Coronavirus: why combining the Oxford vaccine with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine could make it more effective

Coronavirus: why combining the Oxford vaccine with Russia's Sputnik V vaccine could make it more effective

When the efficacy of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was announced in late 2020, there was some confusion. The overall efficacy of the vaccine at stopping people developing symptomatic COVID-19, two weeks after the second dose, was 70%. But this wasn’t the whole picture.

This figure was based on averaging the results from two groups. In one group, which was given two full doses, the vaccine was 62% effective at stopping people developing symptoms. But in the second group, a dosing error meant that volunteers received a half dose followed by a full one. This ended up being 90% protective against developing COVID-19.

This was intriguing. Why would giving people less of the vaccine lead to a more effective immune response? The answer to this may lie in the design of the vaccine, and could mean that there are ways to make this vaccine—and others that use the same design—more effective.

How the Oxford vaccine works

Vaccines work by exposing the immune system to recognisable parts—or “antigens”—of pathogens that cause disease, such as bacteria or viruses. The immune system then mounts a response. Immune cells called B cells make antibodies to destroy the pathogen. Sometimes T cells can also be called into action, which eliminate our own cells that have been infected with the pathogen.

Some B and T cells then remember the antigens for the future. At some future point, if the person is exposed to the pathogen, these long-lasting memory cells can quickly order more antibodies to be made to destroy the pathogen and attack infected cells.

In effect, the principle of vaccination is to “mimic” an infection, but in a controlled way so that immunity is generated without causing illness. After a few weeks, once T cells and B cells have been generated, the person vaccinated will be protected. For certain vaccines, this requires two doses, as in some people the first dose alone won’t generate complete immunity. The booster dose ensures as many people as possible acquire protection.

In the case of the coronavirus vaccines, a number of methods are used to present the virus’s antigens to the immune system. Some, such as the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines in China, simply present the body with a whole, inactivated version of the coronavirus. But others instead instruct the vaccinated person’s own cells to produce a specific part of the coronavirus: the spike protein on its outer surface, which is a particularly recognisable antigen.

These vaccines do this by delivering the part of the coronavirus’s genetic code that encodes the spike protein into the cells of the body, which then read the code and start making the protein. Some, such as the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, deliver the code in the form of messenger RNA (mRNA). Others use a harmless virus to get the genetic code inside cells; the Oxford vaccine uses chimpanzee adenovirus, genetically altered so that it’s unable to reproduce, called ChAdOx1. These are known as viral-vector vaccines.

How design could affect efficacy

It’s not yet known why the reduced-dose regimen of the Oxford vaccine showed better efficacy in trials, but it could be down to the viral vector.

When a person is given a viral-vector vaccine, as well as generating an immune response against the coronavirus’s spike protein, the immune system will also mount a response against the viral vector itself. This immune response may then destroy some of the booster dose when it is subsequently delivered, before it can have an effect. This has long been recognised as a problem.

However, a lower first dose might not allow for a strong anti-vector immune response to develop, which could leave the booster dose unscathed and lead to greater overall efficacy. If it turns out that this is the case, then future work will need to establish the optimum dosing regimen for generating the strongest immune response.

The Russian Sputnik V vaccine acknowledges that immunity to the viral vector could be a problem, but comes up with a different solution. It uses two different human adenoviruses—Ad26 and Ad5 (out of the 50 that affect humans) – for its two vaccine doses. This heterologous (or hybrid) vaccine, with different vectors for prime and booster vaccinations, is less likely to have one jab generate an immune response against the viral vector that then interferes with the other. The vaccine is therefore less likely to have a reduced efficacy.

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New method heals skeletal injuries with synthetic bone

bone

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden, in collaboration with colleagues in Dresden, Germany, have developed a way of combining a bone substitute and drugs to regenerate bone and heal severe fractures in the thigh or shin bone. The study, published in the research journal Science Advances, was conducted on rats, but the researchers think that the method in various combinations will soon be commonplace in clinical settings.

