Thursday, January 28, 2010

Where Has the Banting and Best World Gone?

Banting and Best who are noted as the discoverers of insulin, along with MacLeod, at Toronto, having been awarded the Nobel Prize for the achievement, accomplished the task with minimal resources in a brief period of time and under less than supportive conditions. Banting was clearly a driven man with the ability to survive the pressures from the external environment. The example of this team is that a small focused group can achieve wonders.

I read an article today in Nature Genetics and it is on the determination of some several genes related to glycemic control in humans with Type 2 Diabetes. Like so many articles of this type it states:

Levels of circulating glucose are tightly regulated. To identify new loci influencing glycemic traits, we performed meta-analyses of 21 genome-wide association studies informative for fasting glucose, fasting insulin and indices of beta-cell function (HOMA-B) and insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) in up to 46,186 nondiabetic participants.

Follow-up of 25 loci in up to 76,558 additional subjects identified 16 loci associated with fasting glucose and HOMA-B and two loci associated with fasting insulin and HOMA-IR. These include nine loci newly associated with fasting glucose (in or near ADCY5, MADD, ADRA2A, CRY2, FADS1, GLIS3, SLC2A2, PROX1 and C2CD4B) and one influencing fasting insulin and HOMA-IR (near IGF1).

We also demonstrated association of ADCY5, PROX1, GCK, GCKR and DGKB-TMEM195 with type 2 diabetes. Within these loci, likely biological candidate genes influence signal transduction, cell proliferation, development, glucose-sensing and circadian regulation. Our results demonstrate that genetic studies of glycemic traits can identify type 2 diabetes risk loci, as well as loci containing gene variants that are associated with a modest elevation in glucose levels but are not associated with overt diabetes.

Interesting but there were some 176 authors! The list of authors was longer than the abstract! This is an amazing trend in research papers which I find disturbing. I see this even at the graduate level where there are so many authors one wonders who really did the work. In the past, say 40 years ago, there was a single author. We knew who made the contribution and we knew who made the mistake. In the biological sciences the need to publish and the need to extend the reach of involvement, possibly for later plausible deniability, has it appears gone to the extreme.

If from experiments of this type a great discovery occurs, then we will not have a Banting and Best, Watson and Crick, and the like. We will just have a large bunch of folks. Pity.