How much a person’s intelligence is governed by nature or nurture has been debated throughout the ages. A new piece of research has thrown some interesting evidence into the mix, identifying over 500 genes that appear to be linked to sharp intelligence. The research is the largest study looking at how genes and intelligence are linked to date. Using the heaps of data gathered by the UK Biobank, scientists at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Southampton, and Harvard University compared DNA variants in over 248,000 people from across the world. As they explain in the Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry, they managed to find 538 genes that play a role in intellectual ability, along with 187 regions in the human genome that are linked to cognitive skills. In theory, this means that scientists could get an insight into your IQ just by analyzing your spit in a pot.
As part of this new study, the researchers tested out this idea and managed to predict differences in intelligence of a group of individuals using their DNA alone. “Our study identified a large number of genes linked to intelligence,” Dr David Hill, from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, said in a statement. “Importantly, we were also able to identify some of the biological processes that genetic variation appears to influence to produce such differences in intelligence, and we were also able to predict intelligence in another group using only their DNA.” That said, the impact of genetics or environment on a person’s intelligence remains as hazy as ever. Their study was only able to predict 7 percent of the intelligence differences between those people, which is not totally definitive. “We know that environments and genes both contribute to the differences we observe in people’s intelligence,” Professor Ian Deary, Principal Investigator, added.
“This study adds to what we know about which genes influence intelligence, and suggests that health and intelligence are related in part because some of the same genes influence them.” So, don’t be too disheartened by the suggestion that some aspects of intelligence could be programmed into your DNA. Just as other scientific studies have suggested, it appears that the brilliance of your brain is also influenced by a cocktail of external influences, from your upbringing and life experiences, to even your health.
Doctors request a urine test to help diagnose and treat a range of conditions including kidney disorders, liver problems, diabetes and infections. Testing urine is also used to screen people for illicit drug use and to test if a woman is pregnant. Urine can be tested for particular proteins, sugars, hormones or other chemicals, certain bacteria and its acidity or alkalinity. Doctors can also tell a lot from how your urine looks and smells. For example dark urine could be a sign of dehydration; a cloudy appearance may suggest infection; if the urine is a reddish colour there may be blood in it; and a sweet smelling urine can be a sign of diabetes. The most common reason for analysing urine is to identify a bacterial infection in your urinary tract, your body’s drainage system for removing urine.
Urinary tract infections are particularly common in women, affecting almost 50% in their lifetime. Urine tests not only tell you if there’s an infection, they can identify the offending organism. That helps the doctor know how best to treat the infection, including prescribing the right type of antibiotic (one that particular microorganism is sensitive to). At the GP, the first test uses a dipstick or strip test (sometimes called a rapid urine test). This involves dipping a specially treated plastic or paper strip into a urine sample collected in a sterile plastic pot. Your GP usually performs a quick dipstick test, where the colour of the test paper changes according to what the urine contains.
The doctor compares the colour of the test strip with a chart of standard colours. If the strip test detects (is positive for) white blood cells (leucocytes), blood and/or chemicals called nitrites, infection is likely. Then, the doctor sends off a sample of the urine to the laboratory for further testing. There, a laboratory technician can view it under a microscope to look for bacteria and cells. If the white cell count is above a baseline level, or if organisms are identified (and the patient has symptoms), an infection is very likely.
Further testing in the laboratory involves culturing the bacteria from the urine (by growing it in a special medium) and testing different antibiotics on it to see which one is most effective. How your urine sample is handled in hospital may be different. Larger hospitals have a laboratory on site and patients will usually wait in the emergency department for the results of the laboratory microscopic evaluation. Doctors then start treatment with this extra information. Patients sent home from the emergency department will still need to visit their GP for the final laboratory results, such as the antibiotic sensitivities. If you are admitted to hospital, treatment will start and may be modified once these results are known. For any of these tests to be valid, the urine sample needs to be sterile (without contamination). To obtain a sterile sample in hospital, that might involve inserting a catheter (a tube that collects urine from the bladder) or a needle into the bladder (suprapubic aspiration). But the most common method is by asking for a mid-stream urine sample (also known as clean-catch urine sample). This is when you urinate the first part of the urine stream into the toilet, collect the middle part of the stream in a sterile container, then empty the rest of the bladder into the toilet. The idea is that the first discarded urine flushes out any bacteria or skin cells from the penis or vagina leaving the mid-stream sample as a truly representative sample to test.
