Overweight, obese preschoolers lose more weight when parent is also treated

Primary care treatment of overweight and obese preschoolers works better when treatment targets both parent and child compared to when only the child is targeted, according to research published this week in Pediatrics and conducted at the University at Buffalo and Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.Children enrolled in this study were overweight or obese and had one parent who participated in the study who also was overweight or obese, according to body mass index (BMI) measurements, calculated based on height and weight.During the course of the study, children who were treated concurrently with a parent experienced more appropriate weight gain while growing normally in height. Children in the intervention group gained an average of 12 pounds over 24 months compared to children in the control group who gained almost 16 pounds. This more appropriate weight accrual resulted in a decrease of 0.21 percent over BMI from baseline to 24 months.Parents in the intervention group lost an average of 14 pounds, resulting in a BMI decrease of over 2 units while the weight of parents in the control group was essentially unchanged.”Our results show that the traditional approach to overweight prevention and treatment focusing only on the child is obsolete,” says Teresa A. Quattrin, MD, senior author and UB Distinguished Professor, chair of the Department of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and pediatrician-in-chief at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.”This study is important because while we know that it is critical to begin treating overweight or obese children early, there has been limited data on what works best in preschool-aged children,” she says.The research was part of Buffalo Healthy Tots, a novel family-based, weight control intervention in preschool children that Quattrin directed in urban and suburban pediatric practices in Western New York.When funded in 2010 with a $2.6 million grant by the National Institutes of Health, Buffalo Healthy Tots was the first of its kind in the U.S. The goal was to compare traditional approaches where only the child is treated to family-based, behavioral treatment implemented in pediatric primary care practices.The study of 96 children ages 2-5 found that when overweight and obese youth and their parents were treated in a primary care setting with behavioral intervention, parents and children experienced greater decreases in body mass index (BMI) than did the children who received the traditional treatment, focusing only on the child. Weight loss for both parent and child was sustained after a 12-month followup.Quattrin notes that an important feature of the study was the use of practice enhancement assistants, trained in psychology, nutrition or exercise science. These assistants worked with the families both during treatment and education sessions and afterward by phone.The intervention was delivered through the parents, who were instructed about the appropriate number of food servings for children and appropriate calorie values. They were taught to avoid “high-energy” foods, such as those with high sugar content, more than 5 grams of fat per serving or artificial sweeteners.Parents monitored the number of servings in each food category, using a simple diary to cross off icons pertaining to the food consumed or type of physical activity performed. Parents also were taught to record their own and their child’s weight on a simple graph.Weight loss goals for children were 0.5 to 1 pound per week and for parents it was at least 1 pound per week.Quattrin says that the study results suggest that overweight or obese children and their parents can be successfully treated in the primary care setting with the assistance of practice enhancers.”Instead of the more traditional approach of referring these patients to a specialty clinic, the patient-centered medical home in the pediatrician’s office may be an ideal setting for implementing these family-based treatments,” she says.”We have entered a new era where students, trainees and specialists have to learn how to better interact with primary care providers and implement care coordination. This paper suggests that, indeed, family-based strategies for any chronic disorder, including obesity, can be successful in primary care. …

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‘Lost in translation’ issues in Chinese medicine addressed by researchers

Millions of people in the West today utilize traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, herbs, massage and nutritional therapies. Yet only a few U.S. schools that teach Chinese medicine require Chinese-language training and only a handful of Chinese medical texts have so far been translated into English.Given the complexity of the language and concepts in these texts, there is a need for accurate, high-quality translations, say researchers at UCLA’s Center for East-West Medicine. To that end, the center has published a document that includes a detailed discussion of the issues involved in Chinese medical translation, which is designed to help students, educators, practitioners, researchers, publishers and translators evaluate and digest Chinese medical texts with greater sensitivity and comprehension.”This publication aims to raise awareness among the many stakeholders involved with the translation of Chinese medicine,” said principal investigator and study author Dr. Ka-Kit Hui, founder and director of the UCLA center.The 15-page document, “Considerations in the Translation of Chinese Medicine” was developed and written by a UCLA team that included a doctor, an anthropologist, a China scholar and a translator. It appears in the current online edition of the Journal of Integrative Medicine.Authors Sonya Pritzker, a licensed Chinese medicine practitioner and anthropologist, and Hanmo Zhang, a China scholar, hope the publication will promote communication in the field and play a role in the development of thorough, accurate translations.The document highlights several important topics in the translation of Chinese medical texts, including the history of Chinese medical translations, which individuals make ideal translators, and other translation-specific issues, such as the delicate balance of focusing translations on the source-document language while considering the language it will be translated into.It also addresses issues of technical terminology, period-specific language and style, and historical and cultural perspective. For example, depending on historical circumstances and language use, some translations may be geared toward a Western scientific audience or, alternately, it may take a more natural and spiritual tone. The authors note that it is sometimes helpful to include dual translations, such as “windfire eye/acute conjunctivitis,” in order to facilitate a link between traditional Chinese medical terms and biomedical diagnoses.The final section of the document calls for further discussion and action, specifically in the development of international collaborative efforts geared toward the creation of more rigorous guidelines for the translation of Chinese medicine texts.”Considerations in the Translation of Chinese Medicine,” was inspired by the late renowned translator and scholar Michael Heim, a professor in the UCLA departments of comparative literature and Slavic studies. A master of 12 languages, he is best known for his translation into English of Czech author Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” The new UCLA document is dedicated to him.The document, the authors say, was influenced in large part by the American Council of Learned Societies’ “Guidelines for the Translation of Social Science Texts,” which are intended to promote communications in the social sciences across language boundaries. It was also influenced by Pritzker’s longstanding anthropological study of translation in Chinese medicine, which is detailed in her new book, “Living Translation: Language and the Search for Resonance in U.S. …

