Friday, April 28, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Good morning, and congrats on making it to Friday! I'll be away next week on a fellowship, so my trusty colleague Andrew Joseph will be taking the Morning Rounds reins. 

Repeal vote dropped ahead of Trump's 100th day

GOP lawmakers have scrapped their efforts to get enough support for a vote today to repeal and replace the ACA. Some in the White House had their fingers crossed for a vote today before the president rounded out his first 100 days in office tomorrow. The proposal on the table retained much of what was in the AHCA, Paul Ryan’s plan that flopped last month. And while an amendment allowing states to waive some of the major mandates of the ACA helped win over the conservative Freedom Caucus, but moderates remain wary. 

The Senate is also gearing up for a final vote on the nomination of Scott Gottlieb to run the FDA. The Senate HELP committee voted 14-9 yesterday to send Gottlieb along for the full vote. 

Ditching unused drugs the right way on Take-Back Day

It’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day tomorrow, and the DEA has set up drop-offs nationwide to make it easy for people to get rid of their unused prescription drugs safely — a particular concern as the opioid crisis sweeps the country. Nearly one in three people reports having unused prescriptions at home, according to a new report out this week. You can find a site near you here. And if you miss take-back day tomorrow, the FDA has detailed guidelines here about what to do with your unused prescriptions year-round.

Protesters take on climate change and its health harms

Thousands concerned about climate change — and the threats to human health it poses — are slated to take to the streets tomorrow for the People’s Climate March. It’s the third annual march, but the political landscape surrounding environmental issues looks dramatically different this year. The Trump administration has scaled back Obama-era environmental protections put in place under Obama and may withdraw from the landmark Paris Agreement to combat climate change. That has many in the scientific community up in arms. 

Meanwhile, experts focused on those same issues are gathering this morning in Boston to go over the latest research on climate change and human health. They’ll be examining how climate change has impacted infectious diseases, mental health, and nutrition. For more on how health is intertwined with climate, watch this.

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Inside STAT: To learn to care for elderly, students live in retirement home

sai raj kappari, 28, plays a round of gin rummy with kingsley manor residents. (dania maxwell for stat)

Kingsley Manor Retirement Community in Hollywood is home to painters, film editors, dancers, and magicians — along with some students in their 20s. The students are part of a unique collaboration between the retirement home and the University of Southern California’s gerontology school. The students live and eat for free in the retirement home. In exchange, they teach fitnesses and art classes, share meals with residents, and answer frantic computer-related questions. “Having young people? That is the best idea. We can see their energy,” says Gabrielle Boisson, a 97-year-old resident. The students might one day fill a critical health care gap — as the baby boomers continue to age, experts warn there aren’t nearly enough geriatricians to meet the coming demand. I’ve got the story on retirees and students living as neighbors and friends — read here.

Scientists try to catch glaucoma as early as possible

Researchers have developed a new type of eye exam that might one day be able to catch glaucoma — cell death in the retina that can eventually cause blindness — much earlier than currently possible. Right now, eye doctors catch glaucoma by inspecting the optic nerve, checking eye pressure, and running other tests. The new test uses a fluorescent tag that sticks to cell proteins when injected, making diseased cells show up as bright-white during an eye exam. That gives doctors peeking into the back of the eye a clue as to whether individual nerve cells have died. So far, they’ve only tested the technique on a small number of patients. But with more research, they’re hopeful the approach could potentially be used down the line to check for signs of other neurodegenerative disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.

New site helps women who are self-inducing abortions

An international group that counsels women on how to use abortion medication at home is expanding its efforts to the US. The new site, launched by the advocacy organization Women Help Women, will provide individual counseling to women who are early on in pregnancy and are considering taking abortion medication at home. The FDA advises that women only take the medication by prescription and while supervised by a doctor for safety, but some women purchase the pill online illegally. The group tells the Washington Post they decided to bring the service to the US in light of the current political climate. Republican state lawmakers have introduced a slew of abortion restrictions in recent years, and federal legislators are still considering cutting Planned Parenthood funding. 

A gene responsible for serotonin's balance in the brain

normal serotonin spread on the left, and clumped-up serotonin on the right. (TOM MANIATIS/COLUMBIA'S ZUCKERMAN INSTITUTE)

Scientists have pinpointed a gene responsible for the dispersal of serotonin-producing neurons in the brain — a finding that could bring new insights into depression. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for stabilizing mood, and the neurons that release it spread their branches in a precise pattern. Researchers have discovered a gene responsible for keeping the organization in check.  “When you delete this gene cluster, you see a clumping of the serotonin neurons,” study author Tom Maniatis of Columbia tells me. In mice without the gene, the neuron’s branches grew tangled, serotonin wasn’t released evenly, and mice showed signs of depression. Read more about the work in Science.

What to read around the web today

  • Industry hopes Trump will back off food labeling rules. Boston Globe
  • America's other drug problem. ProPublica
  • Breast pumps finally join the 21st century. Wired

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! Morning Rounds will be back Monday. Have a wonderful weekend,


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