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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Today's the final day to submit nominations for this year's STAT Wunderkinds contest celebrating innovative research from the brightest young minds in science. Submit your entries here before 11:59 PM ET. 

More than 100 lawmakers oppose deportation of seriously ill immigrants

A group of 110 lawmakers sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security officials late last week asking them to clarify a new, unannounced policy to deny non-U.S. citizens the chance to continue to stay in the U.S. to get treatment life-threatening conditions. The lawmakers’ move followed reports last week that immigration attorneys for people being treated in hospitals across the country received rejection letters to extend medical stays. Those letters stated that people seeking medical deferred action had a month to leave the U.S. or face deportation. In their letter, lawmakers posed more than a dozen questions to the agency — including how the policy change has been made public and how many petitions have been denied — that they want answers for by Sept. 13. And yesterday, seemingly bowing to pressure, immigration officials said they would re-open cases that had been considered pending as of early August. 

Local treatment, family support can help with blood pressure maintenance

A treatment strategy that includes family support and local, non-physician health professionals could help people better control their blood pressure, according to new research. A trial of nearly 1,400 people in Colombia and Malaysia had non-physicians such as nurses recommend treatment and lifestyle changes for managing high blood pressure, and lined up family members to get patients to adhere to the recommendations. After a one-year follow-up, those under this comprehensive plan had almost twice the reduction in cardiovascular disease risk than those in the control arm, in addition to lower blood pressure and lower levels of the type of cholesterol considered detrimental to heart health. One reason why this approach may have worked is that it replaced physician visits, which can require more time and means to travel. 

Inside STAT: Chinese scientists returning home from the U.S. to advance their careers  


Ting Han, an assistant investigator at the National Institute of Biological Sciences in Beijing. (ELKE SCHOLIERS FOR STAT)

Increased scrutiny of Chinese researchers appears to be causing something of a “brain drain.” Instead of pursuing research careers here in the U.S. as many of them had hoped for, many researchers have returned to China to set up labs there. China is increasing its science investment, and other factors — including a perceived glass ceiling in the U.S. — are playing into the difficult decision to leave. STAT’s Diana Cai told me that the most surprising part of reporting the story was the fact that men and women may be returning to China at different rates, because women reported they face less gender bias in the U.S. But the most difficult part of the story? “Finding sources who were willing to go on the record,” Diana told me. “The subject is sensitive, and I really appreciate everyone who took time to share their thoughts.” STAT Plus subscribers can read the full special report here

Number of NFL seasons and player position could mean more cognitive problems

A longer NFL career and playing certain positions may mean a higher chance of cognitive problems, according to new research. Researchers behind the ongoing Harvard Football Players Study surveyed some 3,500 former NFL players and found that for every five years of professional play, there was a 9% increased risk of depression indicators. Those who played in more than one season were twice as likely to report severe cognitive problems compared to those who played in only one season. Running backs, linebackers, and special teams players reported the most symptoms, while kickers, punters, and quarterbacks reported the least. Those who reported experiencing concussions had a 22-fold higher risk of long-term cognitive problems. One limitation of the study is that the former players were asked to recollect symptoms they experienced, and so the findings could be subject to recall bias. 

Many who die waiting for a kidney transplant had multiple offers for a donor organ

Kidney transplant candidates who died waiting for a donor organ often had multiple offers, a new study finds. Nearly 10% of candidates died waiting for a kidney between 2008 and 2015, and many of them were offered a donor organ. Overall, some 10 waiting candidates who had at least one donor kidney offered died each day during the seven-year study period. Those who ended up having a kidney transplant had an average of 17 offers, while those who were waiting had 16 offers. More than 90% of offered kidneys were declined by transplant centers on behalf of the patient because of concerns with the organ quality or with the donor’s health background. Fewer than 3% were declined because of patient-related concerns. The study authors write that more transparency in how organs are allocated and assessed may help more people waiting for kidneys to get the organs. 

Canine MRIs sniff out how human preferences shaped dogs’ hallmark traits

The saying goes that an old dog can’t be taught new tricks, but there may be fundamental qualities to all dogs that are unchangeable — and humans may be responsible. Many behaviors we associate with dog breeds don’t come naturally, but are often learned from humans, a new study found. Researchers looked at MRI images of more than 60 dogs that represented 33 breeds. They found six brain networks that reflected readily visible neuroanatomical differences among the images, differences that predicted behavioral qualities. Terriers, for instance, had a highly developed network associated with a reward system, which ties to their propensity for social bonding with people. Understanding how innate wiring and learned behavior shape canine brains “might tell us something about our own brains and how that happens,” study author Erin Hecht told STAT’s Sharon Begley

Correction: An item in Friday's newsletter misstated the amount that the vaccine alliance Gavi intends to spend on stockpiling Ebola vaccines. It's $150 million.  

What to read around the web today

  • Starving seniors: How America fails to feed its aging. Kaiser Health News
  • How Veterans Affairs failed to stop a pathologist who misdiagnosed 3,000 cases. The Washington Post
  • The brain, the criminal and the courts. Knowable Magazine
  • A town for people with chronic fatigue. The New Yorker
  • As rising heat bakes U.S. cities, the poor often feel it most. NPR

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

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