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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Happy Thursday, and welcome to the Morning Rounds, where I get you ahead of the day's health and medicine news. 

Senate committee introduces new bill to boost biomedical research funding

Senate Democrats introduced a bill this morning to restore the budgets of the NIH and the FDA. The bill, introduced by the HELP committee, would create a fund that would dole out dollars to research on life-saving treatments, including Vice President Joe Biden's cancer moonshot and the Precision Medicine Initiative. The National Biomedical Research Act is shooting to build NIH funding up to its 2006 high (adjusted for inflation). 

In other political news, presidential candidate Donald Trump has rolled out a seven-point plan for health care reform that includes allowing drug importation from overseas, pushing for greater price transparency in health care, and of course, repealing Obamacare. STAT's David Nather breaks the plan down here

Unplanned pregnancies declining for first time in decades

The unintended pregnancy rate in the US is tumbling after years of remaining steady, finds new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In 2011 there were 45 unplanned pregnancies in the US per every 1,000 women of reproductive age. That’s an 18 percent decrease since 2008, and marks the lowest rate since 1981, when the Guttmacher Institute first started tracking unplanned pregnancies. And for the most part, the decline spanned all ages, races, and income levels.

That drop may in part be due to more women using IUDs and other long-acting reversible contraceptives. In 2012, about 12 percent of American women using birth control relied on a LARC, compared to just 2 percent in 2002. 

How often obesity brings Americans to the doctor's office

 
How often adults in the US visit doctors for obesity. (CDC)

Adults paid 11 million visits to doctors’ offices in 2012 for problems related to obesity, finds data published this morning by the CDC. Obese individuals also reported higher rates of other chronic conditions, like hypertension and diabetes, more often than other patients, the study found. One positive finding: In 40 percent of visits with obese patients, doctors took the time to offer information about good diet and exercise, nutrition, and weight reduction. 

Overhauling the way we understand ovarian cancer

We need to dramatically change the way we think about ovarian cancer, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. “Ovarian cancer is not one disease, rather it is a constellation of diseases,”  Shelley Tworoger of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who sat on the committee that produced the report, told me. There’s a push to better understand high-grade serous ovarian tumors, which are the most common type of ovarian tumor but also have the worst survival rates, she said. “Improving our ability to characterize these tumors is critical to improving our research and ultimately reducing the impact of this disease,” she explained. (On a related note: Tworoger’s lab has a surprising source for data on ovarian cancer — toenails.)

Inside STAT: The scientists trying to rid an island of mosquitoes

Mosquitoes kill an average of 800,000 children every year via diseases such as malaria, dengue, Zika, and yellow fever. On a remote South Pacific atoll, scientists are in the middle of an experiment that could help change how the world fights mosquitoes and the diseases they spread. Hervé Bossin, along with a team of researchers, have let loose more than a million sterile male mosquitoes in the last few months. That's triggered a massive decline in the mosquite population. STAT contributor Karen Weintraub visited the island (owned by Marlon Brando's estate) to get the scoop on the approach — read here

Brain scans could track the progression of Alzheimer's

PET scan of a patient's brain. (Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally)

PET scans can help scientists see the progression of Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms appear. Scientists scanned the brains of 53 patients of a variety of ages, some with Alzheimer's and some without, and they were able to see tau protein changes in the brain. PET scans have previously been used on the brains of deceased patients to look at the potential effects of Alzheimer’s, but the authors say the new technique, described in Neuron, could offer a method of diagnosing and tracking Alzheimer’s over the course of a patient's life. That'll require scientists to better understand what exactly they're looking for in the brains of patients, though. 

Cardiac arrest creates long-term problems for kids

New research published in Pediatrics this morning details the long-term effects seen in children who have cardiac arrest and then are temporarily comatose after being resuscitated. The research looked at 96 children a year after the incident. The majority of them had problems with communication, socialization, and motor skills. A previous study suggested that hypothermia therapy — rapidly cooling the patient's body temperature — immediately after cardiac arrest might help minimize neurobehavioral complications, but the new study found that didn’t make a significant difference.

What to read around the web today

More reads from STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Megan

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