“The drugs and materials we used in the study for the regeneration of bone are already approved. We simply packaged them in a new combination. Therefore, there are no real obstacles to already using the method in clinical studies for certain major bone defects that are difficult to resolve in patients. But we want to introduce the technique in a controlled form via clinical studies and have recently been granted ethical approval,” says Deepak Raina, orthopedics researcher and the lead author of the study.

Bones in the human body have a fantastic ability to repair injury, but some defects are so large or complicated that the healing process is delayed or absent. This may be due to the bone having been subjected to a major trauma in connection with a traffic accident for example, or a tumor or infection causing a major bone defect. These cases are currently treated through bone transplantation, usually with bone taken from the patient’s own pelvis.

“In cases involving severe open fractures in the lower leg, over 5 percent of all fractures fail to heal. With our method, we will be able to avoid taking bone from the pelvis, which is a major gain for the patient.”

There is a need for new solutions and several research teams, both in Europe and in the U.S., are working on improving the bone healing process. So far, the injectable cocktail successfully mixed by the Swedish and German researchers consists of three different components: an artificial ceramic material developed in Lund, a bioactive bone protein (rhBMP-2) and a drug, bisphosphonate, that combats bone resorption.

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Broadening horizons for people with quadriplegia

Broadening horizons for people with quadriplegia

A system that uses flexible, breathable magnetic skin allows people with severe quadriplegia to move around and choose their surroundings. Developed by KAUST researchers, the high-tech system relies on the user’s facial expressions to accomplish a wide variety of tasks, from moving down the street to using an elevator.

There are a wide variety of assistive technologies for people with quadriplegia, but most systems are not suitable for patients with severe quadriplegia as they often rely on head or neck movements to work. For these patients, the options are limited to camera, tongue control, voice-assistant and neural detector systems. But these either offer a limited range of gestures or are not compatible with outdoor applications. Some also require invasive attachments or continuous attention while using the system.

“Most existing technologies don’t give people a lot of freedom,” says Abdullah Almansouri, a Ph.D. student in KAUST. “We wanted to develop a solution that works inside the house as well as outdoors, allowing them to move around independently.”

The new integrated system includes magnetic skins, smart glasses, a smart wheelchair and smart gadgets that rely on wireless Bluetooth and infrared communication.

The three magnetic skins are placed between the eyebrows and on each side of the nose to track facial movements, such as moving the eyebrows up and down and the nose left and right. These movements are detected by magnetic field sensors in the smart glasses and are converted into electrical signals that are transmitted to the head unit of the wheelchair.

This unit processes these signals into wheelchair or smart gadget commands, such as turning the lights on or clicking the mouse on a computer. The system currently supports 13 distinct facial gestures.

“We were aiming for something easy and accessible but also that couldn’t be easily triggered by accident,” says Almansouri. “The system itself handles the complexity, so the user is only wearing the glasses and magnetic skin to control their surroundings.”

With his team, Almansouri tested the system on three able-bodied users with a high success rate. The participants took less than 15 minutes to learn how to use the system without assistance, with a worst-case success rate of 93 percent.

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Synced brains: How to bond with your kids – according to neuroscience

Synced brains: how to bond with your kids – according to neuroscience

Many people across the world are still living under tough restrictions or lockdowns because of the pandemic, staying home as much as possible. This means that a lot of parents are spending more time than ever with their children. But how do you turn that time into a deeper relationship?

New research, simultaneously measuring brain activity of parents and children, offers some insights.

To effectively interact with others, we must establish an emotional connection as well as swiftly and accurately infer each other’s goals and intentions. Research shows that this works best if we coordinate our behaviour and bodily responses. Luckily, we have a natural tendency to get in sync with others. For example, we automatically imitate one another –- with classical examples including laughing and yawning –- and engage in complex patterns of coordinated eye gaze or touch.

