Socio-economics May Lead to Premature Cellular Aging, OSU Research Finds

Pregnant women who had low socioeconomic status during childhood and who have poor family social support appear to prematurely age on a cellular level, potentially raising the risk for complications, a new study has found.

Researchers at The Ohio State University examined blood from pregnant women to evaluate the length of telomeres – structures at the end of chromosomes that are used by scientists as a measure of biological (as opposed to chronological) age. Shorter telomeres mean an older cellular age.

The researchers also asked the moms-to-be about stressors, including low socioeconomic status and trauma during their childhood and current social support.

They found that women who reported low socioeconomic status as kids and who struggled with family support as adults were biologically older, as indicated by shorter telomeres.

This study didn’t examine birth outcomes, but prompted the researchers to wonder if this rapid biological aging could put a woman at greater risk of premature delivery, gestational hypertension, preeclampsia and other problems.

The study included a racially diverse group of 81 pregnant women who were 25 years old on average. They were evaluated during each trimester of pregnancy and again about two months after delivery. Measures of trauma and low socioeconomic status during childhood, along with the measure of current social support, came from questionnaires the women filled out.

Family social support – but not support from partners or friends – emerged as a strong predictor of telomere length, as did low socioeconomic status during childhood.

Advanced maternal age is defined by doctors as 35 or older. It is well-understood that older mothers are at higher risk of having babies with medical and developmental challenges, and it is possible that this applies to moms with advanced cellular age as well.

Telomeres are caps on the ends of chromosomes that shorten as cells replicate – part of the natural aging process. Mitchell compared them to the plastic covering on the end of a shoelace.

The good news: Telomeres can also lengthen, lowering biological age.

For now, telomere assessment is strictly used for research purposes and not something that would translate into clinical practice.
But it’s possible that the knowledge gained by research into cellular aging could prompt useful interventions in obstetrics practices – including greater focus on moms’ psychological well-being and support systems.

The National Institutes of Health and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences supported the study.

Mild Farsightedness Linked to Poor School Performance

Farsighted preschoolers and kindergartners have a harder time paying attention and that could put them at risk of slipping behind in school according to a new study by researchers at OSU.

An estimated 4 to 14 percent of preschoolers have moderate farsightedness, or hyperopia, but it often goes undetected in younger children. When moderate farsightedness is found, glasses aren’t always recommended because there’s disagreement about whether vision correction is appropriate for these children.

But an increasing body of evidence is showing that moderately farsighted 4- and 5-year-olds are at risk of struggling with the building blocks of learning. In the new study, which appears this month in the journal Optometry and Vision Science, researchers tested children with and without farsightedness to evaluate their attention, visual perception and the ability to integrate visual perception and motor skills.

Overall, the children who were moderately farsighted based on results of eye exams performed at the start of the study were significantly more likely to have poorer scores on the attention-related tests.

Though this study didn’t look specifically at the link between attention and learning, previous research has established that difficulties with attention can stand in the way of greater success in the classroom.

The researchers have applied for funding to do a follow-up study to determine the effect of glasses to correct farsightedness on these deficits. Until that work is complete, it remains unclear whether prescribing glasses to children in this age group will help with the setbacks the researchers have discovered.

OSU Researchers get to see electrons leave atoms for first time

Researchers have glimpsed, momentarily, an electron’s-eye view of the world.

They have succeeded for the first time in tracking an electron leaving the vicinity of an atom as the atom absorbs light. In a way akin to taking “snapshots” of the process, they were able to follow how each electron’s unique momentum changed over the incredibly short span of time it took to escape its host atom and become a free electron.

In the journal Nature Physics, the researchers write that following electrons in such fine detail constitutes a first step toward controlling electrons’ behavior inside matter—and thus the first step down a long and complicated road that could eventually lead to the ability to create new states of matter at will.

The technique the researchers used is called RABBITT, or Reconstruction of Attosecond Beating By Interfering Two-photon Transitions, and it involves hitting the atoms in a gas with light to reveal quantum mechanical information. It’s been around for nearly 15 years, and has become a standard procedure for studying processes that happen on very short timescales.

One immediate consequence is that researchers can now classify the quantum mechanical behavior of electrons from different atoms.

OSU Find Positive Correlation Between Exercise and Lupus Symptom Relief

OSU researchers compared mice against a related pilot study in humans and its showing how regular activity and stress reduction could lead to better health in the long run for lupus sufferers.

In the mouse model of lupus, researchers from found that moderate exercise significantly decreased inflammatory damage to the kidneys. While 88 percent of non-exercised mice had severe damage, only 45 percent of the treadmill-exercised animals did.

Researchers believe several biomarkers known to drive inflammation plummeted in the exercise group. Previous studies have supported the idea that physical activity is good for lupus patients, but hard scientific evidence explaining why has been scarce.

Researchers hope to change that through their work and help lupus sufferers relieve some of their pain through this new information on the benefits of exercise and lupus related inflammation.

OSU Studies Folks Who “Trust Their Gut”

People who tend to trust their intuition or to believe that the facts they hear are politically biased are more likely to stand behind inaccurate beliefs, a new OSU study suggests. And those who rely on concrete evidence to form their beliefs are less likely to have misperceptions about high-profile scientific and political issues.

Previous research has shown connections between belief in conspiracy theories and education level, religious fundamentalism and party affiliation. In this study, a belief that truth is political was the strongest predictor of whether someone would buy into conspiracy theories. Garrett also found that those who rely on intuition to assess the truth had a stronger tendency to endorse conspiracies.

They examined data from three nationally representative surveys that included anywhere from 500 to almost 1,000 participants. Their aim was to better understand how people form their beliefs and how that might contribute to their willingness to accept ideas with little or no evidence to support them.

The researchers compared how participants’ approach to deciding what is true was related to their beliefs about hot-button topics. The study included questions about the debunked link between vaccines and autism and the science-based connection between human activity and climate change.

The researchers evaluated survey respondents’ tendency to agree with seven well-known conspiracy theories. More than 45 percent said they didn’t buy that John F. Kennedy was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald alone; 33 percent agreed that the U.S. government was behind the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and 32 percent said Princess Diana’s death was orchestrated by the British royal family.

However, researchers said it’s important to acknowledge that our beliefs aren’t based solely upon political predispositions.