Investigators working to unravel the impact of genetics versus environment on traits such as obesity may also need to consider a new factor: when individuals were born.In the current issue of PNAS Early Edition a multi-institutional research team reports finding that the impact of a variant in the FTO gene that previous research has linked to obesity risk largely depends on birth year, with no correlation between gene variant and obesity in study participants born in earlier years and a far stronger correlation than previously reported for those born in later years.“Looking at participants in the Framingham Heart Study, we found that the correlation between the best known obesity-associated gene variant and body mass index increased significantly as the year of birth of participants increased,” says Harvard Medical School instructor James Niels Rosenquist of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Psychiatry, lead author of the report. “These results — to our knowledge the first of their kind — suggest that this and perhaps other correlations between gene variants and physical traits may vary significantly depending on when individuals were born, even for those born into the same families.”The authors note that most studies of interactions between genes and the environment have looked at differences within specific birth cohorts —groups born during a particular span of years — which would not account for changes in the larger environment that take place over time. To investigate whether different conditions experienced by different age groups might alter the impact of a gene variant, they analyzed data from participants in the Framingham Offspring Study (which follows the children of participants in the original study) gathered between 1971, when participants ranged in age from 27 to 63, and 2008.Looking at the relationships between participants’ body mass index (BMI), as measured eight times during the study period, the FTO variants they had inherited and when they were born revealed that the previously reported association between a specific FTO variant and BMI was seen, on average, only in participants born in later years. While there was no correlation between the obesity-risk variant and BMI for those born before 1942, in participants born after 1942 the correlation was twice as strong as reported in previous studies. While this study was not able to identify the environmental differences that combine with FTO variant to increase the risk of obesity, the authors note that post-World War II factors such as increased reliance on technology rather than physical labor and the availability of high-calorie processed foods are likely contributors.“We know that environment plays a huge role in the expression of genes, and the fact that our effect can be seen even among siblings born during different years implies that global environmental factors such as trends in food products and workplace activity, not just those found within families, may impact genetic traits,” says Rosenquist. “Our results underscore the importance of interpreting any genetic studies with a grain of salt and leave open the possibility that new genetic risk factors may be seen in the future due to different genetically driven responses to our ever-changing environment.”
Demand from pension funds and other asset owners for knowledge about asset management fees has intensified during the COVID-19 crisis, according to leaders of two data firms.Participants at the IPE Summer Pensions Congress 2020 heard from Chris Sier, chair of UK platform ClearGlass and Eric Veldpaus, founding partner of Institutional Benchmarking Institute in the Netherlands, that both firms had seen work volumes increase in the last four months.Sier said in the investment transparency forum session this morning: “In the pandemic where people have felt themselves almost helpless to deal with external factors that have governed the valuations that you have, you focus on the things you can manage.”One of those things that could be managed – because there was a number that could be arrived at – was costs, he told the online event. “So you may not be able to get to grips with the performance part, because it has an extraneous component, but cost is something you can monitor,” Sier said.“Although it may be because there is this burgeoning surge in demand for transparency in the UK, what we have noticed is our workload has gone up and we have been busier in taking on new clients throughout the past four months,” he said, adding that he could only attribute this extra activity to the pandemic.Veldpaus said the same dynamic had been seen in the Netherlands.However, Sier said that among the investor community, ESG work had seen even more of a fillip during the COVID-19 crisis than had activity around investment costs.“In the hierarchy of interests for pension funds, the other thing people have wanted to get to grips with over the past four months is the degree to which their fund is ESG compliant. So performance and costs, and ESG at the top,” he said.Looking for IPE’s latest magazine? Read the digital edition here.