We even socially synchronise our physiology, for example, through the alignment of our heartbeats and hormone secretion (such as cortisol and oxytocin). When we bond with others, it is as if our entire body engages in a “social dance”.

Socially dancing with others enables us to more easily feel what they are feeling and think what they are thinking. This process, called bio-behavioural synchrony, helps us to more strongly connect with one another. During childhood, being in sync with others is also vital for social, emotional and cognitive development.

Brain-to-brain synchrony

Researchers have recently started testing what happens in the brain when two people interact in this way. Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) “hyperscanning”, brain activity can be measured while people are doing various tasks and wearing a cap linked up with optical sensors. This is done for each participant, and brain activity is then compared. Synchrony arises when there are aligned decreases and increases in the same brain area at roughly the same time.

Studies using this approach with adults have shown that brain activity also tends to become coordinated during interactions. Also, brain-to-brain synchrony was found to be higher in romantic partners compared with friends or strangers.

But what about parents and children? Our new research reveals that brain-to-brain synchrony is also increased when both mums and dads interact with their children, especially when they play or solve problems, such as puzzles, together. Tellingly, the stronger the brain-to-brain synchrony, the more problems parents and children can solve. We have also found increased brain-to-brain synchrony in mums and their kids when they talk to each other.

Engaging in activities with one’s children, such as solving problems through play or simply having a conversation, should therefore always be seen by parents as opportunities to strengthen the parent-child bond and help their children develop vital social, emotional and cognitive skills.

Mums and dads

Brain-to-brain synchrony has been observed to be stronger for children interacting with their parents than with an unknown adult. Although this shows that the parent-child relationship is special in terms of coordinated brains—probably reflecting their closer emotional bond—it does not yet reveal much about the relationships’ underlying qualities. When we looked more closely at how brain-to-brain synchrony between parents and their children related to interaction and relationship quality, we found several additional clues. Interestingly, these clues differed somewhat between mums and dads.

We saw stronger brain-to-brain synchrony during both puzzle solving and conversation if mums and kids took more turns, meaning that they performed the task or spoke alternately—or in succession. The same was true when children were able to more strongly engage in the task instead of being led by their mothers, and so given more autonomy.

Conversely, synchrony diminished during puzzle solving when mothers reported being stressed. In such moments, taking a short break and engaging in self-care may be beneficial for both mothers and children.

In father-child pairs, however, we did not find any links between brain-to-brain synchrony and turn-taking, child autonomy or stress. In turn, we saw higher synchrony in those pairs where dads indicated that being involved in childcare is important for child development and rewarding for themselves.

Take-home message

It seems that brain-to-brain synchrony between mums and dads and their children can be achieved by different means. One possible explanation may be that mother-child interactions are marked by more rhythm and structure, whereas father-child interactions may be somewhat jerkier and energetic. Such different experiences enable children to successfully and simultaneously interact with different types of caregivers and practice a variety of social, emotional and cognitive skills.

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LOL! Jessica Alba Disciplines 3 Kids With Help From 'Spy Cameras'

Jessica Alba has got an eye on her kids at all times! The actress has installed cameras around her Los Angeles home.

How Savannah Guthrie, More Parents Are Homeschooling Kids Amid Coronavirus

“I have spy cameras in their room so I can see [whether] they [are] messing around or … focusing [while doing virtual learning],” the Honest Company creator, 39, said during a Friday, January 15, Ellen DeGeneres Show appearance. “I can call them out. I’m the voice from the ceiling coming in.”

The California native added that when Honor, 12, Haven, 9, and Hayes, 3, bicker, she “can rewind and really see who hit who first.”

How Jenelle Evans, More Celeb Parents Are Keeping Kids Busy in Quarantine

Alba and her husband, Cash Warren, have their hands full at home with their three kids. Their youngest, especially, is “nonstop,” the Fantastic Four star told guest host Stephen “tWitch” Boss. “He literally wakes up, he’s running, he’s throwing ball, he wants to play gold, cars, all of it,” she said.

