Rural versus urban causes of childhood concussion

Researchers at Western University (London, Canada) have found youth living in rural areas are more likely to sustain concussions from injuries involving motorized vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes, whereas youth living in urban areas suffer concussions mostly as a result of sports. Hockey accounts for 40 per cent of those injuries. The study which reveals where and how children are receiving concussions is published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.Dr. Doug Fraser, a scientist with the Children’s Health Research Institute at Lawson Health Research Institute and Tanya Charyk Stewart, the Injury Epidemiologist for the Trauma Program at Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and their team tracked all the youth under the age of 18 who presented to the LHSC emergency departments with a concussion over a six year period. There were 2,112 paediatric concussions, with a steady increase in number treated each year.”It was important for us to learn about who is getting injured, where they’re getting injured, and why they’re getting injured. Once you answer those questions, then you can implement targeted injury prevention programs,” says Dr. Fraser, an associate professor in the Departments of Paediatrics, Physiology & Pharmacology and Clinical Neurological Sciences at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.Concussions are a particular concern for children and adolescents because their brains are still developing and they are more susceptible to effects of a head injury. The goal following this research is to create injury prevention programs that target and educate those at high risk of sustaining a concussion.Concussions can often be predictable. Along with properly following the rules of the sport and wearing the protective equipment, Charyk Stewart suggests, “In sports, if you have been hit, then just get off the field immediately and stop play. If you are experiencing any symptoms, be seen by a doctor.”Dr. …

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Carbohydrate digestion and obesity strongly linked

New research indicates that obesity in the general population may be genetically linked to how our bodies digest carbohydrates.Published today in the journal Nature Genetics, the study investigated the relationship between body weight and a gene called AMY1, which is responsible for an enzyme present in our saliva known as salivary amylase. This enzyme is the first to be encountered by food when it enters the mouth, and it begins the process of starch digestion that then continues in the gut.People usually have two copies of each gene, but in some regions of our DNA there can be variability in the number of copies a person carries, which is known as copy number variation. The number of copies of AMY1 can be highly variable between people, and it is believed that higher numbers of copies of the salivary amylase gene have evolved in response to a shift towards diets containing more starch since prehistoric times.Researchers from Imperial College London, in collaboration with other international institutions, looked at the number of copies of the gene AMY1 present in the DNA of thousands of people from the UK, France, Sweden and Singapore. They found that people who carried a low number of copies of the salivary amylase gene were at greater risk of obesity.The chance of being obese for people with less than four copies of the AMY1 gene was approximately eight times higher than in those with more than nine copies of this gene. The researchers estimated that with every additional copy of the salivary amylase gene there was approximately a 20 per cent decrease in the odds of becoming obese.Professor Philippe Froguel, Chair in Genomic Medicine in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, and one of the lead authors on the study, said: “I think this is an important discovery because it suggests that how we digest starch and how the end products from the digestion of complex carbohydrates behave in the gut could be important factors in the risk of obesity. Future research is needed to understand whether or not altering the digestion of starchy food might improve someone’s ability to lose weight, or prevent a person from becoming obese. We are also interested in whether there is a link between this genetic variation and people’s risk of other metabolic disorders such as diabetes, as people with a low number of copies of the salivary amylase gene may also be glucose intolerant.”Dr Mario Falchi, also from Imperial’s School of Public Health and first author of the study, said: “Previous genetic studies investigating obesity have tended to identify variations in genes that act in the brain and often result in differences in appetite, whereas our finding is related to how the body physically handles digestion of carbohydrates. We are now starting to develop a clearer picture of a combination of genetic factors affecting psychological and metabolic processes that contribute to people’s chances of becoming obese. This should ultimately help us to find better ways of tackling obesity.”Dr Julia El-Sayed Moustafa, another lead author from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “Previous studies have found rare genetic variations causing extreme forms of obesity, but because they occur in only a small number of people, they explained very little of the differences in body weight we see in the population. On the other hand, research on more common genetic variations that increase risk of obesity in the general population have so far generally found only a modest effect on obesity risk. …

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Four in 10 infants lack strong parental attachments

In a study of 14,000 U.S. children, 40 percent lack strong emotional bonds — what psychologists call “secure attachment” — with their parents that are crucial to success later in life, according to a new report. The researchers found that these children are more likely to face educational and behavioral problems.In a report published by Sutton Trust, a London-based institute that has published more than 140 research papers on education and social mobility, researchers from Princeton University, Columbia University, the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Bristol found that infants under the age of three who do not form strong bonds with their mothers or fathers are more likely to be aggressive, defiant and hyperactive as adults. These bonds, or secure attachments, are formed through early parental care, such as picking up a child when he or she cries or holding and reassuring a child.”When parents tune in to and respond to their children’s needs and are a dependable source of comfort, those children learn how to manage their own feeling and behaviors,” said Sophie Moullin, a joint doctoral candidate studying at Princeton’s Department of Sociology and the Office of Population Research, which is based at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. “These secure attachments to their mothers and fathers provide these children with a base from which they can thrive.”Written by Moullin, Jane Waldfogel from Columbia University and the London School of Economics and Political Science and Elizabeth Washbrook from the University of Bristol, the report uses data collected by the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative U.S. study of 14,000 children born in 2001. The researchers also reviewed more than 100 academic studies.Their analysis shows that about 60 percent of children develop strong attachments to their parents, which are formed through simple actions, such as holding a baby lovingly and responding to the baby’s needs. Such actions support children’s social and emotional development, which, in turn, strengthens their cognitive development, the researchers write. These children are more likely to be resilient to poverty, family instability, parental stress and depression. Additionally, if boys growing up in poverty have strong parental attachments, they are two and a half times less likely to display behavior problems at school.The approximately 40 percent who lack secure attachments, on the other hand, are more likely to have poorer language and behavior before entering school. …

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Employee Injured by Reversing Vehicle

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Employee Injured by Reversing VehicleEmployee Injured by Reversing VehicleA Hampshire waste company has been fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a worker was injured by a reversing digger in Eastleigh.Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London has heard that Martin Jewell, 49, from Gosport, suffered life-changing injuries in the accident from which it is unlikely he will ever recover.The accidentMr Jewell, a skip driver, had just completed a job when the accident took place and was returning to the Solent Waste Services site to see if any more work was required.The logistician made his way to a storage unit and asked the digger driver inside to pull out a skip and fill it up, before he turned away and started to walked towards a nearby office.However, as he did this the digger reversed into him, knocking him over and crushing his legs.HospitalAfter being rushed to hospital, Mr Jewell was diagnosed with life-changing injuries that included a double fracture to his right shin bone, as well as broken bones in both of his feet.While broken bones can often be quickly healed, the extent of the compression caused by the weight of the equipment on Mr Jewell’s legs caused him more serious damage than would normally be expected.The skip driver also had to go through a number of painful operations and required extensive physiotherapy to regain movement in his legs, although he has not yet made a full recovery.Vehicle segregationAfter being informed of the accident, the HSE launched an investigation in an attempt to ascertain if anyone was to blame in the case, or if it was Mr Jewell’s fault. An extensive analysis of the Solent Waste Services site found that traffic was not properly segregated, meaning that pedestrians were in close contact with vehicles.This was, according to inspectors, a clear violation of pre-existing guidelines as any industrial site with large vehicles, including diggers, in operation should have a safe work plan in place to stop these kinds of accidents from happening.For its part in Mr Jewell’s accident, Solent Waste Services Limited, of Withy Meadows, Dutton Lane, Eastleigh, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £19,752 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Sec 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.”All too often”After the hearing was finished, HSE inspector Zahir Agha criticised Solent Waste Services for its poor practice, directly blaming it for Mr Jewell’s injuries.”Incidents of this kind, where vehicles strike workers because movements are not properly controlled, occur all too often in the waste sector and result in a number of deaths and serious injuries every year,” the inspector explained.”Work around moving vehicles has to be properly planned, in line with guidance that is readily available through HSE and others. Solent Waste Services could and should have done more, and as a result Mr Jewell has been left with debilitating injuries from which he may never fully recover.”By Francesca WitneyOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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New way to filter light: May provide first directional selectivity for light waves

Light waves can be defined by three fundamental characteristics: their color (or wavelength), polarization, and direction. While it has long been possible to selectively filter light according to its color or polarization, selectivity based on the direction of propagation has remained elusive.But now, for the first time, MIT researchers have produced a system that allows light of any color to pass through only if it is coming from one specific angle; the technique reflects all light coming from other directions. This new approach could ultimately lead to advances in solar photovoltaics, detectors for telescopes and microscopes, and privacy filters for display screens.The work is described in a paper appearing this week in the journal Science, written by MIT graduate student Yichen Shen, professor of physics Marin Soljačić, and four others. “We are excited about this,” Soljačić says, “because it is a very fundamental building block in our ability to control light.”The new structure consists of a stack of ultrathin layers of two alternating materials where the thickness of each layer is precisely controlled. “When you have two materials, then generally at the interface between them you will have some reflections,” Soljačić explains. But at these interfaces, “there is this magical angle called the Brewster angle, and when you come in at exactly that angle and the appropriate polarization, there is no reflection at all.”While the amount of light reflected at each of these interfaces is small, by combining many layers with the same properties, most of the light can be reflected away — except for that coming in at precisely the right angle and polarization.Using a stack of about 80 alternating layers of precise thickness, Shen says, “We are able to reflect light at most of the angles, over a very broad band [of colors]: the entire visible range of frequencies.”Previous work had demonstrated ways of selectively reflecting light except for one precise angle, but those approaches were limited to a narrow range of colors of light. The new system’s breadth could open up many potential applications, the team says.Shen says, “This could have great applications in energy, and especially in solar thermophotovoltaics” — harnessing solar energy by using it to heat a material, which in turn radiates light of a particular color. That light emission can then be harnessed using a photovoltaic cell tuned to make maximum use of that color of light. But for this approach to work, it is essential to limit the heat and light lost to reflections, and re-emission, so the ability to selectively control those reflections could improve efficiency.The findings could also prove useful in optical systems, such as microscopes and telescopes, for viewing faint objects that are close to brighter objects — for example, a faint planet next to a bright star. By using a system that receives light only from a certain angle, such devices could have an improved ability to detect faint targets. …

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Human brains ‘hard-wired’ to link what we see with what we do

Your brain’s ability to instantly link what you see with what you do is down to a dedicated information ‘highway’, suggests new UCL-led research.For the first time, researchers from UCL (University College London) and Cambridge University have found evidence of a specialized mechanism for spatial self-awareness that combines visual cues with body motion.Standard visual processing is prone to distractions, as it requires us to pay attention to objects of interest and filter out others. The new study has shown that our brains have separate ‘hard-wired’ systems to visually track our own bodies, even if we are not paying attention to them. In fact, the newly-discovered network triggers reactions even before the conscious brain has time to process them.The researchers discovered the new mechanism by testing 52 healthy adults in a series of three experiments. In all experiments, participants used robotic arms to control cursors on two-dimensional displays, where cursor motion was directly linked to hand movement. Their eyes were kept fixed on a mark at the centre of the screen, confirmed with eye tracking.In the first experiment, participants controlled two separate cursors with their left and right hands, both equally close to the centre. The goal was to guide each cursor to a corresponding target at the top of the screen. Occasionally the cursor or target on one side would jump left or right, requiring participants to take corrective action. Each jump was ‘cued’ with a flash on one side, but this was random so did not always correspond to the side about to change.Unsurprisingly, people reacted faster to target jumps when their attention was drawn to the ‘correct’ side by the cue. However, reactions to cursor jumps were fast regardless of cuing, suggesting that a separate mechanism independent of attention is responsible for tracking our own movements.”The first experiment showed us that we react very quickly to changes relating to objects directly under our own control, even when we are not paying attention to them,” explains Dr Alexandra Reichenbach of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, lead author of the study. “This provides strong evidence for a dedicated neural pathway linking motor control to visual information, independently of the standard visual systems that are dependent on attention.”The second experiment was similar to the first, but also introduced changes in brightness to demonstrate the attention effect on the visual perception system. …

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Warmer temperatures push malaria to higher elevations

Researchers have debated for more than two decades the likely impacts, if any, of global warming on the worldwide incidence of malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that infects more than 300 million people each year.Now, University of Michigan ecologists and their colleagues are reporting the first hard evidence that malaria does — as had long been predicted — creep to higher elevations during warmer years and back down to lower altitudes when temperatures cool.The study, based on an analysis of records from highland regions of Ethiopia and Colombia, suggests that future climate warming will result in a significant increase in malaria cases in densely populated regions of Africa and South America, unless disease monitoring and control efforts are boosted and sustained.”We saw an upward expansion of malaria cases to higher altitudes in warmer years, which is a clear signal of a response by highland malaria to changes in climate,” said U-M theoretical ecologist Mercedes Pascual, senior author of a paper scheduled for online publication in Science on March 6.”This is indisputable evidence of a climate effect,” said Pascual, the Rosemary Grant Collegiate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. “The main implication is that with warmer temperatures, we expect to see a higher number of people exposed to the risk of malaria in tropical highland areas like these.”More than 20 years ago, malaria was identified as a disease expected to be especially sensitive to climate change, because both the Plasmodium parasites that cause it and the Anopheles mosquitoes that spread it thrive as temperatures warm.Some early studies concluded that climate change would lead to a big increase in malaria cases as the disease expanded its range into higher elevations, but some of the assumptions behind those predictions were later criticized. More recently, some researchers have argued that improved socioeconomic conditions and more aggressive mosquito-control efforts will likely exert a far greater influence over the extent and intensity of malaria worldwide than climatic factors.What’s been missing in this debate has been an analysis of regional records with sufficient resolution to determine how the spatial distribution of malaria cases has changed in response to year-to-year temperature variations, especially in countries of East Africa and South America with densely populated highlands that have historically provided havens from the disease.Pascual and her colleagues looked for evidence of a changing spatial distribution of malaria with varying temperature in the highlands of Ethiopia and Colombia. They examined malaria case records from the Antioquia region of western Colombia from 1990 to 2005 and from the Debre Zeit area of central Ethiopia from 1993 to 2005.By focusing solely on the altitudinal response to year-to-year temperature changes, they were able to exclude other variables that can influence malaria case numbers, such as mosquito-control programs, resistance to anti-malarial drugs and fluctuations in rainfall amounts.They found that the median altitude of malaria cases shifted to higher elevations in warmer years and back to lower elevations in cooler years. The relatively simple analysis yielded a clear, unambiguous signal that can only be explained by temperature changes, they said.”Our latest research suggests that with progressive global warming, malaria will creep up the mountains and spread to new high-altitude areas. And because these populations lack protective immunity, they will be particularly vulnerable to severe morbidity and mortality,” said co-author Menno Bouma, honorary senior clinical lecturer at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.In addition, the study results suggest that climate change can explain malaria trends in both the highland regions in recent decades.In the Debre Zeit region of Ethiopia, at an elevation range of between 5,280 feet and 7,920 feet, about 37 million people (roughly 43 percent of the country’s population) live in rural areas at risk of higher malaria exposure under a warming climate.In a previous study, the researchers estimated that a 1 degree Celsius temperature increase could result in an additional 3 million malaria cases annually in Ethiopia in the under-15 population, unless control efforts are strengthened.”Our findings here underscore the size of the problem and emphasize the need for sustained intervention efforts in these regions, especially in Africa,” Pascual said.

