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Good morning, and welcome to a new week! STAT reporter Andrew Joseph here filling in for Megan for a few days. Have a good story idea? Send it my way at

For first time, scientists CRISPR viable embryos

Mark this as a milestone: Scientists in China have used a next-generation form of CRISPR genome-editing to repair a disease-causing mutation in human embryos, the first use of the technique in viable embryos that were created by a standard fertility clinic technique. The new research comes as scientists have unveiled improved, more precise forms of CRISPR and as experts and ethicists have grown more comfortable with the idea of editing early-stage IVF embryos in such a way that the changes would be inherited by subsequent generations. For the study, the scientists used a form of CRISPR called base editing to correct the Marfan mutation. The study was just a proof of concept; the embryos were not transferred into wombs. STAT's Sharon Begley has more here

Exclusive: Top health policy researcher found to have plagiarized

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of Dartmouth College is one of the country’s most prominent health policy scholars, but an investigation has found that he committed research misconduct, including plagiarizing from two other researchers. The investigation, which was done by Dartmouth, concluded that Welch “knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly appropriate[ed] the ideas, processes, results, or words” of others for a paper about breast cancer screening and overdiagnosis that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Welch challenged the findings, saying that the paper was a “natural progression” of his research. More here.

Let the kids play

The American Academy of Pediatrics is out with a new report this morning urging doctors to talk with families about getting kids to play. The report frames playing as crucial for learning, stress relief, and brain and skill development and as a key issue starting from birth. Doctors should discuss playing — including smiling back at infants and playing peak-a-boo — at every appointment until a child turns 2, the report says. It also recommends preschools allow for unstructured playtime, as opposed to purely formal teaching, and that schools should include daily recess periods. The report cites research that found almost a third of kindergarteners don’t have recess and that only about half of kids get some daily playtime outside with a parent, in part because of parents working and digital distractions.

Inside STAT: A celebration of the worm


do you think they're good at breakdancing? (Eugene Lee/MIT)

Scientists know and love C. elegans, the simple yet just-complex-enough lab animal that has allowed researchers to unlock secrets of human development, behavior, and health. To others, however, they might just appear to be worms — maybe not of the bait shop variety, but still, nothing special. So to highlight the hallmarks of these humble worms, we’ve compiled a photo essay of images taken by an MIT graduate student (“I actually try to imagine myself as a worm,” the student, Eugene Lee, explained), which is accompanied by a brief history of worm research and a farm’s worth of worm facts. Check it out here.  

How to treat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis

The World Health Organization has updated its recommendations for treating multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, outlining steps that the agency says could lead to improved outcomes. First, the WHO grouped TB medications into three classes based on when they should be used and specified that two drugs, kanamycin and capreomycin, should be avoided because of the risk of treatment failure. Secondly, the agency is calling for all patients to be treated with oral drugs because they are now more powerful than injectable drugs, which also come with more side effects and adherence issues. The recommendations are part of a broader effort from the international community to address TB: WHO is issuing new guidelines for TB treatment by the end of the year and the U.N. is holding a high-level meeting focused on TB next month.

Medicaid expansion boosted addiction treatment

To get a sense of how the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid affected opioid prescribing and addiction treatment, researchers in a new study compared pharmacy claims from three states that expanded Medicaid (California, Maryland, and Washington) and two that didn’t (Florida and Georgia). They found that in locations with expanded Medicaid, there were significantly more prescriptions of buprenorphine with naloxone (a treatment for opioid addiction) compared to non-expansion places. The expansion was not associated with an overall change in opioid painkiller prescriptions, though it was associated with more opioid prescriptions paid for by Medicaid specifically. The researchers used their findings to urge state Medicaid programs to track painkiller prescriptions, screen for addiction, and help people access addiction treatments. The research lands as some ACA critics assert that the Medicaid expansion exacerbated the opioid crisis — a claim disputed by many health policy experts.

What to read around the web today

  • Nine things to know about Sangamo Therapeutics and its first-in-human genome editing study. STAT Plus
  • An inmate suicide at a jail known for addressing mental health needs points to systemic gaps in care. Houston Chronicle
  • Vitamin D, the sunshine supplement, has shadowy money behind it. Kaiser Health News/New York Times
  • Opinion: Kidney disease is a killer. More precise classification can help tame it. STAT
  • Immense promise, hard-won progress: A clinical trial shows science's painstaking path to a proven stem cell therapy. San Francisco Chronicle
  • In Oregon, researchers ask gun owners for help to combat suicides in rural areas. Bend Bulletin

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 20, 2018


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