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Can exercise help reduce methamphetamine use?

The abuse of amphetamine type psychomotor stimulants remains a critical legal and public health problem in the US. In California, 27% of substance abuse treatment admissions are for amphetamines; high treatment-admission rates for amphetamines are also reported for other Western States such as Idaho (25%), Nevada (25%), Arizona (18%), Oregon (16%) and Washington (14%). Additional data show that 36% of the people arrested in San Diego CA, and 23% of men arrested in Portland OR, had methamphetamine in their system upon arrest. A 2009 study by the RAND Corporation estimated the total US costs for methamphetamine at $23.4 billion.Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found that physical exercise may be a useful technique to reduce methamphetamine use. Drs. Shawn M. Aarde and Michael A. Taffe used a preclinical model in which male rats are trained to press a lever to obtain intravenous infusions of methamphetamine. Prior work had shown that an extended interval (6 weeks) of voluntary activity on a running wheel could reduce cocaine self-administration in laboratory rats. The investigators now report that running wheel access in only the 22 hours prior to the test session is sufficient to significantly reduce the amount of methamphetamine self-administered. …

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Coffee Consumption Reduces Mortality Risk from Liver Cirrhosis

New research reveals that consuming two or more cups of coffee each day reduces the risk of death from liver cirrhosis by 66%, specifically cirrhosis caused by non-viral hepatitis. Findings in Hepatology, a journal published by Wiley on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, show that tea, fruit juice, and soft drink consumption are not linked to cirrhosis mortality risk. As with previous studies heavy alcohol use was found to increase risk of death from cirrhosis.A 2004 report from The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year 1.3% of total death worldwide is caused by liver cirrhosis. Previous research shows that 29 million Europeans have chronic liver disease, with 17,000 deaths annually attributed to cirrhosis. Further WHO reports state that liver cirrhosis is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S.”Prior evidence suggests that coffee may reduce liver damage in patients with chronic liver disease,” said lead researcher, Dr. Woon-Puay Koh with Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore and the National University of Singapore. “Our study examined the effects of consuming coffee, alcohol, black tea, green tea, and soft drinks on risk of mortality from cirrhosis.”This prospective population-based study, known as The Singapore Chinese Health Study, recruited 63,275 Chinese subjects between the ages of 45 and 74 living in Singapore. Participants provided information on diet, lifestyle choices, and medical history during in-person interviews conducted between 1993 and 1998. Patients were followed for an average of nearly 15 years, during which time there were 14,928 deaths (24%); 114 of them died from liver cirrhosis. The mean age of death was 67 years.Findings indicate that those who drank at least 20 g of ethanol daily had a greater risk of cirrhosis mortality compared to non-drinker. …

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Online gaming augments players’ social lives, study shows

New research finds that online social behavior isn’t replacing offline social behavior in the gaming community. Instead, online gaming is expanding players’ social lives. The study was done by researchers at North Carolina State University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.”Gamers aren’t the antisocial basement-dwellers we see in pop culture stereotypes, they’re highly social people,” says Dr. Nick Taylor, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of a paper on the study. “This won’t be a surprise to the gaming community, but it’s worth telling everyone else. Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm.”Researchers traveled to more than 20 public gaming events in Canada and the United Kingdom, from 2,500-player events held in convention centers to 20-player events held in bars. The researchers observed the behavior of thousands of players, and had 378 players take an in-depth survey, with a focus on players of massively multiplayer role-playing games such as EVE Online and World of Warcraft.The researchers were interested in tracking the online and offline behavior of gamers, focusing on how they communicated with each other. They found that gaming was only one aspect of social behavior at the gaming events.”We found that gamers were often exhibiting many social behaviors at once: watching games, talking, drinking, and chatting online,” Taylor says. “Gaming didn’t eliminate social interaction, it supplemented it.”This was true regardless of which games players were playing, and whether a player’s behavior in the online game was altruistic. For example, a player could be utterly ruthless in the game and still socialize normally offline.”The researchers also found that gamers didn’t distinguish between the time they spent playing games and the time they spent watching other people play games.”It all fell under the category of gaming, which they view as a social activity,” Taylor says.Taylor notes that this work focused on Western gaming communities, and he’s interested in studying the relationship between social behaviors and gaming in other cultures.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. …