As for the Golden Globe nominee’s daughters, Honor and Haven are “great” and “different.” Alba explained that her eldest is in “that sweet teen kind of age” and is taller than her mom. “I don’t know how it happened, it happened so fast,” she said. “It’s just like, she’s not the little baby anymore. What happened? I’m looking at her like, ‘You’re bigger than me?’”

Haven is “the best” and loves having a social circle, the L.A.’s Finest star added. “That’s her vibe. She’s really found her way through COVID and all of this and has done it really well.” She has even been teaching her mom TikTok dance routines while quarantining amid the coronavirus pandemic, doing family game nights and binge-watching shows.

Boss, 38, gushed that Alba’s kids have a “boss” mom, but she admitted they call her “so cringey.” She explained that when Honor found out her mom was famous, “she felt so betrayed” and “mortified.”

Stassi Schroeder’s Daughter Hartford, More Celebrity Kids With Unique Names

The entrepreneur said, “She came home and was like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me? You never told me that you were gonna be in grocery stores or in Target?’ A friend [had] brought a magazine to school and put her on blast and Honor was like, ‘What are you doing on this magazine?’ Then I had to break it to her that I was an actress, sometimes I do the magazines.”

Alba loves being a mom and said during a February 2020 event that a lot of her parenting skills translate to running her company. “It’s more about who you surround yourself with,” the Sin City star said at the time. “The goal you end up reaching is great, you’re only thinking of the next challenge you’re wanting to do and the next goal you want to overachieve and what will come. It’s hard not to be totally and completely overwhelmed.”

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Metformin use reduces risk of death for patients with COVID-19 and diabetes

metformin

Use of the diabetes drug metformin—before a diagnosis of COVID-19—is associated with a threefold decrease in mortality in COVID-19 patients with Type 2 diabetes, according to a racially diverse study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Diabetes is a significant comorbidity for COVID-19.

“This beneficial effect remained, even after correcting for age, sex, race, obesity, and hypertension or chronic kidney disease and heart failure,” said Anath Shalev, M.D., director of UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center and leader of the study.

“Since similar results have now been obtained in different populations from around the world—including China, France and a UnitedHealthcare analysis—this suggests that the observed reduction in mortality risk associated with metformin use in subjects with Type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 might be generalizable,” Shalev said.

How metformin improves prognosis in the context of COVID-19 is not known, Shalev says. The UAB findings suggest that the mechanisms may go beyond any expected improvement in glycemic control or obesity, since neither body mass index, blood glucose nor hemoglobin A1C were lower in the metformin users who survived as compared to those who died.

“The mechanisms may involve metformin’s previously described anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic effects,” Shalev said.

The study—first made available in MedRxiv and now published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Endocrinology—included 25,326 patients tested for COVID-19 at the tertiary care UAB Hospital between Feb. 25 and June 22 of last year. Of the 604 patients found to be COVID-19-positive, 311 were African Americans.

The primary outcome in the study was mortality in COVID-19-positive subjects, and the potential association with subject characteristics or comorbidities was analyzed.

Researchers found that Blacks, who are only 26 percent of Alabama’s population, were 52 percent of those who tested positive for COVID-19, and only 30 percent of those who tested negative. In contrast, only 36 percent of the COVID-19-positive subjects were white, while whites made up 56 percent of those who tested negative, further underlining the racial disparity. Once COVID-19-positive though, no significant racial difference in mortality was observed.

“In our cohort,” Shalev said, “being African American appeared to be primarily a risk factor for contracting COVID-19, rather than for mortality. This suggests that any racial disparity observed is likely due to exposure risk and external socioeconomic factors, including access to proper health care.”

