Science Round-Up: Men are worse than women when it comes to being alone … healthwise 

Elsewhere, Copenhagen University boosts spin-out capacity, first Dane gets leaky heart valve treatment and AI to help treat the deaf

There are probably a few men sitting around thinking of the possibilities available should they leave their significant others. 

Well, those possibilities probably don’t include health-related benefits – at least according to new research from the University of Copenhagen (KU).

The research found that men had a higher risk of developing inflammation than women if they split up with their partners or live alone for many years.

“Living alone for more than six years and going through two or more break-ups both heighten the risk of increased inflammation in men, but not in women,” said Rikke Lund, a professor at the Department of Public Health Science at KU who is the main author of the research. 

“In this instance, inflammation refers to chronic tissue irritation and not something related to a virus or bacteria. Men are particularly vulnerable here.”

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Over 1 million live alone
Lund said that it should be considered whether to offer help to those who have split up with their partner or lived alone for many years.

The study monitored almost 5,000 middle-aged men and women using health data, questionnaires and blood tests over the course of two decades. 

More than a million people in Denmark live alone – a figure that has steadily increased since the early 1990s.

KU boosts spin-out capability
The University of Copenhagen has launched a new joint stock company in a bid to improve monetising its research activities – also known as spin-outs. The company, UCPH Ventures, will co-invest in university spin-outs and help see them through the early phases of entrepreneurship, where many spin-outs encounter their greatest challenges. It is the first time a Danish university has established a company for such a purpose. 

First leaky valve operation
Aarhus University Hospital has become the first in Denmark to perform  treatment on a patient with a leaky heart valve (tricuspid insufficiency). The new treatment involves reducing a leak in the valve located between the middle right atrium and the right ventricle using a band that was led into the heart via a vein in the groin. With the new treatment, more patients suffering from the condition can obtain help. Tricuspid insufficiency can be disabling, reduce our quality of life and cause both increased illness and mortality.

Genes linked to fever cramps
A big international study involving researchers from Statens Serum Institut and the Danish psychiatric project iPSYCH have identified seven new genes that increase the risk of fever cramps, which generally affect under-fives. The genes affect how children react to fever and how brain cells function. In contrast to previous research, no link was found between genes associated with psychiatric disorders and genes connected to the increased risk of fever cramps. Most children only experience fever cramps once or twice, but about 7 percent later develop epilepsy. The researchers analysed the DNA of over 7,600 children from Denmark and Australia who had experienced fever cramps and over 83,000 children who hadn’t. The research has been published in the scientific journal Brain. 

Opting out of resuscitation
The government is looking into allowing citizens over 60 the chance to opt out of being resuscitated in the case of a cardiac arrest. According to the Health Ministry, people over 60 will be able to log in at using NemID and tick a box indicating that they have opted out of being brought back to life in case their heart stops. The proposal has been sent to Parliament for approval noting that “it is a civil right where the individual able citizen decides themselves whether he/she is so frail that he/she doesn’t want to be revived following cardiac arrest”. 

Grieving on maternity wards
Special areas will be set aside in Herlev and Hvidovre Hospitals to help families who have lost a child during birth to grieve in private. The initiative, which is part of a 20 million kroner plan to improve maternity ward conditions at the two hospitals, will separate grieving families from maternity wards full of elated new parents. The plan also provides for the establishment three new maternity wards at Herlev and the maternity reception being moved closer to the wards at Hvidovre. 

AI to help treat the deaf
Researchers at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) are looking into how AI can be used in image analysis to help doctors assess whether hearing implants are suitable in given situations. One in five hard-of-hearing or deaf patients have malformations of the inner ear and can benefit from an advanced hearing aid (cochlear implant). But interpreting CT scan images can be very difficult and delay or even rule out the treatment. 

Danish green energy skills to Africa
A comprehensive Danish green energy co-operation involving KU and DTU is set to help develop technology to improve the utilisation of geothermal energy in Kenya and other east African countries. Geothermal activity involves drilling down to underground water, which is warmer the closer it is to the Earth’s core. The warm water, typically about 300 degrees Celsius, is then pumped up and used in the production of electricity. The project will attempt to optimise the technology so that it will become possible to use underground water that is far cooler, about 100-150 degrees. The project, ‘Widespread use of geothermal energy in East Africa’, includes UNEP and several universities and energy companies in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. 

Preventing blood clots in diabetics
In the 1990s, people with Type 2-diabetes had twice the risk of developing blood clots and heart failure compared to the average population. But through preventative treatment, the risk today is only marginally greater than the average, according to research from Aarhus University. With data from almost 210,000 patients with Type 2-diabetes and almost 1 million people without diabetes over a seven-year period, the research showed that the risk of blood clots in the heart fell from 6.8 to 2.8 percent from 1996-99 to 2008-11 – just 0.6 percent higher than the group without diabetes. 

Banner year for kidney transplants
Last year, 108 people received a new kidney at Rigshospitalet the highest number of transplants the city hospital has undertaken since it first started in 1968. Four of the cases involved patients who received a new kidney in combination with an additional new organ. Due to the pandemic, there have been fewer transplants involving living donors in 2021 – just 17 compared to 91 from deceased donors. At the end of 2021, there were 187 people waiting for a kidney transplant at Rigshospitalet. The number peaked at 256 in 2016.