What’s New in Health Care Reform: Feb. 6

What's New in Health Care Reform provides an overview of the past week’s news, updates, and commentary in health care reform and utilization management.

New U.S. Experiments Aim to Create Gene-Edited Human Embryos

A scientist in New York is conducting experiments designed to modify DNA in human embryos as a step toward someday preventing inherited diseases, NPR has learned. For now, the work is confined to a laboratory. But the research, if successful, would mark another step toward turning CRISPR, a powerful form of gene editing, into a tool for medical treatment. Via NPR.

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The Promise of ‘Ingestibles’: In Health Care, the Race Is on to Put Sensors in Your Gut

First, health care entrepreneurs raced to claim the market to put an EKG on consumers' wrists. Then came miniaturized glucose monitors and tracking devices inside chemotherapy pills. Now, the rush is on to tackle the most personally intrusive, and impactful, task of all: Embedding sensors all along your digestive tract. Around the world, researchers are developing ingestible sensors designed to help detect and treat everything from colon cancer, to minor indigestion, to Crohn’s disease, while potentially unlocking some of the biggest mysteries buried in the human gut. Via STAT.

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Death-Cap Mushrooms Are Spreading across North America

Between a sidewalk and a cinder-block wall grew seven mushrooms, each half the size of a doorknob. Their silver-green caps were barely coming up, only a few proud of the ground. Most lay slightly underground, bulging up like land mines. Magnolia bushes provided cover. An abandoned syringe lay on the ground nearby, along with a light assortment of suburban litter. Paul Kroeger, a wizard of a man with a long, copious, well-combed beard, knelt and dug under one of the sickly colored caps. With a short, curved knife, he pried up the mushroom and pulled it out whole. It was a mushroom known as the death cap, Amanita phalloides. If ingested, severe illness can start as soon as six hours later, but tends to take longer, 36 hours or more. Severe liver damage is usually apparent after 72 hours. Fatality can occur after a week or longer. “Long and slow is a frightening aspect of this type of poisoning,” Kroeger said. Via The Atlantic.

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Daily Exercise, Even Just a Brisk Walk, Has Been Shown to Lower Blood Pressure

Often, there are no signs or symptoms of hypertension, which is why it is referred to as the "silent killer." Even among adults who have been diagnosed with hypertension, nearly half do not have it under control despite taking medications. Needless to say, anything you can do to lower your blood pressure will lower your risk of disease. Exercise guidelines for those with hypertension emphasize the importance of daily or near-daily exercise to lower blood pressure. While the guidelines focus on those diagnosed with hypertension, daily exercise can benefit everyone. Via Washington Post.

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Scans Show Female Brains Remain Youthful as Male Brains Wind Down

Women tend to have more youthful brains than their male counterparts—at least when it comes to metabolism. While age reduces the metabolism of all brains, women retain a higher rate throughout the lifespan, researchers reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Females had a younger brain age relative to males," says Dr. Manu Goyal, an assistant professor of radiology and neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. And that may mean women are better equipped to learn and be creative in later life, he says. The finding is "great news for many women," says Roberta Diaz Brinton, who wasn't connected with the study and directs the Center for Innovation in Brain Science at the University of Arizona Health Sciences. But she cautions that even though women's brain metabolism is higher overall, some women's brains experience a dramatic metabolic decline around menopause, leaving them vulnerable to Alzheimer's. Via NPR.

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New Online Tool Can Predict If You'll Have Another Kidney Stone

The calculator devised by the researchers is called the Recurrence Of Kidney Stone (ROKS) model. It was originally developed and released to the public by the Mayo Clinic in 2014, as both an online tool and smartphone app. But the original version could only predict someone’s likelihood of getting a second stone following their first episode. “Each of the risk factors we identified are entered into the model, which then calculates an estimate of the risk of having another kidney stone in the next 5 or 10 years,” study author John Lieske, a kidney specialist at the Mayo Clinic, said in a statement. Via Gizmodo.

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‘Simple, Inexpensive’ Intervention Improves Patient Punctuality

Adjusting the patient scheduling process improved patient punctuality as well as patient and provider satisfaction, according to findings recently published in Quality Management in Health Care. “As health care providers we need to be constantly evaluating our practice and looking for ways to optimize flow (i.e., minimize waste) and hopefully improve patient safety,” Jed Colt Cowdell, M.D., MBA, of the division of community internal medicine, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida, told Healio Primary Care Today. Via Healio.

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Mayo Clinic Researchers Find Cells That Could Be the Culprits of Anxiety

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic are onto something. They have discovered a way to get rid of something called senescent cells that multiply in our bodies as we grow older. Senescent cells are also found at the sites of major diseases in our bodies, regardless of our age, and doctors have discovered a way to kill off those cells while leaving the healthy cells behind. The effect? It essentially allows researchers to delay, prevent, or alleviate age-related diseases and increase health span. Get older but feel younger? Yes please. But there’s more. Those same senescent cells were also found in the brains of obese people. “What we found with our collaboration in England is that indeed fat-like cells develop in the brain with people with obesity, in a deep part of the brain, close to the part of the brain that controls emotions, particularly anxiety,” says Dr. James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., with the Mayo Clinic. Via WTOL Toledo.

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They Shared the Same Name and the Same Donor

A Rochester man who represented Mayo Clinic on the Donate Life Rose Parade float has passed away. Two years ago, Steve Shank had a lung transplant and was set to be evaluated for a kidney transplant this past January. Unfortunately, Steve became sick with influenza and passed away February 4 surrounded by family. Steve is survived by his wife Caren and two children. ABC 6 News Anchor, Rachel Wick, sat down with a man who was closer to Steve than many because he not only shared the same name but also an organ from the same donor. Via KAAL.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories.