In brief
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Body of knowledge

A summary of recent findings in clinical, translational and basic science research at UC Davis

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A study led by UC Davis has found significant differences in gut bacteria between Black and white women, even after accounting for their insulin sensitivity status. The study, published in PLOS ONE, is the first to focus on premenopausal Black and white women and to show such differences. By characterizing the gut microbiome in Black women, researchers say they might understand the health disparities in the development of heart and metabolic diseases in this population.

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Taking bile acids or treatments that regulate their production levels may help control inflammation from psoriasis, a UC Davis Health study has found. Published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, it suggests that bile acids may stop immune T cells from producing a proinflammatory protein known as IL-17A and blocking the immune cell movement to the inflammation site. Bile acids significantly inhibited inflammation without causing apparent systemic adverse effects, researchers said.

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New UC Davis MIND Institute research has identified a novel human gene linked to fetal brain development and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The discovery also links the gene to the mother’s early prenatal vitamin use and placental oxygen levels. In a study published in Genome Biology, the researchers used genomic sequencing to find a DNA methylation signature in the placenta of newborns eventually diagnosed with autism. This signature mark was linked to early fetal neurodevelopment.

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UC Davis researchers have discovered a signaling mechanism that allows intracellular bacteria like Salmonella to evade destruction by the host’s immune system. The study, published in Cell Host & Microbe, found that the bacteria can infect macrophages, a type of immune cell. The Salmonella triggers the death of the host macrophage, then tricks other immune cells into safely delivering them into another macrophage rather than destroying them. Understanding the mechanism may help future treatments to help offset growing antibiotic resistance.

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Among other findings, a UC Davis Health-led study published in JAMA Network Open showed that repeated breast cancer screening with 3D mammography only modestly decreases the chance of a false positive result compared with standard digital 2D mammography. The researchers analyzed data collected by the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium on 3 million screening mammograms for 903,495 women aged 40–79 years.

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UC Davis scientists may have unlocked the function of a mysterious structure found on neurons. In a study published in PNAS, researchers revealed the unusual clusters are calcium-signaling “hotspots” that activate gene transcription, allowing neurons to produce crucial proteins. The results may provide information that could shape new research into the role of the signaling in brain function, they said, and perhaps eventually into the development of new classes of therapeutics.