Week in Review: April 5

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.


Industry News

Bad Diets Are Responsible for More Deaths Than Smoking, Global Study Finds

About 11 million deaths a year are linked to poor diet around the globe. What's driving this? As a planet we don't eat enough healthy foods including whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. At the same time, we consume too many sugary drinks, too much salt, and too much processed meat. As part of a new study published in The Lancet, researchers analyzed the diets of people in 195 countries using survey data, as well as sales data and household expenditure data. Then they estimated the impact of poor diets on the risk of death from diseases including heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. (They also calculated the number of deaths related to other risk factors, such as smoking and drug use, at the global level.) Via NPR.

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Hepatitis C Not a Barrier for Organ Transplantation, Study Finds

Donated organs from people who were infected with the hepatitis C virus can be safely transplanted, according to the latest in a line of studies that are building a case for using these organs. Typically, these organs have been discarded because of concerns about spreading the viral infection. But a study of heart and lung transplants published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine finds that new antiviral drugs are so effective that the recipients can be protected from infection. Via NPR.

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What Americans Know about Science

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that many Americans can answer at least some questions about science concepts—most can correctly answer a question about antibiotics overuse or the definition of an “incubation period,” for example. But other concepts are more challenging; fewer Americans can recognize a hypothesis or identify that bases are the main components of antacids. The survey, conducted Jan. 7 to 21, 2019, takes stock of the degree to which the public shares a common understanding of science facts and processes in an era of easy access to information and sometimes-intense debate over what information is true and false. Via Pew Research.

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Amazon Alexa Is Now HIPAA-Compliant. Tech Giant Says Health Data Can Now Be Accessed Securely

Amazon unveiled software on Thursday that allows health care companies to build Alexa voice tools capable of securely transmitting private patient information, a move that opens the door to a broad array of uses in homes and hospitals. Via STAT.

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Mayo Clinic News

Using Blood, Saliva, Urine to Detect Cancer: Scientists' 'Holy Grail'

Scientists at Mayo Clinic and a cancer diagnostics company called Exact Sciences have been collaborating on research to identify specific proteins or biomarkers tied to various tumor types. The idea is that if those biomarkers can be found in blood, they could be used to diagnose tumors in various areas of the body. "We have identified biomarkers for 13 of the top 15 cancers," including breast, colorectal and liver cancers, said Dr. Paul Limburg, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and co-chief medical officer of Exact Sciences. Yet more work is needed before those biomarkers could be used to detect and diagnose cancers in patients at early stages. "While more of the puzzle is being pieced together from a scientific perspective, it will still take years to conduct and complete the rigorous clinical research necessary to put these tests into everyday practice," Limburg said. Via CNN.

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What AI Can Tell from Listening to You

The Mayo Clinic conducted a two-year study that ended in February 2017 to see if voice analysis was capable of detecting coronary-artery disease. Every person’s voice has different frequencies that can be analyzed, explains Amir Lerman, director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Mayo. Mayo, in collaboration with voice-AI company Beyond Verbal, used machine learning to identify what it thought were the specific voice biomarkers that indicated coronary artery disease. The clinic then tested groups of people who were scheduled to get angiograms. Everyone in the study recorded their voices on a smartphone app, and the recordings were analyzed by Beyond Verbal. The finding: Patients who had evidence of coronary-artery disease on their angiograms also had the voice biomarkers for the disease. Dr. Lerman says Mayo is hoping to deploy the technology in the near future. “I think it’s just an amazing area that opens new doors into how we treat patients,” he says. Via Wall Street Journal.

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Suzanne R. Ferguson

Suzanne Ferguson is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories and has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2014. Outside of work, Suzanne can be found traveling, reading and spending time with her family.

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