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Greece’s deepening health crisis a result of continued healthcare budget cuts, says study

Greece’s health crisis is worsening as a result of continued healthcare budget cuts, says a new study published in the medical journal, The Lancet. Researchers say the harmful effects of austerity are linked to the increasing inability of patients to access the health system, large rises in the incidence of infectious disease, and a deterioration in the overall mental health of Greek people.The authors from the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine find that Greece has had the largest cutbacks to the health sector seen across Europe, as the bailout package capped public expenditure at 6% of GDP. For example, from 2009 to 2011, the public hospital budget was reduced by over 25%. Greece’s public spending on health is now less than any of the other pre-2004 European Union members.Lead author of the study, Alexander Kentikelenis of Cambridge University, said: ‘The data reveals that the Greek welfare state has failed to protect people at the time they needed support the most. A rapidly growing number of Greeks are losing access to healthcare from budget cuts and unemployment.’Senior author Dr David Stuckler from the University of Oxford said: ‘The Greek government -along with their European partners — appears to have been in denial about austerity’s severe impact on health. The cost of austerity is being borne mainly by ordinary Greek citizens, who have been affected by the largest cutbacks to the health sector seen across Europe in modern times. We hope this research will help the Greek government mount an urgently needed response to these escalating human crises.’At a time of increasing health need and falling incomes, Greece’s bailout agreement stipulated shifting the cost of healthcare to patients. The Greek government introduced new charges for visits to outpatient clinics and higher costs for medicines. General health services were also eroded, says the paper. The authors’ analysis of the latest available data from the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions revealed a 47% rise in people who felt they did not receive medically necessary healthcare. …

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Jupiter will be at its highest point in the sky for many years to come

In just over a week, Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, will be at its highest point in the sky for many years to come. Near their closest to Earth, Jupiter and its moons will appear obvious in the sky, offering fantastic opportunities to view the giant planet through a telescope.”Through binoculars you’ll be able to see that Jupiter is distinctly non-star-like and you should be able to make out the Galilean moons of Jupiter — the four largest moons,” said Dr Chris Arridge, astronomer from University College, London. “These go around Jupiter in a matter of days and so you’ll be able to watch them orbit by looking at the giant planet from one night to the next.”Viewing Jupiter will be a highlight of National Astronomy Week (1-8 March 2014) where UK astronomers and local organisations have teamed up to offer opportunities all over the UK to view the giant planet. Both professional and amateur astronomers as well as organisations have been arranging events and activities in locations all over the country, giving members of the public of all ages, opportunities to get involved.Among the events taking place across the UK, are:1 March — 4.30pm until late — Great Ellingham Recreation Centre, Great Ellingham, Attleborough — All things nocturnal! Night time guided walk, talks, star gazing and moth trapping with the RSPB and Breckland Astronomical Society.5 March — 7.30pm — South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre, Chichester: A unique show in the Planetarium Dome where people will be shown the sights to look for in the night sky during the spring.6 March — 4:30-6:30pm and 7-9pm — Almondell Country Park: Join the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh for a night of comet making demonstrations and Jupiter viewing. Activities will be British Sign Language interpreted.7-9 March — 7-9pm — Ruislip Lido in North West London: Come and view Jupiter, the Moon and other sky wonders courtesy of the West of London Astronomical Society. There’ll be telescopes galore to allow you to gaze at the craters and mountains of the Moon, the belts and satellites of Jupiter and the Orion Nebula and the Pleiades star cluster.1-9 March — 4pm — Life Science Centre in Newcastle: Sit back and enjoy a tour of the night sky in the planetarium, zooming into this planetary giant and investigate two of Jupiter’s moons, Io and Europa: Fire and Ice. The price for this event is included in the admission for the Science Centre.1-8 March — Wimbleball Lake, Exmoor National Park: Wimbleball Astrocamp includes a variety of exciting activities for all the family to enjoy including talks and presentations, workshops, Planetarium, telescopes, stargazing opportunities, plus a BBQ on 1, 7 and 8 March (weather dependent). 8 March — 6.30-pm — Kingsland Primary School, Peebles — Star Party and Planetarium Night including talks on how wild birds navigate using moons and stars, public viewing sessions and meteorite viewing.Dr Tom Johnston, Co-ordinator of the Peebles Astronomy Group in the Scottish borders, said: “National Astronomy Week is a wonderful vehicle through which our new Astronomy Group in Peebles can engage with the public and introduce both young and old alike to the hobby. It will provide an opportunity for many here in The Scottish Borders to experience what will be their first views of our beautiful dark skies through a telescope.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). …

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Managed honeybees linked to new diseases in wild bees, UK study shows

