Discoveries

From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Fall 2015

Older adults benefit from going green—and blue. That’s the conclusion of a new study by a University of Minnesota alumna and doctoral candidate documenting that being outside in nature is good for health, especially later in life. Green and “blue” spaces—those with still or running water—are particularly beneficial.

Jessica Finlay (M.A. ’13), a doctoral candidate in geography and gerontology, was the lead author of the study. Her team’s research, which was conducted in Vancouver, British Columbia, demonstrated that green and blue spaces, even a simple bench with a view of flowers, promoted feelings of renewal, restoration, and spiritual connectedness.

“We zoomed in to everyday life for seniors between the ages of 65 and 86,” Finlay explains. “We discovered how a relatively mundane experience, such as hearing the sound of water or a bee buzzing among flowers, can have a tremendous impact on overall health.” Getting out in nature, the study found, decreased boredom, isolation, and loneliness while increasing people’s sense of purpose and accomplishment. Finlay says she hopes the study will help urban planners and developers create communities that serve people throughout their lifetimes. The study was published in the July issue of Health and Place.

Fish tales are more than just good campfire stories. According to a first-of-its-kind study by researchers in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, information supplied by anglers using a smartphone app may help revolutionize fish management.

Assistant Professor Paul Venturelli led a team of researchers who analyzed three years’ worth of data from iFish Alberta, an app that allows anglers to report information about their catches in real time.

Using data from the app is a less time-consuming and expensive way to assess fishing quality in lakes and rivers, helping managers more accurately set regulations and plan stocking. In addition to improving the fishing experience, app data may also be useful for work related to rare or invasive species. Venturelli and his team launched the iFish Forever project in Minnesota and Ontario in partnership with The AppDoor (founder of iFish), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission.

Findings were published in the June issue of Fisheries.

Drug manufacturers delay reporting to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adverse events, especially those related to a patient’s death. That’s the conclusion of a study co-authored by Pinar Karaca-Mandic of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Paul Ma of the Carlson School of Management, and Ivan Marinovic at Stanford University.

Federal regulations define an adverse event as one “associated with the use of a drug in humans, whether or not considered drug related.” Reports for such events have to be reported to the FDA within 15 calendar days. The study found that delays are not just by a few days, but several months or years. The coauthors expressed concern that their findings likely underestimate the overall underreporting or misreporting of serious or adverse events, because there could be cases in which drug manufacturers fail to report at all by classifying serious events as non-serious. Timely reporting of adverse events is crucial to the FDA because they use the information to update drug warnings.

Pharmaceutical companies have long been accused of withholding important safety information. This study is the first to systematically find evidence for delayed reporting of adverse events.

The study was published in the July 27 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

A study led by researchers in the University of Minnesota’s Biomedical Informatics and Computational Biology program has found a three-way link among antibiotic use in infants, changes in the gut bacteria, and disease later in life. The imbalances in gut microbes, called dysbiosis, have been tied to infectious diseases, allergies and other autoimmune disorders, and obesity.

Senior author Dan Knights and his colleagues found that in the case of allergies, for example, antibiotics may eradicate key gut bacteria that help immune cells mature. Such cells are essential for keeping the immune system at bay when confronted with allergens. Even if these bacteria return, the immune system remains impaired. Related to obesity, antibiotic-induced changes in the gut microbiota resulted in increased levels of short-chain fatty acids that affect metabolism.

The study also examined the development of bacteria in the gut. Researchers demonstrated that an infant’s age could be pinpointed within 1.3 months based on the maturity of their gut bacteria, a finding that could lead to a clinical test and interventions for children whose microbiome is developmentally delayed due to antibiotics or other factors.

The findings were published June 15 in Cell Host & Microbe.

MINNESOTA ALUMNI MAGAZINE, Fall2015

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