Friday, April 22, 2016

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking
Good morning, and happy Friday! STAT reporter Andrew Joseph here, filling in for Megan. Now, here’s what’s going on in the world of health and medicine.

Paying up for violating patient privacy

Reality TV shows that bring viewers into emergency departments draw millions of viewers. But they can also come with a cost: patient privacy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that it had reached a $2.2 million settlement with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for what the agency said was “the egregious disclosure” of two patients’ private health information on the ABC show “NY Med.” In one case, the agency’s Office for Civil Rights determined the crew kept filming a dying patient despite pleas from a hospital staffer to stop. For more on the ethical and privacy issues involved with shows like “NY Med,” be sure to check out this great ProPublica story.

The mortality gap narrows between rich and poor kids

Over the past 20 years, an increasing inequality has emerged between the mortality rates of rich and poor Americans. But there’s a glimmer of good news, according to new research published in Science: Children and young adults in poor counties have seen mortality rates improve since 1990. That could mean that the inequality in adult mortality rates will narrow as this population grows up.

NIH pledges to solve safety problems at flagship hospital

At the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center research hospital, patient safety took a backseat to research efforts, supervisors weren’t fixing issues reported by staff, and hospital leaders did not understand the federal regulations with which the facility needed to comply. Those are among the findings of a new report from a task force tapped by the NIH to look into problems at the center. On Thursday, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins outlined the steps he was taking to solve the problems identified in the report, and said that there was no evidence that the issues at the hospital harmed any patients.

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Disruptive Dozen: The 12 technologies that will drive cancer care in the next decade

The World Medical Innovation Forum will announce the Disruptive Dozen at the World Medical Innovation Forum. Leading Harvard faculty from the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute nominated the 12 technologies that they believe will have the greatest impact on cancer care during the upcoming decade. A rigorous process was used to choose the technologies that represent their consensus on the ones that will most influence care in the next ten years. The 12 technologies will be announced on Wednesday, April 27 at 11:35 a.m. at the conclusion of the World Forum. Register Today!

Inside STAT: The microbiologist who crusades against hype

Oversell your research? Endorse the latest microbiome “cure”? Then it’s possible you’ve heard from Jonathan Eisen, the University of California, Davis microbiologist who’s not afraid to call out — and irritate — his fellow scientists. And when he’s not talking bugs or taking down hucksters, Eisen uses his social media megaphone to press for more gender equity in science. STAT contributor Rob Waters has this profile of Eisen.

Lab Chat: What cellular supports have to do with heart disease 

Microtubules in a cardiomyocyte.(Lab of Ben Prosser)

Microtubules are mostly known for their role in moving things around the cell, but now researchers have found that these cell structures could play a role in heart disease. Using advanced imaging technology, a team at the University of Pennsylvania observed microtubules’ behavior in beating mouse heart cells. They found that certain chemical changes, called detyrosination, made microtubules form tighter connections to the muscle fibers, restricting the heart’s ability to contract. Here’s what senior author and physiologist Benjamin Prosser said about the discovery, published in Science.
What do microtubules do when a healthy heart cell contracts?

Microtubules in most cells function as stiff rods. It takes a lot of energy to deform a microtubule. But the thing is a heart cell itself generates a lot of power when it contracts. We were able to make direct observations of microtubules in beating heart cells and see that they resemble something like springs.

What happens when more detyrosination occurs?

Some detyrosination could provide structural stability or prevent the [heart muscle] from contracting too much. [But with] more detyrosination, and therefore more interaction with the [muscle], you get more resistance to the heart contracting.

What does this mean for patients with heart problems?

When we screened patients, levels of detyrosination were intimately correlated with their decline in contractile function. The next step is to test is whether genetic or pharmacological disruption of detyrosination can restore contractile or beating strength in human subjects.

Promising signs in the fight against malaria

Mosquitoes are the primary driver of malaria, but the disease can be passed via blood, and many people in sub-Saharan Africa harbor the parasite in their blood even if they don’t show symptoms. In a small study in Ghana published in the Lancet, a team showed that treating donated blood with ultraviolet light and vitamin B2 can cut the risk of transmitting the disease via transfusion.

Also in the Lancet this week, a team from the University of California, San Francisco, gives a progress report on the 35 countries presently working to eliminate malaria. Though those don’t include most African nations, Brazil, or India, the researchers still say these 35 countries are an unseen driver toward global eradication, having reduced their malaria burden by a remarkable 90 percent from 2000 to 2013.

What to read around the web today

  • AstraZeneca taps gene pioneer Venter for huge drug-hunting sweep. Reuters
  • Truth and transgender at age 70. Washington Post
  • The only North American health facility that prescribes heroin’s active ingredient. New York Times

More reads from STAT

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend,


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