Shaking off social media

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After many years I have almost completely weaned myself off personal social media. Facebook was shed around a year ago. I became deeply suspicious of their data harvesting activities following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and it was easily lost from my portfolio. Twitter clung on tenaciously despite several attempts to leave, and I am now a month free from it. The level of hatred, bile, and unpleasantness became too much to bear. Whilst the platform clearly has some benefits and is undoubtedly a good way to get a message out to a mass market, those benefits pale compared to the mental health impact.

Being free of the trivia of social media is saving me time, avoiding the stress of being exposed to right wing scumbags and racists and is a real plus for me. I think I am enjoying aspects of life more. I am going out and looking at the world without that stupid feeling that I need to tell complete strangers what I am doing and providing a photo to go with it. I’m glad I have moved on.

This blog is of course a form of social media and will still be circulated via LinkedIn. I feel more in control though. I will post occasionally and almost always on professional issues, plus the right for others to reply is limited and comments can be vetted.

The blog has become a bit moribund recently but it will have more content from now on. Not quite sure yet, but expect some insights on leadership, given that is now my role in academia.

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Our latest paper on cafeteria diet, learning and behaviour in rodents.

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The prefrontal cortex (PFC) undergoes protracted postnatal development such that its structure and behavioural function may be profoundly altered by environmental factors. Here we investigate the effect of lactational dietary manipulations on novel object recognition (NOR) learning and PFC monoamine neurotransmitter metabolism in early adolescent rats. To this end, Wistar rat dams were fed a high caloric cafeteria diet (CD) during lactation and resultant 24–26 day old offspring exposed to NOR testing and simultaneous PFC dopamine and serotonin metabolism measurement. In the second NOR choice trial where one familiar and one novel object were presented controls explored the novel preferentially to the familiar object both after a 5 min (P < 0.001) or 30 min (P < 0.05) inter-trial intervals (ITI). By contrast, offspring from dams fed on lactational CD failed to show any significant preference for the novel object at either time point. Compared with chow fed controls, their average exploration ratio of the novel object was lower after the 5 min ITI (P < 0.05). Following a 60 min ITI, neither CD nor control offspring showed a preference for the novel object. PFC dopamine metabolism was significantly reduced in the CD group (P < 0.001), whereas serotonin metabolism was increased (P < 0.001). These results suggest that an obesogenic lactational diet can have a detrimental impact on cognition in adolescent offspring associated with aberrant PFC serotonin and dopamine metabolism.

 

Full text is available at:

Voigt P, Clifford B, Moreton E, Tiplady S, Baron P, Langley-Evans S, McCall S, Fone KCF (2019). Impact of early exposure to a cafeteria diet on prefrontal cortex monoamines and novel object recognition in adolescent rats.Behavioural Brain Research363, 191-198.

Second magnesium paper published

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The second paper from Lujain Almousa’s work on magnesium and human umbilical vein endothelial cells has been published in Magnesium Research. The full reference is:

Almousa LA, Salter AM, Langley-Evans SC, (2018). Varying magnesium concentration elicits changes in inflammatory response in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). Magnesium Research31, 99-109.

The abstract is below.

The aims of this study were to determine whether low concentrations of magnesium in vitroexacerbated the human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) response to inflammatory challenge, and whether expression of the nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) through the toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) played a role in this process. HUVECs were incubated with different concentrations of Mg (low- 0.1mM, control- 1mM, high- 5mM) for 72 h before being stimulated with bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) for 4 h. The response of cells to LPS was greater in cells cultured in low Mg, relative to control cells and suppressed in high Mg. Expression of NF-κB was increased in low-Mg and decreased with high Mg. Low Mg increased the expression of TLR4 mRNA, but only in the presence of LPS. Antibody blockade of TLR4 but not TLR2 blunted the response of cells to LPS in low Mg, such that they were similar to unblocked 1mM Mg cells. Associations of Mg with cardiovascular disease may therefore relate to inflammatory responses mediated through the TLR4/NF-κB pathway.

More publication success!

PhD student Fiona Sach has had her first paper accepted for publication in Peer Journal. This review article describes how nutritional requirements of African elephants may govern movement choices and lead to human-elephant conflict.

Sach F, Dierenfeld ES, Langley-Evans SC, Watts MJ, Yon L (2019). African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana) as an example of a herbivore making movement choices based on nutritional need. Peer Journal In Press

 

New paper accepted!

Happy to report a nice Christmas present, especially for PhD student Sally Draycott, whose first paper has been accepted by Nutrition and Metabolism today.

Maternal dietary ratio of linoleic acid to alpha-linolenic acid during pregnancy has sex specific effects on placental and fetal weights in the rat.

By Sally Draycott, Ge Liu, Zoe Daniel, Matt Elmes, Bev Muhlhausler and Simon Langley-Evans.

Background: Increased consumption of linoleic acid (LA, omega-6) in Western diets coupled with the pro-inflammatory and adipogenic properties of its derivatives has led to suggestions that fetal exposure to this dietary pattern could be contributing to the intergenerational cycle of obesity.

