News Bites brings you 5 weekly news in bite-sized forms.

1. Squid ink to replace sharp dental probes

Nanoengineers from the University of California, San Diego, have suggested to image gums after patients gargle a mouthful of squid ink – instead of the conventional process to use sharp instruments to look for signs of gum disease.

Jesse Jokerst and his colleagues described the non-invasive method to measure pocket depth – which could be missed when dentists are pressed for time – through high-resolution photoacoustic ultrasound. This uses a short burst of light from a laser to create acoustical pressure waves.

The squid ink, full of melanin nanoparticles is able to absorb a lot of light and when shot with a laser, the ink in the mouth will heat and swell, creating pressure differences in the gum pockets that the ultrasound can easily detect, Jokerst said.

The team has tested out the method on pig jaws and are now planning clinical trials. Jokerst also hopes to improve the taste of the squid ink rinse which is currently quite salty and somewhat bitter.

2. Six genes are linked with preterm births

Researchers discovered that one of the six genes, which affect whether a woman is likely to have a preterm baby, is linked with the metabolism of selenium.
Researchers discovered that one of the six genes, which affect whether a woman is likely to have a preterm baby, is linked with the metabolism of selenium.

Researchers have identified six genes which affect whether a woman is likely to have a preterm baby.

This could have implications in future testing where intervention could be carried help to help keep the developing baby safe in the mother’s womb for as long as possible.

The researchers compared a genome-wide association study (GWAS) – that looked at the entire DNA maps of 43,500 women of European descent, sourced from the gene testing company 23andMe – to data from 8,600 women and 4,000 newborns tested as part of three different studies in Finland, Denmark and Norway.

Mutations in genes called EBF1, EEFSEC, AGTR2, ADCY5, RAP2C and WNT4 could often point to gestational time. Variations of three genes especially – EBF1, EEFSEC and AGTR2 – were associated with preterm birth, they found.

One of the genes is linked with the metabolism of selenium, which suggests that selenium might be an important in pregnancy.

The researchers cautioned that the findings cannot be extrapolated to women of other ethnic origins, but hope that the study might suggest explanations to preterm births.

3. Peri: representing sound in visual cues

The James Dyson Award for Singapore this year goes to Peri, a device that represents sound in the form of visual cues for deaf people. Pictured here are four of the seven SUTD team members behind the device: (left – right) Daryl Yeo, Andrew Sng, Yi Jiayu and Mr Pavithren V.S. Pakianathan. Photo credit: Seah Kwang Peng/Straits Times.
The James Dyson Award for Singapore this year goes to Peri, a device that represents sound in the form of visual cues for deaf people. Pictured here are four of the seven SUTD team members behind the device: (left – right) Daryl Yeo, Andrew Sng, Yi Jiayu and Mr Pavithren V.S. Pakianathan. Photo credit: Seah Kwang Peng/Straits Times.

Inspired by video games, seven graduates from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) won the James Dyson Award cash prize in Singapore, with their gadget for deaf people.

Known as Peri, it comprises RGB LEDs attached to the edges or sides of a pair of spectacle frames which are connected to a Raspberry Pi – a credit-sized computer with a microphone attached to it. Different colours are then flashed to identify the direction and intensity of a sound.

Users can customise settings in an app to decide which colours and patterns are triggered by different sounds.

The device is targeted at users who have severe hearing loss, are completely deaf or are unable to benefit much from hearing aids.

4. Younger people should be offered statins to prevent heart disease

A study by Imperial College London challenges current guidelines for statins by suggesting that people in their 20s and 30s should be offered statins as it cuts heart disease deaths.

The detailed research (also published on the Circulation journal) focuses purely on the relationship between cholesterol, statins and mortality. The results show that even modest reductions in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) yields a “significant” survival benefit.

Research participants were aged 45 – 64 but the team suggests that the strength of the relationship between statins and improved survival (28%) show that the drugs could be considered for all patients with high-cholesterol, regardless of age.

The results support many experts who have criticised the guidelines issued by the National Institute of Health in the US and Care Excellence, as it placed too much weight on the patient’s age, instead of their cholesterol levels.

Current guidelines state that patients in the lower age bracket are only prescribed statins if they showed a familial risk.

5. Nurses exposed to specific disinfectants at risk of COPD

Data from more than 55,185 nurses in the US who were exposed to specific disinfectants – including bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol and chemicals known as quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) – are at a higher risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD) by almost a third.

The study by Harvard University and the French National Institute of Health and medical Research (Inserm) found that usage of those products once a week, can be associated with an increased risk of COPD, between 24% – 32%.

The study followed nurses for approximately eight years until May 2017. The age, weight and ethnicity of the subjects were also taken into account.

Further research is needed to clarify the impact of disinfectant use in ordinary households. MIMS

Read more:
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Sources:
https://www.statnews.com/2017/09/07/gum-disease-squid-ink/
https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/six-genes-linked-preterm-births-n799361
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/06/millions-people-20s-30s-should-offered-statins-cut-heart-disease/
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/bleach-use-increased-risk-fatal-lung-disease-health-a7939896.html
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/device-for-deaf-people-wins-design-contest?login=true