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Friday, July 15, 2016

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

We made it to Friday! Here's what you need to know to get ahead of the day's science and medicine news. For more STAT stories, follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Health care takes a backseat to personality in election concerns

Health care is taking a back seat to a handful of other issues this election season. A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll out this morning finds that 37 percent of Americans say that health care is a very important issue to them in the upcoming presidential election, dropping the issue behind candidate personality, terrorism, and gun policy. The poll also turned up some divisions among independents — 47 percent said their views on health care were best represented by Democrats, while 35 percent they were more aligned with Republicans. If Indiana governor Mike Pence is indeed Trump's running mate, though, that may change, as it would starkly highlight women's health as an election issue. 

Pokemon Go leads players to hospital halls and helipads

Hospitals want Pokemon Go players to know that medical centers aren’t the place to be hunting for a Pikachu. At Massachusetts General Hospital, staffers were warned not to play the exceedingly popular game on work time or hospital property. Pokemon Go uses a phone’s camera and GPS information to help players track down Pokemon. “The ability for smart phones to record images and location via the camera and GPS features pose a significant risk to patient privacy and safety,” MGH officials told staff in an email.

The game has also pointed players toward the helipad at one Utah hospital, while a Michigan hospital reports a flood of visitors coming inside to catch Pokemon. A silver lining to the game’s presence in health care facilities — at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Illinois, Pokemon Go is helping one young patient get a little more activity.

All hail the mighty ducklings

This little guy has all his ducks in a row. (Antone Martinho)

The ability to identify and remember abstract relationships — long thought to be exclusively human — is actually a talent ducklings have, too. Scientists tested how baby ducks think by exposing newly hatched mallards to a pair of objects with different shapes and colors. When they saw new pairs of objects, they still chased after the ones that looked most similar to the ones they imprinted on previously. It's the same ability to discriminate between "same" and "different" that helps ducklings and babies keep recognizing familiar people like their mothers in various environments. 

“[Without that,] if she walks halfway behind a tree, or floats partly submerged in a lake, she will appear different from previous times they have seen her,” study author Antone Martinho of University of Oxford tells me. The takeaway: Humans aren’t as exceptional when it comes to this type of learning as we thought we were. Read the research in Science.

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Attend the First Global Summit on Diagnostic Precision for Prostate Cancer 

Prostate cancer kills a man every 18 minutes but is curable when detected early. The First Global Summit on Diagnostic Precision for Prostate Cancer in Boston on Sept. 16-18, 2016 will bring together global medical experts to bridge cross-disciplinary gaps, share cutting-edge information and expedite comprehensive, expert consensus on the future of precision care.

Registration and call for abstracts are now open. Click here for more information about the world-leading speakers and event schedule.

Inside STAT: Dealing with police brutality as a doctor

Police brutality against people of color is a public health concern, and as a new doctor, STAT columnist Dr. Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu says her medical training hasn’t prepared to deal with it. She’s learned how to work around injustices, but not how to combat them as part of her care for patients. “We cannot acquiesce to these injustices as sad realities, but rather must look at them as factors we can control — and are professionally obligated to address,” she says. Read more in her Off the Charts column here.

Experts argue to get sick prisoners health care upon release 

Prisoners with infectious diseases aren’t receiving the standard of care they should be, say experts writing in a series of studies published in the Lancet. More than 15 percent of prisoners worldwide have hepatitis C, while nearly 4 percent have HIV and 3 have percent tuberculosis. But prisoners are often released without medications to control their illnesses, the authors report, putting them at higher risk of transmitting disease to others. The authors say the only way to break that cycle is to connect sick prisoners with outside health care as soon as they’re released.

Scientists make brains transparent to see what Alzheimer's looks like

Vasculature, glia cells, and plaques in the brain. (Dr. Thomas Liebmann, The Rockefeller University)

A new 3-D imaging technique paints a stunningly detailed picture of what a human brain affected by Alzheimer’s looks like. Scientists took the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients, soaked them in a liquid that gives the fats in the brain an electric charge, then exposed them to an opposite charge that casts all of the fats out. That makes the brain transparent and hard — and gives scientists a clear look at the plaque patterns known to be a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. The researchers hope the technique could be use to classify different categories of Alzheimer’s by combining the brain images with medical records that detail a patient’s cognitive symptoms.

The NIH wants your help to get cancer research all in one place

The NIH is gathering info from doctors and scientists on cancer research and care in an effort to flesh out the government’s Global Cancer Project Map. It’s an online tool that aims to make cancer-related research and best practices available worldwide, with a special focus on connecting doctors and researchers in developing countries with new resources. The agency is making a renewed push to build up the database, which was launched in March 2015.

The mental health issues scientists are studying the most 

Research into mental health is becoming increasingly common, with more than 220,000 papers published in the field between 2009 and 2014, according to a new review from RAND Europe. Research out of the US accounts for 36 percent of all published studies on mental health. The most common subjects for research: neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s; depressive, anxiety, and personality disorders; and substance abuse and addiction disorders.

What to read around the web today

  • The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to scientists. Vox
  • Visualizing gun deaths in America. FiveThirtyEight
  • Fighting a hospital superbug reveals an unexpected benefit. National Geographic
  • Bill would forbid firms from getting workers' birth control information. Wall Street Journal

More reads from STAT

  • For cancer patients on experimental immunotherapy drugs, it's been an emotional week
  • Are NYC rats disease "sponges"? Scientists want to track them to find out. 
  • Cancer close up: Shimmering images of cells offer clues to disease. 
  • Gonorrhea may soon become resistant to all antibiotics and untreatable. 

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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