Newswise — Below is a brief roundup of news and story ideas from the experts at UCLA Health. For more information on these stories or for help on other stories, please contact us at [email protected].

Journal scan

Mixed ancestry study provides clues to genetic traits A new multi-institutional study led by scientists at the Bioinformatics Interdepartmental Program at UCLA has found that individuals of mixed ancestry, such as African Americans, inherit a mosaic of ancestry segments from multiple ancestral populations, providing a unique opportunity to investigate the similarity of genetic effects on traits across different ancestries within the same population. The study, which analyzed 38 complex traits in African-European admixed individuals, found very high correlations of causal genetic effects across local ancestries, much higher than the correlation of causal effects across continental ancestries. The findings have implications for the inclusion of ancestry-diverse individuals in genetic studies and suggest that genetic analyses should assume minimal heterogeneity in causal effects by ancestry. The study was conducted by researchers using a new approach called radmix to estimate the correlation of causal genetic effects across local ancestries. The results were replicated using regression-based methods from marginal genome-wide association study summary statistics. The study also found scenarios where regression-based methods yielded inflated heterogeneity-by-ancestry due to ancestry-specific tagging of causal effects and/or polygenicity. Read the study published March 20, 2023 in Nature.

Influenza vaccination rates are low A new study finds that patient portal interventions to remind patients to receive the influenza vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic did not raise influenza immunization rates. UCLA researchers evaluated three health system-wide interventions using the electronic health record's patient portal to improve influenza vaccination rates. The investigators examined different interventions to test messaging strategies based upon behavioral economic principles, plus strategies to make influenza vaccinations more accessible. The strategies included pre-commitment messages, monthly patient reminders, allowing patients to directly schedule their own flu vaccine appointments or get the vaccine at multiple UCLA sites, and flu vaccine reminders sent just prior to existing appointments. However, after analyzing the data of 213,773 patients, the results suggest these interventions did not work to raise flu vaccination rates. The authors conclude that more intensive or tailored interventions are needed to increase influenza vaccination rates beyond just using patient portals. Read the study in the March 2, 2023 issue of Preventive Medicine. 

Visual loss and mask-wearing practices Face mask-wearing practices and their impact on the visual field bear particular importance in the COVID-19 pandemic era. This case series examines 10 participants with no history of ocular impairment or visual field defects who underwent age-corrected visual field testing in both eyes with different types of face masks. Wearing duckbill N95 masks was consistently associated with errors in the inferior visual field, the lower area of peripheral vision that identifies potential obstacles such as curbs and other uneven pavement, when compared to wearing surgical masks or no masks. These findings support public health guidance that has attributed increased risks of falls and accidents to face mask wearing. Read the study in the February 2023 issue of Indian Journal of Ophthalmology.

Childhood trauma linked to worse outcomes among Parkinson’s patients: A new study of people with Parkinson’s disease finds that those who experienced childhood trauma had more symptoms, both motor and non-motor, as well as a decreased quality of life compared to others with the disease. While previous research has found people with neurological disorders have higher rates of adverse childhood events (ACE) compared to the general population, this new study – based on a survey of patients with Parkinson’s – is the first to examine the relationship between ACEs and Parkinson’s and adds to our understanding of the long-term health impacts of childhood traumas. The authors say additional research is needed to understand practical clinical implications, which could pave the way for mental health and social support referral of Parkinson’s patients. Read the study published Feb. 20 in Neurology: Clinical Practice.


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