Number Of Infections Can Impact Cognitive Ability Interview with:
Dr. Michael Eriksen Benrós
Mental Health Centre Copenhagen
University of Copenhagen Faculty of Health Sciences
Copenhagen NV, Denmark,
National Centre for Register-based Research
Aarhus University Denmark

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Response: It is increasingly recognized that infections and immune responses can affect the brain and activate immunocompetent cells within the brain, influencing on neuronal signal transduction and possibly cognition. Impaired cognition has been observed in association with several infections and with elevated levels of CRP in smaller studies. Furthermore, experimental activation of inflammatory reactions in healthy volunteers has been shown to induce short-term reduced cognitive performance. Moreover, particularly patients with infection in the brain or sepsis have been shown to have affected cognition in long time periods after the infection has been cleared, thus infections might also have a longer lasting effect on cognition. However, large-scale longitudinal studies had been lacking on the association between infections and cognitive ability in the general population.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Response: Our study is the first large-scale study utilizing the extensive Danish registers to follow 190,000 males that had their IQ assessed at conscription, out of which 35% had a previous hospital contact with infection before the IQ testing was conducted. Our research shows a correlation between severe infections with a hospital contact and subsequent impaired cognition corresponding to an IQ score of 1.76 lower than the average. People with five or more hospital contacts with infections had an IQ score of 9.44 lower than the average. The study thus shows a clear dose-response relationship between the number of infections. Furthermore the effect on cognitive ability increased with the temporal proximity of the last infection and with the severity of the infection. Infections in the brain affected the cognitive ability the most, but many other types of infections severe enough to require a hospital contact where also associated with impairment of the cognitive ability.

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Elderly Hypertensive Patient With Declining Kidney Function Risk Cardiovascular Events

Enayet Karim Chowdhury, Research Fellow Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine Monash University The Alfred Centre Melbourne VIC Interview with:
Enayet Karim Chowdhury, Research Fellow
Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine
School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine
Monash University The Alfred Centre
Melbourne VIC 3004

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Chowdhury: The study was conducted on elderly treated hypertensive population. Australia is currently undergoing a demographic transition towards having increasing number of older people. As age advances quality of life becomes increasingly affected by a variety of chronic diseases including poor renal function. Therefore early detection and management of the risk associated with these chronic diseases is crucial. Managing hypertension, even though challenging, can significantly improve quality of life of a person by reducing risk of having cardiovascular events. The main finding of the study is that in elderly treated hypertensive people, a rapid decline in renal function was associated with a higher risk of having cardiovascular events irrespective of having chronic kidney disease or not. Continue reading

Minimal Differences Between Young Adults Raised by Gay/Lesbian or Heterosexual Parents

Dr. Simon Cheng PhD. Department of Sociology University of Connecticut, Storrs, Interview with:
Dr. Simon Cheng PhD.

Department of Sociology
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Cheng: Our research is an empirical response to the Regnerus study, one of the most visible and controversial articles ever published in the social sciences.  His study concluded that individuals raised by a gay or lesbian parent display less favorable adulthood outcomes than those who grew up in intact biological families.  There have been many debates about the study’s conclusion and analysis, but we (Cheng and Powell) are the first to reassess Regnerus’s findings by analyzing his own data.  Our reanalysis seriously calls into question his conclusions. We find that a large number of the people studied in the Regnerus study likely were misclassified as living with gay/lesbian parents.  The misclassifications took several forms:

  • Of the 236 people Regnerus defined as being raised by a “lesbian mother” or “gay father’ 24 (10%) report that they actually never lived with that parent
  • An additional 34 (14%) report that they lived with that parent for a year of less.
  • The 236 people include some questionable responses that lead us to doubt the seriousness of the person completing the survey. The most notable example is a 25 year-old man who reports that his father had a romantic relationship with another man, but also reports that he (the respondent) was 7-feet 8-inches tall, weighted 88 pounds, was married 8 times, and had 8 children.  Another person claims to have been arrested at age 2.
  • The 236 people also include responses that at best are inconsistent and illogical.  For example, one person repots “having always live alone but also claims to have always lived with the mother, father, and two grandparents.”

After reviewing each case, we demonstrated that at least one-third and up to two-fifths were miscounted by Regnerus as having been raised by gay or lesbian parents. Regnerus’s disputable findings are due to these misclassifications and other questionable methodological choices.  When the analyses are more carefully done, our results show minimal differences between young adults who were raised by gay and lesbian parents and young adults who were raised by heterosexual parents. Continue reading

Early Life Exposure To Antibiotics May Impact Adult Health Interview with:
Ms. Pajau Vangay

Graduate Research Fellow
Biomedical Informatics and Computational Biology
Vice President of Grants, Council of Graduate Students
University of Minnesota

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Previous studies showed links between antibiotic use and unbalanced gut bacteria, and others showed links between unbalanced gut bacteria and adult disease. Over the past year we synthesized hundreds of studies and found evidence of strong correlations between antibiotic use, changes in gut bacteria, and disease in adulthood.