EVANSTON, Ill. – When Ben Brust missed two deep three-point attempts to open the Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s (19-8, 10-4 Big Ten) road bout with Northwestern (13-14, 4-10 Big Ten) Wednesday night, the game had all the early signs of an anxiety-ridden, Big Ten dogfight.But the dry spell ended in timely fashion and quickly the Badgers found themselves the owners of a 9-0 lead less than five minutes into the game on their way to a 69-41 drubbing of the Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Despite playing on the comforts of its own purple-lined floor, Northwestern lost its touch early and found itself in a hole that, by the time it discovered its own offense, it never had time to climb from.In other words, things had gone just as Bo Ryan and Co. planned.“I said in the huddle, we got to step on their throats early, not let them hang around because if we do its going to be a dogfight,” senior forward Mike Bruesewitz said. “Their coach does a great job here, runs a very, very good system, they control the pace, they make sure they’re going to get the shots they want.”Strong perimeter defense from Wisconsin and an absolutely brutal half offensively for Northwestern left the Badgers with a commanding 16-point lead at the halftime break. The Wildcats limped to only 12 points in the opening 20 minutes – the lowest total for a UW opponent this season – and nine of those points came on three-pointers. Often kicking the ball around the perimeter before tossing up an unfavorable look as the shot clock climbed closer to zero, the home squad finished an ugly 4-of-20 from the field in the first half.Yet Northwestern emerged from the locker room with its offense revived. After two quick baskets from Dave Sobolewski and Reggie Hearn, NU took advantage of a turnover on the opposite end from Brust when Tre Demps hit a three-pointer from the left corner.But UW quickly cut the cord on the offensive electricity with five unanswered points to return its lead to a comfortable 17-point margin.“We knew they were going to flat-hedge, they were coming off screens and things,” Hearn, a senior guard, said. “We knew we would have some fairly open mid-range jumpers and aside from Dave [Sobolewski] hitting a few early in the second half, I don’t think anybody really hit those.”Hearn proved one of the only sparks for Northwestern in the second half, leading his team with 13 points. But even the Wildcats’ most powerful offensive sparkplug shot just 28.6 percent from the floor, a mark representative of his team’s offensive struggles Wednesday night.As the three-point balls failed to fall, it was the ability to feed the ball to the big men inside and collect easy scores right around the basket on misses that allowed UW to jump in the driver’s seat early on.Wisconsin shot just 29.4 percent from three-point territory and instead of forcing the issue, it used its size advantage inside to earn high-percentage looks. Fifth-year senior center-forward Jared Berggren – who did not convert on his one three-point attempt of the night – led the effort with a highly efficient 5-of-9, 12-point performance from the floor.“We fed Berggren, he got a couple easy ones and Ryan [Evans] got some, I got one, Sam [Dekker] got a couple,” Bruesewitz said. “So when shots aren’t falling we got to hit the glass and make sure we feed the big guys down low. We did a good job of that.”The Badgers did not exactly burn the nets down early, and Brust missed his first four looks from three-point land – many of them looks the sharpshooter usually buries with regularity.Brust then regained his rhythm from the perimeter, sinking all three of his shot attempts in the second half, two of them from his preferred spot outside the three-point arc. His renewed energy in the second half left him tied with Berggren for the team-high with 12 points and he also pulled down eight rebounds.“He’s got a nose for the ball,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “That’s something that has made him such a powerful force for us because he can shoot, for the most part … and the fact that he can rebound the way he can, that really helps.”Though never returning to its painfully unproductive first half pace, the Wildcats’ offense quickly slowed and by the midway point of the second half Wisconsin had a 21-point lead.Playing without its top scoring threat in Drew Crawford and with two other likely starters unavailable, the Wildcats looked helpless for stretches Wednesday night and simply lacked the offensive firepower or experience to mount a comeback.NU did not lead for a single minute of play on its home court, never creeping closer than 12 points in the second half.“Northwestern is a team that, they are capable of giving you problems, but at the same time we feel like this is a game we had to win if we want to be there at the end of the conference race,” Berggren said. “This is one where you just got to take care of business, especially with the injuries and some of the unfortunate things they’ve had happen to them.”