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​Ancestor of sea reptile super predators found in Germany

Press Releases   •   Sep 15, 2017 12:27 BST

A new species of extinct sea monster from the Early Jurassic has been identified by a team of German and Swedish researchers. The fossilized bones were found in a clay pit near the city of Bielefeld in Germany. The findings will be published in the journal Alcheringa.

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Fifty–fifty split best for children of divorce

Press Releases   •   Sep 07, 2017 11:18 BST

Preschool children in joint physical custody have less psychological symptoms than those who live mostly or only with one parent after a separation. In a new study of 3,656 children, researchers from Uppsala University, Karolinska Institutet and the research institute CHESS show that 3–5-year-olds living alternately with their parents after a separation show less behavioural problems and psychological symptoms than those living mostly or only with one of the parents.

The practice of joint physical custody, i.e. children living alternately and spending approximately the same amount of time in their parents’ respective homes, have increased in recent years and is more common in Sweden than in any other countries. Previous studies have shown that school children and adolescents fare well in joint physical custody. Child experts have claimed the practice to be unsuitable for young children since they are assumed to need continuity and stability in their parent relations. However, few studies of preschool children with joint physical custody have been conducted.

Based on parents’ and pre-school teachers’ estimates, the researchers compared behavioural problems and mental symptoms of 136 children in joint physical custody, 3,369 in nuclear families, 79 living mostly with one parent and 72 children living only with one parent. In this sample, joint physical custody was hence more common than living only or mostly with one parent. The symptoms were assessed using the popular “Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire” (SDQ), and showed that both preschool teachers and parents indicated children living mostly or only with one parent to have more difficulties than those living in joint physical custody or in nuclear families. In the parental estimates, there were no significant differences between children in nuclear families and joint physical custody, while pre-school staff reported fewer symptoms of children in nuclear families.

The study is the first of its kind to show how Swedish children this young fare in joint physical custody. The assessments of children’s health from the preschool staff, in addition to those of the parents, is a considerable strength of the study. However, the study design does not allow any interpretations of causal relations. Such interpretations require knowledge of the children’s wellbeing and symptoms before parental separation.

Bergström M., et al (2017) Preschool children living in joint physical custody arrangements show less psychological symptoms than those living mostly or only with one parent, Acta Pædiatrica, DOI: 10.1111/apa.14004, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/apa.14004/full

More information:

Raziye Salari, PhD in Psychology, Research Fellow at the Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Uppsala University, Sweden, tel.: +46 18 471 6574, raziye.salari@pubcare.uu.se

Malin Bergström, PhD, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, and Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS), Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University, Sweden, malin.bergstrom@ki.se, tel.: +46 73 503 0324

Uppsala University -- quality, knowledge, and creativity since 1477
World-class research and outstanding education of global benefit to society, business, and culture.
Uppsala University is one of northern Europe's highest ranked academic institutions. www.uu.se

Preschool children in joint physical custody have less psychological symptoms than those who live mostly or only with one parent after a separation. That shows a new Swedish study of 3,656 children, done by researchers from Uppsala University, Karolinska Institutet and the research institute CHESS, which is now published in Acta Pædiatrica.

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Report on global infectious disease threats highlights challenges, ahead of Uppsala Health Summit 2017

Press Releases   •   Sep 07, 2017 08:37 BST

Infectious diseases are among the biggest threats to health in the world. Recurrent alarms about the risk of disease spread, epidemics and pandemics make the subject highly topical and evoke anxiety in many of us. In a report published today, Uppsala Health Summit lays the basis for discussion at the summit on 10–11 October on how to manage the threats.

The report will inform the dialogue between approximately 200 international decision-makers and experts. It lays out the arguments for a One Health perspective – a viewpoint that encourages veterinarians, public health experts, doctors, biologists, ecologists and social scientists to work together to prevent, detect and respond.

Despite great advances in global health, infectious diseases pose an increasing threat. Some 75 per cent of all new diseases are zoonotic, i.e. they can be transmitted between animals and humans. The opportunities for pathogens to mutate and spread are increasing as a result of intensive meat production, climate change, population increase and international travel. Increasing antimicrobial resistance adds a serious extra dimension.

“By meeting and exchanging experiences under a One Health umbrella, we hope to find a common agenda for early detection, fast and reliable diagnostics and a financially sustainable strategy to meet the threats at an early stage,” says Marianne Elvander, professor and former state epizootiologist at the National Veterinary Institute of Sweden, and chair of Uppsala Health Summit’s programme committee for 2017.

