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Morning Rounds

CDC calls for action to curb heart attacks

Heart attacks and strokes are taking a huge toll on adults across the U.S. — and the CDC is calling on both patients and health care providers to take action. Health officials report that heart attacks, strokes, and similar conditions caused 2.2 million hospitalizations and 415,000 deaths in 2016. Those cases resulted in $32.7 billion in costs that year alone. The CDC says that staggering number is driven, in part, by missed opportunities to treat the controllable causes of cardiovascular disease. Case in point: 9 million adults aren’t taking aspirin as recommended, 54 million smoke, and 39 million could benefit from better cholesterol management, according to the CDC.

Amid concerns about accuracy, FDA releases guidance on probiotic labels

The FDA just released new draft guidance on labeling probiotics and other diet supplements that contain live microbes. Experts have raised concerns that probiotics sold online or on store shelves — which don't need FDA approval if they don't make health claims — don't always contain what their labels say they do. Some commercial products might contain additional strains that consumers aren’t aware of, more bacteria than the amount listed on the label, or none of that microorganism at all. The draft guidance, which is open for public comment for 60 days, outlines the FDA's thinking on labeling specifically when it comes to a measure called CFUs, or colony forming units of bacteria. 

Lab Chat: The secrets in a family tree of stem cells

Scientists have created a new family tree of blood stem cells — and discovered there are many more relatives than previously thought. Here's what Henry Lee-Six of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute told me about the research, published in Nature.

How did you create the family tree?

We sequenced the genomes of 140 single blood stem cells. This allowed us to find the somatic mutations in each cell — essentially, errors made when DNA is copied during cell divisions. Mutations are inherited from cell division to cell division, so that all of the descendants of the cell that acquired the mutation will have it as well. "Sister" stem cells will both have mutations that occurred in their mother. We can use this to piece together a family tree.

What did you discover?

There are between 50,000 and 200,000 stem cells that make blood in a human. This is the first estimate derived directly from humans, and it is about 10 times larger than what we thought from animal studies. Knowing the number of blood stem cells tells us how many cells are at risk of becoming blood cancers, and how many healthy cells cancerous cells are competing against.

Inside STAT: How health authorities rapidly respond to outbreak scares on planes

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(hyacinth empinado / stat)

In the first hour or two after an Emirates Airline jet was quarantined at a New York airport, it wasn't clear how many people were sick or what had caused them to fall ill. One thing was certain: A system years in the making to spot and stop dangerous illnesses from making their way into the U.S. was set into motion. The system — which involves federal, state, and local agencies at major ports of entry — is the country’s “hidden safety net,” Dr. Martin Cetron of the CDC says. Often, the CDC doesn't get a heads up that someone on a plane had a disease like measles, and the agency or its partners have to track down passengers. But in other cases, like Wednesday, an advance warning is a chance to see how the plan works in action. STAT's Helen Branswell has the story. 

One in four college students say they've been treated for a mental health condition

A new study underscores the mental health challenges that many college students face. Researchers analyzed results from a 2015 survey of more than 67,000 students across 100 schools. Here’s what they found:  

  • 3 out of 4 students said they’d experienced at least one stressful life event in the last year.
  • 1 in 4 students said they had been diagnosed with or treated for a mental health condition within the past year. Nearly 1 in 10 said they had attempted suicide.
  • Mental health conditions and suicidal thoughts were more common among students who identify as sexual minorities. Roughly two-thirds of transgender students reported that they’d harmed themselves at some point.

Google launches tool to search for scientific data

Google has launched a new search tool that helps researchers tap into the trove of open data online. Scientists — and anyone interested in digging through numbers — can use Dataset Search to find files and databases. That includes data sets from researchers, journals, and government agencies, who can tag their repositories to make them easier for others to find. The news comes as momentum grows in the open data movement, in which scientists want to make the hard numbers behind research findings more readily accessible for others to use.

What to read around the web today

  • After 14 years and $3 billion, has California's bet on stem cells paid off? Los Angeles Times
  • Does a generic EpiPen mean lower prices? Don’t hold your breath. STAT
  • As animal-assisted therapy arrives, enter the cats. New York Times
  • What Jack Stoddard brings to the Atul Gawande-led health venture. STAT Plus
  • Health coverage dropped for 4,574 Arkansas Works enrollees. Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful weekend, 

Megan

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Friday, September 7, 2018

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