Friday, October 20, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Welcome to Friday, everyone! Here's what you need to know about health and medicine this morning. 

Judge rules undocumented teen can have abortion

A federal court will hear arguments today about whether an undocumented immigrant teenager can receive an abortion, which the Trump administration has been trying to prevent. The ACLU is representing the 17-year-old, who is in her 15th week of pregnancy and is being held in a Texas detention center. The teen has a judge's permission to obtain an abortion — in fact, a district court ordered HHS to transport her to a clinic — but federal officials refuse to do so and instead appealed the ruling. The teen alleges that federal officials instead took her to a crisis pregnancy counseling center. HHS, which oversees care for minors who've been detained, has said undocumented minors don’t have a right to an elective abortion while being held in federal custody.

Pollution takes a massive toll on human health


(megan thielking / stat)

Pollution is having a big impact on our health, according to a new report in the Lancet. Here’s your rundown of the findings:

  • Diseases driven by pollution accounted for 1 in 6 deaths worldwide in 2015. The bulk of those were from non-communicable diseases such as asthma, cancer, and heart disease.

  • Pollution disproportionately impacts the poor. More than 90 percent of all deaths tied to pollution occur in low-income and middle-income countries. And across all countries, diseases driven by pollution are most prevalent among minority populations.

  • Deaths by some kinds of pollution are becoming less common. Deaths tied to household air pollution, water pollution, and poor sanitation are declining, in part thanks to vaccines that treat diseases spread through dirty water.

  • Deaths tied to other types of pollution are rising. An estimated 4.2 million deaths in 2015 were attributed to air pollution, a big jump from 3.5 million in 1990.

Why we should be keeping a close eye on this bird flu

A new study serves as a sobering reminder that the world needs to keep its eye on H7N9 bird flu. Until recently, the viruses — which circulate in poultry in China and have sickened more than 1,500 people since 2013 — were the low pathogenicity kind, meaning they didn’t kill chickens. But high pathogenicity strains, which can cause more severe disease in people, were first spotted early this year. Studying one of these highly pathogenic strains — which had been isolated from an infected person — Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin and colleagues found that it caused more severe illness in animal models. They suggested the highly pathogenic H7N9 viruses may be closer to being able to spread easily among people and therefore may pose a greater pandemic risk than the other notorious bird flu, H5N1.

Sponsor content by AstraZeneca

Preterm Infants at Increased Risk of RSV Hospitalization — New Data

New results were presented at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) Nexus 2017 meeting of a study that investigated respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) hospitalization risk and costs among US preterm infants from two RSV seasons following the 2014 guidance on RSV immunoprophylaxis. Results showed an increase in RSV hospitalization risks among infants 29-34 weeks gestational age associated with a decline in RSV immunoprophylaxis use.

Inside STAT: The scientist behind human-pig chimeras

Biologist Pablo Juan Ross is no stranger to CRISPR and stem cells, but he's also a pro at handling livestock on a farm. Ross works at the University of California, Davis, where there are two-story high hay stacks on a street named Dairy Road. He was part of the team that helped usher in the creation of a part-human, part-animal chimera earlier this year. Without his deep background in animal species and their embryos, the groundbreaking experiments might not have been possible. STAT's Usha Lee McFarling has more on Ross and his work — read here

Lab Chat: How amino acids escape cellular stomachs

It’s long been a mystery how some of the important amino acids in our food manage to sneak out of lysosomes, which do much of the digesting for our cells. Now, scientists have figured out how that happens, and their discovery could have implications for pancreatic cancer research. Here’s what David Sabatini of MIT’s Whitehead Institute told me about the research, published in Cell.

Tell me about what you found.

We identified a key protein for getting essential amino acids out of lysosomes, the central degradative compartment of the cell. The lysosome breaks down most macromolecules — it is like the stomach for the cell — and releases their components for the cell to use them. How essential amino acids, or those we cannot make, get out of lysosomes was unclear and [this protein] turns out to be the transporter for most of them.

How does that finding contribute to pancreatic research?

[The protein] turns out to be particularly important for cells that get their amino acids through the breakdown of proteins in the lysosome, rather than as free amino acids from the outside of the cell. We so far know that pancreatic cancer cells are addicted to obtaining their essential amino acids in this way, while other cell types seem to be more flexible in how they obtain them. So, inhibitors of [the protein] should show some selectivity towards suppressing pancreatic cancers.

Opioid task force convenes for final meeting

President Trump’s opioid commission is convening today as the deadline for its final report looms. The report will be unveiled Nov. 1 and is expected to outline strategies that governments, industry groups, and the medical community can employ to combat the epidemic. Today’s meeting will focus on insurance, so watch for commission member Patrick Kennedy to focus on implementation of parity laws, meant to prevent providers from imposing stricter caps on mental health and addiction treatment than on other forms of health care. Labor, health, and VA officials will be talking at the meeting, along with representatives of Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

What to read around the web today

  • Backyard chicken trend causes spike in infections. AP
  • Los Angeles opens investigation into drugmaker that aggressively targeted nursing home residents. CNN
  • Rural hospice that spurns federal funds has offered free care for 40 years. Kaiser Health News

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! Back first thing Monday, 


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