Science & Research

Science & Research Roundup

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, November 9, 2012

Study finds factors can reduce alcohol disorder

Attentive parenting can reduce the risk of alcohol use disorder among teenagers and can overcome genetic predispositions to the disease, according to a study published yesterday in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
In 2010, Robert Miranda Jr., associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Alpert Medical School, along with a team of researchers, discovered a predisposition to AUD among teenagers with the G allele of the A118G SNP of the OPRM1 gene, according to a University press release.
The new study examined a variety of environmental factors, including the influence of parents and peers, to investigate their bearing on the incidence of AUD. Miranda and his team discovered that high parental involvement and low exposure to deviant peers were able to negate the effects of the genetic difference among teenagers genetically predisposed to AUD.
The team interviewed 104 European-Americans from the ages of 12 to 19 for the study, collecting cheek swabs to determine genomic DNA. The study, Miranda told the journal, suggests that environmental factors can have a large protective impact but requires more research to examine the findings within a larger sample.

Fifteen U. faculty named to mathematical society
Fifteen University faculty members were named to the Fellows of the American Mathematical Society this year, the society announced last week. AMS fellows are elected for significant contributions to mathematics, including “creation, exposition, advancement, communication and utilization” of the field, according to the AMS website.
From the Division of Applied Mathematics, Constantine Dafermos, Wendell Fleming, Stuart Geman, John Mallet-Paret, Donald McClure, David Mumford, Chi-Wang Shu and Walter Strauss were elected. Fellows from the Mathematics Department include Thomas Goodwillie, Thomas Banchoff, Stephen Lichtenbaum, Hee Oh, Jill Pipher, Joseph Silverman and John Wermer.
The duties of AMS fellows include taking part in the election of new fellows, presenting a “public face” of excellence in mathematics and advising the president and/or the Council concerning public matters, according to the AMS website, while the program aims to support excellent mathematicians, as well as to increase the presence of mathematicians in leadership positions in society.

Prof’s lab wins genomics contest
Associate Professor of Biology William Fairbrother and members of his lab collaborated with researchers led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to win the national CLARITY genomics contest this year, Bio-IT World reported. The winning team was awarded $15,000 in prize money.
More than 20 teams competed in the contest, analyzing the genomes of three families in an attempt to identify the gene mutations that were causing disease in children in each of the families. Fairbrother’s team identified two splicing mutations in the titin gene, Fairbrother said. Splicing, the process in which superfluous portions are removed from genetic material prior to the synthesis of proteins, can be disrupted when gene mutations prevent proper editing of RNA.
The discovery contributed to the diagnosis of Adam Foye, who suffers from a rare neuromuscular disorder called centronuclear myopathy, Fairbrother said.
The team investigated whether the mutations in Adam’s genes could cause defects in the splicing of the gene using “Spliceman,” an algorithm originally developed in the Fairbrother lab. In March, The Herald reported that Spliceman can efficiently analyze the many possible variances of the splicing process.
“Spliceman calculates how likely these mutations are to disrupt splicing through a statistical model,” Kian Huat Lim GS told The Herald in March.