The report gives a broad and up-to-date overview of possibilities and challenges associated with the global threats and how we can avoid life-threatening epidemics or, in the worst case, global pandemics. Some examples of the current issues described and discussed are the following:

What incentives are needed to prevent the transmission of diseases between animals and humans? What are we willing to pay for healthy animal farming and how do we minimise risk behaviour? How can the role of local communities in prevention and control activities be strengthened before a crisis hits, so as to avoid nightmare scenarios like the one that developed during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014? Whose priorities count when funding decisions are made for research on infectious disease, medicines and vaccines? How can we improve access to and applicability of diagnostics tools in places where needs are greatest and what opportunities does big data offer for more effective disease surveillance?

Order the report by sending a note to info@uppsalahealthsummit.se, or download the report at the summit website: www.uppsalahealthsummit.se

Journalists are welcome to attend most parts of the program.

For more information, please contact project leader Madeleine Neil, phone: +46 70 425 0891, madeleine.neil@uadm.uu.se or press officer Anneli Waara, phone: +46 70 425 0718, anneli.waara@uadm.uu.se

Uppsala Health Summit is a collaborative effort between several partners: Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), the National Food Agency, the Medical Products Agency, the National Veterinary Institute, Region Uppsala, Uppsala Monitoring Centre, Forte, Uppsala Municipality and the network Worldclass Uppsala.

Infectious diseases are among the biggest threats to health in the world. Recurrent alarms about the risk of disease spread, epidemics and pandemics make the subject highly topical and evoke anxiety in many of us. In a report published today, Uppsala Health Summit lays the basis for discussion at the summit on 10–11 October on how to manage the threats.

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Genetic effects are influenced by lifestyle

Press Releases   •   Sep 06, 2017 11:29 BST

The risk for developing obesity is influenced by our lifestyle as well as our genes. In a new study from Uppsala University, researchers show that our genetic risk for obesity is not static, but is influenced by our lifestyle. Results from the study have been published in the scientific journal PLOS Genetics.


In the current study, researchers have investigated if genetic effects are influenced by different lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking, socio-economic status, alcohol consumption and physical activity. The study builds on genetic and self-reported lifestyle information from 360,000 middle-aged people in the UK.

"The results of our study clearly show that the environment and the lifestyle interact with the genes," says Mathias Rask-Andersen, researcher at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, who led the study.

For example, the effect of genetic factors was lower in the most physically active participants. Socio-economic status also influenced the genetic effects. The genetic risk for obesity was more pronounced in participants with lower socio-economic status than in participants with higher socio-economic status. One of the most surprising results of the study was that alcohol consumption also influenced the genetic effects. The researchers could clearly see that the genetic effects were lower among those with more frequent alcohol intake. The genetic effect was nearly half as strong in participants who consume alcohol every day compared with never-drinkers.

The results suggest that we can influence our genetic risk by changing our lifestyle. Someone with a strong predisposition for obesity, for instance a person with many overweight relatives, could reduce the effect of their genes by making lifestyle changes. The hope is that the results of this study will lead to new angles of approach to understanding the mechanisms that regulate body weight and to better methods of treating and preventing obesity and overweight. However, it is important to point out that the current study is a population-based study. In such a study, the researchers are unable to assess cause and effect.

"There could be related factors that we do not have information about, which are the real causes of our results. It is therefore important to follow up on our results with more controlled studies to determine cause and effect," says Mathias Rask-Andersen.

For more information please contact Mathias Rask-Andersen, tel: + 46 18-471 4806, + 46 73-534 54 75, email: mathias.rask-andersen@igp.uu.se

Mathias Rask-Andersen, Torgny Karlsson, Weronica E. Ek, Åsa Johansson (2017) Gene-environment interaction study for BMI reveals interactions between genetic factors and physical activity, alcohol consumption and socioeconomic status, PLOS Genetics, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1006977

Uppsala University -- quality, knowledge, and creativity since 1477
World-class research and outstanding education of global benefit to society, business, and culture.
Uppsala University is one of northern Europe's highest ranked academic institutions. www.uu.se

The risk for developing obesity is influenced by our lifestyle as well as our genes. In a new study from Uppsala University, researchers show that our genetic risk for obesity is not static, but is influenced by our lifestyle. Results from the study have been published in the scientific journal PLOS Genetics.

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Fossil footprints challenge established theories of human evolution

Press Releases   •   Aug 31, 2017 17:14 BST

Newly discovered human-like footprints from Crete may put the established narrative of early human evolution to the test. The footprints are approximately 5.7 million years old and were made at a time when previous research puts our ancestors in Africa – with ape-like feet.

