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John Oliver Has It Right – Not All “Science” Is Created Equal

Post by: Peter Vitiello, PhD 

Last week, HBO’s satirical comedy newsman, John Oliver, addressed how scientific studies can be misconstrued by the media, transforming their original findings into entertainment solely suitable for morning show banter. In addressing how junk science becomes overhyped, the episode did a great job exposing data replication issues limiting research investments.

(Click Here to View HBO's John Oliver Video Clip. Warning: Language may be inappropriate for some.)

Reproducibility became an important topic of discussion in 2012 when Amgen reported that they were unable to reproduce findings in 47 of 53 “landmark cancer papers” published in journals with an impact factor greater than five. Even when considering failure rates of pre-clinical studies, this 94% irreproducibility rate was shocking and served as the motivation for new standards. The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke called for data reporting standards in regard to animal randomization, blinded assessment, sample-size estimation, and data handling and biological sex and reagent authentication have also been added to this list. However, there was also a clear delineation between how this rigor should be applied exploratory studies (early-stage observational tests) and more robust hypothesis-testing experiments.

In light of such issues, direct requests to access raw data and protocol details of published studies have increased. However, editors of the New England Journal of Medicine, which coincidentally has the highest retraction rate of any journal in the world, recently refereed to such scientists as “research parasites”. Casey Greene at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine used this opportunity to create the Research Parasite Award to recognize outstanding contributions to the rigorous secondary analysis of data (nominations are due by October 14). More transparent approaches for handling confirmatory and replicative studies performed by such “parasites” are being developed. Although Amgen’s 47 irreproducible studies remain anonymous, they recently released data on three failed studies through a new “Preclinical Reproducibility and Robustness” channel created by Faculty of 1000. Many other publishers are following suit as Elsevier recently announced a new “Invited Reproducibility Paper” as a new article type appearing in the data science journal, Information Systems.

In summary, I’m very excited to see greater data sharing and transparency through guidelines set by both funding agencies and publishers along with opportunities and respect for parasitic confirmatory studies. I hope that scientists embrace such expectations and do not use them as sole justification to dismiss creativity and novelty during peer review. My only fear is knowing that my harshest critics watch John Oliver and I’ll be expected to respond to these cynics at our next family gathering.

  1. Season 3: Episode 11. in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO, 2016).
  2. Begley, C.G. & Ellis, L.M. Drug development: Raise standards for preclinical cancer research. Nature 483, 531-533 (2012).
  3. Landis, S.C., et al. A call for transparent reporting to optimize the predictive value of preclinical research. Nature 490, 187-191 (2012).
  4. Oransky, I. & Marcus, A. For science to improve, let's put the right prizes on offer. (STAT, 2016).
  5. Baker, M. Biotech giant publishes failures to confirm high-profile science. Nature 530, 141 (2016).
  6. Chirigati, F., Capone, R., Rampin, R., Freire, J. & Shasha, D. A collaborative approach to computational reproducibility. Information Systems (2016).

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Category: Redox Biology


Redox modulation of adipocyte differentiation: hypothesis of “Redox Chain” and novel insights into intervention of adipogenesis and obesity

Click here for view the full article in Free Radical Biology & Medicine

In view of the global prevalence of obesity and obesity-associated disorders, it is important to clearly understand how adipose tissue forms. Accumulating data from various laboratories implicate that redox status is closely associated with energy metabolism. Thus, biochemical regulation of the redox system may be an attractive alternative for the treatment of obesity-related disorders. In this work, we will review the current data detailing the role of the redox system in adipocyte differentiation, as well as identifying areas for further research. The redox system affects adipogenic differentiation in an extensive way. We propose that there is a complex and interactive “redox chain,” consisting of a “ROS-generating enzyme chain,” “combined antioxidant chain,” and “transcription factor chain,” which contributes to fine-tune the regulation of ROS level and subsequent biological consequences. The roles of the redox system in adipocyte differentiation are paradoxical. The redox system exerts a “tridimensional” mechanism in the regulation of adipocyte differentiation, including transcriptional, epigenetic, and posttranslational modulations. We suggest that redoxomic techniques should be extensively applied to understand the biological effects of redox alterations in a more integrated way. A stable and standardized “redox index” is urgently needed for the evaluation of the general redox status. Therefore, more effort should be made to establish and maintain a general redox balance rather than to conduct simple prooxidant or antioxidant interventions, which have comprehensive implications.

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5 Tips for Finding That Perfect Lab

Dear “Laboratory Personnel Everywhere,”

Help! I am trying to find the perfect laboratory to join for my doctoral training. Every person in every laboratory I have worked in has offered me advice to help me decide on what laboratory to join, but it’s been information overload. Do you have a top 5 list of things to look for in the perfect laboratory?

Sincerely,

“Looking for a Lab”


Dear “Looking for a Lab,”

This is definitely a tough one. First, it is important to remember that “one lab does not fit all.” I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules but these our top 5 tips to consider when picking your perfect laboratory family.

