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 Clinic Laboratories news, and upcoming events.
HIV Research Halted after NIH Freezes Acquisition of Fetal Tissue
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have been ordered not to acquire new fetal tissue for their research since September, according to Science—the same month the Trump administration began an audit of research using the tissue funded by the NIH and other agencies. The NIH confirmed the suspension on Friday to Science, which reported it affected two NIH labs, including halting an HIV research project. Spokespeople for the Department of Health and Human Services and the NIH institutes with affected labs did not respond to STAT’s request for comment on Sunday. Researchers use fetal tissue to create mice with human-like immune systems—which is useful for biologists, like Dr. Warner Greene, who do HIV research. “Humanized mice have been available for a long time,” Dr. Greene, the director and senior investigator at the Center for HIV Cure Research at the Gladstone Institute, told STAT. His NIH collaborator was told in September that fetal tissue could no longer be ordered. “To have them removed—to have experimental programs stopped—because of politics is really disturbing,” Dr. Greene said. “I believe it’s scientific censorship.” Via STAT.
Genetic Changes Associated with Physical Activity Reported
Time spent sitting, sleeping, and moving is determined in part by our genes, University of Oxford researchers have shown. In one of the most detailed projects of its kind, the scientists studied the activity of 91,105 UK Biobank participants who had previously worn an activity monitor on their wrist for a week. The scientists taught machines to automatically identify active and sedentary life from the huge amounts of activity monitor data. They then combined this data with UK Biobank genetic information to reveal 14 genetic regions related to activity, seven new to science, they report in Nature Communications. The work paves the way for better understanding of sleep, physical activity, and their health consequences. Via Science Daily.
Vitamin Treatment for Sepsis Is Put to the Test
Dr. Jonathan Sevransky was intrigued when he heard that a well-known physician in Virginia had reported remarkable results from a simple treatment for sepsis. Could the leading cause of death in hospitals really be treated with intravenous vitamin C, the vitamin thiamine and doses of steroids? "Hundreds of thousands of people die in the U.S. every year and millions of people in the world die of this," says Sevransky, a critical-care physician at Emory University. "So when somebody comes out with a potential treatment that is cheap and relatively easily available, it's something you want to think about." Sevransky ended up doing much more than thinking about it. The Marcus Foundation in Atlanta, a major donor to Emory, approached critical-care doctors there after hearing about the potentially revolutionary treatment and offered to fund a careful scientific study to see if it actually worked. Via NPR.
Breast Cancer Risk May Increase after Childbirth, Study Finds
New research led by doctors from the University of North Carolina and the Institute of Cancer Research in London shows women who have babies may have a greater risk for breast cancer than women without children. The study found that risk for breast cancer goes up for 24 years after a woman's last child, peaking at five years after childbirth. The risk starts to fall after 24 years and is at its lowest 35 years out. Researchers looked at data from nearly 890,000 women of different ages and found the risk continues for more than two decades after childbirth. Dr. David Agus, the director of USC Norris Westside Cancer Center, told "CBS This Morning" the study should change how doctors screen for breast cancer. "If your last child was at age 35, we may start screening at age 40 instead of classically at age 50 because the risks may go up after five years out. And so it's very important now that doctors ask this question and put the into the history of the patient," Agus said. Via CBS News.
Minneapolis-Based MyMeds Launches Mayo Clinic Collaboration
MyMeds, started informally years ago by a doctor frustrated over patients who wouldn’t take their prescription medicine, is getting traction. Northeast-based MyMeds this week struck a collaboration with Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions, “marking a major step in the health care sector’s efforts to combat patient non-adherence to doctor-prescribed medications.” Medication non-adherence, patients not taking their medications properly, is one of the costliest healthcare challenges plaguing employers, health plans and health systems across the industry. It’s estimated that about $300 billion of the annual $1 trillion tab for prescription medicine in the United States is wasted. “As a doctor, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges—both medical and from a cost-perspective—that result from patients missing their medications or misunderstanding their prescriptions,” said CEO Rajiv Shah, the founder and an owner of MyMeds. “This [Mayo] collaboration supports patients by providing accurate, easy to understand information while helping address this significant issue affecting everyone in health care.” Via Star Tribune.
