Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

‘Carnage’ in a lab dish shows how coronavirus may damage hearts

In lab experiments, infection of heart muscle cells with SARS-CoV-2 caused long fibers to break apart into small pieces, shown above. (GLADSTONE)

Covid-19, rightfully, has been cast as a respiratory infection, but research just posted to the preprint server bioRxiv suggests that the infection could also be a heart disease. That Covid-19 affects the heart is not new: This summer, doctors in Germany reported that 39 autopsies and cardiac MRIs of 100 Covid-19 patients showed damage to the heart, both in older people who died and younger people who didn't need hospital treatment for their infections. In the new study, when SARS-CoV-2 was added to human heart cells in a dish, researchers saw that long muscle fibers that help the heart beat had been diced into short bits. Gladstone Institutes' Bruce Conklin, a co-author of the study, describes the observation as “carnage in the human cells,” adding, "We should think about this as not only a pulmonary disease, but also potentially a cardiac one.” Read more here.

Expert panel warns against pursuit of ‘CRISPR babies’

The world is still not ready for "CRISPR babies," an international advisory panel warned yesterday, nearly two years after a pair of twins whose genomes had been CRISPR'd were born in China. The group — made up of experts from the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the U.K.’s Royal Society — cited unresolved scientific and ethical questions in its report, which also outlined steps that scientists wishing to experiment with the technology in humans ought to take. Chief among the commission's 11 recommendations is the fact germline editing — heritable changes made to the DNA of sperm, eggs or early embryos — should not proceed until CRISPR editing can make precise changes “without undesired changes in human embryos.” This commission's work will now inform work being done by a WHO group working on a framework for gene editing. 

Veterans who screen positive for PTSD have high suicide risk right after diagnosis, study says

Veterans who screen positive for post-traumatic stress disorder have a high risk of dying by suicide soon after the test, according to new research. Scientists looked at data from more than 1.5 million veterans who were screened for PTSD in 2014, and a confirmed diagnosis was associated with a 58% increased risk of dying by suicide in the day after veterans got their result. This trend decreased with time: The increased risk of suicide a year after a positive PTSD screen was 26%. On the four-part PTSD screening, an affirmative response to the question of whether an individual "felt numb or detached from others, activities, or [their] surroundings" was associated with a 70% increased risk of dying by suicide the day after diagnosis. 

Inside STAT: Go national to solve the country’s looming nursing shortage

The pandemic has underscored a problem that existed long before Covid-19 burst onto the scene: a looming nursing shortage. More than half a million nurses are expected to retire by 2022, for instance, and the authors of a new STAT First Opinion argue unneeded regulations are further hampering efforts to quickly get more nurses into the health care sector. They write that health care's adaptation to the pandemic — like with the quick uptake of telemedicine — should serve as an encouraging sign that the field could similarly work quickly to undo burdensome policies. For instance, nursing licensing exams and requirements vary state-by-state, but putting in place a nationalized program could mean that nurses could more easily move from state to state and practice in areas of high need. Read more here

Progress against preventable deaths from some chronic diseases may be stalling

Many parts of the world are not on track to meet 2030 U.N. goals of reducing by a third the risk of death from preventable illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A new report finds that only six countries, all of which are high-income nations — including South Korea and Norway — are on track to meet the U.N.'s goal for both men and women. Seventeen countries are on track to meet the 2030 goal for women, while 15 countries are expected to meet the goal for men. Women in the U.S., Egypt, and Sri Lanka, however, saw a stagnation or small increase in their risk of death from these preventable illnesses, while men in Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Mexico experienced the same. 

Antidepressant use among U.S. adults has increased over the past decade

Antidepressant use has increased among U.S. adults in recent years, according to new CDC data. In 2018, nearly 14% of those aged 18 and over reported antidepressant use in the month prior to being surveyed, compared to around 11% who said the same in 2009. Between 2015-2018, the proportion of women who said they took an antidepressant was more than twice the percentage of men who said they took these medicines. White individuals were likeliest to report antidepressant use, while Asian people were least likely. Antidepressant use also increased with age, as well as with education level. 

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

What to read around the web today

  • The new neuroscience of stuttering. Knowable Magazine
  • Leader of U.S. vaccine push says he‘ll quit if politics trumps science. Science
  • U.S. investigations of Chinese scientists expand focus to military ties. Nature
  • How does loneliness affect our brains? MIT Technology Review
  • “I’m at zero”: First she lost her job because of the pandemic, then she lost her home in the hurricane. BuzzFeed News

Thanks for reading! There won't be a newsletter on Monday due to the Labor Day holiday here in the U.S., but Morning Rounds will be back Tuesday. 


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Friday, September 4, 2020


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