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Cultural hitchhiking: How social behavior can affect genetic makeup in dolphins

A UNSW-led team of researchers studying bottlenose dolphins that use sponges as tools has shown that social behaviour can shape the genetic makeup of an animal population in the wild.Some of the dolphins in Shark Bay in Western Australia put conical marine sponges on their rostrums (beaks) when they forage on the sea floor — a non-genetic skill that calves apparently learn from their mother.Lead author, Dr Anna Kopps, says sponging dolphins end up with some genetic similarities because the calves also inherit DNA from their mothers. As well, it is likely that sponging dolphins are descendants of a “sponging Eve,” a female dolphin that first developed the innovation.”Our research shows that social learning should be considered as a possible factor that shapes the genetic structure of a wild animal population,” says Dr Kopps.”It is one of the first studies to show this effect — which is called cultural hitchhiking — in animals other than people.”The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.Dr Kopps and her colleagues identified individual dolphins in western Shark Bay about 850 kilometres north of Perth. They observed them from a boat as they foraged for food, travelled around the bay, rested, and played with other dolphins.Genetic samples were also taken, and analysed for mitochondrial DNA type, which is only inherited from the mother.It was found that the dolphins that lived in shallow waters, where sponges do not grow, mainly fell into a genetic group called Haplotype H.The dolphins living in deep waters, where sponges do grow, were predominantly Haplotype E or Haplotype F.”This striking geographic distribution of a genetic sequence cannot be explained by chance,” says Dr Kopps, who carried out the research while at UNSW and is now at the University of Groningen.As well, the DNA results from 22 dolphins that both lived in deep water and used sponges as tools showed they were all Haplotype E.”For humans we have known for a long time that culture is an important factor in shaping our genetics. Now we have shown for the first time that a socially transmitted behaviour like tool use can also lead to different genetic characteristics within a single animal population, depending on which habitat they live in,” she says.The team includes UNSW’s Professor Bill Sherwin and researchers from the University of Zurich and Murdoch University.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Abdominal fat accumulation prevented by unsaturated fat

New research from Uppsala University shows that saturated fat builds more fat and less muscle than polyunsaturated fat. This is the first study on humans to show that the fat composition of food not only influences cholesterol levels in the blood and the risk of cardiovascular disease but also determines where the fat will be stored in the body. The findings have recently been published in the American journal Diabetes.The study involved 39 young adult men and women of normal weight, who ate 750 extra calories per day for seven weeks. The goal was for them to gain three per cent of their starting weight. The project received considerable attention when it started in 2011, partly because the extra calories were ingested in the form of muffins with high fat content, baked in the lab by Fredrik Rosqvist, a doctoral candidate and first author of the study.One half of the subjects were random to eat surplus calories from polyunsaturated fat (sunflower oil), while the other half got their surplus calories from saturated fat (palm oil). Both diets contained the same amount of sugar, carbohydrates, fat, and protein; the only difference between muffins was the type of fat.The increase in body fat and the distribution of fat in the body was measured using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scans) before and after the weight gain, as was the muscle mass in the body. Gene activity was measured in the abdominal visceral fat before and after the weight gain with the help of a gene chip that studies several thousand genes at a time.Despite comparable weight gains between the two diet groups, the surplus consumption of saturated fat caused a markedly greater increase in the amount of fat in the liver and abdomen (especially the fat surrounding the internal organs, visceral fat) in comparison with the surplus consumption of polyunsaturated fat. Moreover the total amount of body fat was greater in the saturated fat group, while, on the other hand, the increase in muscle mass was three times less for those who ate saturated fat compared with those who ate polyunsaturated fat. Thus, gaining weight on excess calories from polyunsaturated fat caused more gain in muscle mass, and less body fat than overeating a similar amount of saturated fat. Since most of us are in positive energy balance, and consequently gain weight slowly but gradually over time, the present results are highly relevant for most Western populations.”Liver fat and visceral fat seems to contribute to a number of disturbances in metabolism. …

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Research examines acupuncture needle quality

