The State of Worldwide Obesity

Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980

Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980

“Adiposity” is the state of being obese or overweight.  The World Health Organization has spent two years studying adiposity in more than 100 countries.  WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity has now released its final report.  Among the findings:

  • Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980
  • The number of adipose children under the age of five has increased from 32 million to 42 million over the past 15 years
  • In Africa, the number of adipose children has nearly doubled, from 4 million to 9 million
  • Asia accounts for nearly half of the total number of adipose children
  • If current trends continue, there will be 70 million adipose children worldwide by 2025

“To date, progress in tackling childhood obesity has been slow and inconsistent,” the authors write.  “The obesity epidemic has the potential to negate many of the health benefits that have contributed to the increased longevity observed in the world.”

In wealthier countries, poorer children are more likely to be adipose.  This is due in part to the cheap availability of unhealthy fast foods and snacks.  In poorer countries, wealthier children are more likely to be adipose.  This is due in part to cultural beliefs that overweight children are considered to be healthier.

The authors conclude that “dieting and exercise alone is not the solution.”  The report calls for a more comprehensive and integrated response from governments, global health organization and individuals.

The report also discusses biological contributors to adiposity, including genes and diabetes.

In a recent study, Chinese researchers investigated the contribution of MicroRNAs to adiposity and insulin resistance.  MiRNAs are small, non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression.  Insulin resistance can contribute to high blood sugar and type-2 diabetes.

The researchers found that 34 miRNAs were expressed differently in obese patients.  In particular, levels of miR-122 were three times higher.  The study concluded that elevated miR-122 is positively associated with obesity and insulin resistance in young adults.  These findings provide a better understanding regarding the role of miRNAs in adiposity and insulin sensitivity.

The scientists used an Agilent bioanalyzer, microarrays, microarray scanner and GeneSpring software in their research.


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The Devastating Effect of Sports-Related Brain Injury

More athletes are getting CTE, a degenerative brain disease

More athletes are getting CTE, a degenerative brain disease

American football has been in the news lately.  Unfortunately, so has chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

CTE is a progressive and degenerative brain disease.  It was originally found in boxing, where participants are subject to repetitive head injuries.  But CTE has increasingly been diagnosed in athletes from other contact sports, including Ken Stabler (football), Chris Benoit (wrestling), Bob Probert (hockey) and Ryan Freel (baseball).  There is speculation that military personnel may also be at risk.

CTE causes parts of the brain to atrophy, lose mass or become enlarged.  It also causes the accumulation of tau, an abnormal protein that interferes with normal brain function.  CTE can affect memory, judgment and impulse control.  Other symptoms include confusion, aggression, depression and dementia.  Currently, the condition can only be diagnosed after the death of the patient.

Researchers are working to better understand CTE, its risks, prevention, diagnosis and treatment.  British researchers conducted a comprehensive study of the relationship between traumatic brain injury and CTE.  Pennsylvania researchers studied brain injury and repair from blast-induced trauma such as military combat.

Australian researchers found elevated brain levels of iron, copper and zinc in patients with traumatic brain injuries.  Mayo Clinic researchers investigated ways to slow or block the unhealthy accumulation of tau.  And in a multi-year study, a Boston University team is analyzing 300 deceased subjects to develop a gold standard for diagnosing CTE.

Agilent has provided funding and materials for CTE research.  Equipment used in CTE research includes the Agilent ICP-MS, LC columns, QuikChange mutagenesis kit and Dako advanced staining solutions.


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Accolades for an Agilent Employee

Dr. Nathalie Bontoux is recognized for her pioneering work

Dr. Nathalie Bontoux is recognized for her pioneering work

Agilent employee Nathalie Bontoux has been getting some nice recognition lately.  Dr. Bontoux is the Go-to-Market Operations Senior Director for Agilent’s Diagnostics and Genomics Group.  With several publications and one patent, she is recognized as a pioneer in the use of microfluidics for the study of single cell transcriptomes.

(Microfluidics deals with low volumes of fluid at the nanoliter level.  Dr. Bontoux describes it as “a discipline that bridges physics and classic hydrodynamics.”  A transcriptome is the set of all messenger RNA molecules expressed in an organism.)

Dr. Bontoux started her career at Agilent as a Product Specialist for the market-leading Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer.  She has since worked in field marketing and sales before being promoted to her current position in August 2014.

In addition to her work at Agilent, Dr. Bontoux has volunteered with disadvantaged children in Marseilles and Bangladesh, and currently works with an organization devoted to young adults with cerebral palsy.

Last October, the École Polytechnique Foundation awarded Nathalie Bontoux its Pierre Faurre Prize.  The annual award recognizes innovation and entrepreneurship, and is given to distinguish an alumnus who demonstrates “a combination of technical expertise, management qualities and success in an international context.”  Dr. Bontoux is the third woman to receive the award.

Dr. Bontoux is also profiled in the Winter 2015 issue of AWIS magazine, published by the Association of Women in Science.  AWIS champions the interests of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics across all disciplines and employment sectors.

“As a student I wanted to study all disciplines, from literature to history to math or physics,” Dr. Bontoux says.  “Eventually, my choices were influenced by people that inspired me.”

In the AWIS article, Dr. Bontoux describes her favorite word as “inspirer,” a French verb that means both inspire and inhale.  “I hope that my story and testimony will inspire other students, particularly girls,” she says.  “I think we should always be looking for inspiration or to inspire others in our daily life.  This just sparks life!”


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