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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

What comes next after Biogen’s big Alzheimer’s drug failure?

In a blow to the Alzheimer’s field, Biogen and its partner Eisai announced yesterday that they were halting two late-stage trials of their drug aducanumab because it was unlikely to prove effective. And the news could mean it’s finally time to turn away from the idea that targeting amyloid plaques may hold the therapeutic key. Other strategies — including that viruses and other pathogens may be driving disease — may now take the spotlight, but the way forward is still murky. “We are still struggling to understand the basic biology of the brain as well as the basic biology of Alzheimer’s,” Heather Snyder, the senior director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer’s Association, tells STAT’s Sharon Begley. Read more.

Chinese American scientists, NIH express concern over prejudice

Three Chinese American scientific societies jointly published a letter yesterday expressing concern over the characterization of students and scholars of Chinese descent as threats to the U.S. The groups cite recent incidents, including FBI Director Christopher Wray’s comments about Chinese students posing a risk to national security. Such incidents, they say, have led to “confusion, fear, and frustration among these highly dedicated professionals, who are in danger of being singled out for scapegoating, stereotyping, and racial profiling.”  

NIH officials, including Director Francis Collins, published a response to the letter, in which they acknowledge instances of national security threats but say they will be an advocate for the scientists. “We will use our influence and bully pulpit as necessary to speak out against such prejudicial actions, for which there is no place in the biomedical research community,” they write.

An ‘epidemic’ of gun-related deaths in children over the past decade

Mortality rates due to firearms are increasing at an alarming rate among teenagers and African-American children, according to a new report. Researchers looked at nearly 40,000 deaths between 1999 and 2017 and found that about 20 percent of all deaths in children ages 15-18 was due to firearms  — a total of 32,000 teenagers. The study also found that nearly 41 percent of all deaths were in African-American children, 86 percent of all deaths were boys, and most were homicides. “This increasing epidemic poses increasing clinical, public health, and policy challenges,” the authors write.

Inside STAT: A new monkey study offers fertility hope to pediatric cancer survivors

  Grady at her 2-week checkup. (Oregon Health and Science University)

Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can eliminate sperm production, and an estimated 30 percent of male pediatric cancer survivors will be infertile. But a new study suggests that it might be possible to preserve a piece of a boy’s testicular tissue and later coax it to produce mature sperm. Researchers used a sample of immature testicular tissue from monkeys, and in one case, the sperm was used to start a pregnancy and led to the birth of a rhesus macaque named Grady. STAT’s Andrew Joseph has more on the technique here.

Nation’s first supervised injection site may have a location

Philadelphia is one step closer to being the location of the nation’s first supervised injection site. Safehouse, the nonprofit that hopes to provide the space for people to use illegal drugs under the careful supervision of medical professionals, says it's in negotiations to rent a space in the city’s Kensington neighborhood, known as the center of the city’s opioid crisis. Philadelphia has the highest opioid death rate of any major U.S. city. But the road isn’t yet clear: Just last month, a federal prosecutor in the city filed a lawsuit to stop Safehouse from opening a site. And the Justice Department has previously said it would crack down on any city that opens such a facility.

More than 34 million in the U.S. practice yoga and other mind-body therapies

About 1 in 7 people in the U.S. now do some form of mind-body therapy like yoga, qiqong, or tai chi, triple the number almost 20 years ago. Researchers, using information from National Health Interview Surveys beginning in 2002: More people in recent years said they use the practices to help with depression and anxiety, instead of pain. Although the study has limitations — including relying on people to recall their activities from memory — the authors say that the results may complement studies that are testing the use of yoga, tai chi, and qiqong for possible medical benefits.

What to read around the web today

  • Digital health just had a record year. But is a day of reckoning ahead? STAT
  • A.I. can improve health Care. It also can be duped. The New York Times
  • CRISPR is ascending again, after scientists find ‘elegant’ fix for cancer worry. STAT Plus
  • It will take more than transparency to reduce drug prices, economists say. NPR
  • What it’s like to live in the country where giving birth costs $60. The Cut

Thanks for reading! See you Monday!

Shraddha

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Friday, March 22, 2019

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