Thursday, April 27, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Happy Thursday, Morning Rounds readers! I'm here to get you ahead of the top stories in science and medicine today. 

Lead poisoning in kids may be way underestimated

Nationwide lead tracking efforts might be catching just two out of every three kids with lead poisoning, researchers warn this morning. The CDC's lead exposure estimates are based on test results provided by doctors. But because testing isn’t mandatory, it hasn’t been clear how many cases those estimates might be missing. So researchers pulled data from a long-running national health survey to offer an alternative count — and the difference was striking. The cases reported to the CDC only accounted for 64 percent of lead-poisoned kids nationwide. In some states, the disparities were even more pronounced: In California, just 37 percent of kids with elevated blood lead levels had been identified. That suggests officials need a new way to keep closer tabs on lead exposures among kids in the US.

Controlling blood sugar with a flip of a light switch

a tanning bed for tiny cells. (Shanghai key laboratory of regulatory biology)

Scientists have come up with an interesting new way to potentially deploy optogenetics — which uses light to flip cells on and off — into an actual therapy for patients. The researchers genetically engineered a new, custom-made type of cell that produces insulin when hit with a flash of infrared light. They put those cells into a hydrogel alongside red LED lights that could be controlled wirelessly. Then, they implanted that hydrogel into diabetic mice. The scientists were able to deliver exact insulin doses remotely through a smartphone app. They joined that system up with a wireless glucose monitor that created a constant loop of feedback between the special implanted cells and the app to keep blood glucose levels stable in mice over time. Read more about the work in Science Translational Medicine.

The latest military efforts to study PTSD and brain injury

Military medical experts are reporting to Congress today about the latest research efforts on PTSD and traumatic brain injuries among veterans. The Department of Defense is currently spearheading a number of studies to better understand the two conditions, along with projects happening at Army, Navy, and Air Force medical centers. One such project: Creating a military cohort of TBI patients and regularly collecting neurobehavioral data, motor skill information, and blood specimens from that group. Military doctors want to document their long-term health outcomes over a span of 15 years. They’re reporting on those efforts to the Armed Services committee this afternoon — watch here starting at 2 p.m. ET.

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Getting buy-in for a novel drug-device combo

The pitch sounds brilliant, “We’re taking a trusted agent and teaming it up with a nifty delivery method for speed and efficacy.” In practice, disrupting long-held prescribing habits is just the first hurdle. With a crowded market, like migraine, transforming physician and patient behaviors requires a deep understanding of what it takes to spur trial and ensure successful usage of a novel combination. See how precisioneffect helps put innovative products in play.

Inside STAT: As Zika babies grow, differences appear

the same virus, but what it did to each of them couldn't be more different. (STAT)

Brazilian hospitals started to fill up with babies born with microcephaly in 2015, their mothers having been infected with Zika virus during pregnancy. Many women began to wonder what life would be like as these infants grew up. Since then, doctors have realized that Zika congenital syndrome can manifest itself in profound ways — brain tissue missing — or subtler deficits, such as hearing loss and vision problems. STAT recently revisited two affected babies — Duda, age 18 months, and Sophia, 1 year — whose divergent stories show the varied effects of the virus, and its profound impacts upon families. Follow their stories in a new multimedia project

A decade-long protest at the WHO comes to an end

After demonstrating outside the World Health Organization’s headquarters every weekday for the past 10 years, advocates protesting the WHO’s handling of radiation disasters and their impact on health are packing up their signs and heading home. Their final day of silent protest came yesterday, on the 31st anniversary of the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. The group — made up of individuals hailing from a handful of advocacy groups —  aimed to get the agency to bolster its responses to public health disasters like the Chernobyl explosion. They also want the WHO to establish an independent commission to study the health harms of significant radiation exposure.

A cheap drug to prevent bleeding to death after birth

A cheap, commonplace drug might be able to save women’s lives when they experience life-threatening bleeding after childbirth, according to a new study published in the Lancet. Severe bleeding after childbirth kills roughly 100,000 women worldwide each year. In a randomized trial of nearly 20,000 pregnant women hemorrhaging after childbirth, researchers tested the clot-promoting drug tranexamic acid, or TXA. They found that 89 died after being given TXA shortly after giving birth, compared to 127 women in the placebo group, though the drug didn’t reduce the likelihood women would need a hysterectomy. The researchers say the finding could help make a dent in the death rate, particularly in low- and middle-income nations.

NYC's experiment in electronic health records

Electronic health records have been applauded as a helpful tool for patients and doctors — but an initiative by the New York City Department of Health shows their use for public health officials too. Typically, the city has collected information about diabetes, smoking, and depression prevalence among New Yorkers by running large surveys of residents. But those surveys can be time-consuming, expensive to carry out, and rely on good response rates. Now, they've developed a tool to cull data from electronic health records of more than 700,000 patients in the city. It produced the same quality data, suggesting such data-mining might be another means of tracking public health.

What to read around the web today

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

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