Overall mortality for COVID-19-positive patients was 11 percent. The study found that 93 percent of deaths occurred in subjects over the age of 50, and being male or having high blood pressure was associated with a significantly elevated risk of death. Diabetes was associated with a dramatic increase in mortality, with an odds ratio of 3.62. Overall, 67 percent of deaths in the study occurred in subjects with diabetes.

The researchers looked at the effects of diabetes treatment on adverse COVID-19 outcomes, focusing on insulin and metformin as the two most common medications for Type 2 diabetes. They found that prior insulin use did not affect mortality risk.

However, prior metformin use was a different matter. Metformin use significantly reduced the odds of dying, and the 11 percent mortality for metformin users was not only comparable to that of the general COVID-19-positive population, it was dramatically lower than the 23 percent mortality for diabetes patients not on metformin.

After controlling for other covariates, age, sex and metformin use emerged as independent factors affecting COVID-19-related mortality. Interestingly, even after controlling for all these other covariates, death was significantly less likely—with an odds ratio of 0.33—for Type 2 diabetes subjects taking metformin, compared with those who did not take metformin.

“These results suggest that, while diabetes is an independent risk factor for COVID-19-related mortality,” Shalev said, “this risk is dramatically reduced in subjects taking metformin—raising the possibility that metformin may provide a protective approach in this high-risk population.”

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Baby born with heart defect faces more challenges after stroke

AHA news: baby born with heart defect faces more challenges after stroke

Kayla Scritchfield had a normal pregnancy and delivered her second daughter, Ava, thinking all was well. About six hours later, Ava looked purple. Medical personnel whisked away the newborn.

Kayla and her husband, Garrett, were told that Ava probably had a heart defect. She needed to be transported from Salina, Kansas, to Kansas City.

Garrett flew with the medical team and his intubated daughter, wondering if she would survive. After they arrived, doctors inserted a stent to open an artery in Ava’s heart, which had a defect known as transposition of the great arteries. The condition results from the two large arteries of the heart (aorta and pulmonary artery) being connected to the wrong heart chamber.

Open-heart surgery could correct the problem. But Ava’s heart wasn’t strong enough. She healed for 10 days.

The night before Ava’s surgery, Kayla and Garrett were headed out of the hospital for a bite to eat when they got a call to come back. No explanation was given.

Doctors and nurses filled Ava’s room. The nurse assigned to Ava for the night was crying in the hallway. The couple wasn’t allowed in the room. A doctor came out and explained they were trying to start Ava’s heart again because of an error.

“They were changing the IV line, which didn’t get fully locked to keep out all the air, so air slowly filled her IV line when they turned it back on. Air went to her heart and caused her heart to stop. And then as it moved up, it went to her brain and caused her to have a massive stroke,” Kayla said.

Doctors got Ava’s heart beating again, then sent her for tests to look for brain damage. Other evidence of the trauma already was evident. Ava was swollen and her face and hands were covered in deep red splotches because as the air embolism traveled through her body, it burst blood vessels.

“They warned us that there could be some major brain damage or that she could possibly be brain-dead based on the amount of air that had traveled to her brain, which was hard to hear,” Kayla said.

Thankfully, Ava’s brain showed activity, even though it also had some dead spots. She had 20 subclinical seizures, meaning they were experienced but were not visible. Staff took X-rays of Ava’s bowels and intestines to watch the embolism as it worked its way out of her system, checking to see that it didn’t perforate anything.

A day and a half later, Ava woke up and was alert, promptly getting hiccups at 5 p.m. – the same time of day she did when she was in the womb. It was a soothing, positive sign that things may be improving.

At 20 days old, doctors successfully performed her nine-hour heart surgery. Ava was soon ready to go home to Lindsborg, Kansas. By year’s end, she didn’t need any more seizure medication. She did have lingering effects from the stroke, specifically right-sided deficits that left her with braces on her legs and hand.

Now 3, Ava runs and plays and interacts with other kids as best she can. Twice a week, she goes to preschool, where she gets physical, occupational and speech therapy. She receives additional physical and speech therapy at an infant child development center nearby.

