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Friday, July 21, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

We finally made it to Friday! Before you head out for the weekend, here's what you need to know about science and medicine. 

HIV drug resistance is on the rise

Resistance to HIV drugs is on the rise, and in response, the WHO has issued a new set of guidelines to keep the crisis in check. The immune system can grow resistant to HIV drugs when patients don’t stick to their treatment plan, often because they’re not able to do so. Patients who’ve grown resistant to HIV drugs will start to get sicker and need a different treatment regimen — and if they can’t access one, are at risk of transmitting a resistant virus to others. In some countries, health officials found that more than 10 percent of people starting antiretroviral therapy — a treatment that aims to slow the rate at which the virus makes copies of itself — were infected with a drug-resistant strain of HIV. The new guidelines urge countries to monitor their HIV treatment programs closely for drug resistance. 

Filling in the gaps on races left behind by health data

There’s very little health data available on Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. It wasn’t until 1997 that health officials separated Asians and Pacific Islanders into two distinct racial groups in surveys, which means they’re now trying to fill in the gaps. Now, a new analysis of the CDC's health surveys reveals striking disparities. Asthma and cancer rates in 2014 were roughly twice as high in NHPI adults as they were in Asian adults in the U.S.

Drilling down highlighted further contrasts: Samoan adults were more likely than Native Hawaiian adults to have lower back pain, for example. The CDC is encouraging researchers to dig into the data to better understand the disparities laid out in the report, which is a first step toward well-rounded health statistics that represent the entire U.S. population.

FDA OKs first MRI machine for babies in the NICU

The FDA has given the green light to the first MRI designed specifically for infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. Right now, doctors have to take infants out of the NICU and wheel them down to regular MRI suites to capture images of the body's internal structures. The new system, however, has a specially designed incubator built right into the MRI machine to minimize the amount a baby has to be moved. 

Inside STAT: The water's biggest health risk isn't a shark

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(alex hogan / stat)

It's shark season (on cable TV). Shark Week is fast approaching, and with it, the annual warnings about shark attacks. Fatal shark attacks are actually somewhat rare: On average, one person dies of a shark attack every other year in the U.S. But swimmers face real risks that are much more common than shark attacks, from parasites to norovirus. STAT's Jonathan Wosen has a list of those risks — and how to avoid them — here.

Lab Chat: The many steps that make our muscles move

The movements we all make every day — from typing a newsletter to clicking it in your inbox — are the product of complicated communications between the brain, the spinal cord, and the muscles. To better understand that process, scientists stuck some mice on a treadmill to monitor their muscle movement. Here’s what Andrew Miri of Columbia University told me about the findings, published in Neuron.

What did you set out to understand?

There’s a major population of neurons in the brain’s motor cortex, and those neurons are all active during movement. But there have been conflicting ideas about what the neurons in the motor cortex actually do to control muscles. That’s because when the motor cortex is damaged in an animal, there are still many movements that can be performed. So why are those signals they’re sending to the spinal cord not important for driving movement?

What did you discover?

We used optogenetics to turn off the activity in the motor cortex and get a picture of what that activity was doing to muscle movement. We found that during some types of movements, like reaching for a precise object, the motor cortex is affecting movement. But when a mouse is just walking on a treadmill, although there is activity in the motor cortex, it’s not directly driving their activity.

Glass to make drug vials is apparently very strong

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crushing it. (Alex Brandon/AP)

I hope you have as much fun this weekend as President Trump had yesterday trying to break a glass medical vial with the help of 1,000 pounds of force. The president, egged on by a group of pharma execs, tried and failed to break the vial. The White House hosted the CEOs of Merck, Pfizer, and Corning for the event, which launched a new initiative to manufacture high-strength glass pharmaceutical packaging in the U.S. 

What to read around the web today

  • Bid to ease Chile's abortion ban hits roadblock. Reuters
  • Three things Trump is already doing to "let Obamacare fail." New York Times
  • What's going on with the Senate health care bill? Vox

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

  • One big cancer breakthrough is likely on the way to patients. Here’s what may be coming next
  • Japan to take ‘strict action’ against Bayer over patient-data scandal

Thanks for reading! Back bright and early Monday morning,

Megan

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