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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

The latest STAT Report — a deep dive into the emerging role of remote patient monitoring by health tech companies such as Apple and Fitbit — is now out. Check out the report from STAT's Erin Brodwin here. 

Biden lays out a three-question test for any future Covid-19 vaccine

Joe Biden trusts scientists and the vaccines they're working to produce, he said as part of a speech yesterday on the path forward for a Covid-19 vaccine. But he doesn't trust that the Trump administration will authorize a vaccine based solely on science and not on politics. In his speech, the Democratic presidential nominee laid out a three-question test that any Covid-19 vaccine will need to meet before he endorses its use: What criteria will be used to ensure a vaccine meets scientific standards, which scientists will validate that the decision was driven by scientists, and how can Americans trust the administration's vaccine-distribution plan? One thing Biden didn't do, however: lay out his own plan for vaccine distribution, something he said he's been "calling for for months." 

Covid-19 pandemic underscoring rise in obesity in the U.S.

The Covid-19 pandemic is underscoring the steady rise in obesity in the U.S., according to a new report from the nonprofit Trust for America's Health. Obesity rates in the U.S. have continued to stay at record levels: In 2017-2018, 42% of people had obesity, which was a 26% jump from a decade prior. And last year, 12 states had obesity rates of 35% or higher, an increase of three states since 2018. During the Covid-19 pandemic, those with obesity and related conditions have had higher rates of hospitalization and mortality from Covid-19. The pandemic has also created more barriers to healthy living, including gym closures and increased food insecurity due to income loss. Obesity is a systemic problem, the report states, adding that solutions that target racial and economic inequities will be needed. 

Inaugural AACR report shines light on disparities in cancer rates and deaths

The American Association for Cancer Research just released its first report on racial disparities in cancer. Even though the disparity in cancer deaths between Black and white individuals has been reduced from 33% in 1990 to 14% in 2016, the report states, Black Americans have had the highest death toll from cancer among all racial groups in the U.S. for the past 40 years. At the same time, people from non-white backgrounds have at least twice the rate of death from stomach cancer than white patients with the disease. The inequities exist beyond racial lines: Other marginalized groups, including bisexual women and those with low incomes, tend to have higher cancer rates. The report also outlines how disparities in underlying risk factors — such as HIV and hepatitis infections — contribute to inequities in cancer rates, as do lower rates of cancer screening and insurance in vulnerable populations. 

Inside STAT: Fears about Covid-19 are complicating care for patients with sickle cell


Dima Hendricks outside of her home in Brockton, Mass. (KAYANA SZYMCZAK FOR STAT)

The Covid-19 pandemic has complicated care for many diseases, and it's hit those with sickle cell disease particularly hard. Patients with the condition are immunocompromised and considered at high risk for serious complications from Covid-19, so some have relied on telemedicine for care instead of going to a hospital. Boston area therapist Dima Hendricks says telemedicine for her sickle cell disease has been a blessing. “I feel like it’s easier to make appointments and get refills,” she tells STAT's Los Angeles correspondent Usha Lee McFarling. Sickle cell patients also say the pandemic has brought a new level of compassion. “When I was sick before, people used to say, ‘You’re faking it,’” Hendricks says, adding, “Now they say, ‘Why don’t you go get some rest?’” Read more here

R&D funding for infectious diseases rises fourfold since 2014

The Covid-19 pandemic is already inspiring some planning for the next pandemic, and a new report from global health think tank Policy Cures Research outlines the state of R&D funding for emerging infectious diseases. Here's more: 

  • Overall trends: In 2018, R&D funding for infectious diseases was almost $890 million, a 14% increase since 2017, and almost five times the amount in 2014. 
  • Disease-specific trends: Funding for Ebola more than tripled between 2014 and 2015, in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. As the outbreak waned, funding for the disease also dropped — by $125 million in 2016 and 2017. Similarly, there was an increase in funding for Zika during the outbreak, from $6 million in 2015 to $243 million two years later. 
  • Other trends: Vaccine research received most of the funding between 2014-2018, while diagnostics received fewer than 4% of funds. The U.S. government and U.S.-based pharma companies accounted for nearly three-quarters of all funders. 

In research on pigs, scientists test a new way to heal heart damage

Exosomes — tiny, RNA-laden packets spit out by cells — can help regenerate heart cells after a heart attack. A new study describes how scientists took programmable stem cells, developed them into three types of heart cells, and extracted exosomes from these cells, which were then used as treatment in pigs with myocardial infarction. Damaged heart cells treated with exosomes or parts of cardiac cells recovered better than pig cells treated with entire cardiac cells derived from stem cells. Scar tissue healed more and blood vessel growth also improved as a result of treatment with exosomes, an approach the scientists behind the study called "cell-less." Still, the benefits only lasted four weeks, and the authors are hoping future research will yield more sustained benefit. 

What to read around the web today

  • Trump scorns his own scientists over virus data. The New York Times
  • 26 years in, the Violence Against Women Act hangs in limbo — while COVID fuels a domestic violence surge. The 19th
  • America’s top science journal has had it with Trump. Wired
  • Viruses that come to stay. Knowable Magazine
  • As India’s virus cases rise, so do questions over death toll. Associated Press

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

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