August Wrap Up

August has been a busy month.

I wrote about obesity and the fact that diet and laziness is more to blame than your genes.

My monthly Postdoc Problem involved the difficulties of trying to publish.

But here’s a bunch of stuff I’ve read this month which I didn’t have time to write about.

Breast Cancer
A genetic test can be used to identify whether or not breast cancer sufferers need to undergo chemotherapy. “[N]early half of women with early-stage breast cancer who would traditionally receive chemo can avoid it, with little risk of the cancer coming back or spreading in the next five years.”
For those who do have to take chemotherapy, a small study suggested that having a positive outlook can improve side effects. “Women taking hormonal therapies as part of their breast cancer treatment experienced twice as many side effects if they held negative expectations, compared to women who believed the side effects would not be as bad.”

In-Vitro Fertilisation
A new method called in-vitro maturation may help improve IVF, removing the drugs necessary for effective fertilisation. “IVM is likely the future of reproductive medicine, avoiding the need for costly drugs and any detrimental effect of those drugs on the mother or offspring.”

That’s right!  I could have written a whole bunch more about obesity.
A study coming out of Texas A&M University Health Science Center has suggested that standing desks should be present in schools, potentially lowering obesity in children. “[S]tudents who had the standing desks for two years averaged a three percent drop in BMI while those in sitting desks showed the two percent increase typically associated with getting older. Even kids who spent just a year with the desks were found to have a noticeable drop in BMI.”
It’s important to keep a healthy weight, as it can have life long effects. It turns out being fat in middle-age can affect your brain a decade later! Overweight people have less white matter, which is important for efficient signalling. “The volume of white matter in the brains of overweight people at 50 were similar to that seen in the brains of lean people at 60.” Although, the study found no differences in cognitive ability, white matter is affected in multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Surgery is a severe treatment for obesity. A very recent abstract from New Zealand looked at gastric bypass vs a sleeve gastrectomy, with regards to weight loss, diabetes remission and interestingly gut microbiota. The microbiome is currently a sexy beast, and there are plenty of studies looking at the effects of diet on the bacteria which live in your gut, as well as the effects that the bacteria can have on your body. Murphy et al. found that there is a greater difference in the microbiome after a gastric bypass. This coincided with an increase in diabetes remission, potentially because the bacteria can produce “metabolically favourable” short-chain fatty acids.

Diabetes increased mortality risk for cardiovascular death; cancer death; and noncardiovascular noncancer death” Sad face doesn’t even really cover it. A huge study looking at 55,292 people showed that diabetes is directly correlated with a higher rate of mortality.
However, it’s probably not because of a fatty pancreas. “Fatty pancreas was not independently associated with future [Type 2 Diabetes] T2DM.”

So when are you dead? Seeing as you can keep people alive by manually keeping their heart beating, and people survive after being “brain-dead” so who knows really? I don’t know, but there was a recent article in New Scientist that showed that “hundreds” of gene are switched on after death. Normally, DNA breaks down, giving “chaotic” unpredictable results. However, “548 zebrafish genes and 515 mouse genes saw one or more peaks of activity after death;” up to 96 hours after death. Interestingly, this suggests a hugely accurate way of determining the time of death.

Postdoc Problems
Turns out short-term “temporary” contracts aren’t conducive to a happy life. “PhD graduates are not exempt from the negative influences of temporary employment” and that a permanent contract increases job satisfaction. No wonder people are turning away from an academic career. Good news for me hey?..


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