In older cells, we believe that they do not work as well. Of particular importance is the health of our stem cells, as our bodies rely on stem cells to repair our tissues. Thankfully, enhancing lysosomal function is sufficient to restore healthy stem cell activity in the aged brain.
  2. To assess the value of medical therapies, we use clinical trials. It is important for researchers to report fully on the results of the trials, to not leave important data points out. Yet it seems that selective reporting is prevalent. In at least 30% of the clinical trials, researchers failed to report what they promised to report before the clinical trial started.
  3. Men with reduced testosterone levels (a common occurence for older men) would benefit from testosterone therapy. Yet this is uncommon. An article in Nature explains:

(…) recent study has shown a decline in testosterone prescriptions since media reports of potential increased cardiovascular risk in 2014. The phenomenon of medical hysteria accounts for this reduced prescribing, as numerous subsequent studies provide substantial evidence of reduced cardiovascular risk and other important benefits with testosterone therapy for men with testosterone deficiency.

  1. We tend to think of evolution as a process that is limited to our genes. Yet if you have trouble losing weight, it might have to do with how active your mother and grand-mothers were while pregnant… Pregnant mice without access to exercise wheels produce offspring that have themselves have larger, fatter offspring:

Without having to struggle for energy and nutrients, the fat cells in the fetus increase in both size and number, increasing the birth weight of the infant “ a factor strongly related to adult obesity and type II diabetes. This is passed on down the line, with future generations becoming fatter and increasingly inactive and unhealthy.

(This is interesting but speculative.)

  1. Exercise-induced birth of new neurons in the brain (neurogenesis) might improve memory, and we could mimick this effect with drugs. It works in mice, according to an article in Science.
  2. The United States has the lowest life expectancy of developed countries, with reduction in life expectancy the past 2 years and by far the highest medical cost per person (source: Eric Topol).
  3. Though heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States, cancer has surpassed it in several states.
  4. Consuming a hypercaloric high protein diet does not result in an increase in body fat when accompanied with resistance training (weight lifting).
  5. Adjusting for other factors, low cholesterol is associated with increased criminal violence.