Week in Review: Dec. 15

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

Huntington’s Breakthrough May Stop Disease

The defect that causes the neurodegenerative disease Huntington's has been corrected in patients for the first time, the BBC has learned. An experimental drug, injected into spinal fluid, safely lowered levels of toxic proteins in the brain. The research team, at University College London, say there is now hope the deadly disease can be stopped. Experts say it could be the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases for 50 years. Via BBC.

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Nothing Protects Black Women From Dying in Pregnancy and Childbirth

In recent years, as high rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. have alarmed researchers, one statistic has been especially concerning. According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 300 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition. That imbalance has persisted for decades, and in some places, it continues to grow. In New York City, for example, black mothers are 12 times more likely to die than white mothers, according to the most recent data; from 2001 to 2005, their risk of death was seven times higher. Researchers say that widening gap reflects a dramatic improvement for white women but not for blacks. Via MPR News.

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DNA is Going Digital – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Biology is becoming increasingly digitized. Researchers like us use computers to analyze DNA, operate lab equipment, and store genetic information. But new capabilities also mean new risks – and biologists remain largely unaware of the potential vulnerabilities that come with digitizing biotechnology. The emerging field of cyberbiosecurity explores the whole new category of risks that come with the increased use of computers in the life sciences. Via CBS News.

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Adults Can Get Type 1 Diabetes, Too

Using data from a resource called the UK Biobank, Dr. Nicholas J. Thomas, and colleagues from Exeter University applied a genetic risk score that they developed from 29 genes commonly associated with Type 1 diabetes to 13,250 people who developed diabetes over the first 60 years of their lives. Overall, 42 percent of cases of Type 1 diabetes started when people were 31 to 60 years old, while 58 percent were diagnosed at age 30 or younger. Type 1 was equally likely to appear across the first six decades of life, whereas the occurrence of Type 2 diabetes rose dramatically with age, accounting for 96 percent of cases in the 31-60 age group. Via NPR.

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FDA Approves Diabetes Drug That Also Helps With Weight Loss

Regulators approved a new diabetes drug that reduces blood sugar levels and also helps people lose significant weight. Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk said the Food and Drug Administration approved its once-a-week shot for people with Type 2 diabetes. The drug, Ozempic, also known as semaglutide, works by stimulating the body's own insulin production and reducing appetite. In one big company-funded study, Ozempic, on average, reduced long-term blood sugar levels at least 2 ½ times as much as a popular daily diabetes pill, Merck & Co.'s Januvia. It also helped study participants lose two to three times as much weight as those in the comparison group. Over 56 weeks, patients who got a lower dose of Ozempic lost an average of 9.5 pounds (4.3 kilograms) while those who got a higher dose lost 13.5 pounds (6.1 kilograms). The patients who took Januvia lost an average of 4 pounds (1.9 kilograms). Via CBS Health.

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Mayo Clinic News

Mayo Clinic Study Identifies Barriers to Stem Cell Therapy

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, have identified specific barriers to patients receiving stem cell therapy to treat multiple myeloma. The barriers, according to researchers, include income, education, insurance status, and access to care. “Stem cell transplants are a standard treatment for patients with multiple myeloma and have been shown to benefit patients by delaying the recurrence of disease and, in some cases, improving patient survival,” Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi, a hematologist at Mayo Clinic in Florida and the lead investigator of this study, said. “While stem cell transplant utilization for patients with multiple myeloma has increased for all racial and ethnic subgroups over time, population-based studies have repeatedly shown that certain racial minorities are less likely to receive it.” Via Life Science Daily.

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Get Active, Beat Lymphoma?

Physical activity appears to help people with lymphoma survive their disease. That finding comes from a new study by Mayo Clinic researchers of nearly 4,100 people with lymphoma, a cancer that starts in the white blood cells that normally help fight infection. "As physicians, we recommend physical activity for all cancer survivors to improve overall quality of life, but we did not know if physical activity would have an impact on survival in lymphoma patients," said study author Dr. Priyanka Pophali, a hematologist at Mayo Clinic. Via HealthDay.

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International Team Identifies Genetic Model for Predicting Primary Myelofibrosis Outcomes

A group of investigators from Mayo Clinic and multiple academic research centers in Italy have identified a genetic model for predicting outcomes in patients with primary myelofibrosis who are 70 years or younger and candidates for stem cell transplant to treat their disease. The group's findings were presented at the 59th American Society of Hematology annual meeting in Atlanta by lead authors Alessandro Vannucchi, M.D. from the University of Florence and Ayalew Tefferi, M.D., a hematologist at Mayo Clinic. Myelofibrosis is a rare type of chronic leukemia that disrupts the body's normal production of blood cells," says Dr. Tefferi. Via Medical Xpress.

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Mayo Clinic Researchers Find Emojis Could Help Monitor Cancer Patient Outcomes

The words “cancer” and “emoji” don’t often command the same seriousness. A new study out of Mayo Clinic, however, poses the idea that emojis may help doctors better study and understand how cancer patients are feeling about their disease and treatment. “Emojis are a near universal, popular form of communication, understandable by diverse populations, including those with low health literacy,” Carrie Thompson, M.D., said in a statement. Thompson is a researcher in the Division of Hematology at Mayo, and she’s lead author on the study. Via Healthcare Analytics News.

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First U.S. Baby Born After Uterus Transplantation is Dawn of a New Era

A Texas woman recently gave birth to a boy, thanks to a transplanted uterus. Dr. Zaraq Khan, a Mayo Clinic reproductive endocrinologist and infertility surgeon, says, for women with uterine factor infertility, this is promising. He says the foundation work for uterine transplantation has been in Sweden and, so far, there have been more than 25 transplants performed worldwide. The case in Texas was the second in the U.S.and the first to result in a live birth. 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.