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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Leana Wen ousted as Planned Parenthood president after eight months

Dr. Leana Wen has been removed as Planned Parenthood’s president, just eight months after starting the job. She shared the news on Twitter yesterday afternoon, saying that her employment had been terminated in a secret meeting of the organization’s board. “I am leaving the organization sooner than I had hoped because of philosophical differences about the direction and future of Planned Parenthood,” Wen said in a statement, which also implied that she envisioned focusing on a broad range of health issues whereas the organization's board wanted abortion rights to be the focus moving forward. Wen was the first physician to lead the organization in 50 years, and has been vocal in her support for reproductive rights, especially in the wake of several state laws restricting abortion access and new federal rules threatening to cut off Title X funding to Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics. 

Debate over testing a second Ebola vaccine turns acrimonious

New details may explain why an experimental Ebola vaccine from Johnson & Johnson won’t be deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo at this time. The DRC’s health minister Dr. Oly Ilunga was open to a trial to test the vaccine, but rescinded the option without much explanation. Ilunga tells STAT’s Helen Branswell that some experts at a meeting last month were concerned that the two-dose requirement for the J&J vaccine could not be implemented smoothly in rural DRC. And instead of addressing these concerns, J&J seemed on track to run the trial as previously planned, something Ilunga says “is unacceptable.” The current outbreak has already resulted in 2,500 cases and nearly 1,670 deaths. One vaccine from Merck is being tested, but instead of complicating matters by testing a second vaccine, Ilunga said during a WHO meeting on Monday, “We have an effective weapon. ... Let’s focus on that.”

Researchers win major prize for manipulating brain cells using light

Four scientists have been awarded this year’s Warren Alpert prize for their work in the field of optogenetics, which uses light to manipulate living cells. The $500,000 prize, which is given out in conjunction with Harvard Medical School and will be split between the four winners, recognizes research that aims to cure or treat human diseases. This year’s winners are Edward Boyden from MIT; Karl Deisseroth from Stanford; Peter Hegemann from Humboldt University in Berlin; and Gero Meissenböck from the University of Oxford, U.K. All four researchers use light and genetic modifications to manipulate neurons in order to better understand brain behavior and function. The winners will be recognized at an October symposium at HMS. 

Inside STAT: 5 burning questions about using artificial intelligence to prevent blindness

Blindness is a preventable condition, and that fact frustrates a lot of eye specialists. But using artificial intelligence may offer ways to catch — and subsequently treat — eye disease sooner. And with the AI boom in medicine, companies are lining up to take a shot at early screening for eye impairments. Giant companies like Google and smaller ventures like the Iowa-based IDx-DR are implementing AI to scan images of the eye to then quickly detect abnormalities including diabetic neuropathy. But before this technology can become a clinical reality, there are still lingering questions about what it all means. Which diseases should these programs target, and how will these AI programs be validated? STAT's Lauren Joseph explores these and other questions for STAT Plus subscribers here

Many teens — especially Hispanic girls — report trying to lose weight


Nearly 40% of U.S. teens ages 16-19 have attempted to lose weight, a new CDC survey finds. Looking at data between 2013 and 2016, researchers also found that nearly half of all teenage girls tried losing weight in the previous year, compared to about a third of boys. This was especially true of Hispanic teens, more of whom reported attempted weight loss compared to other races — 55% of Hispanic girls tried losing weight compared to about 47% of Hispanic boys. Most of the ways the teens said they tried losing weight included healthy changes, including exercising more, while around 16% said they skipped meals. The survey didn't ask the teens their reasons for trying to lose weight, but cited previous work that found that obesity was a main motivator.

Menstrual cups found to be a safe alternative to traditional sanitary products

A review of 43 studies with data from more than 3,300 people globally finds that menstrual cups are a safe alternative to other sanitary products. Four of the studies compared leakage using menstrual cups versus other products, including tampons and pads, and found no significant differences. Women using cups also didn’t experience more harmful side effects, although some women did develop rashes or had trouble using a cup if they also had an intrauterine device. Nearly 200 brands of menstrual cups exist, and they’re also about 95% cheaper than using other products. But information about them isn’t easily available: Only about a third of educational websites that offer information on puberty and menstruation contained information about menstrual cups, prompting researchers to suggest that details ought to be made more widely available. 

What to read around the web today

  • Opinion: I get asked a lot about longevity. It helps that I'm 104. STAT
  • Trump to order drive for improved flu vaccine. Politico
  • Undercover in a hospital bed. The New York Times
  • 76 billion opioid pills: Newly released federal data unmasks the epidemic. The Washington Post
  • UN Aids target to end epidemic by 2030 at risk as funding falls for first time. The Guardian

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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