Method: This study aimed to evaluate the effects of maternal consumption of a LA to alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) ratio similar to modern Western diets (9:1) compared to a lower ratio (1:1.5) on placental and fetal growth, and to determine any cumulative effects by feeding both diets at two total fat levels (18% vs 36% fat w/w). Female Wistar rats (n=5-7/group) were assigned to one of the four experimental diets prior to mating until 20d of gestation.

Results: Fatty acid profiles of maternal and fetal blood and placental tissue at 20d gestation were different between dietary groups, and largely reflected dietary fatty acid composition. Female fetuses were heavier (2.98±0.06g vs 3.36±0.07g, P<0.01) and male placental weight was increased (0.51±0.02g vs 0.58±0.02, P<0.05) in the low LA:ALA groups. Female fetuses of dams exposed to a 36% fat diet had a reduced relative liver weight irrespective of LA:ALA ratio (7.61±0.22% vs 6.93±0.19%, P<0.05). These effects occurred in the absence of any effect of the dietary treatments on maternal bodyweight, fat deposition or expression of key lipogenic genes in maternal and fetal liver or maternal adipose tissue.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that both the total fat content as well as the LA:ALA ratio of the maternal diet have sex-specific implications for the growth of the developing fetus.

 

This success is the latest output to arise from the good collaboration that we have with Bev Muhlhausler in Adelaide, which has already led to a number of publications.

  1. Vithayathil MA, Gugusheff JR, Ong ZY, Langley-Evans SC, Gibson RA, Muhlhausler BS (2018). Exposure to maternal cafeteria diets during the suckling period has greater effects on fat deposition and Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein-1c (SREBP-1c) gene expression in rodent offspring compared to exposure before birth. Nutrition and Metabolism. 15, 17.
  2. Langley-Evans SC, Muhlhausler BS (2019). Early life nutritional programming of adult health status. Early Life Origins of Ageing and Longevity Vaiserman A.
  3. Langley-Evans SC, Muhlhausler BS (2017). Early nutrition, epigenetics and health. Chapter 11, in: Epigenetics of Aging and LonvegityEds: Moskalev A and Vaiserman A.
  4. Muhlhausler BS, Gugusheff J, Langley-Evans SC (2017). Maternal junk food diets: The effects on offspring fat mass and food preferences. In: Diet, Nutrition and Fetal Programming From Womb to Adulthood, Ed: Patel VB, Preedy VR and Rajendram R. pp 227-238.

 

New paper published- magnesium deficiency and monocyte adhesion in HUVEC cultures

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The first of a series of papers that have developed from Lujain Almousa’s PhD studies has been published in Magnesium Research.

Abstract:

Given a possible anti-inflammatory role of magnesium in endothelial cells, the aim of this study was to investigate the effects of magnesium on human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) viability, gene expression, and the pro-inflammatory response caused by a bacterial endotoxin (LPS). HUVECs were cultured at three different concentrations of magnesium sulphate (0.1 mM; control-1 mM; 5 mM) for 72 hours. Exposing the cells to LPS reduced cell viability in culture with low magnesium, but high magnesium protected the HUVECs from LPS-induced cell death. LPS-treated HUVECs cultured in low magnesium showed up-regulation of mRNA expression for pro-inflammatory factors and the expression of cytokine proteins, including IL-2, IL-3, IL-8, IL-15 and MCP-1. This was associated with greater adhesion of monocytes to the cells. In contrast, high magnesium decreased the expression of inflammatory factors and cytokines. The study found that LPS activation of the expression of many pro-inflammatory factors is exacerbated in the presence of low magnesium concentration whilst a high magnesium concentration partly inhibited the inflammatory response to LPS.

 

A change of blog title

For a long time this blog has been known as The Langley-Evans Lab, which on reflection is a terribly arrogant pronouncement. What I wanted to write about on these pages was the work that I have been doing with my PhD students and colleagues and to reflect on the bricks that our work has contributed to that big wall of human knowledge.

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That work isn’t the product of ‘my lab’, or ‘my team’, it’s a product of collaboration and working together. Some of the ideas have been mine, I’ve generated some of the data myself but all of the papers and grant ideas are shared with the many, many PhD students, the postdocs and the collaborators that I’ve had along the way.

As my research moves on, I don’t rely solely on a lab anymore either. We’re published qualitative as well as quantitative date. We’re gathering data from out in the field in Botswana, Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia and South Africa. The rat study days are largely coming to an end- things are very different to the early days.

So, a new and more inclusive title was needed for the blog and so I came up with ‘One day we will look back on all of this and laugh”. It suits my current mood and it’s something that I often find myself saying at home. It’s a response to the many challenges that life throws ups at home (I own teenagers and my parents are increasingly frail and vulnerable) and at work. Academic life can be so tough- a constant rollercoaster of rejections, terribly rude and dismissive reviewers (and sometimes colleagues) and challenging targets to meet. My resilience is sometimes tested to the absolute limits.

But one day, we will look back on all of this and laugh,