Week in Review: Nov. 23

The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.


Industry News

Romaine Lettuce Is Not Safe to Eat, CDC Warns U.S. Consumers

Romaine lettuce is unsafe to eat in any form, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a broad alert in response to a new outbreak of illnesses caused by a particularly dangerous type of E. coli contamination. The CDC told consumers to throw away any romaine lettuce they may already have purchased. Restaurants should not serve it, stores should not sell it, and people should not buy it, no matter where or when the lettuce was grown. It doesn’t matter if it is chopped, whole head or part of a mix. All romaine should be avoided. The CDC alert, issued just two days before Americans sit down for their Thanksgiving dinners, reported that 32 people in 11 states have become sick from eating contaminated romaine. Via Washington Post.

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Scientists Genetically Modify Virus to Kill Cancer Cells

A genetically modified virus that kills cancer cells and destroys their hiding places has been developed by British scientists. It targets both cancer cells and healthy cells that are tricked into protecting the cancer from the immune system. The role of fibroblasts is to hold different types of organs together but they can get hijacked by cancer cells to become cancer-associated fibroblasts or CAFs. These are then known to help tumors grow, spread and evade therapy. The virus, developed by Oxford University scientists, attacks carcinomas, which are the most ­common type of cancer. The findings were published in Cancer Research. Via New York Post.

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Winona Health Is Latest Minnesota Clinic System to Add Virtual Doctor Visits

Virtual doctor visits are growing in number and popularity as clinic systems learn what types of conditions they can treat online. Winona Health is the latest Minnesota clinic system to add the approach, reaching an agreement to offer SmartExam virtual visits that can assess patients in minutes for any of 430 medical conditions. “People will be able to access care from anywhere — whether they are at their desk, on vacation or at home under a blanket on their couch,” Rachelle Schulz, Winona Health’s president and chief executive, said in a news release. Winona Health is the first system in Minnesota to add SmartExam, which was created by Bright.md of Portland, Ore. But other virtual clinic platforms have emerged. Via Star Tribune.

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Why Standing Desks Are Overrated

We know that physical activity is good for us and that being sedentary is not. Some have extrapolated this to mean that sitting, in general, is something to be avoided, even at work. Perhaps as a result, standing desks have become trendy and are promoted by some health officials, as well as some countries. Research, however, suggests that warnings about sitting at work are overblown and that standing desks are overrated as a way to improve health. David Rempel, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who has written on this issue, said, “Well-meaning safety professionals and some office furniture manufacturers are pushing sit-stand workstations as a way of improving cardiovascular health—but there is no scientific evidence to support this recommendation.” For convenience and comfort, it is nice to have options if you have various aches and pains — “Alternating standing and sitting while using a computer may be useful for some people with low back or neck pain,” he said—but people should not be under the illusion that they are getting exercise. Via Star Tribune.

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How Long Can People Live?

In animal studies over the last few decades, scientists have begun to understand the specific cellular and molecular processes that cause the deteriorations of old age. In an essay in the journal JAMA last month, Tamara Tchkonia, Ph.D., and James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic categorized these processes into four broad groups: chronic inflammation; cell dysfunction; changes in stem cells that make them fail to regenerate tissue; and cellular senescence, the accumulation in tissue of aging cells that accompanies disease. Old cells, researchers have found, secrete proteins, lipids and other substances that increase inflammation and tissue destruction. In one study in mice, researchers showed that transplanting these cells to the knee joints of healthy animals causes disease that looks very much like human osteoarthritis. Via NY Times.

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Mayo Clinic News

Spinal Implant Breakthroughs Are Helping People with Paraplegia Walk again

In a study directed by Kendall Lee, M.D., Ph.D., and Kristin Zhao, Ph.D., at Mayo Clinic, a patient with complete paralysis in his/her lower body managed to walk 100 metres with a walking frame thanks to a spinal implant. This kind of device, called an epidural electrical stimulator (EES), sends electrical signals to the healthy nerves at the bottom part of the spine (which must be intact in order for the technique to work). The device uses a pulse generator implanted under the skin to send the appropriate signal to electrodes attached to the dura, the protective layer for the nerves in the spinal cord. The procedure is minimally intrusive and patients can return home on the same day. Living with the implanted stimulator is in many ways similar to living with a pacemaker device. Via The Conversation.

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Why Don’t We Have Vaccines against Everything?

And as with weaponry, fear changes everything. In epidemiologically quiet times, the anti-vaccine lobby sows doubts; when Ebola or pandemic flu strikes, Americans clamor for protection. There are two obstacles to faster progress, said Gregory Poland, M.D., Director of the Vaccine Research Group at Mayo Clinic. “One is scientific, and one is embarrassing,” he said. The embarrassing part is the lack of investment. It takes 10 years and more than $1 billion to develop a vaccine—a small fortune for a medical advance but a pittance for a weapons system." Via NY Times.

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AI Innovators: Learn How This Researcher Discovered the Benefits of AI in Radiology

Meet Bradley Erickson M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Radiology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. While in the Radiology Informatics Lab, Dr. Erickson is developing cutting-edge informatics tools that extract and convey the wealth of information available in medical images in a clear and concise fashion to help healthcare providers. Dr. Erickson tells us how he found his way through medical school to land in radiology and why it’s important for radiology to integrate with AI and deep learning to get the most out of its practices. Via Forbes.

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Which Migraine Patients Should Get CGRP Drugs?

Which patients should get the new calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) monoclonal antibodies for migraine prevention, and what will payers agree to? These are issues the American Headache Society (AHS) will address in an upcoming position paper, said AHS executive committee member David Dodick, M.D., of Mayo Clinic, at the AHS Scottsdale Headache Symposium. "We anticipated that these therapies were going to be costly, and we anticipated that would limit access for patients," Dr. Dodick said in a plenary session here. To that end, the AHS plans to publish a consensus statement with criteria "to guide clinicians and hopefully, reimbursement authorities in the United States, as to which patients should get access to these therapies." Via MedPage Today.

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Mayo Clinic Q and A: Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is a term used to describe chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. There are several types of inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. These disorders often cause severe diarrhea, along with other symptoms, such as weight loss, abdominal pain, and fatigue. Via Mayo Clinic News Network.

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Gina Chiri-Osmond

Gina Chiri-Osmond is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She manages public relations and media outreach. Gina has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2011. Outside of work, Gina is going for gold in volleyball at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo . . . or at small-town summer festivals.