The News – 23 Jan 2015

Overview

  • An angry tweet can make a person’s emotions very clear but new research released today suggests it can also show a community’s risk of heart disease.
  • A large international study has identified variations in the human genome that influence the size of structures deep within the brain.
  • The first results from the Eliminate Dengue project in Townsville, in north Queensland, show a trial to infect mosquitoes with a dengue-resistant bacteria is working.


News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 23rd January 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-22/tweets-can-show-heart-disease-risk-study/6034078

An angry tweet can make a person’s emotions very clear but new research released… suggests it can also show a community’s risk of heart disease.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania analysed 826 million tweets in 1,300 counties in the United States, particularly in the country’s north-east.

Dr Margaret Kern said some tweets indicated the person was in a community with a high risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the US and Australia.

“High risk was associated with a lot of very negative emotion, aggressive words and expletives, words like hate, drama, bored,” Dr Kern said.

“Lower risk was actually associated with a lot more positive things, words like wonderful, friends, drink, company.”

The study found a correlation in those communities between the tweets and the main risk factors for heart disease.

Dr Kern said the study was not looking at an individual’s risk of coronary heart disease but that of their broader community.

The study found areas of states like Pennsylvania and New York were at high risk of coronary heart disease.

Dr Kern said a key message of the research was that health information could be gleaned from social media.

Dr Margaret Kern recently moved to Australia and is now conducting similar research at the University of Melbourne.
She said the early results suggested Australians use Twitter differently to Americans and are more sarcastic. And her analysis will need to take that into account.

The research has been published in the journal Psychological Science.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2015/01/22/4166489.htm

A large international study has identified variations in the human genome that influence the size of structures deep within the brain.

The research offers an insight into why different sub-cortical areas of the brain are larger in some people than others, and could throw light on why some people develop conditions such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and Tourette’s syndrome.

“Many neuropsychiatric diseases and conditions, like depression and schizophrenia have effects on the regions we’ve studied, says study co-author Dr Sarah Medland from Brisbane’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

“Improving our understanding of how these structures develop and how they function might help us work out where changes of those structures are coming from in those diseases,” says Medland.

The meta-analysis using data from 193 institutions from around the globe (which together form a consortium called ENIGMA) appears in the latest edition of Nature.

The data was derived from genetic studies and MRI scans from more than 30,000 people.

The research concentrated on seven structures within the brain that play important roles in everyday behaviours such as learning and memory.
It also looked at a measure of overall brain size.

One of the areas of the brain the research looked at was the putamen, which is involved in body movements and learning. The research identified several genetic variants that influenced the size of this structure.

Others were shown to influence the overall size of brain and the hippocampus, a structure associated with spatial navigation and memory.

Medland says the study demonstrates that a collaborative analysis of genetic and imaging data can identify relationships between genetic variants and human brain development and dysfunction.

“Research of this kind is prohibitively expensive for one institution to do, and none of this work would be possible without all of the input from scientists and participants from around the world.”

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-22/townsvilles-eliminate-dengue-project-making/6034274

The first results from the Eliminate Dengue project in Townsville, in north Queensland, show a trial to infect mosquitoes with a dengue-resistant bacteria is working.

Workers have been releasing the infected mosquitoes in several Townsville suburbs, in the hope they will pass on the dengue-resistant strain.

The project’s Kate Retzki said the program was being expanded from South Townsville into North Ward.

“In South Townsville we are starting to see some wild mosquitoes carry wolbachia which is a really positive indication so far,” she said.

“However, we don’t expect to have results until after the wet season and once we’ve gathered more data.”

She said volunteers from North Ward and Townsville City were needed to take part in the project.

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