A Look Back at Boston University’s Top Research from 2018

Reflecting on the past year, researchers at BU tackled everything from brain diseases, to social media, to safe sex. These are the top five stories from 2018.

We give you the five most breakthrough research discoveries out of Boston University’s 17 schools and colleges over the past year.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine discovered a growing health threat from “Snapchat dysmorphia” — a fixation with an imagined or minor flaw in your appearance based on selfies on apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facetune. It’s a tech-era twist on body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a long-known impairment that affects up to 2.4 percent of the population. Learn more about the phenomenon where patients seek out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves here.

Photo source: Flickr License: Creative Commons

The deaths of Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and other unarmed Black victims at the hands of police sparked a national conversation about racism and policing. A study led by researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health found that states with a greater degree of structural racism — particularly residential segregation — have higher racial disparities in fatal police shootings of unarmed victims. Learn more about the relationship between structural racism and racial disparities in fatal police shootings here.

Condoms are the only form of contraception that effectively protect against sexually transmitted infections and are 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when used properly. Yet many people forgo using them. The World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, and the Gates Foundation have determined that poor lubrication on condoms is a major factor in why they are not used more. That’s why researchers from the College of Arts & Sciences and College of Engineering invented a self-lubricating condom. Read more about this development that could revolutionize safe sex here.

Currently, there is no way to diagnose Ebola until symptoms arrive — and the fever, severe headache, and muscle pain that mark Ebola can strike victims anytime between two and 21 days after exposure. Researchers at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) and the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID), studied data from 12 monkeys exposed to Ebola virus, and discovered a common pattern of immune response among the ones that got sick. This response occurred four days before the onset of fever — the first observable symptom of infection. Learn more about their work suggesting a possible biomarker for an early diagnosis of Ebola here.

At the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center, researchers from the School of Medicine and the VA Boston Healthcare System conduct meaningful analysis of the genetics related to CTE. The team’s latest discovery — about the CTE-related significance of genetic variation in a gene called TMEM106B — could explain why similar levels of head trauma in different people can cause some of them to suffer more drastic symptoms of CTE than others. Read more about the study and implications here.

Looking forward to seeing what groundbreaking findings our researchers will uncover in 2019!

For additional commentary and discoveries by Boston University experts, follow us on Twitter at @BUexperts. To keep up with the latest advancements coming out of Boston University, check out our Research. Follow the School of Medicine at @BUMedicine, the School of Public Health at @BUSPH, the College of Arts & Sciences at @BU_CAS, and the College of Engineering at @BUCollegeofENG on Twitter.

Cutting-edge research and commentary out of Boston University, home to Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners and Guggenheim Scholars. Find an expert: bu.edu/experts

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