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Morning Rounds

WHO sounds an alarm about early breastfeeding rates

The WHO and UNICEF are sounding an alarm about global gaps in breastfeeding in the first hour after birth. Three in five babies aren’t breastfed within that time, and most of those babies are born in low- and middle-income countries, the organizations say in a new report. That puts infants at a higher risk of death and disease, particularly in low-income countries. And while the report acknowledges some women can't breastfeed, the organizations say it might be possible to improve early breastfeeding rates by encouraging community efforts to promote the practice, boosting access to breastfeeding counselors, and restricting the marketing of breast milk substitutes. 

The true cost of a measles outbreak

A new study details the high costs of a 2013 outbreak of measles — which can be prevented with a vaccine — among 58 people in New York who hadn't been vaccinated. The rundown:

  • The findings: The study found the outbreak cost New York City’s health department nearly $400,000 to contain. That breaks down to $6,800 per case.
  • The question: In a related commentary, Jason Schwartz of Yale’s School of Public Health questions whether it’s time to start charging a fee if parents want to obtain a non-medical exemption to allow their children to remain unvaccinated. Fees raised could be used to support vaccination programs.
  • The case study: Australia has adopted something similar, withholding some child benefits from families that don’t vaccinate in their “No Jab No Pay” program.

Unsheltered adults are at a shockingly high risk of death

The death rate is nearly three times higher among people who are homeless and don’t sleep in a shelter than among their peers who sleep primarily in shelters, according to a new study. Researchers in Boston followed a cohort of 445 unsheltered adults over 10 years and kept tabs on their health outcomes. After adjusting for age, they found the death rate among unsheltered adults was also 10 times higher than that of the general adult population in Massachusetts. Cancer, heart disease, and liver disease were among the most common causes of death.

Inside STAT: Startups desperately compete for top experts in gene and cell therapy3c3c03eb-ead2-4257-b1a7-8430ed411081.png

kick back and watch the tide — and the job offers — roll in. (dom smith / stat)

The pool of leading experts in cell and gene therapy is small — so small, in fact, that it's created a hiring nightmare. Even as investors funnel money into research on the cutting-edge treatments, there aren't enough seasoned professionals to fill critical top-level positions like chief technical officer. That's left startups from Silicon Valley to Europe increasingly desperate to poach top talent. “You can count manufacturing experts in cellular and gene therapy on one or two hands,” said Nina Kjellson, a biopharma venture capital investor at Canaan Partners. STAT's Rebecca Robbins has more from San Francisco here

Researchers in Japan prepare to launch novel stem cell trial for Parkinson's 

Scientists in Japan say they’ll start clinical trials soon on a treatment for Parkinson’s disease that harnesses reprogrammed stem cells, the first trial of its kind. Reuters reports that the researchers at Kyoto University will take cells from other patients, coax them to turn into dopamine-producing neurons, and then transplant them into patients. Levels of the neurotransmitter are lowered in patients with the neurodegenerative disease, which causes tremors and severe stiffness. Last year, researchers at the university used induced pluripotent stem cells to restore function in brain cells in a monkey model.

Scientists look to build a better internal scope

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Here's what a metalens looks like up close. (Harvard SEAS)

Researchers are developing a new imaging catheter that can peer deep into difficult-to-reach tissue. Conventional catheters with cameras can be difficult to use and are sometimes prone to errors. So engineers and imaging researchers developed a nano-optic endoscope, which harnesses something called a metalens. It’s flatter — and thus, more versatile — than conventional lenses. They tested the tiny scope in fruit flesh, swine and sheep, and human lung tissue, where it was able to capture signs of cancer. But it's still far from being tested in the clinic. For now, the researchers are hoping to test the technology in smooth muscle, blood vessels, and other structures.

What to read around the web today

  • Trump spurns Medicaid proposal after furious White House debate. New York Times
  • Watch: How the brain transforms vision into action. STAT
  • A speech pathologist helps transgender women find their voice. Washington Post
  • Hospital mergers may cause short-term patient safety issues. STAT
  • A battle over pot pits the Mormon Church against an unlikely group: other Mormons. Los Angeles Times

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

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