But many patients will recall being asked to provide a urine sample without adequate explanation of how to do it. They are simply handed a sample container and given directions to the toilet. Without instruction patients may not know how to prepare their external genitalia. For women this involves parting the labia or lips of the vagina, while for men, this involves retracting the foreskin. Nor are patients clearly advised how to provide the sample. As a result, they can contaminate the container and its lid by not washing their hands, and their sample often contains the first rather than mid-stream urine. In these cases, what actually gets into the sample are contaminants; cells and bacteria from hands; or cells and bacteria from the lower part of the urinary tract and genitalia. Unfortunately for women, their anatomy is more likely to result in more of this latter contamination. They void urine from the urethra (the tube from the bladder) and through a part of the vagina, while men most often void directly into the container.
If the sample is contaminated there are various consequences. The laboratory will report contamination and advise the doctor to take care in interpreting results. However, a contaminated sample can result in incorrect diagnosis and incorrect or unnecessary treatment. A new sample will probably be needed. This causes delays in diagnosis and treatment, potential anxiety to the patient and additional costs. In our hospital, where the emergency department collects more than 1,000 mid-stream samples each month, women’s samples are contaminated over 40% of the time. In a recent trial visual instructions in the form of cartoons were provided on how to collect the samples. We paid particular attention to hand washing and collection technique. The number of contaminated samples was reduced by 15%. This potentially could save upwards of 150 repeat tests a month and those instructions are now provided to all patients in the emergency department. If you are unsure how to take a sterile sample, ask your doctor or nurse for more information. It can save you the time, inconvenience and worry of coming back for another sample.
Rob Eley, Academic Research Manager, Princess Alexandra Hospital Southside Clinical Unit, The University of Queensland and Michael Sinnott, Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
FRBs are huge emissions of radio waves that last for a few milliseconds. They happen all over the sky and are mostly discovered serendipitously as, in all but one case, they don’t repeat. So far researchers have detected 33 FRBs and while they are gaining a better understanding of them, there is still a lot that we don’t know. All three of the latest signals were detected at the CSIRO’s Parkes Radio Telescope in Western Australia. The first one, FRB 180301, was detected on March 1. FRB 180309 was detected 8 days later, and FRB 180311 just two days ago. FRB 180309 is particularly interesting as it has a signal-to-noise ratio of 411, making it more than 4.5 times brighter than the next best detection. “The burst on 9 March was by far the brightest one we’ve seen,” Professor Maura McLaughlin, from West Virginia University in Morgantown, told New Scientist. “While astronomers don’t know all that much about FRBs – only tens of bursts have ever been detected – we can infer some intriguing details about them,” Danny Price, Breakthrough Listen Project Scientist for Parkes, said in a post about the discovery of FRB 180301.
“Firstly, they exhibit a tell-tale sweep in frequency that suggests they are incredibly far away: billions of light years. FRBs travel billions of years to get to us, and only last a few milliseconds, suggesting the emission mechanism is short-lived. For us to detect them clearly after such a long journey, they have also to be insanely bright.” Being so bright, they have to be produced by some incredibly powerful events. Cataclysms involving black holes and neutron stars have been suggested, as they could release such dramatic levels of energy in a one-off event. The origin of the only repeating radio burst, known as FRB 121102, is to do with neutron stars. However, some researchers think that all FRBs repeat and it’s just a question of waiting for them to do so. Estimates suggest that 10,000 FRBs might be detectable from Earth every single day. Unfortunately, due to limited resources, only a tiny fraction of these are actually detected.