The quality of needles used in acupuncture worldwide is high but needs to be universally improved to increase safety and avoid potential problems such as pain and allergic reactions, RMIT University researchers have found.The researchers looked at surface conditions and other physical properties of the two most commonly used stainless steel acupuncture needle brands.The study, published in Acupuncture in Medicine, found that although manufacturing processes have improved, surface irregularities and bent needle tips have not been entirely eliminated.Lead investigator Professor Mike Xie, Director of the Centre for Innovative Structures and Materials at RMIT, said acupuncture was a safe treatment overall but the research showed it could be made even safer.”In China, Chinese medicine including acupuncture, accounts for 40 per cent of all medical treatment, while in Western countries, acupuncture is one of the most frequently used complementary therapies,” he said.”Our findings show that acupuncture needle manufacturers should review and improve their quality control procedures for the fabrication of needles.”In particular, needle tips should be properly formed, sharpened and cleansed.”Extensive research on acupuncture has demonstrated its safety and benefit for a range of conditions. But more needs to be done to enhance the comfort and safety of patients undergoing acupuncture treatment worldwide.”China, Japan and Korea are the main suppliers of acupuncture needles, with China providing up to 90 per cent of the world’s acupuncture needles.In the study, scanning electron microscope images were taken of 10 randomly chosen needles from each brand, with further images taken after each needle underwent a standard manipulation — the equivalent of using them on human tissue — with an acupuncture needling practice gel.The images revealed significant surface irregularities and inconsistencies at the needle tips, particularly in needles from one of the brands.Metallic lumps and small, loosely attached pieces of material were observed on the surfaces of some needles. Some of these fragments disappeared after the acupuncture manipulation.Co-author Professor Charlie Xue, Director of the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Research Program in the Health Innovations Research Institute and Head of the School of Health Sciences at RMIT, said the metallic residue could be deposited in human tissues, causing discomfort and potentially allergic reactions such as dermatitis.”While acupuncture needle induced dermatitis has been extremely rare, it is important to minimise the potential for such reaction through further improvement of the needles used in human practice,” Professor Xue said.”Malformed needle tips can cause problems including bleeding, bruising, or strong pain during needling, which are more commonly reported following acupuncture treatment.”An off-centre needle tip could result in the needle altering its direction during insertion and manipulation, consequently damaging adjacent tissues.”While none of these potential problems would result in serious or long-term injury, patient experience and safety are paramount and the quality of acupuncture needles must be more rigorously improved.”The researchers suggested the small metallic pieces found on the needle surfaces were most likely from the grinding and polishing processes during the manufacture of the needles. These processes would also generate electrostatic forces that would attract tiny metal filings to the needle surfaces. The metallic pieces should have been removed from the needles if adequate cleansing processes had been carried out, the study found.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by RMIT University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Whales bearing young and humans drilling for oil in same African waters

Scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Oregon State University, Stanford University, Columbia University, and the American Museum of Natural History have found that humpback whales swimming off the coast of western Africa encounter more than warm waters for mating and bearing young; new studies show that the whales share these waters with offshore oil rigs, major shipping routes, and potentially harmful toxicants.With the aid of satellite tags affixed to more than a dozen whales, the researchers have quantified the amount of overlap between hydrocarbon exploration and extraction, environmental toxicants, shipping lanes, and humpback whales occurring in their nearshore breeding areas. The scientists also identified additional parts of the whales’ breeding range and migratory routes to sub-Antarctic feeding grounds.The study appears in the latest edition of the journal Conservation Biology. The authors are: Howard Rosenbaum of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the American Museum of Natural History; Sara Maxwell of Stanford University; Francine Kershaw of Columbia University; and Bruce Mate of Oregon State University.”Throughout numerous coastal and offshore areas, important whale habitats and migration routes are increasingly overlapping with industrial development, a scenario we have quantified for the first time in the eastern South Atlantic,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program. “Studies such as this one are crucial for identifying important habitats for humpback whales and how to best protect these populations from potential impacts associated with hydrocarbon exploration and production, shipping, and other forms of coastal and offshore activities.”Rosenbaum added: “From understanding which habitats are most important to tracking their migrations, our work provides great insights into the current issues confronting these whales and how to best engage ocean industries to better protect and ensure the recovery of these leviathans.”Growing to approximately 50 feet in length, humpback whales are characterized by their long pectoral fins, acrobatic behavior, and haunting songs. Like other great whales, the humpback whale was hunted for centuries by commercial whaling fleets, with experts estimating a reduction of possibly 90 percent in its global population size. The International Whaling Commission has protected humpback whales globally from commercial whaling since 1968.While migration patterns of humpbacks have been the subject of extensive study in other ocean basins and regions, the migratory behaviors of humpbacks along the western African coast in the eastern South Atlantic are poorly described. To better understand the movements of humpback whales in the Gulf of Guinea, the researchers deployed satellite tags on 15 individual animals off the coast of Gabon between August and September of 2002.”This study demonstrates clearly that all of the countries on the west coast of Africa need to work together on a range-wide humpback whale conservation strategy and consider the possibility of creating a whale sanctuary,” said Professor Lee White, CBE, director of Gabon’s National Parks Agency. “Gabon supports the concept of a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary and will continue to work with other nations in the region to this end.”Dr. Bruce Mate, who pioneered the satellite-monitored radio tagging of large whales, said: “This technology allows the science and conservation communities to discover detailed seasonal migration routes, timing and destinations, so we can characterize these important habitats and reduce potential impacts of human activities, even in the harshest possible marine environments.”The major goal of the study was to elucidate the unknown migratory movement of whales from breeding areas off western Africa to areas where the whales likely feed in Antarctic or sub-Antarctic waters. …