Diseases that are common in managed honeybee colonies are now widespread in the UK’s wild bumblebees, according to research published in Nature. The study suggests that some diseases are being driven into wild bumblebee populations from managed honeybees.Dr Matthias Frst and Professor Mark Brown from Royal Holloway University of London (who worked in collaboration with Dr Dino McMahon and Professor Robert Paxton at Queen’s University Belfast, and Professor Juliet Osborne working at Rothamsted Research and the University of Exeter) say the research provides vital information for beekeepers across the world to ensure honeybee management supports wild bee populations.Dr Frst, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, said: “Wild and managed bees are in decline at national and global scales. Given their central role in pollinating wildflowers and crops, it is essential that we understand what lies behind these declines. Our results suggest that emerging diseases, spread from managed bees, may be an important cause of wild bee decline.”This research assessed common honeybee diseases to determine if they could pass from honeybees to bumblebees. It showed that deformed wing virus (DWV) and the fungal parasite Nosema ceranae — both of which have major negative impacts on honeybee health — can infect worker bumblebees and, in the case of DWV, reduce their lifespan.Honeybees and bumblebees were then collected from 26 sites across the UK and screened for the presence of the parasites. Both parasites were widespread in bumblebees and honeybees across the UK.Dr Frst explained: “One of the novel aspects of our study is that we show that deformed wing virus, which is one of the main causes of honeybee deaths worldwide, is not only broadly present in bumblebees, but is actually replicating inside them. This means that it is acting as a real disease; they are not just carriers.”The researchers also looked at how the diseases spread and studied genetic similarities between DWV in different pollinator populations. Three factors suggest that honeybees are spreading the parasites into wild bumblebees: honeybees have higher background levels of the virus and the fungus than bumblebees; bumblebee infection is predicted by patterns of honeybee infection; and honeybees and bumblebees at the same sites share genetic strains of DWV.”We have known for a long time that parasites are behind declines in honeybees,” said Professor Brown. “What our data show is that these same pathogens are circulating widely across our wild and managed pollinators. Infected honeybees can leave traces of disease, like a fungal spore or virus particle, on the flowers that they visit and these may then infect wild bees.”While recent studies have provided anecdotal reports of the presence of honeybee parasites in other pollinators, this is the first study to determine the epidemiology of these parasites across the landscape. …

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Discovery may help to explain mystery of ‘missing’ genetic risk, susceptibility to common diseases

A new study could help to answer an important riddle in our understanding of genetics: why research to look for the genetic causes of common diseases has failed to explain more than a fraction of the heritable risk of developing them.Susceptibility to common diseases is believed to arise through a combination of many common genetic variants that individually slightly increase the risk of disease, plus a smaller number of rare mutations that often carry far greater risk.However, even when their effects are added together, the genetic variants so far linked to common diseases account for only a relatively small proportion of the risk we know is conveyed by genetics through studies of family history.But the major new study, published in the journal PLOS Genetics, shows for the first time in cancer that some common genetic variants could actually be indicators of the presence of much more influential rare mutations that have yet to be found.Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, led an international consortium made up of more than 25 leading academic institutions on the study, which was funded by the European Union.The research, involving 20,440 men with prostate cancer and 21,469 without the disease, identified a cluster of four common genetic variants on chromosome 17 that appeared to give rise to a small increase in prostate cancer risk, using the standard statistical techniques for this type of study.But the study found an alternative explanation for the risk signal — a small proportion of the men with these common variants were in fact carriers of a rare mutation in the nearby HOXB13 gene, which is known to be linked to prostate cancer. Under this ‘synthetic association’, the number of people carrying a cancer risk variant was much lower than had been assumed, but those people who did inherit a variant had a much higher risk of prostate cancer than had been realised.The discovery shows that the prevailing genetic theory — that common cancers are predominantly caused by the combined action of many common genetic variants, each with only a very small effect — could potentially underestimate the impact of rare, as yet undiscovered mutations.The results are important because they show that there is a need for renewed effort by geneticists to find the causal variants, whether common or rare, behind the many common cancer-associated variants identified in recent years.Identifying any underlying rare mutations with a big effect on disease risk could improve the genetic screening and clinical management of individuals at greater risk of developing cancer, as well as other diseases.Study co-leader Dr Zsofia Kote-Jarai, Senior Staff Scientist at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), said: “As far as we are aware, this is the first known example of a ‘synthetic association’ in cancer genetics. It was exciting to find evidence for this theory, which predicts that common genetic variants that appear to increase risk of disease by only a modest amount may indeed sometimes be detected purely due to their correlation with a rarer variant which confers a greater risk.”Our study does not imply how widespread this phenomenon may be, but it holds some important lessons for geneticists in cancer, and other common diseases. It demonstrates the importance of identifying the causal genetic changes behind the many common variants that have already been shown to influence risk of disease.”Our study also demonstrates that standard methods to identify potential causal variants when fine-mapping genetic associations with disease may be inadequate to assess the contribution of rare variants. Large sequencing studies may be necessary to answer these questions unequivocally.”Study co-leader Professor Ros Eeles, Professor of Oncogenetics at The Institute of Cancer Research and Honorary Clinical Consultant at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: “One important unanswered question in cancer genetics — and in genetics of common disease more generally — is why the genetic mutations we’ve discovered so far each seem to have such a small effect, when studies of families have shown that our genetic make-up has a very large influence on our risk of cancer.”Our study is an important step forward in our understanding of where we might find this ‘missing’ genetic risk in cancer. At least in part, it might lie in rarer mutations which current research tools have struggled to find, because individually each does not affect a large number of people.”

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Mixed genes: Interactive world map of human genetic history reveals likely genetic impacts of historical events

When individuals from different groups interbreed, their offspring’s DNA becomes a mixture of the DNA from each admixing group. Pieces of this DNA are then passed along through subsequent generations, carrying on all the way to the present day. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, Oxford University and University College London (UCL) have now produced a global map detailing the genetic histories of 95 different populations across the world, spanning the last four millennia.The interactive world map that is accessible via the internet, details the histories of genetic mixing between each of the 95 populations across Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. It shows likely genetic impacts of historical events including European colonialism, the Mongol Empire, the Arab slave trade and European traders near the Silk Road mixing with people in China.The study, published this week in Science, is the first to simultaneously identify, date and characterise genetic mixing between populations. To do this, the researchers developed sophisticated statistical methods to analyse the DNA of 1490 individuals in 95 populations around the world. “DNA really has the power to tell stories and uncover details of humanity’s past,” said Simon Myers of Oxford University’s Department of Statistics and Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, co-senior author of the study. “Because our approach uses only genetic data, it provides information independent from other sources. Many of our genetic observations match historical events, and we also see evidence of previously unrecorded genetic mixing. For example, the DNA of the Tu people in modern China suggests that in around 1200CE, Europeans similar to modern Greeks mixed with an otherwise Chinese-like population. Plausibly, the source of this European-like DNA might be merchants travelling the nearby Silk Road.”The powerful technique, christened ‘Globetrotter’, provides insight into past events such as the genetic legacy of the Mongol Empire. …

