Science Round-up: Genes determine a baby’s body weight at birth, new research reveals – The Post

Science Round-up: Genes determine a baby’s body weight at birth, new research reveals

In other stories, municipalities join hands on climate issues, citizens become porpoise spotters and battery-driven trains are on the table again

‘Give me a child until he is seven and I’ll show you the man’ – Ignatius of Loyola was more perspicacious than he knew (photo: Engin Akyurt/pixabay)
May 3rd, 2019 3:38 pm| by Stephen Gadd

Experts have known for some time that a baby’s birth-weight influences whether the child has a high risk of obesity later in life or develops certain medical conditions.

Now, researchers have been able determine that it is the way the genes of the mother and child interact in the womb that determines the birth-weight, reports DR Nyheder.

Doctor Jens-Christian Holm from the obese child unit at Holbæk Hospital and Professor Torben Hansen from the University of Copenhagen have analysed genetic data from more than half a million people in their study.

Enabling preventive treatment
Their research reveals that the child’s birth-weight is determined by whether the mother and baby’s genes work with or against each other. If a child is very overweight or underweight at birth, there is a good chance that it will become obese or underweight later.

“This gives a clear perspective that you will be able to get an idea whether the baby is at risk later in life, and it also allows for the possibility of preventive treatment,” said Jens-Christian Holm.

Municipalities band together on climate measures
A group of 20 Danish municipalities across the country are joining together in a project called DK2020 to put impetus behind achieving the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement. The goal is to prevent a global temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees. The Realdania Fund, together with green think-tank Concito and the international city network C40, is behind the project. One of the chosen cities is Assens on Funen where the mayor is looking forward to taking part in the project. “Even though our largest city only has 6,000 inhabitants, all of us – both private citizens and municipalities – can do something,” he said. It is also about co-operating with neighbouring municipalities and one of the easily-realisable things would be letting cycle paths cross municipal boundaries to make it easier for people to use bikes and electric bikes on an everyday basis instead of cars.

Funen residents helping researchers as porpoise spotters
The University of Southern Denmark has asked the residents of Funen to help them keep tabs on the porpoises that swim around the island. So far, more than 400 people have downloaded the Marine Tracker app that enables data to be collected on where the porpoises are and whether they are alone or together with other porpoises, DR Nyheder reports. The ‘Funen finds porpoises’ project, which is set to run over the spring and summer, is a preliminary to a country-wide citizen science project to be launched in 2020.

Battery-powered trains could be on the cards
The Danish state railway company DSB, Movia and the Ministry of Transport are carrying out an analysis on the practicality of running direct trains powered by batteries between Copenhagen and Nykøbing Sjælland, reports Ingeniøren. If successful, this could be a much cheaper alternative to installing electric pylons along the Danish railway network. DSB has previously rejected the idea, most recently in 2016, but a new agreement between the government and Dansk Folkeparti has paved the way for looking at two stretches from Copenhagen to Holbæk and on to Kalundborg and Nykøbing Sjælland.

Research funding concentrated in very few hands
A very small elite is receiving the lion’s share of the funding when it comes to research work in Denmark, a new report from the think-tank DEA and the Center for Forskningsanalyse reveals. More exactly, 20 percent of researchers get 90 percent of the available funds. Furthermore, the chance for getting a grant is greater if you are a male professor in natural sciences who has already been granted a large chunk of funding, reports This applies to both monies disbursed by private and public funds.