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Proximity To Liquor Stores Linked To Gun Violence, Especially In Distressed Neighborhoods

Marie Crandall, MD, MPH, FACS Associate Professor of Surgery Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Chicago, IL Interview with:
Marie Crandall, MD, MPH, FACS
Associate Professor of Surgery
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Chicago, IL 60611


Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Crandall: While the association between alcohol and interpersonal violence has been well established, research has been divided with respect to the direct effect of proximity to an establishment with a liquor license and violence.  We used geographic regression analysis, which is a type of multivariate regression including geography as a variable, to examine the association between proximity to an establishment with a liquor license, such as a liquor store or tavern, and gun violence in Chicago.

We utilized our state trauma registry and geocoded 11,744 gunshot wounds that occurred between 1999-2009.  On the assumption that different neighborhoods might experience risk differently, we used a combination of ordinary least squares and geographic regression analysis to identify homogenous areas with similar risk.  We used sociodemographic variables as covariates in the analysis.

We found that the impact of proximity to an establishment with a liquor license and occurrence of gunshot wounds varied markedly by neighborhood.  The areas of highest risk were found to have enormous associations, Odds Ratios (OR) greater than 500.  These areas also tended to be more socioeconomically distressed areas of the city.

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Obesity Leads To Reversible Changes In Diabetes-Predisposition Genes interview
Dorota Kaminska, MSc
Department of Clinical Nutrition
University of Eastern Finland

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide, making it one of the biggest health problems currently facing both developed and developing countries. Obesity is considered a primary risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. While the majority of people with type 2 diabetes are obese, most of obese people do not develop diabetes, indicating that obesity is not the only risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Both obesity and type 2 diabetes are multifactorial complex diseases that are caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Results from twin studies suggest that genetic factors explain 50% to 90% of the variance in body mass index (BMI) and from 45% to 85% of the diabetes risk. However genetic variations identified by genome wide association studies (GWAS) explain only 2-4% of the obesity risk and 5-10% of the type 2 diabetes risk. Several options have been debated to be a source of so called “missing heritability”, including, among others, structural DNA variations, gene-gene and gene-environment interactions, epigenetic modifications and RNA splicing.

We used adipose tissue samples from Kuopio Obesity Surgery (KOBS), very low calorie diet (VLCD), Metabolic Syndrome in Men (METSIM) and European Network on Functional Genomics of Type 2 Diabetes (EUGENE2) studies to determine alternative splicing pattern of selected genes.

The study focused on determining the effects of obesity and weight loss on alternative splicing of metabolically active genes (TCF7L2 and INSR). We showed that alternative splicing of both genes is dysregulated in obesity and type 2 diabetes, resulting in impaired insulin action in adipose tissue. Additionally we demonstrated, that obesity induced changes in splicing can be reversed by weight loss induced by gastric bypass surgery or very low calorie diet.

Furthermore, the study identified alternatively spliced genes in the genomic regions associated with obesity risk, demonstrating that splicing of the MSH5 gene in subcutaneous fat is regulated by weight loss. The study also found that body mass index is a main determinant of TRA2B, BAG6 and MSH5 splicing in subcutaneous fat; however, the functional consequences of this finding require further investigation. These findings imply that the obesity-associated gene variants might act through regulation of splicing which in turn might underlie the pathogenesis of obesity in individuals carrying the risk variants.

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Chemotherapy Before Ovarian Cancer Surgery May Benefit Some Patients Interview with:
Mr Matthew Nankivell
MRC Clinical Trials Unit at University College London
Institute of Clinical Trials and Methodology
Aviation House, London

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Ovarian cancer is diagnosed in over 7000 women each year in the UK. Over 75% of these already have advanced disease, for which the standard treatment is surgery followed by platinum based chemotherapy. The prognosis for these patients remains poor however, with less than 25% surviving for 5 years. There is consistent evidence that achieving optimal debulking (meaning less than 1cm of residual tumour after surgery) is key to increasing survival. The theory tested in Chorus is that giving the chemotherapy before surgery (neo-adjuvantly) would be as least as effective as giving it post-operatively, and may in fact increase the chance of achieving optimal debulking, and subsequently living for longer.