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Mathematical beauty activates same brain region as great art or music

People who appreciate the beauty of mathematics activate the same part of their brain when they look at aesthetically pleasing formula as others do when appreciating art or music, suggesting that there is a neurobiological basis to beauty.There are many different sources of beauty — a beautiful face, a picturesque landscape, a great symphony are all examples of beauty derived from sensory experiences. But there are other, highly intellectual sources of beauty. Mathematicians often describe mathematical formulae in emotive terms and the experience of mathematical beauty has often been compared by them to the experience of beauty derived from the greatest art.In a new paper published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to image the brain activity of 15 mathematicians when they viewed mathematical formulae that they had previously rated as beautiful, neutral or ugly.The results showed that the experience of mathematical beauty correlates with activity in the same part of the emotional brain — namely the medial orbito-frontal cortex — as the experience of beauty derived from art or music.Professor Semir Zeki, lead author of the paper from the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology at UCL, said: “To many of us mathematical formulae appear dry and inaccessible but to a mathematician an equation can embody the quintescence of beauty. The beauty of a formula may result from simplicity, symmetry, elegance or the expression of an immutable truth. For Plato, the abstract quality of mathematics expressed the ultimate pinnacle of beauty.””This makes it interesting to learn whether the experience of beauty derived from such as highly intellectual and abstract source as mathematics correlates with activity in the same part of the emotional brain as that derived from more sensory, perceptually based, sources.”In the study, each subject was given 60 mathematical formulae to review at leisure and rate on a scale of -5 (ugly) to +5 (beautiful) according to how beautiful they experienced them to be. Two weeks later they were asked to re-rate them while in an fMRI scanner.The formulae most consistently rated as beautiful (both before and during the scans) were Leonhard Euler’s identity, the Pythagorean identity and the Cauchy-Riemann equations. Leonhard Euler’s identity links five fundamental mathematical constants with three basic arithmetic operations each occurring once and the beauty of this equation has been likened to that of the soliloquy in Hamlet.Mathematicians judged Srinivasa Ramanujan’s infinite series and Riemann’s functional equation as the ugliest.Professor Zeki said: “We have found that activity in the brain is strongly related to how intense people declare their experience of beauty to — even in this example where the source of beauty is extremely abstract. This answers a critical question in the study of aesthetics, namely whether aesthetic experiences can be quantified.”Professor Zeki added: “We have found that, as with the experience of visual or musical beauty, the activity in the brain is strongly related to how intense people declare their experience of beauty to be — even in this example where the source of beauty is extremely abstract. This answers a critical question in the study of aesthetics, one which has been debated since classical times, namely whether aesthetic experiences can be quantified.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University College London – UCL. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Money makes people right-wing, inegalitarian, UK study finds

Lottery winners tend to switch towards support for a right-wing political party and to become less egalitarian, according to new research on UK data by Professor Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick and Professor Nattavudh Powdthavee of the London School of Economic and the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne.Their study, published as a new University of Warwick working paper under the title “Does Money Make People Right-Wing and Inegalitarian: A Longitudinal Study of Lottery Wins”, shows that the larger the win, the more people tilt to the right. The study uses information on thousands of people and on lottery wins up to 200,000 pounds sterling. The authors say it is the first research of its kind.The authors believe their paper has wide implications for how democracy works. Professor Oswald said he had become doubtful of the view that morality was an objective choice. “In the voting booth, monetary self-interest casts a long shadow, despite people’s protestations that there are intellectual reasons for voting for low tax rates.”“We are not sure exactly what goes on inside people’s brains”, said Nick Powdthavee, “but it seems that having money causes people to favour conservative right-wing ideas. Humans are creatures of flexible ethics.”The authors believe their paper has wide implications for how democracy works. Professor Oswald said he had become doubtful of the view that morality was an objective choice. “In the voting booth, monetary self-interest casts a long shadow, despite people’s protestations that there are intellectual reasons for voting for low tax rates.”The authors’ paper comments that: “The causes of people’s political attitudes are largely unknown. One possibility is that individuals’ attitudes towards politics and redistribution are motivated by deeply ethical view. Our study provides empirical evidence that voting choices are made out of self-interest.”Using a nationally representative sample of lottery winners in the UK – the British Household Panel Survey – the researchers have been able to explore the observed longitudinal changes in political allegiance of the bigger winners to the smaller winners. …

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Detection of Down Syndrome during pregnancy improves for younger women