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Nature can, selectively, buffer human-caused global warming, say scientists

Can naturally occurring processes selectively buffer the full brunt of global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities?Yes, find researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Johns Hopkins University in the US and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.As the globe warms, ocean temperatures rise, leading to increased water vapor escaping into the atmosphere. Water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas, and its impact on climate is amplified in the stratosphere.In a detailed study, the researchers from the three institutions examined the causes of changes in the temperatures and water vapor in the tropical tropopause layer (TTL). The TTL is a critical region of our atmosphere with characteristics of both the troposphere below and the stratosphere above.The TTL can have significant influences on both atmospheric chemistry and climate, as its temperature determines how much water vapor can enter the stratosphere. Therefore, understanding any changes in the temperature of the TTL and what might be causing them is an important scientific question of significant societal relevance, say the researchers.The Israeli and US scientists used measurements from satellite observations and output from chemistry-climate models to understand recent temperature trends in the TTL. Temperature measurements show where significant changes have taken place since 1979.The satellite observations have shown that warming of the tropical Indian Ocean and tropical Western Pacific Ocean — with resulting increased precipitation and water vapor there — causes the opposite effect of cooling in the TTL region above the warming sea surface. Once the TTL cools, less water vapor is present in the TTL and also above in the stratosphere,Since water vapor is a very strong greenhouse gas, this effect leads to a negative feedback on climate change. That is, the increase in water vapor due to enhanced evaporation from the warming oceans is confined to the near- surface area, while the stratosphere becomes drier. Hence, this effect may actually slightly weaken the more dire forecasted aspects of an increasing warming of our climate, the scientists say.The researchers are Dr. Chaim Garfinkel of the Fredy and Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University and formerly of Johns Hopkins University, Dr. D. …

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U. S. regions exhibit distinct personalities, research reveals

Oct. 17, 2013 — Americans with similar temperaments are so likely to live in the same areas that a map of the country can be divided into regions with distinct personalities, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.People in the north-central Great Plains and the South tend to be conventional and friendly, those in the Western and Eastern seaboards lean toward being mostly relaxed and creative, while New Englanders and Mid-Atlantic residents are prone to being more temperamental and uninhibited, according to a study published online by APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.”This analysis challenges the standard methods of dividing up the country on the basis of economic factors, voting patterns, cultural stereotypes or geography that appear to have become ingrained in the way people think about the United States,” said lead author Peter J. Rentfrow, PhD, of the University of Cambridge. “At the same time, it reinforces some of the traditional beliefs that some areas of the country are friendlier than others, while some are more creative.”The researchers analyzed the personality traits of more than 1.5 million people. Through various online forums/media (e.g., Facebook and survey panels), participants answered questions about their psychological traits and demographics, including their state of residence. The researchers identified three psychological profiles based on five broad dimensions of personality — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — also known as the “Big Five” personality traits. When the researchers overlaid the findings on a national map, they found certain psychological profiles were predominant in three distinct geographic areas. The data were collected over 12 years in five samples with participants from the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Overall, the samples were nationally representative in terms of gender and ethnicity, with the exception of a larger proportion of young people.”These national clusters of personalities also relate to a region’s politics, economy, social attitudes and health,” Rentfrow said. The study found that people in the friendly and conventional regions are typically less affluent, less educated, more politically conservative, more likely to be Protestant and less healthy compared to people in the other regions. …

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Ancient DNA unravels Europe’s genetic diversity