In Chorus we randomised 552 women to receiving either the current standard of immediate surgery followed by chemotherapy, or chemotherapy followed by surgery. The trial met its primary aim of showing that neo-adjuvant chemotherapy was no worse than post-operative chemotherapy, with median survival times of 24.1 and 22.6 months respectively. The proportion of women achieving optimal debulking increased from 41% in the post-operative chemotherapy group to 73% in the neo-adjuvant chemotherapy group. Additionally we saw that fewer women experienced serious post-operative complications having had neo-adjuvant chemotherapy (14% vs 24%), and fewer women died within 28 days of surgery (<1% vs 6%).

There is a planned meta-analysis, to combine the data from Chorus with those from a similar European trial, which will allow further investigations to take place, and may allow the identification of groups of women who are more likely to benefit from one or other of the approaches.

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All-Cause Mortality Decreased In Post-Menopausal Women Who Reduce Sedentary Time Interview with:
Jasmine Lee, M.Sc. and Chris I. Ardern, Ph.D.
School of Kinesiology and Health Science
York University
Toronto, ON, Canada

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Response: Although the benefits of physical activity are well known, the health and mortality risks associated with sedentary time (activities <1.5 MET)—which can occur in long, continuous bouts, such as at the workplace, during motorized transportation and via screen time— have been less frequently explored, and may differ across subgroups of the population. Like physical activity, sedentary time may fluctuate with major life events and occupation (e.g. aging, retirement, etc.), which raises the question of the short-term relationship between changes in sitting time and mortality risk.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Response: Maintenance of minimal sedentary time, as well as short-term reduction in sedentary time, were found to reduce the risk of all-cause and cancer- mortality amongst a sample of middle-aged and older women (50-79 y) who are prone to high rates of physical inactivity and sedentary time.

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Breastfeeding Rates Remain Low Among Minority Women Interview with:
Katherine Jones, M.A.
Research Associate, Department of Research
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Department of Psychology, American University

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response:  It is well evidenced that breastfeeding is highly advantageous for the mother, child, and society. Benefits to breastfeeding may be significantly larger for minority women as they are disproportionately affected by numerous adverse health outcomes. The benefits of breastfeeding may help mitigate some of these negative health consequences, and thus, also bridge larger gaps in racial and ethnic health disparities. This article aimed to review the literature on racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding rates and practices, conduct a systematic review of breastfeeding interventions, address barriers to breastfeeding among minority women, and provide obstetrician-gynecologists (ob-gyns) with recommendations on how they can help improve rates among minority women.

Overall, racial and ethnic minority women continue to have lower breastfeeding rates than white women in the United States, with African American women having the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and continuation among to all women. Minority women report several unique barriers to breastfeeding, including lack of access to information that promotes and supports breastfeeding, lack of work and cultural acceptance and support, language and literacy barriers, acculturation, and historical, sociopolitical, and economic challenges. Results from the systematic review of breastfeeding interventions among minority women indicated that breastfeeding-specific clinic appointments, enhanced breastfeeding programs, group prenatal education, peer counseling, and hospital policy changes significantly improve breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity. Continue reading

Circulating Colon Cancer DNA Mutations May Predict Metastases

Dr. Jeanne Tie Medical Oncologist | Royal Melbourne and Western Hospital Research Fellow Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research Parkville, Interview with:
Dr. Jeanne Tie
Medical Oncologist | Royal Melbourne and Western Hospital
Research Fellow
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
Parkville, VIC

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Tie: The increasing number of active agents available to treat metastatic colorectal cancer has resulted in an ever-improving life expectancy in this group of patients. However, the ability to expose patients with metastatic colorectal cancer to all effective anti-cancer treatment, particularly 3rd line treatment and beyond, is increasingly challenging in routine practice as some patients’ condition deteriorate too rapidly and do not live long enough to enjoy the benefit of these additional therapies. This is partly due to the current imaged-based method of assessing treatment response with the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST), which is usually performed every 8-12 weeks during the course of treatment. This means that for non-responders to treatment, several weeks to months will elapse before a switch to alternative therapy will be made. Conceptually, if a patient’s response to treatment could be made earlier, such as with a blood test,  then an earlier switch to an alternative treatment can be made, minimizing the side-effects of the ineffective therapy and providing the opportunity for a more effective one. Currently, blood biomarkers add little to imaging-based assessment, with CEA lacking sensitivity and specificity.

Colorectal cancer is characterised by several recurrently mutated genes and advances in genomics and molecular technologies have now enabled rapid detection and quantification of these cancer-specific mutations in patient’s circulation (circulating tumor DNA – ctDNA). Previous studies have demonstrated that ctDNA can be detected in a high proportion of patients with advanced cancer. In this study, we describe the potential role of ctDNA as an early predictor of treatment response in patients with treatment naïve metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) undergoing chemotherapy and as a marker of disease bulk that could complement RECIST measurement. Continue reading