Mayo Clinic News
Neurofilament Light Tied to Cognitive Decline
Neurofilament light protein previously has been shown to be elevated in different forms of dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Although other studies have shown similar findings, "this study is the most exhaustive to date and includes a much larger sample size and a wider range of neurodegenerative diseases to compare CSF neurofilament light levels," noted Michelle Mielke, Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved with the study. "It is notable that the addition of CSF neurofilament light to CSF amyloid-beta, total tau, and phosphorylated tau greatly increased the accuracy of distinguishing ALS or FTD patients compared to controls," Dr. Mielke told MedPage Today. "However, it is not yet clear how much the addition of CSF neurofilament light to the other CSF biomarkers will help with differentially diagnosing the specific type of neurodegenerative disease." Via MedPage Today.
Smoking Linked to Cognitive Dysfunction in Fibromyalgia
Ryan D'Souza, M.D., from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues surveyed 668 patients with fibromyalgia to examine the correlation between tobacco smoking and cognitive function. The primary outcome of interest was cognitive function as measured by the 38-question multiple-ability self-report questionnaire (MASQ). The researchers found that 14.07 percent of the patients self-identified as smokers. In unadjusted analysis, smoking was identified as a significant risk factor for lower total cognitive functional score and lower MASQ subscale scores in language, verbal memory, visual-spatial memory, and attention. After adjustment for age, gender, body mass index, marital status, and education level, smoking was identified as a significant risk factor for lower total cognitive functional scores and lower MASQ subscales in language, verbal memory, visual-spatial memory, and attention. In univariate analysis adjusting for the same factors, smoking was a significant risk factor for greater FM symptom severity, worse quality-of-life measures of bodily pain and mental component scale, greater sleep problems, and increased anxiety and depression. Via Medical Xpress.
An Exit Interview with Mayo Clinic's CEO
Dr. John Noseworthy retires from the top post at Mayo Clinic this month after setting some major changes in motion. Dr. Noseworthy has been Mayo's President and CEO since 2009. During his tenure, he helped seal the deal on the so-called Destination Medical Center—a $5.6 billion project to expand Mayo and redevelop large parts of the city of Rochester. It's also been an era of turbulence for the health care and health insurance industries. Mayo operates as a global powerhouse, with medical campuses in Florida, Arizona, but also as a regional provider with clinics in rural Minnesota. Dr. Noseworthy talks with MPR News host Angela Davis about his time leading the clinic and about Mayo's role in the future of medical care in Minnesota—and around the world. Via MPR.
Precision Radiology May Become Possible with Deep Learning-Based Abdominal CT Segmentation
TA deep learning algorithm developed by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, segmented abdominal CT images to determine body composition similarly to, and at times, better than trained radiologists. In the study, published online Dec. 11 in Radiology, researchers created an algorithm based on U-Net architecture and trained it to perform abdominal segmentation on a dataset of 2,430 2D CT exams. The algorithm was tested on 270 CTs and a separate set of 2,369 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). All exams were performed between 1997 and 2015 on patients with an average age of 67 years old. with pixels external to the body. When compared to the reference segmentation, the algorithm “met or exceeded” the expert’s manual effort, according to first author Alexander D. Weston with Mayo Clinic’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and Physiology, and colleagues. “Our results suggest that an accurate 3D segmentation is possible by using a simple 2D model, which could vastly reduce both the complexity and the amount of training data required to develop a segmentation tool,” Weston and colleagues wrote. Via Health Imaging.
Mayo Clinic Minute: The Facts about 3 Flu Vaccine Myths
Every influenza season, millions of Americans decide to skip the flu shot based on false information. Gregory Poland, M.D., Director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, is one of the world's leading experts on vaccines and has the facts that stand up to the myths. Via Mayo Clinic News Network.