Science Round-Up: Proof that dog owners love their pets more than cat owners

Elsewhere, doctors are missing early indications of cardiovascular and metabolic disease, while mobile corona vaccination units will be visiting schools throughout September

Dogs have overtaken cats as Denmark’s most popular pet, according to a survey by the University of Copenhagen.

Some 20 years ago, a survey by Danmarks Statistik showed that cats were the favourite pets of families in Denmark. Now, 20 and 14 percent of families own dogs and cats respectively. In real numbers, it’s around 810,000 dogs vs 730,000 cats.

But the favouritism runs deeper than just numbers, with research revealing that dog owners straight-up love their pets more.

How much would you pay to save your pet’s life?
The study revealed that dog owners are willing to sacrifice more for their pets. Participants were asked if they would pay more than 5,000 kroner for life saving medical care – the alternative to which was to let their pet die.

Some 45 percent of dog owners said they’d pay the bill, compared to only 23 percent of cat owners. It’s a clean sweep for the canines … though the dog owners amongst you may find that figure surprisingly low.

The favourite child
But let’s defer to the most qualified judges: those who own both a cat and a dog. Of those who own both, 78 percent said that the dog meant most to them, while only 11 percent chose the cat.

“The study confirms that dogs are able to open human hearts and wallets in a way that no other animal can,” said Peter Sandøe, the head of the Danish Centre for the Study of Companion Animal Welfare.

Eelgrass meadows crucial to greenhouse gas capture
A study by the University of Southern Denmark into eelgrass beds, which absorb and store carbon and nitrogen, has demonstrated that their loss leads to significant emissions of the two gases. The study compared two areas in western Sweden over a 30-year period: one is rich in eelgrass, the other has seen a decline since the 1980s. Less carbon and nitrogen was found in the seabed sediments where eelgrass used to grow, leading researchers to estimate that a sediment layer of at least 35cm has been eroded away. Over 60 tonnes of carbon and 6.6 tonnes of nitrogen are released for each hectare of eelgrass beds that disappear. Some 60 tonnes of carbon corresponds to 220 tonnes of CO2 – the average CO2 footprint of 17 Danes.

A gin & tonic made from… waste?
In collaboration with Aarhus University, local distillery Njord is piloting production of two new types of sustainable, low-alcoholic beverages made from the waste products of their gin production. “After we have distilled gin, we are left with a tea-like liquid made of water, a little alcohol, boiled junipers, herbs and flowers. It’s a very bitter, not very aromatic round of herbal tea,” said Jens Niklasson, a distiller from Njord. Using this as a base, he and bioengineer Jesper Westergaard Kristensen have developed two new drinks: a tonic and an orange cocktail. “We look forward to putting them both into full-scale production,” said Niklasson.

Early Danish corona vaccine results “really promising”
The first clinical trials from the Danish corona vaccine, catchily named ABNCoV2, have demonstrated “an antiviral response 10 times stronger than natural immunity to COVID-19”, according to Professor Søren Riis Paludan of Aarhus University. In addition, the vaccine does not appear to have any serious side-effects. Paludan calls the early trials “really promising”. The Danish company AdaptVac has developed and patented the technology behind the new vaccine, but in July 2020 the pharmaceutical giant Bavarian Nordic bought the rights to the vaccine and is financing further clinical development.

Mobile vaccination units get ready for school visits
In the coming weeks, education centres in the Capital Region will be visited by vaccination teams in a push to offer the jab to young people aged 15 to 30. Some 250 teaching institutions will be contacted with a time and date for local vaccination by Friday 10 September. “The emergency services, which are responsible for this huge task, will prioritise the efforts so that the areas where the fewest are vaccinated come first. The executive vaccine teams will offer vaccination to everyone – students, staff and others in the immediate area,” says Lars Gaardhøj, City Council chairman.

Cardiovascular and metabolic disease is going undetected in young adults
Obese young adults have significantly higher levels of different markers of cardiovascular and metabolic disease compared to those of healthy weight. However, the high-risk markers are often missed by doctors, according to a study by Aarhus University and Regionshospitalet Herning. The differences between healthy and unhealthy levels can evade detection when a standard risk assessment (blood sugar and cholesterol levels) is conducted. It suggests a need to refine the risk assessment to detect those at greatest risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disease as early as possible.

Researchers discover genetic predisposition to medication side effects
Research in the Capital Region of Denmark’s Biobank has drawn a link between genetic make-up and the risk of serious medication side-effects. The researchers studied people on antihypertensive drugs and found that a particular type of gene change increases the risk of having a life-threatening allergic reaction, angioedema. The risk is 60 percent greater in individuals who have the particular genetic difference. In research circles, the association of this type of genetic change with severe allergic reactions has been in the spotlight for some years. This is a breakthrough step in the process of developing better, safer treatments adapted to individual patients. The leaders of the study are Jonas Ghouse and Morten S Olesen, two doctors at the University of Copenhagen, and Professor Henning Bundgaard from Rigshospitalet.

Regular exercise ‘turns off’ disease genes
Intensive exercise regulates our DNA and can ‘turn off’ disease genes, new research from the University of Copenhagen shows. The study involved eight healthy, young men who were subjected to a six-week intensive training course with endurance training. The results showed genetic adaptation brought on by exercise – a phenomenon broadly called epigenetics. In particular, clear changes were observed in the DNA associated with cognitive functions such as memory and logical thinking, according to metabolic epigenetics expert Professor Romain Barrès.

Breakthrough in visualizing atoms in motion
An international research group of leading scientists has developed a pioneering method of depicting the vibrations and movements of atoms – specifically, the three-dimensional location of atoms in nanoparticles that catalyse chemical processes. The work combines experimental measurements with mathematical modelling. “So far, it has been challenging to determine which atom we are observing because the oscillations of the atoms have ‘smeared’ the images,” said Professor Stig Helveg of DTU Physics. The new model makes it possible to correct for the oscillations that occur when studying nanoparticles under an electron microscope. This allows researchers to focus instead on the chemical information that the images reveal atom by atom.

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