Oct. 10, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a time series of skeletons in Germany spanning 4,000 years of prehistory has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern-day Europeans.The study, published today in Science, reveals dramatic population changes with waves of prehistoric migration, not only from the accepted path via the Near East, but also from Western and Eastern Europe.The research was a collaboration between the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), at the University of Adelaide, researchers from the University of Mainz, the State Heritage Museum in Halle (Germany), and National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project. The teams used mitochondrial DNA (maternally inherited DNA) extracted from bone and teeth samples from 364 prehistoric human skeletons ‒ ten times more than previous ancient DNA studies.”This is the largest and most detailed genetic time series of Europe yet created, allowing us to establish a complete genetic chronology,” says joint-lead author Dr Wolfgang Haak of ACAD. “Focussing on this small but highly important geographic region meant we could generate a gapless record, and directly observe genetic changes in ‘real-time’ from 7,500 to 3,500 years ago, from the earliest farmers to the early Bronze Age.””Our study shows that a simple mix of indigenous hunter-gatherers and the incoming Near Eastern farmers cannot explain the modern-day diversity alone,” says joint-lead author Guido Brandt, PhD candidate at the University of Mainz. “The genetic results are much more complex than that. Instead, we found that two particular cultures at the brink of the Bronze Age 4,200 years ago had a marked role in the formation of Central Europe’s genetic makeup.”Professor Kurt Alt (University of Mainz) says: “What is intriguing is that the genetic signals can be directly compared with the changes in material culture seen in the archaeological record. It is fascinating to see genetic changes when certain cultures expanded vastly, clearly revealing interactions across very large distances.” These included migrations from both Western and Eastern Europe towards the end of the Stone Age, through expanding cultures such as the Bell Beaker and the Corded Ware (named after their pots).”This transect through time has produced a wealth of information about the genetic history of modern Europeans,” says ACAD Director Professor Alan Cooper. “There was a period of stasis after farming became established and suitable areas were settled, and then sudden turnovers during less stable times or when economic factors changed, such as the increasing importance of metal ores and secondary farming products. While the genetic signal of the first farming populations becomes increasingly diluted over time, we see the original hunter-gatherers make a surprising comeback.”Dr Haak says: “None of the dynamic changes we observed could have been inferred from modern-day genetic data alone, highlighting the potential power of combining ancient DNA studies with archaeology to reconstruct human evolutionary history.” The international team has been working closely on the genetic prehistory of Europeans for the past 7-8 years and is currently applying powerful new technologies to generate genomic data from the specimens.

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How a ubiquitous herpesvirus sometimes leads to cancer

Oct. 10, 2013 — You might not know it, but most of us are infected with the herpesvirus known as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). For most of us, the virus will lead at worst to a case of infectious mononucleosis, but sometimes, and especially in some parts of the world, those viruses are found in association with cancer. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on October 10 have found that the difference between a relatively harmless infection and a cancer-causing one lies at least partly in the viral strain itself.Share This:The results offer some of the first evidence for the existence of distinct EBV subtypes with very different public health risks. The researchers say that vaccination or other strategies for preventing EBV infection will need to be designed with these most pathogenic, cancer-causing strains in mind.”EBV is an important but neglected pathogen,” said Henri-Jacques Delecluse of the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, Germany. “We have made an important step in recognizing that EBV is actually a family of viruses that have different properties, some of which are very likely to cause disease. So, the consequences of being infected with EBV might be different, depending on the strain one carries.”Delecluse and his colleagues made the discovery by sequencing the DNA of a viral strain dubbed M81 isolated from a Chinese patient with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). Their analyses revealed that M81 is highly similar to other viruses isolated from NPCs and profoundly different from Western strains in terms of its ability to infect and replicate within cells.The M81 strain can infect epithelial cells and multiply spontaneously at a very high level in all cells it infects, including B lymphocytes, the cells in which the viruses hide, the researchers report. It remains to be seen exactly how infected epithelial cells become cancerous.”Our results have made me radically change my strategy to address the problem of EBV-associated diseases,” Delecluse said. “The current view is that the virus is essentially the same all over the world and that local conditions explain the different consequences of EBV infection. …

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Pacemaker for slow heart rhythm restores life expectancy, study suggests

Sep. 2, 2013 — Pacemakers implanted for slow heart rhythm restore life expectancy to normal levels, reveals research presented at ESC Congress 2013 today by Dr Erik O. Udo from the Netherlands. The findings provide a new reference point for the prognosis of modern pacemaker patients.Dr Udo said: “Previous studies describing the survival of pacemaker patients used data that is more than 20 years old and cannot be used anymore for patient counselling and benchmarking. There have been considerable changes in pacemaker technology and in the profile of pacemaker patients and a new reference point of prognosis in modern day cardiac pacing was needed.” FollowPace was a nationwide multicentre prospective cohort study in 23 Dutch hospitals. It included 1,517 patients who received their first pacemaker for bradycardia (slow or irregular heart rhythm) between 2003 and 2007. Patients were followed for an average of 5.8 years.The researchers found survival rates of 93%, 81%, 69% and 61% after 1, 3, 5 and 7 years respectively. Patients without cardiovascular disease (such as heart failure or coronary artery disease) at the time of pacemaker implantation had a survival rate similar to age and sex matched controls from the general Dutch population.Dr Udo said: “Our results suggest that the prognosis of today’s pacemaker patient is primarily determined by whether or not they also have cardiovascular disease, and not by the rhythm disorder itself. Patients who have heart failure or coronary artery disease when the pacemaker is implanted have the highest risk of death. On the other hand, patients without cardiovascular disease at the time of implantation have the best survival, which is comparable to the survival of the general population.” He added: “In earlier studies we showed that in cases of too slow heart rhythm, permanent pacing relieves symptoms and improves quality of life and therefore a pacemaker is the appropriate device. …

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Where can coral reefs relocate to escape the heat?

