Monday, November 21, 2016

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning everyone, and happy Monday! Here's what you need to know about health and medicine today. For more STAT stories, head over to our full site

Trump talks medical innovation with biotech billionaire 

President-elect Donald Trump spent some time Saturday meeting with a familiar face in the medical field: Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire entrepreneur and prominent transplant surgeon. According to the Trump transition team, Soon-Shiong and the president-elect met at Trump’s country club to talk about “innovation in the area of medicine and national medical priorities that need to be addressed in our country.” Soon-Shiong later tweeted that he walked away believing Trump "truly wants" to advance health care for all. 

Soon-Shiong, who has founded companies including NantHealth and Abraxis Bioscience, is also behind an oncology program dubbed “Cancer Moonshot 2020.” He’s currently being sued by MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, which has had its own "Moon Shots Program" since 2012 and wants Soon-Shiong to stop tossing the word around for his own initiative.

Genetically modified mosquito trial moves forward

A plan to release genetically modified mosquitoes for the first time in the US has gotten the go-ahead from a mosquito control board in the Florida Keys. The board voted 3-2 to move forward with the fiercely contested trial, which aims to reduce the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which are responsible for spreading diseases like Zika and dengue. The next step: find a new site to run the trial. Two-thirds of voters in Key Haven — the community originally selected to host the trial — opposed it in a nonbinding ballot measure. Once a new spot is picked, the FDA must give final approval for the project.

TV ads impact snack habits among young kids

Food ads on TV might lead young children to eat even when they’re not hungry, finds a new study published this morning in Pediatrics. Researchers doled out a filling snack to 60 kids between ages 2 and 5. Then, those kids watched a 14-minute children’s program with a stack of snacks in front of them. One group saw ads for food during the show; the other group saw ads for a department store. Kids in the group that saw food ads ate more snacks than those in the other group. The paper concludes that limiting exposure to those ads could help kids eat healthier and stop them from consuming extra calories.

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Continually changing field of healthcare calls for new workers

As methods of treatment and patient care advance, the needs of employers will have to adjust in order to find their ideal employee. Finding the best employees for the influx of new jobs in healthcare is increasingly more difficult, especially with the multitude of general career sites that bombard job seekers daily. With STAT CAREERS, every applicant is searching for a job in health and medicine, giving you the best opportunity to find your perfect employee, from entry-level to executive. Post your job today.

Inside STAT: Research on female concussions lags

A diffusion tensor image of the brain of a female athlete who has suffered a concussion. (EMILY DENNIS / USC / UCLA BRAINSPORT)

Almost all of the brains donated to concussion research have one thing in common: They’re from men. Brain trauma research in women lags far behind research on men, despite the fact that many sports have higher concussion rates among women than men. There’s growing evidence to suggest that women respond differently to brain trauma than men do — and that they might benefit more from gender-specific treatment. But there isn’t enough information to inform care guidelines tailored to women. “If concussion is the invisible injury, then females are the invisible population within that injury,” says Katherine Snedaker, a Connecticut social worker who founded a nonprofit to shed light on the disparity. STAT’s Usha Lee McFarling has more on the efforts to boost that research here.

FDA continues to address baby formula health claims

The FDA is giving the public another chance to weigh in on the labeling of infant formula. Back in September, the agency rolled out a proposed set of scientific standards for formula makers to meet before they tout the health benefits of their products, such as boosting a baby's intelligence or making a baby less colicky. The new comment period on that proposal opens today and will remain open for 90 days. After that, the FDA will consider making a final guideline, which would be voluntary for the industry to adopt.

Parents of kids with cancer face financial troubles

After a child's cancer diagnosis, parents' income and employment status take a hit, with mothers experiencing the biggest impact, according to a Karolinska Institute study to be published in Cancer. Researchers compared 3,626 parents of kids with cancer to a control group of 34,874 parents from the general population. They found that parents’ income decreased significantly after a child’s cancer diagnosis — mothers saw a 21 percent decrease in income the year of diagnosis, while fathers saw a 10 percent drop. Mothers of childhood cancer patients were also less likely to be employed five years after a diagnosis than mothers in the general population. Fathers didn’t see a difference in employment status. In light of those findings, the study's authors say they'd like to see health care facilities provide better support and financial assistance for these families.

Pinpointing a protein tied to cholesterol-clogged arteries

Yale scientists have pinpointed a protein that plays an active part in the buildup of "bad" LDL cholesterol in blood vessels and arteries. It hasn’t been clear to researchers how exactly LDL cholesterol gets into endothelial cells, which make up the inner layer of blood vessels. They combed through more than 18,000 genes that are found in the endothelium that could be involved in the process. That led the researchers to a protein called ALK1, which binds with LDL and helps drag it into endothelial cells. Now, the researchers are turning their attention to small molecules or other potential treatments that could block the action of that protein and therefore keep arteries from becoming clogged when used in tandem with cholesterol-lowering lifestyle choices. Read about the work in Nature Communications.

What to read around the web today

  • Texas blows bid for funds to combat opioids, tries to keep records secret. Texas Tribune
  • NFL players searching for painkiller choices hope for relaxed marijuana ban. NPR
  • Along the autism spectrum, a path through campus life. New York Times
  • Scientists hope Trump won't decrease flow of federal research dollars. Boston Globe

More reads from STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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