New figures from the National Down Syndrome Cytogenetic Register (NDSCR) based at Queen Mary University of London, England, reveal the proportion of Down syndrome cases diagnosed antenatally has increased in younger women. Furthermore, Down syndrome diagnoses are occurring earlier in pregnancy for women of all ages.The NDSCR is the only national source of data on pre and postnatal diagnoses of Down, Patau and Edwards syndrome cases in England and Wales. The latest figures are captured in the new NDSCR Annual Report 2012.Key findings from the report (all figures from 2012):There were 1,982 diagnoses of Down syndrome, 64% of which were made during pregnancy. There were an estimated 775 babies born with Down syndrome (an increase from 739 in 2011 and 734 in 2010). The proportion of women under 35 receiving a diagnosis of Down syndrome during pregnancy has increased from 54% in 2008 to 66% in 2012. The proportion for women 35 and over remained constant at 71% from 2008 to 2012. The proportion of women receiving a diagnoses of Down syndrome during pregnancy after screening in the first three months of pregnancy (first trimester) increased from 45% in 2008 to 77% in 2012 for women under 35 and from 68% in 2008 to 80% of 2012 for women 35 and over. The proportion of women having a termination after a diagnosis of Down syndrome during pregnancy has decreased from 92% in 1989-2010 to 90% in 2011-12. The data also shows there were regional differences in the type of screening women were offered. In all the English regions the majority of women were diagnosed after first trimester screening (81%), compared to less than a third of women (31%) in Wales. …

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Extinct ‘mega claw’ creature had spider-like brain

Oct. 16, 2013 — Researchers have discovered the earliest known complete nervous system exquisitely preserved in the fossilized remains of a never-before described creature that crawled or swam in the ocean 520 million years ago.Research led by University of Arizona Regents’ Professor Nick Strausfeld and London Natural History Museum’s Greg Edgecombe has revealed that the ancestors of chelicerates (spiders, scorpions and their kin) branched off from the family tree of other arthropods — including insects, crustaceans and millipedes — more than half a billion years ago.The team discovered the earliest known complete nervous system exquisitely preserved in the fossilized remains of a never-before described creature that crawled or swam in the ocean 520 million years ago.Described in the current issue of the journal Nature, the find belongs to an extinct group of marine arthropods known as megacheirans (Greek for “large claws”) and solves the long-standing mystery of where this group fits in the tree of life.”We now know that the megacheirans had central nervous systems very similar to today’s horseshoe crabs and scorpions,” said the senior author of the study, Nicholas Strausfeld, a Regents’ Professor in the University of Arizona’s department of neuroscience. “This means the ancestors of spiders and their kin lived side by side with the ancestors of crustaceans in the Lower Cambrian.”The scientists identified the 3-centimeter-long creature (a little over an inch) unearthed from the famous Chengjiang formation near Kunming in southwest China, as a representative of the extinct genus Alalcomenaeus. Animals in this group had an elongated, segmented body equipped with about a dozen pairs of body appendages enabling the animal to swim or crawl or both. All featured a pair of long, scissor-like appendages attached to the head, most likely for grasping or sensory purposes, which gave them their collective name, megacheirans.Co-author Greg Edgecombe said that some paleontologists had used the external appearance of the so-called great appendage to infer that the megacheirans were related to chelicerates, based on the fact that the great appendage and the fangs of a spider or scorpion both have an “elbow joint” between their basal part and their pincer-like tip.”However, this wasn’t rock solid because others lined up the great appendage either a segment in front of spider fangs or one segment behind them,” Edgecombe said. “We have now managed to add direct evidence from which segment the brain sends nerves into the great appendage. It’s the second one, the same as in the fangs, or chelicerae. For the first time we can analyze how the segments of these fossil arthropods line up with each other the same way as we do with living species — using their nervous systems.”The team analyzed the fossil by applying different imaging and image processing techniques, taking advantage of iron deposits that had selectively accumulated in the nervous system during fossilization.To make the neural structures visible, the researchers used computed tomography (CT), a technique that reconstructs 3-D features within in the specimen. However, “the CT scan didn’t show the outline of the nervous systems unambiguously enough,” Strausfeld said, “while a scanning laser technique mapping the distribution of chemical elements showed iron deposits outlining the nervous system almost as convincingly but with minor differences.”Next, the group applied advanced imaging techniques to the scans, first overlaying the magenta color of the iron deposit scan with the green color of the CT scan, then subtracting the two.”We discarded any image data that were not present in both scans,” Strausfeld explained. “Where the two overlapped, the magenta and the green added to each other, revealing the preserved nervous system as a white structure, which we then inverted.”This resulted in what resembled a negative X-ray photograph of the fossil.”The white structures now showed up as black,” Strausfeld said, “and out popped this beautiful nervous system in startling detail.”Comparing the outline of the fossil nervous system to nervous systems of horseshoe crabs and scorpions left no doubt that 520-million year-old Alalcomenaeus was a member of the chelicerates.Specifically, the fossil shows the typical hallmarks of the brains found in scorpions and spiders: Three clusters of nerve cells known as ganglia fused together as a brain also fused with some of the animal’s body ganglia. …

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Is the Outlawing of Psychoactive Drugs Tantamount to Scientific ‘Censorship’?