Aug. 29, 2013 — The best real estate for coral reefs over the coming decades will no longer be around the equator but in the sub-tropics, new research from the University of Bristol suggests.Fossil fuel emissions are impacting corals through high temperatures which can cause their deaths and ocean acidification which makes it difficult for them to produce their skeletons. In a study published today in Global Change Biology, Dr Elena Couce, Professor Andy Ridgwell and Dr Erica Hendy used computer models to predict future shifts in the global distribution of coral reef ecosystems under these two stressors.The researchers found that warming impacts were dominant, with a significant decline in suitability for corals near the equator.Dr Couce said: “Just as we have to take into account many factors when deciding where to live and juggle the trade-offs such as proximity to a city centre or the desire for a garden, whether a coral reef can establish or not depends on conflicting stressors. Global warming is stronger at the equator and drives corals away into higher latitudes, whereas acidification is stronger close to the poles and pushes coral habitat towards the equator.”Dr Hendy said: “We also found that some areas where conditions are currently borderline for corals, such as the eastern Pacific Ocean, could remain as they are or even become more suitable. This was unexpected and has important implications for coral management, as it suggests that these areas are not necessarily a ‘lost cause’.”Coral reefs are very sensitive to future changes. They are also very important to life in the oceans, with the highest biodiversity of all marine ecosystems.Dr Couce continued: “By 2070 we predict that the Western Pacific, including the area known as the ‘Coral Triangle’, the bridge between Asia and Australia, will become much less suitable for corals. This is concerning because the Coral Triangle is a biodiversity hotspot containing over 70 per cent of known coral species. Conditions in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia will also get worse, although less rapidly, since it is farther away from the equator.”Professor Ridgwell added: “Suitability for corals gets better at the limits of the current coral reef distribution. But a possible move into higher latitudes will also be difficult. Range expansion is constrained by availability of shallow water areas with adequate light penetration for coral larvae to settle and form new reefs.”

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Hidden shell middens reveal ancient human presence in Bolivian Amazon

Aug. 28, 2013 — Previously unknown archeological sites in forest islands reveal human presence in the western Amazon as early as 10,000 years ago, according to research published August 28 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Umberto Lombardo from the University of Bern, Switzerland and colleagues from other institutions.Share This:The study focuses on a region in the Bolivian Amazon thought to be rarely occupied by pre-agricultural communities due to unfavorable environmental conditions. Hundreds of ‘forest islands’- small forested mounds of earth- are found throughout the region, their origins attributed to termites, erosion or ancient human activity. In this study, the authors report that three of these islands are shell middens, mounds of seashells left by settlers in the early Holocene period, approximately 10,400 years ago.Samples of soil from these three mounds revealed a dense accumulation of freshwater snail shells, animal bones and charcoal forming the middens. The mounds appear to have formed in two phases: an older layer composed primarily of snail shells, and an overlying layer composed of organic matter containing pottery, bone tools and human bones. The two are separated by a thin layer rich in pieces of burnt clay and earth, and the uppermost layer of deposits was also seen to contain occasional fragments of earthenware pottery.Radiocarbon analysis of two middens indicates that humans settled in this region during the early Holocene, approximately 10,400 years ago, and shells and other artefacts built up into mounds over an approximately 6,000 year period of human use. The sites may have been abandoned as climate shifted towards wetter conditions later. Lombardo adds, “We have discovered the oldest archaeological sites in western and southern Amazonia. These sites allow us to reconstruct 10,000 years of human-environment interactions in the Bolivian Amazon.”Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. …

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Stroke risk similar among men and women smokers worldwide

