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Genetic markers of a predisposition to lumbar disc degeneration in young adults

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Intervertebral Disc Degeneration (IVDD) is a complex phenomenon characterizing the desiccation and structural compromise of the primary joint in the human spine. The intervertebral disc (IVD) serves to connect vertebral

Intervertebral Disc Degeneration (IVDD) is a complex phenomenon characterizing the desiccation and structural compromise of the primary joint in the human spine. The intervertebral disc (IVD) serves to connect vertebral bodies, cushion shock, and allow for flexion and extension of the vertebral column. Often presenting in the 4th or 5th decades of life as low back pain, this disease was originally believed to be the result of natural “wear and tear” coupled with repetitive mechanical insult, and as such most studies focus on patients between 40 and 50 years of age. Research over the past two decades, however, has demonstrated that environmental factors have only a modest effect on disc degeneration, with genetic influences playing a much more substantial role. Extensive research has focused on this process, though definitive risk factors and a clear pathophysiology have proven elusive. The aim of this study was to assemble a cohort of patients exhibiting definitive signs of degeneration who were well below the average age of presentation, with minimal or no exposure to suspected environmental risk factors and to conduct a targeted genome analysis in an attempt to elucidate a common genetic component. Through whole genome sequencing and analysis, the results corroborated findings in a previous study, as well as demonstrated a potential connection and influence between mutations found in IVD structural or functional genes, and the provocation of IVDD. Though the sample size was limited in scale and age, these findings suggest that further IVDD research into the association of variants in collagen, aggrecan and the insulin-like growth factor receptor genes of young patients with an early presentation of disc degeneration and minimal exposure to suspected risk factors is merited.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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The use of Bacteroides genetic markers to identify microbial sources in natural water

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Water quality in surface water is frequently degraded by fecal contamination from human and animal sources, imposing negative implications for recreational water use and public safety. For this reason it

Water quality in surface water is frequently degraded by fecal contamination from human and animal sources, imposing negative implications for recreational water use and public safety. For this reason it is critical to identify the source of fecal contamination in bodies of water in order to take proper corrective actions for controlling fecal pollution. Bacteroides genetic markers have been widely used to differentiate human from other sources of fecal bacteria in water. The results of this study indicate that many assays currently used to detect human-specific Bacteroides produce false positive results in the presence of freshwater fish. To further characterize Bacteroides from fish and human, the fecal samples were cultured, speciated, and identified. As a result, forty six new Bacteroides 16S rRNA gene sequences have been deposited to the NCBI database. These sequences, along with selected animal fecal sample Bacteroides, were aligned against human B. volgatus, B. fragilis, and B. dorei to identify multi-segmented variable regions within the 16S rRNA gene sequence. The collected sequences were truncated and used to construct a cladogram, showing a clear separation between human B. dorei and Bacteroides from other sources. A proposed strategy for source tracking was field tested by collecting water samples from central AZ source water and three different recreational ponds. PCR using HF134 and HF183 primer sets were performed and sequences for positive reactions were then aligned against human Bacteroides to identify the source of contamination. For the samples testing positive using the HF183 primer set (8/13), fecal contamination was determined to be from human sources. To confirm the results, PCR products were sequenced and aligned against the four variable regions and incorporated within the truncated cladogram. As expected, the sequences from water samples with human fecal contamination grouped within the human clade. As an outcome of this study, a tool box strategy for Bacteroides source identification relying on PCR amplification, variable region analysis, human-specific Bacteroides PCR assays, and subsequent truncated cladogram grouping analysis has been developed. The proposed strategy offers a new method for microbial source tracking and provides step-wise methodology essential for identifying sources of fecal pollution.

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Date Created
  • 2012