Is the Outlawing of Psychoactive Drugs Tantamount to Scientific ‘Censorship’?October 4th 2013 | By: Staff | Posted In: Drugs and Alcohol, Policy and RegulationThree researchers are protesting the current laws on psychoactive drugs such as marijuana and “magic” mushrooms. These three researchers – David Nutt and Leslie King from Imperial College, London, and David Nichols from the University of North Carolina – believe that the current laws are akin to scientific censorship and say that the unfortunate consequence of laws restricting psychoactive drugs is that research studies that could be conducted to find a valid use in treating anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress are now impossible.Propagators of this view on the current psychoactive law say that the legal prescription drugs often used to treat these …

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Kebab worker injured in horrific accident

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2013 » 10 » Kebab worker injured in horrific accidentKebab worker injured in horrific accidentAn Essex-based kebab manufacturer has been fined after a worker suffered horrific injuries on February 9th 2012.Ethem Torunoglu, 36, from London, was working for Kismet Kebabs when the incident took place and Chelmsford Crown Court was told the man was cleaning a derinding machine when he noticed a piece of meat caught in a stripper comb.Even though the device was still running, Mr Torunoglu decided to try and dislodge the blockage by using a pressure washer, but when this failed to render the unit usable, he simply reached inside and tried to grab the offending debris.The 36-year-old’s hand was drawn inside and a serrated roller began to grind away at his hand and he could not free his limb.Despite there being an emergency stop button right next to the machine, this was just out of reach and he had to wait until a colleague could arrive and disable the unit.Mr Torunoglu was rushed to hospital and doctors treated him for significant injuries, including the loss of all knuckles on his right hand and tendon, vein and flesh damage.These ailments led to a 19-day stay in a medical facility and the 36-year-old had to have three operations to rebuild his limb, including a large skin graft taken from his left thigh. He has since had to undergo two more operations and is awaiting plastic surgery.According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Mr Torunglu has been unable to return to work.HSE inspectors told Chelmsford Crown Court training for the deriding machine was poor and employees had not been made aware of risks involved in cleaning the device.As a result of this, Kismet Kebabs was fined £17,500 and told to pay £7,500 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching two regulations.After the successful prosecution, HSE inspector Julie Rayner said: “This incident was wholly avoidable. Ethem Torunoglu was failed by the company’s lack of proper training, inadequate assessment of risks and lack of effective measures to stop access to dangerous parts of equipment.”By Chris StevensonOr call us on 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Darwin’s dilemma resolved: Evolution’s ‘big bang’ explained by five times faster rates of evolution

Sep. 12, 2013 — A new study led by Adelaide researchers has estimated, for the first time, the rates of evolution during the “Cambrian explosion” when most modern animal groups appeared between 540 and 520 million years ago.The findings, published online today in the journal Current Biology, resolve “Darwin’s dilemma”: the sudden appearance of a plethora of modern animal groups in the fossil record during the early Cambrian period.”The abrupt appearance of dozens of animal groups during this time is arguably the most important evolutionary event after the origin of life,” says lead author Associate Professor Michael Lee of the University of Adelaide’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the South Australian Museum.”These seemingly impossibly fast rates of evolution implied by this Cambrian explosion have long been exploited by opponents of evolution. Darwin himself famously considered that this was at odds with the normal evolutionary processes.”However, because of the notorious imperfection of the ancient fossil record, no-one has been able to accurately measure rates of evolution during this critical interval, often called evolution’s Big Bang.”In this study we’ve estimated that rates of both morphological and genetic evolution during the Cambrian explosion were five times faster than today — quite rapid, but perfectly consistent with Darwin’s theory of evolution.”The team, including researchers from the Natural History Museum in London, quantified the anatomical and genetic differences between living animals, and established a timeframe over which those differences accumulated with the help of the fossil record and intricate mathematical models. Their modelling showed that moderately accelerated evolution was sufficient to explain the seemingly sudden appearance of many groups of advanced animals in the fossil record during the Cambrian explosion.The research focused on arthropods (insects, crustaceans, arachnids and their relatives), which are the most diverse animal group in both the Cambrian period and present day.”It was during this Cambrian period that many of the most familiar traits associated with this group of animals evolved, like a hard exoskeleton, jointed legs, and compound (multi-faceted) eyes that are shared by all arthropods. We even find the first appearance in the fossil record of the antenna that insects, millipedes and lobsters all have, and the earliest biting jaws.” says co-author Dr Greg Edgecombe of the Natural History Museum.

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Should happiness be a key measure and target of development?

Sep. 9, 2013 — As heads of state get ready for the United Nations General Assembly in two weeks, the second World Happiness Report further strengthens the case that well-being is a critical component of economic and social development. The report is published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), under the auspices of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and was launched at an international workshop on September 8.The landmark Report, authored by leading experts in economics, psychology, survey analysis, and national statistics, describes how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations. The Report is edited by John F. Helliwell, Professor, University of British Columbia, and Senior Fellow and Program Co-Director at CIFAR (the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research); Lord Richard Layard, Director of the Well-Being Programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Centre for Economic Performance; and Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Director of the SDSN, and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General.”This year’s report provides country-level happiness rankings and explains changes in national and regional happiness,” said Report editor John Helliwell. Professor Helliwell worked with other CIFAR researchers to analyze data from the Gallup World Poll. “The report reveals important trends and finds six key factors that explain much about national happiness.”The first World Happiness Report, released in 2012 ahead of the UN high-level meeting on Happiness and Well-being, drew international attention as a landmark first survey of the state of global happiness. This new Report goes further. It delves in more detail into the analysis of global happiness data, examining trends over time and breaking down each country’s score into its component parts, so that citizens and policy makers can understand their country’s ranking. …

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