Aug. 22, 2013 — Smoking cigarettes may cause similar stroke risks for men and women, but women smokers may be at greater risk for a more deadly and uncommon type of stroke, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.When compared to non-smokers of the same gender, smoking increases the risk of having any type of stroke by 60 to 80 percent in women and men.Researchers said the finding is intriguing because other studies have found strong evidence that smoking conveys a much higher risk of heart disease — which shares a common disease process with stroke — for women than for men.Researchers compared data from more than 80 international studies that were published between 1966 and 2013. They found that smoking is linked to more than a 50 percent greater risk of ischemic stroke the most common stroke — one that’s caused by a blood clot- in both men and women. However, for the more deadly type of stroke — one that is caused by a brain bleed, known as a hemorrhagic stroke — smoking resulted in a 17 percent greater risk in women than in men.Moreover, compared to men who smoke, the risk for women who smoke was about 10 percent higher in Western countries — possibly reflecting a greater cumulative exposure to smoking — than in Asian countries.The study also found evidence that men and women who smoke can significantly reduce their stroke risk by quitting smoking.Researchers suggested that the greater risk for bleeding stroke among women might be due to hormones and how nicotine impacts blood fats. It seems that fats, cholesterol and triglycerides increase to a greater extent in women who smoke compared with men who smoke, increasing their risk for coronary heart disease to a greater extent than in male smokers.”Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for stroke for both men and women, but fortunately, quitting smoking is a highly effective way to lower your stroke risk,” said Rachel Huxley, lead author of the study and Professor, School of Population Health, University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia. “Tobacco control policies should be a mainstay of primary stroke prevention programs.”

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Dating oldest known petroglyphs in North America

Aug. 13, 2013 — A new high-tech analysis led by a University of Colorado Boulder researcher shows the oldest known petroglyphs in North America, which are cut into several boulders in western Nevada, date to at least 10,500 years ago and perhaps even as far back as 14,800 years ago.The petroglyphs located at the Winnemucca Lake petroglyph site 35 miles northeast of Reno consist of large, deeply carved grooves and dots forming complex designs on several large limestone boulders that have been known about for decades, said CU-Boulder researcher Larry Benson, who led the new effort. Although there are no people, animals or handprint symbols depicted, the petroglyph designs include a series of vertical, chain-like symbols and a number of smaller pits deeply incised with a type of hard rock scraper.Benson and his colleagues used several methods to date the petroglyphs, including determining when the water level the Winnemucca Lake subbasin — which back then was a single body of water connecting the now-dry Winnemucca Lake and the existing Pyramid Lake — reached the specific elevation of 3,960 feet.The elevation was key to the study because it marked the maximum height the ancient lake system could have reached before it began spilling excess water over Emerson Pass to the north. When the lake level was at this height, the petroglyph-peppered boulders were submerged and therefore not accessible for carving, said Benson, an adjunct curator of anthropology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.A paper on the subject was published this month in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Co-authors on the study included Eugene Hattori of the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, Nev., John Southon of the University of California, Irvine and Benjamin Aleck of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Museum and Visitor’s Center in Nixon, Nev. The National Research Program of the U.S. Geological Survey funded the study.According to Benson, a white layer of carbonate made of limestone precipitated from the ancient, overflowing Winnemucca Lake had coated some of the petroglyph carvings near the base of the boulders. Previous work by Benson showed the carbonate coating elsewhere in the basin at that elevation had a radiocarbon date of roughly 11,000 years ago.Benson sampled the carbonate into which the petroglyphs were incised and the carbonate that coated the petroglyphs at the base of the limestone boulder. The radiocarbon dates on the samples indicated the carbonate layer underlying the petroglyphs dated to roughly 14,800 ago. Those dates, as well as additional geochemical data on a sediment core from the adjacent Pyramid Lake subbasin, indicated the limestone boulders containing the petroglyphs were exposed to air between 14,800 and 13,200 years ago and again between about 11,300 and 10,500 years ago.”Prior to our study, archaeologists had suggested these petroglyphs were extremely old,” said Benson, also an emeritus USGS scientist. …

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Neandertals made the first specialized bone tools in Europe

Aug. 12, 2013 — Modern humans replaced Neandertals in Europe about 40,000 years ago, but the Neandertals’ capabilities are still greatly debated. Some argue that before they were replaced, Neandertals had cultural capabilities similar to modern humans, while others argue that these similarities only appear once modern humans came into contact with Neandertals.”For now the bone tools from these two sites are one of the better pieces of evidence we have for Neandertals developing on their own a technology previously associated only with modern humans,” explains Dr. Shannon McPherron of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. He and Dr. Michel Lenoir of the University of Bordeaux have been excavating the site of Abri Peyrony where three of the bones were found.”If Neandertals developed this type of bone tool on their own, it is possible that modern humans then acquired this technology from Neandertals. Modern humans seem to have entered Europe with pointed bone-tools only, and soon after started to make lissoir. This is the first possible evidence for transmission from Neandertals to our direct ancestors,” says Dr. Soressi of Leiden University, Netherland. She and her team found the first of four bone-tools during her excavation at the classic Neandertal site of Pech-de-l’Azé I.However, we cannot eliminate the possibility that these tools instead indicate that modern humans entered Europe and started impacting Neandertal behavior earlier than we can currently demonstrate. …

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