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Morning Rounds Megan Thielking

Good morning! Andrew Joseph here filling in for Megan.
You can reach me at andrew.joseph@statnews.com.

He addresses the world

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He jiankui (Photo illustration: Dom smith/STAT)

He Jiankui — the scientist who created the world's first gene-edited babies and, in doing so, set off a global uproar — defended his research Wednesday morning in Hong Kong at a summit about human genome editing. "For this particular case," He said, "I feel proud," adding that he has started another pregnancy with edited embryos. Still, He apologized for the way the world found out about his work and insisted he had not conducted the work in secret. (A UC Berkeley expert whom He told about his plans told STAT on Tuesday that he warned He not to do it.) He's explanations did not appease his critics, however, one of whom told STAT after the talk that He's "responses displayed a deeply disturbing naivete." STAT's Sharon Begley is in Hong Kong and has more on He's remarks here

And a note: Sharon will be holding a live chat for STAT Plus subscribers on Friday at 12 p.m. ET all about the summit. You can register and submit questions here

There's a new generic EpiPen. It's not any cheaper

When the FDA approved a generic EpiPen-like product from Teva Pharmaceutical three months ago, the agency indicated that the product would be a “lower-cost option.” But Teva has now announced its product’s list price is $300 — exactly what Mylan charges for its generic EpiPen. The disclosure comes two years after controversy erupted over the price of EpiPens, which had soared to $608 for a two-pack, but it also shows that generic products are not the cure-all for pricey medications that they are often proclaimed to be. Read more.

First lady holds addiction town hall with HHS, DHS

First lady Melania Trump will be at Liberty University in Virginia today for a town hall about the addiction crisis, which she has said is one of her top priorities. Joining her at the event are HHS Secretary Alex Azar; Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen; former Fox News host Eric Bolling, whose son died of an overdose; and Dianna Hart, the mother of singer Demi Lovato, who has struggled with addiction. Liberty is streaming the event on its Facebook page at 10:30 a.m. ET.
 
Elsewhere in political news, the Senate Health Committee is holding a hearing at 9:30 a.m. ET today about reducing health care costs, the latest in a string of panels the committee has held on the topic. This one, however, comes after an election that was dominated by health care, an issue that Democrats used to their favor to take back the House.

Inside STAT: How researchers are combating the polio-like paralysis affecting children

Coverage of the polio-like paralysis that has affected several hundred kids over the past few years has focused on how the condition, acute flaccid myelitis, is puzzling health authorities. But in a new First Opinion for STAT, three experts from Children’s National Health System in Washington say health officials and researchers aren't just "sitting quietly and helplessly." They highlight how experts are aggressively searching for the cause of the condition, collaborating with their colleagues around the country to share wisdom and best practices for clinical care, and toiling in their labs to better understand how AFM damages the spinal cord and how it could be stopped. Still, they say, more work remains. Read their piece here.

Enzyme injection restores breathing control in rats with spinal cord injuries

When the spinal cord is injured, nerves that help regulate breathing also get damaged and eventually get covered in scar tissue. It all leads to severe breathing problems that worsen over time. But by injecting an enzyme into the spines of rats with spinal cord injuries, researchers showed they could restore the rodents’ ability to control their breathing, they reported in Nature Communications. The researchers injected the enzyme, chondroitinase ABC, into a region called the phrenic motor pool a year and a half after the rats’ spines were injured, and found that it helped clear the scar tissue and enabled the nerves to be repaired. The research has so far just been done in rodents, but the rats' control over their breathing lasted for six months after the injection. 

Ambulances used as a target of war in Syria

Attacks on hospitals and health workers have tragically become a strategy in some wars. Now, experts have quantified the violence against another arm of the health system: ambulances. Emergency medicine researchers reviewed the literature and attacks reported by the Syrian Network for Human Rights for 2016 and 2017 and found that there were 204 attacks involving 243 ambulances, half of which were directly targeted. The Syrian regime was responsible for 60 percent of attacks, while the Russian armed forces accounted for 29 percent of them. The researchers, who published their findings in BMJ Global Health, noted that attacks on ambulances in Syria are likely underreported.

What to read around the web today

  • Opinion: PEPFAR, launched as an emergency response to AIDS, has built a bridge to the future. STAT
  • An anti-vaxxer's new crusade: Being an expert witness for accused child abusers. New Yorker/ProPublica
  • Gates-backed biotech Vir starts its first clinical trial. STAT Plus
  • A grandpa's hope for hemophilia cure leads him to gene therapy clinical trial. CNBC
  • "If it smells 'macho,' it's bad news": Fire departments try to change rugged culture amid cancer debate. Chicago Tribune

Thanks for reading, and until tomorrow, 

Megan

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

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