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Diagnostics Analytical science, Biochemistry and molecular biology, Forensics, Omics

Research Roundup

Prior Expectations
Cognitive bias may affect forensic pathologists’ decisions; research shows they are more likely to determine the cause of death as “homicide” rather than “accident” for Black children compared with white children, and to exhibit biased decisions when given non-medical information about the child’s and caregiver’s race (1).

Paleopathology Perspectives
A paleopathological study of 69,379 skeletons has found a decline in prevalence of tuberculosis, treponematoses, and leprosy over time, but only after an early increase in disease-related skeletal changes. This may be caused by the initial host-disease contact period and decline due to co-adaptation of the pathogen and host (2).

Dissolvable Digestion
Researchers have developed a rapid digestion workflow for PAGE separation of proteins, overcoming the limitations of the GeLC-mass spectrometry workflow (which requires overnight enzymatic digestion in gel) and reducing serum sample preparation and quantification times of inflammatory biomarkers to only five hours (3).

Heart to Heart
Protein-protein interaction networks have been found to distinguish hypertrophic cardiomyopathy patients from dilated cardiomyopathy patients, suggesting underlying differences between the two (4). Individual network features were also associated with heart failure and health outcomes, exhibiting potential for individualized treatment options.

Signs of Sarcoidosis
18FDG-PET/CT scans have shown that low levels of CD4+ T cells indicate higher inflammation and active sarcoidosis in African Americans (5). Cluster analysis also identified three distinct phenotypes that varied across race, serologic markers of inflammation, and disease chronicity.

Finding Fragments
Urine cfDNA has a high volume of DNA fragments, but is poorly understood. Now, researchers have found that urine tumor cfDNA contains more aberrant fragments that end within recurrently protected regions – showing that it could be an indicator of cancer and a potential supplement to plasma cfDNA (6).

Dealing with Delirium
Delirium is common in elderly adults, particularly after surgery – but what causes it? A proteomic analysis has identified novel markers of risk and progression, finding that CHI3L1/YKL-40 is associated with the postoperative state (7). The protein has also been linked to aging, mortality, and onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new European consortium has been commissioned to advance artificial intelligence (AI) development in pathology. Over six years, the BIGPICTURE project will develop a big data repository – containing digital slides from both humans and laboratory animals – for developing pathology AI tools (8).

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  1. I Dror et al., J Forensic Sci, [Online ahead of print] (2021). PMID: 33608908. 
  2. M Henneberg et al., PLoS One, 16, e0243687 (2021). PMID: 33630846.
  3. A Takemori et al., J Proteome Res, 20, 1535 (2021). PMID: 33356312.
  4. BA Maron et al., Nat Commun, 12, 873 (2021). PMID: 33558530.
  5. C Vagts et al., Front Med (Lausanne), 8, 595077 (2021). PMID: 33718397.
  6. H Markus et al., Sci Transl Med, 13, eaaz3088 (2021). PMID: 33597261.
  7. SM Vasunilashorn et al., J Gerontol, [Online ahead of print] (2021). PMID: 33539520.
  8. Computational Pathology Group (2021). Available at:
About the Author
Liv Gaskill

During my undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s in neuroimaging for clinical and cognitive neuroscience, I realized the tasks my classmates found tedious – writing essays, editing, proofreading – were the ones that gave me the greatest satisfaction. I quickly gathered that rambling on about science in the bar wasn’t exactly riveting for my non-scientist friends, so my thoughts turned to a career in science writing. At Texere, I get to craft science into stories, interact with international experts, and engage with readers who love science just as much as I do.

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