“If you didn’t know the background and her story, without watching her closely, you would never be able to tell that she went through all that,” Kayla said. “I always say she’s very resilient and determined.”

Garrett called her a fighter who makes the family smile.

“She’s one of the happiest kids you’ve ever seen,” he said. “She’s got a laugh that will light up a room real quick.”

Ava’s 7-year-old sister, Maleah, helps the family share Ava’s heart story by raising money as part of the American Heart Association’s Kids Heart Challenge that helps children learn how to have a healthy heart. Kayla and Ava also go to schools to discuss how some children are born with congenital heart defects.

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Children with cerebral palsy in rural Uganda have 25 times higher risk of premature death

Children with cerebral palsy in rural Uganda have 25 times higher risk of premature death

A new study by researchers from Karolinska Institutet and Makerere University reveals that children with cerebral palsy in rural Uganda have 25 times higher risk of premature death. The main causes of death were malaria and anemia. The study is to this date the largest study conducted on cerebral palsy in Africa and was published in PLoS One.

The children with severe malnutrition and severe motor impairments were the most likely to die. The study reveals that interventions to prevent malaria infections such as the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, coupled with caregiver training and support, including best feeding practices and simple measures to prevent other infections, could potentially reduce mortality in children with Cerebral palsy in this region.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a developmental disorder and the most common cause of childhood physical disability globally. CP is severalfold more prevalent in low-income and middle-income countries like Uganda compared to e.g., Europe, as demonstrated in the findings of an earlier study conducted in 2015.

However, the researchers noted a lower prevalence in the older age group (8-17 years) than younger age group (2-7 years). To get a better understanding this follow-up study was carried out at the Iganga-Mayuge Health and Demographic Surveillance Site in Eastern Uganda. Earlier in 2015, the researchers screened 31,756 children and identified 97 who were diagnosed as having CP. The children with CP were followed up in 2019 and compared with an age-matched sample of the Demographic Surveillance Site general non-CP population.

“We found that the death rate was 25 times higher in children with CP, compared to the general non-CP population sample. In the CP group, females, and older children (10-18 years) had the highest relative risks of death in relation to the non-CP general population. Furthermore, in children with CP, there was an almost seven times risk of death in those with severe motor impairments compared to those with milder ones.”, says Dr. Angelina Kakooza-Mwesige of Makerere University.

The causes of death in the children with CP, were from common conditions like anemia, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea with a background of malnutrition. In fact, the children with severe malnutrition had a more than three times higher risk of death than those without severe malnutrition. This means that children with CP, and likely other developmental disabilities, have been left out of the powerful interventions that have reduced child mortality from the above-mentioned conditions in the recent decades.

“These results show that Universal Health Coverage is just a slogan, and health care and schooling are not reaching these children,” says Angelina Kakooza-Mwesige.

“We have in our previous studies shown that children with cerebral palsy in Uganda lack access to health care and schooling, and in this study we can see the results of this neglect on these children. Most families have not received support on how to care for their disabled children, and they do not have the money to seek professional care on their own. There is an urgent need for interventions to support their access to health care and education,” says Carin Andrews researcher at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Karolinska Institutet.

Targeted interventions to reduce mortality in the CP child population are needed, such as the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria infections, provision of easy to use, locally available nutritious foods coupled with caregiver information and support. There is a need to reinforce and review the existing laws and policies for all children’s right to health care and schooling, which should include children with disabilities.

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Preemie-born parents linked to children with autism

premature

In a study of medical registry records of nearly 400,000 parent-child pairs from Denmark, a Yale School of Public Health study found that parents who were themselves born very prematurely were nearly twice as likely to have children with autism spectrum disorder.

The study, recently published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, provides solid evidence that autism spectrum disorder risk factors can span multiple generations—a new hypothesis that previously lacked much empirical evidence in humans. According to senior author Zeyan Liew, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, these findings can help spark further research into the underlying mechanisms of autism risk transmission in families.