  1. Mentor style and availability: Is the mentor always in the lab or do you need to set up a meeting to meet them? Does the mentor check in weekly, daily, or monthly? Are they an MD or a PhD?
  2. Type of research: What kind of research interests you? Animal? Cell based? Human studies?
  3. Support of Trainee Goals: This is especially important in the current climate; will your mentor allow you explore alternative career options? Will they be supportive of these career choices?
  4. Size of the lab: How big is the lab? What is the ratio of trainees to permanent employees? Are the permanent employees people you would enjoy spending time with? What is the average turnover time/rate for people in the lab?
  5.  Funding for research, salary, and travel? Is it essential you obtain your own funding to stay? What is the lab’s track record for obtaining funding, and what are the primary funding mechanisms?

Good luck on your search,

“Labs everywhere”

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Category: SfRBM Trainee Council


SfRBM Unveils New Logo

The Society for Redox Biology and Medicine (SfRBM) has introduced a new logo that will improve its visual identity to redox biology scientists, policymakers, funders and partner organizations.

The new logo comes at the end of a nearly year-long process to rebrand the society to better reflect SfRBM’s status as the premier organization for oxidative and redox research. The logo will be applied to all SfRBM programs, services, and communication vehicles.

“We are thrilled to unveil this new logo,” said Neil Hogg, SfRBM President. “The logo is cleanly designed and will serve us well as we prepare for the international meeting we will host in San Francisco next year. I want to thank all those who put in extensive time to review all the options.”

SfRBM provides a forum for members to share their research through conferences and workshops, interaction with science foundations and funding agencies, and education of policy makers and health professionals.

About SfRBM

Founded in 1987, the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine (SfRBM) is an international organization of more than 1,200 scientists, investigators and clinicians who conduct research in the area of redox biology. These areas have shown explosive growth over the last decade and are now integral to major initiatives in basic, applied and translational research, including the development of new therapies in cancer, heart disease, aging and cardiovascular disease.

Free Radical Biology and Medicine and Redox Biology, published by Elsevier, serve as the two official journals of SFRBM.

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Seahorse Bioscience Exec to Receive SfRBM CEO Innovator Award

(BOSTON) – Jay Teich, former Seahorse Bioscience CEO, will receive the first ever CEO Innovator Award from the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine (SfRBM). This international award will annually recognize industry leaders who have transformed the face of scientific research in the areas of redox biology and medicine. Teich will receive the award in Boston on November 20, 2015, during SfRBM 2015, the premier event for cutting-edge research in all aspects of redox biology. Seahorse was acquired by Agilent Technologies on Nov. 1; Teich is now general manager of the Seahorse team at Agilent.

“Led by Jay, Seahorse Bioscience has been an industry leader for many years, developing innovative technologies so many others strive to achieve,” said SfRBM president Neil Hogg, Ph.D. “We are thrilled to recognize this achievement and look forward to seeing the next chapter of scientific breakthroughs as Seahorse becomes a part of Agilent.”

Seahorse Bioscience's unique technology is the perfect complement to Agilent's market-leading separations and mass spectrometry solutions. The combination of these two platforms will give scientists a more comprehensive and faster path to researching the most challenging diseases affecting humankind, including a greater understanding of redox biology, the study of electron flow through biological circuits, sensors, and switches, applicable in many areas critical to human health including cancer, heart disease, aging, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

“I am honored to receive the SfRBM CEO Innovator Award on behalf of my colleagues at Seahorse Bioscience,” said Teich. “We are committed to developing instruments and assay kits for measuring cell metabolism, tools that provide scientists a better understanding of mitochondrial function and disease.”

About SFRBM

Founded in 1987, the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine (http://sfrbm.org) is an international organization of 1,200 scientists, investigators and clinicians who conduct research in the area of redox biology. These areas have shown explosive growth over the last decade and are now integral to major initiatives in basic, applied and translational research, including development of new therapies in cancer, heart disease, aging and cardiovascular disease.

About Seahorse Bioscience, a Part of Agilent Technologies

Seahorse Bioscience XF metabolic analyzers and stress test kits are the industry standard in cell metabolism measurements. Scientists worldwide are using Seahorse technology to advance their research in understanding the role of cell metabolism. Seahorse is headquartered in Billerica, Massachusetts, U.S., and has regional offices in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Shanghai, China. For more information, visit www.seahorsebio.com. Agilent Technologies Inc., a global leader in life sciences, diagnostics and applied chemical markets, is the premier laboratory partner for a better world. Agilent works with customers in more than 100 countries, providing instruments, software, services and consumables for the entire laboratory workflow. The company generated revenues of $4.0 billion in fiscal 2014 and employs about 12,000 people worldwide. Agilent marks its 50th anniversary in analytical instrumentation this year. For more information, visit www.agilent.com.

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