Week in Review: Feb. 27

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.

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Genetic Studies Yield New Insights into Obesity

Today, we hear a great deal about which foods to eat and which to avoid to maintain a healthy body. Though we know that one of the strongest contributors to body weight is heredity, there has been less specific information available about the genetics underlying obesity. But research in this area is progressing at a phenomenal pace, and new genomic discoveries are helping to bring into better focus how our bodies store fat and how the complex interplay of genetics, diet, behavior, and other factors determine whether we can readily maintain a healthy body weight, or whether it takes a lot of work to do so. Via Directors Blog (NIH).

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In Big Shift, FDA Plans To Let 23andMe Market Genetic Tests To Consumers 

More than a year after the Food and Drug Administration barred 23andMe from marketing a broad-based genetic testing service, it looks like the FDA plans to shift gears and allow such tests to be sold directly to consumers. The announcement came in a release today from the regulator that said it’s authorizing 23andMe to market a specific test to consumers for Bloom Syndrome, a rare inherited disorder associated with short stature and various cancers that often result in death by the mid-20s. Via Forbes. 

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WHO Calls For More Measles Vaccination in Europe as Large Outbreaks Persist

The World Health Organization in Europe called on Wednesday for measles vaccination campaigns to be stepped up across the region after recording 22,000 cases of the highly infectious disease since the start of 2014. Saying she was "taken aback" by high case numbers, Zsuzsanna Jakab, the U.N. health agency's European director, said the 22,149 reported cases from seven countries threatened the region's goal of eliminating measles by the end of 2015. Via Reuters.

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A Simple Skin Test May Detect Alzheimer’s

Detecting Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases as early as possible is critical. But while doctors know that the conditions can start 15 to 20 years before the symptoms appear, there aren’t many reliable ways of pinpointing exactly when that occurs. Now, scientists led by Dr. Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva at Central Hospital in University of San Luis Potosi in Mexico report that the skin may hold the clue to such early detection. Via TIME.

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Deadly Diarrhea Disease C. difficile Infects Almost 500,000 in U.S. Each Year

Clostridium difficile, a bacterium that causes swelling of the colon and potentially deadly bouts of diarrhea, infects almost half a million people each year and contributes to the deaths of 29,000, according to new research. In a paper published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reported that C. difficile-associated deaths had more than doubled since 2007 and that more than 80% of those fatalities involved people 65 or older. Via LA Times.

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Gene Identified That Lays Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer

A team of researchers have identified a gene that influences the shape of normal pancreatic cells and, as a result, could set the foundation for pancreatic cancer to develop. The study, published in Nature Communications, suggests that targeting the gene in question - protein kinase D1 (PKD1) - could lead to new ways of halting the development of one of the most difficult tumors to treat. "As soon as pancreatic cancer develops, it begins to spread, and PKD1 is key to both processes. Given this finding, we are busy developing a PKD1 inhibitor that we can test further," says the study's co-lead investigator, Dr. Peter Storz. Via Medical News Today.

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Klobuchar Touts Importance of Precision Medicine

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Friday it is critical that America increase its investment in promising medical advances like precision medicine or risk losing its competitive edge. "If we aren't doing this, someone else in the world is going to do it," the senator told reporters after touring Mayo Clinic's Biobank. Precision medicine has been thrust into the national spotlight after President Obama made the case to fund this groundbreaking research last month in his State of the Union address. Mayo Clinic Dr. Richard Weinshilboum said precision medicine involves using genetic information to tailor treatment to the needs of specific patients. Via Post-Bulletin.

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New Screening Tests for Hard-to-Spot Breast Cancers

Past versions of MBI exposed patients to too much radiation to use for regular screenings. A new version developed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., uses a lower dose. In a study of 1,585 women with dense breasts published in the American Journal of Roentgenology this month, Deborah Rhodes, a Mayo Clinic internist, and colleagues found that MBI detected nearly four times as many invasive breast cancers as mammography, with fewer unnecessary biopsies. As of now, only about 100 hospitals offer the newest MBI technology, which is made by GE Healthcare and Gamma Medica Inc. Via Wall Street Journal.

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Researchers Warn on Anesthesia, Unsure of Risk to Children

Faced with mounting evidence that general anesthesia may impair brain development in babies and young children, experts said Wednesday that more research is greatly needed and that when planning surgery for a child, parents and doctors should consider how urgently it is required, particularly in children younger than 3 years… “On the one hand, we don’t want to overstate the risk, because we don’t know what the risk is, if there is a risk,” said Dr. Randall P. Flick, a pediatric anesthesiologist and director of Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Rochester, Minn., who has conducted some of the studies in children suggesting a link to learning problems. “On the other hand, we want to make people aware of the risk because we feel we have a duty to do so.” Via NY Times.

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Mayo Clinic’s Measles Virus Therapy for Cancer Profiled in VICE Documentary on HBO

VICE founder and host Shane Smith follows pioneering researchers across the U.S. — including specialists from the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center — are changing the face of modern-day medicine through their work with oncolytic virus therapy. This revolutionary treatment uses HIV, measles and other viruses that have killed millions to combat cancer. Read this post to view the trailer. Via Mayo Clinic News Network.

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Kelley Schreiber

Kelley Schreiber is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She is the principle editor and writer of Insights and leads social media and direct marketing strategy. Kelley has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2013. Outside of work, you can find Kelley running, traveling, playing with her new kitten, and exploring new foods.