Eating disorders and bullying
After conducting a study on the link between bullying and eating disorders with 1,420 children, researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and Duke Medicine were surprised to find bullies were twice as likely to display symptoms of bulimia than those not involved in bullying.
Children ages 9 through 16 who were both victims and bullies had the highest prevalence of anorexia with 22.8 percent compared to 5.6 percent of children not involved in bullying.
Cynthia Bulik, a UNC professor and co-author of the study, said there needs to be more awareness about eating disorders in anyone involved in bullying.
The team will continue to study the outcomes of bullying, including financial and educational outcomes and links between bullying and genetics.
Foreign DNA in tiny animals
UNC researchers have sequenced the genome of the tardigrade, a nearly microscopic animal that can survive in harsh environments — including outer space. They found 17.5 percent of a tardigrade’s genome comes from foreign DNA, a record for animals on Earth.
Bob Goldstein, a biology professor and co-author of the study, said the team knew many animals can acquire foreign genes, but they did not expect the tardigrade to have this much.
The study said tardigrades get foreign genes from bacteria, plants, fungi and some single-celled microorganisms.
The study raises questions not only about the DNA of organisms that can survive in harsh environments but also about how DNA is inherited.
Toxic metals and pregnancy
A team of researchers led by the Gillings School of Global Public Health found a link in pregnant women between toxic metals in the placenta and increased risk of the mother developing preeclampsia, a condition that could cause birth complications and high blood pressure.
The study analyzed 172 pregnant women with and without preeclampsia and then measured the levels of cadmium, selenium and zinc in placental tissue after delivery.
People can be exposed to cadmium from cigarette smoke, fossil fuels and some foods.
UNC obstetrician-gynecologist Kim Boggess, who has studied infectious and immune complications in pregnancy for 20 years, said the study was the natural next step to understanding environmental factors associated with preeclampsia.