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New ancient sea reptile found in Germany – the earliest of its kind

Press Releases   •   Aug 28, 2017 09:10 BST

A previously unrecognized 132 million-year-old fossilized sea monster from northern Germany has been identified by an international team of researchers. Findings published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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​Millions of novel genetic variants found in 1000 Swedish individuals

Press Releases   •   Aug 23, 2017 12:55 BST

An extensive exercise to map genetic variation in Sweden has found 33 million genetic variants, 10 million of which are novel. Large-scale DNA sequencing methods were used to analyse the whole genome of 1000 individuals from different parts of the country. The study was led by researchers at Uppsala University, who have published their findings in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

“This resource will benefit many national research projects investigating the association between genetic variants and diseases,” says Professor Ulf Gyllensten, Uppsala University and SciLifeLab, who has led the project.

The data will also be of immediate use in clinical diagnostics to determine whether a genetic variation in a patient is a cause of disease, or if it is also present among healthy individuals in the population.

“Our study shows the presence of millions of previously unidentified genetic variants in Sweden, the majority of which occur at low frequency in the population. It is crucial to identify these low frequency variants to facilitate the diagnosis of genetic diseases,” says Adam Ameur, bioinformatician at Uppsala University and SciLifeLab, who has been responsible for the data analyses.

Several groups at SciLifeLab have been involved in the sequencing of the 1000 DNA samples and in the development of data analysis methods. Very large amounts of data have been generated, over 100 terabytes for the entire project. Integrity and data security have been a high priority since the DNA sequences contain sensitive and personal information about the individuals.

“The resource is freely available, which enables researchers to quickly investigate genetic variant frequencies among the 1000 Swedish individuals. However, a special request must be approved for access to data on individuals, and all processing must be performed within a custom-built computer system with extra high security,” says Gyllensten.

This work is part of SciLifeLab’s national project initiative in genomics, which has been made possible by grants from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

The variant frequency data is available from swefreq.nbis.se

Citation:

Ameur et al. SweGen: a whole-genome data resource of genetic variability in a cross-section of the Swedish population, European Journal of Human Genetics advance online publication 23 August 2017; doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2017.130,

Contacts:

Ulf Gyllensten, Professor, Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Uppsala University and SciLifeLab, +46 708 99 34 13, ulf.gyllensten@igp.uu.se

Adam Ameur, bioinformatician, Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Medical Genetics and Genomics, +46 70 425 02 79, adam.ameur@igp.uu.se

Uppsala University -- quality, knowledge, and creativity since 1477
World-class research and outstanding education of global benefit to society, business, and culture.
Uppsala University is one of northern Europe's highest ranked academic institutions. www.uu.se

An extensive exercise to map genetic variation in Sweden has found 33 million genetic variants, 10 million of which are novel. Large-scale DNA sequencing methods were used to analyse the whole genome of 1000 individuals from different parts of the country. The study was led by researchers at Uppsala University, who have published their findings in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

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New ultrafast method for determining antibiotic resistance

Press Releases   •   Aug 08, 2017 17:15 BST

Researchers at Uppsala University have developed a new method for very rapidly determining whether infection-causing bacteria are resistant or susceptible to antibiotics. The findings have now been published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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​Functions at old age are influenced by previous lifestyle

Press Releases   •   Jul 21, 2017 14:10 BST

 "Which factors increase the chance of aging with well-maintained functions?" Older men who never smoked, avoided obesity and had held a healthy Mediterranean-inspired diet have good chances of maintaining their independence at a very high age.

These findings were shown in a study conducted at the Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences at Uppsala University and recently published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society.

The study started in 1970, when all men in Uppsala County, born 1920 to 1924, were invited to participate and 2,322 men (82%) participated in the first investigation of the Uppsala Longitudinal Study of Adult Men (ULSAM). The aim was to investigate the relationship between aging with preserved independence and lifestyle factors, including dietary patterns and cardiovascular risk factors.

The participants have so far been followed up on six occasions. At the age of approximately 71, 1,104 of the men answered a questionnaire about lifestyle including education, living conditions and physical activity. Adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet was assessed according to a modified Mediterranean Diet Score derived from a seven-day food record, and blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors were measured.

Sixteen years later, 369 participants, with a mean age of 87, were eligible for evaluation of ‘independent aging’. This was defined as high cognitive function in terms of testing and lack of dementia diagnosis, not institutionalized, and being independent in personal daily activities including being able to walk outdoors on their own.

"Previous studies have shown that very old subjects appraise a preserved function higher than absence of disease," says Kristin Franzon, who is a geriatrician and a PhD student at the Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences.

