Does burning the midnight oil make it harder to burn fat?

A new study by researchers at MGHfC found that adolescent sleep timing preferences and patterns are risk factors for obesity and cardiometabolic health, and that these effects are greater in girls.

The team, led by Elsie Taveras, MD, MPH, chief of the Division of General Pediatrics, studied the chronotypes – evening versus morning preferences – and social jet lag – differences in sleep timing between school and free days – of 800 children ages 12 to 17.

They found that teenagers who go to bed late but get up early for school had higher waist circumference and greater abdominal fat deposition than those who go to bed early and get up early. Those with higher levels of social jet lag were also at an increased risk.

Parents can help to counteract these effects by encouraging regular sleeping schedules. Schools could allow more time during the day for academic and athletic activities that often extend into the evening, and physicians can discuss the importance of regular sleep with their patients, the researchers say.

EEG readings can help in diagnosing delirium

Delirium is an acute and fluctuating disturbance of attention and awareness that is associated with dementia, dependence and death, but commonly goes unrecognized.

While clinical tools with standardized questions are commonly used to measure delirium, they involve subjective evaluation of a complex neurologic condition, which can cause disagreement even among experts in the field.

A research team led by Eyal Kimchi, MD, PhD, of the Department of Neurology, demonstrated that EEG scans can be a valuable and objective biomarker for detecting delirium in patients and predicting adverse outcomes.

In a study of 200 patients, the team found the generalized slowing of brain rhythms – shown as abnormal theta or delta waveforms on a routine clinical EEG – were associated with longer patient hospitalizations, worse functional outcomes and increased mortality.

“There is growing concern that delirium severity is associated with worse prognosis, and our study provides for the first time hard clinical data that allows physicians to quantify, track and predict patient outcomes in a more accurate way,” Kimchi says.

A ‘super cool’ method for improving donated liver preservation

Currently, a donor human liver is kept safely for about nine hours outside the body – if it can be stored on ice in a preservative solution at temperatures ranging from 39-46 degrees Fahrenheit – before the tissues become irreparably damaged. At subzero temperatures, the organ would survive longer, but freezing causes serious damage.

MGH Center for Engineering in Medicine researchers Reiner J. de Vries, MD, Shannon N. Tessier, PhD, and Korkut Uygun, PhD, have developed a new method for supercooling human donor livers to subzero centigrade temperatures – without freezing – that can triple the time a donor organ stays safe and viable.

The extra time could mean the difference between success and failure of a liver transplant and reduce the gap between patients in need of a transplant and the number of available donor organs.