PubMed Commons: Facebook for Scientists?

So in the beggining of the week, NCBI released a new forum for scientific discussion named PubMed Commons. I couldn’t get into it until yesterday, when I tried to click on a link shared on Twitter of a comment that he posted about his own paper. Surprisingly, what I saw was a normal Pubmed page, with a normal abstract and without any comment whatsoever. Then I realized I was not included in the cool kids list that can use PubMed Commons. At first I thought that just having an eRA commons login and a NCBI account would make the trick. No, no, big mistake. You have to be in the list of approved email addresses. Anyways, it seems that if you are author of some publication with NIH funding you can ask for someone to “invite” you to the cool kids party. Anyways…. my point is, I don’t really know if I like this idea of commenting on PubMed. Some points that I have in mind:

– Is it going to be like Facebook? Maybe they could include a LIKE button next to the abstract!

– But, what if someone that doesn’t have a clue about my work writes a nasty comment? Can I delete it?

– And what about those that still don’t have their scientific judgement completely developed, don’t you think that they are going to be influenced by the comments of big names in the field about this and that paper?

Then in the future we can put in our CV not only the impact factor of the journal you publish but also the number of comments (or likes) in PubMedCommons. Really not sure if I like this or not. Let’s see.

Prolactin secretion and miscarriage

I was amazed when I read this news today, in which they point out that a national survey showed that the majority of Americans are misinformed about the causes and frequency of miscarriages. According to Wikipedia,  miscarriage is the spontaneous end of a pregnancy before fetal viability. It is the most common type of pregnancy loss, occurring in 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies. This percentage is increasing with the tendency of couples to delay childbearing and have their babies at older ages. The postponement of pregnancy also increased the prevalence of recurrent miscarriages. Even though about one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, most women never find out the cause of their loss. The reason for that is because tests and investigations are often done only if a woman had three or more miscarriages, given that most women are able to conceive again successfully after a miscarriage. Women usually tend to blame themselves and wonder what they did wrong to lose their child. This can bring deep social and psychological consequences to the couple trying to conceive.

In females, mutual interactions between the brain, anterior pituitary and the gonads orchestrate ovulation. Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) release from neurons located at the hypothalamus induces a preovulatory surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) that stimulates secretion of gonadal steroids. The steroids then regulate GnRH and LH secretion by positive and negative feedback mechanisms. This is the basic cycle to induce ovulation in women. However there is another hormone not so famous but also with a crucial role in female reproduction:  Prolactin.  In women, a major role of prolactin is to initiate and sustain pregnancy and lactation. During pregnancy there is an increase of prolactin secretion that is important for pregnancy maintenance. It has been shown that there is a correlation between prolactin levels and miscarriage occurrence. In other words, when prolactin levels fail to increase properly , there is a higher risk of miscarriages.

PRL miscarriage

Fig. 1: Prolactin concentrations correlated with gestation week (wk) in successful pregnancies (green line) vs miscarriage (red line). Modified from Douglas and collaborators, 2010. (Link for the full review study here, and a free-PDF here)

However, hypersecretion of prolactin also causes infertility problems, since it inhibits GnRH release, and thereby suppresses LH secretion. Prolactin is secreted at high rates after stressful situations and also after extensive exercise. That’s why there’s a lot of sportswomen that find some difficulty to conceive.  In a sense it seems that the body understands that if there is a period of stress going on, it is not wise to carry a pregnancy. So prolactin levels cannot be too high to allow ovulation and pregnancy to occur, but also have to increase at a proper rate during early pregnany to ensure pregnancy success. Not so easy, no?

Of course, there are many possible reasons for miscarriage and difficulty to conceive. But inadequate prolactin levels can be one of them. Sadly, prolactin levels are not measured unless after two episodes of miscarriage!!! Hopefully some of my research can change this and bring more light to prolactin!

Sciquest is here

Shutdown is over. So what? Things are still pretty bad for research. With less money to spend, less people are getting funded and more people are applying for funding, making it all much harder. I feel like I am in a black hole and can’t see a way out. I’m back to the US for a little more than a month and all I’ve been doing is to work at the damn computer. Applied for a job (that didn’t work) and now just *kind of* finished writing my first R03 grant.

My PI told me that our budget allows us to order and mantain about 30 rats/month. That’s nothing if you think that there is a grad student, another postdoc and me working with animals in the lab! So we have to take shifts in ordering rats! That’s terrible. Then I look at my CV and see that I didn’t publish a paper as a first author since 2011. That looks bad, no? But how can I write a grant and work in the bench at the same time? I’m a freshman, it takes me forever to come up with a decent text for my grant…. Also, no money for rats!

Then it’s job season. Yesterday I spent hours looking at adds and choosing which ones I’d fit in. There are some nice jobs out there, but then I look at my CV with any glam publication and with no American funding or history of funding. This makes me wonder if it’s really worth “waste” time on all those job applications…

Sorry about the bad post, probably just tired and will feel better tomorrow….

Postdoc interests

Hey everybody!

We want to make a series of informal meetings with postdocs here in my University. The idea is to share experiences, doubts and solve problems – the old good networking thing.

What are the topics that would be useful to talk about, as a postdoc?

My first thoughts:

  • Reserch funding
  • Career planning
  • Time management
  • Green card application

Can you help me come up with some nice ideas here?