Studies back contagious power of happiness

New research from UC San Diego and Harvard Medical School shows that happiness can spread through a social network - traveling not just from one person to another but even to people up to three degrees removed.

Using data from the decades-long Framingham Heart Study, researchers recreated a social network of 4,739 people whose happiness was measured from 1983 to 2003 through answers to a standardized set of questions. The research shows that happy people tend to cluster together, and people with more social contacts seem generally happier.

An important finding is that what matters most was not just the total number of connections, but the number of happy connections. On average, every happy friend increases a person’s own chance of being happy by nine percent. Each unhappy friend decreases it by 7 percent. The study appears in the “British Medical Journal.”

Learning about pathogens

Public health researchers have been searching for a suitable laboratory model in which to study microsporidia - single-celled parasites found in water supplies - that cause illness in humans. Now comes word that an international team of biologists, including a UCSD researcher, has discovered a new species of microsporidia in a roundworm used in genetic laboratories around the world.

It’s welcome news because microsporidia are classified as “priority pathogens,” since no drugs are available to combat them. The newly discovered species infects the nematode C. elegans, a small roundworm that is easy to study in the lab.

This provides a powerful system in which to study the microbes, learn how organisms respond to infection and develop new drugs to fight infections of microsporidia.

Roth moves up

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has nominated Duane Roth to serve as vice chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).

Roth is executive director of La Jolla-based CONNECT, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating and sustaining the growth of technology and life-science businesses in San Diego.

Roth is also a member of the 29-member Independent Citizens Oversight Committee that serves as the CIRM governing board.

Created by the passage by voters of Proposition 71, CIRM is a state agency created to distribute $3 billion over 10 years to support and advance stem-cell research and regenerative medicine for the discovery and development of cures, therapies, diagnostics, and new research technologies.