At the age of 85, 57 % of the men were alive and 75 % of the 369 participants at a mean age of 87 displayed independent aging. Men who never smoked doubled the chance of achieving this independency compared to smokers. Independent aging was also associated with normal weight or overweight (BMI <30 kg / m2) and a waist circumference ≤102 cm, as well as high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet. Similar observations were observed with survival.
Smoking, obesity and an unhealthy diet are risk factors who may affect health, such as COPD, osteoarthritis, brain and cardiovascular disease and cancer.

"As far as we know, this is the only study so far done in men, which shows an association between high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet and independent aging," says Kristin Franzon. 

The Mediterranean-like diet consists of high intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids, fish, fruits, vegetables, cereals and potatoes and less meat and dairy products.

Read the article in Journal of American Geriatrics Society.

Franzon K, Byberg L., Sjogren P, et al. Predictors of Independent Aging and Survival: A 16-Year Follow-Up Report in Octogenarian Men. J Am Geriatr Soc 2017. doi: 10.1111 / jgs.14971

For more information:
Kristin Franzon, PhD student at the Department of Public Health and Care Sciences, Uppsala University, kristin.franzon@pubcare.uu.se

Press: +70 425 23 05

Uppsala University -- quality, knowledge, and creativity since 1477
World-class research and outstanding education of global benefit to society, business, and culture.
Uppsala University is one of northern Europe's highest ranked academic institutions. www.uu.se

"Which factors increase the chance of aging with well-maintained functions?" Older men who never smoked, avoided obesity and had held a healthy Mediterranean-inspired diet have good chances of maintaining their independence at a very high age.

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​Blocking of an enzyme stops brain tumour cells from growing

Press Releases   •   Jul 18, 2017 10:17 BST

By blocking of an enzyme that affects the cellular microenvironment it is possible to stop brain tumour cells from growing. This is shown in a new study published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics by researchers at Uppsala University in collaboration with researchers in Haifa, Israel and Brisbane, Australia.

Brain tumours constitute 25% of all childhood cancers. Among those are malignant forms such as medulloblastoma, a cancer of the cerebellum.

Today, more than half of the medulloblastoma patients can be cured, but there is a need for new treatments. The ability of the tumor cells to metastasize locally within the brain is a significant clinical problem, which causes the disease to recur even after the original tumor is surgically removed.

The study focuses on proteoglycans, a group of molecules that are commonly found in the brain, and that consists of proteins with one or several attached carbohydrate chains. The enzyme that degrades these chains is called heparanase, and the researchers found that medulloblastoma cells, as well as cells from other childhood brain tumours, need this enzyme, which may suggest new ways to treat the tumor.

- Cancer cells invade the normal brain, which makes them difficult to treat. During this invasion, the tumor cells break down the proteoglycans that are found on and between the cells. When we blocked the enzyme heparanase, that degrades proteoglycans, it stopped the growth of the tumor cells, says Karin Forsberg Nilsson, professor at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Uppsala University and SciLifeLab, who has led the study.

The researchers found much higher levels of heparanase in childhood brain tumours than in the normal brain, and furthermore, a molecule that can block this enzyme induces cell death in medulloblastoma cells in culture, while normal brain cells were not affected. In mouse experiments, the researchers found that blocking heparanase shrank the tumours by 80%.

- The study increases our knowledge of how cancer cells interact with the tumor microenvironment. We hope that this can be of use for new therapies, says Argyris Spyrou, PhD student at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Uppsala University, first author of the study.

The study is collaboration between researchers at Uppsala University, Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Haifa, Israel och Zucero Therapeutics, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Spyrou et al. (2017) Inhibition of Heparanase in Pediatric Brain Tumor Cells Attenuates their Proliferation, Invasive Capacity, and In Vivo Tumor Growth. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, http://mct.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2017/07/17/1535-7163.MCT-16-0900

For more information:

contact Karin Forsberg Nilsson, professor at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Uppsala university, e-mail: karin.nilsson@igp.uu.se, phone: 0701-679579

Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) is a Swedish national centre for molecular biosciences with the focus on health and environmental research. The centre combines advanced technical know-how and state-of-the art equipment with a broad knowledge of translational medicine and molecular bioscience.

Press mobile: +46 18 471 23 05

Uppsala University -- quality, knowledge, and creativity since 1477
World-class research and outstanding education of global benefit to society, business, and culture.
Uppsala University is one of northern Europe's highest ranked academic institutions. www.uu.se

By blocking of an enzyme that affects the cellular microenvironment it is possible to stop brain tumour cells from growing. This is shown in a new study published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics by researchers at Uppsala University in collaboration with researchers in Haifa, Israel and Brisbane, Australia.

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