“It’s already well established that preterm birth and low birth weight of the child are risk factors for autism,” he said. “But this is the first study to show that parental preterm birth and low birth weight might carry some risk for their future offspring as well.”

For their research, Liew and his team evaluated data collected from families across Denmark from 1978 to 2017 as part of its central medical records database. Researchers linked birth records of the parents to the medical records in their offspring to investigate whether there is a link between neonatal characteristics of the parents and autism spectrum disorder risk in their children. Their results suggest that women and men who were born at less than 37 weeks or low birth weight were more likely to have children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder than those without adverse birth characteristics. The study authors reported that some other possible multigenerational risk factors they analyzed, such as grandparents’ education, place of residence, and their age at the time of pregnancy, only contributed minimally to the observed associations.

It remains unclear how exactly autism spectrum disorder risks travel across generations, but Liew said he has some hypotheses. For one, there has been growing evidence showing that changes in gene activity in response to environmental stimuli could be inherited across generations without changing the underlying DNA sequences—a phenomenon known as epigenetic inheritance. “These adverse characteristics at birth may act as a proxy measure of possible heritable epigenetic modifications as a result of harmful prenatal exposures affecting early life growth, which could help explain the multigenerational transmission of disease risk we observed,” Liew said.

Parents who were born with unfavorable characteristics may also be more likely to encounter challenges in the physical, mental, reproductive, or social domains of health in childhood and adulthood. Liew and his group evaluated these factors and found that educational achievement and mental health status of the parents before pregnancy played a small mediating role in the observed associations.

Genetics and other environmental or household factors shared across generations could play a part as well, but the researchers did not have that information for their sample in this study.

Liew and his team plan to do more research in this area to see if the same conclusions hold in other parts of the world and in other populations, with additional considerations of potential methodological challenges of conducting multigenerational studies like this.

“From previous studies, a lot of the findings that we’ve seen in Denmark hold up in other countries as well,” he said. “We think that this is not specific to Denmark, but we need more evidence from other places.”

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Increased exercise in midlife linked with better brain health in later life

exercise older

Scientists in the US have found that the more physical activity people do in midlife the better their brain health in later life. The scientific publication, Neurology, has reported the results today.

The researchers looked at 1,604 volunteers taking part in an existing study, to see if there was a link between activity levels and brain health in later life.

The volunteers reported how much exercise they did at the start of the study and again 25 years later. The research team categorized the amount of exercise the volunteers did at both times points as none, low, middle or high.

The researchers carried out MRI brain scans in volunteers later in life to look for signs of poorer brain health including the presence of a type of brain damage known as cerebrovascular lesions and brain shrinkage.

Scientists linked high levels of mid-life physical activity, over 150 minutes per week with better brain health in later life. This included fewer cerebrovascular lesions in late life.

Dr. Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, “This research adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting exercise as an important way we can look after our brain health. Although the people in the study self-reported their own level of exercise, which could make it less accurate, high levels of mid-life physical activity were linked with fewer signs of brain damage. The observation that those who exercised more had less damage to the small blood vessels that spread through the brain suggest that physical activity may impact brain health largely through effects on the blood supply.

“As the UK’s leading dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK is now funding work to see how feasible it is for people in midlife to take up exercise as part of a healthier lifestyle, with a view to larger trials that assess the effect on brain health.

“Just a third of people think it’s possible to reduce their risk of developing dementia, compared to 77% who believe they can reduce their risk of heart disease. While there is no sure-fire risk way to prevent dementia, our brains don’t operate in isolation from the rest of our bodies and a good rule of thumb for everyone is that what is good for your heart is also good for your brain.

“The best current evidence suggests that as well as staying physically and mentally active, eating a healthy balanced diet, not smoking, drinking only within the recommended limits and keeping weight, cholesterol and blood pressure in check are all good ways to support a healthy brain as we age.”

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