Week in Review: Dec. 22

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

10 Medical Advances That Raised Our Hopes in 2017

Organs from genetically altered pigs, gene therapy, gene editing, and do-it-yourself home genetic testing. If there’s a theme for the most exciting medical advances of 2017, it’s that genetic science took new steps into or towards the real world—even as questions of cost, safety, efficacy, and ethics remained. While genetics broke scientific boundaries, the medical community also celebrated other milestones, including important new drugs for neurological diseases, progress in the treatment of HIV and a baby born in Dallas in a most unusual way. Here are 10 medical advances that raised hopes this year. Via USA Today.

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Medical Advances to Watch for in 2018

The New Year will likely bring continued developments in the fight to improve our health. In 2017, we've seen headlines about new guidelines for blood pressure and the opioid crisis being declared a public health emergency. The FDA also approved gene therapy for childhood leukemia, and now gene editing is even spurring hopes pigs could become organ donors. Next year, CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus says we could see new advances in gene editing to cure or prevent diseases, as well as significantly better vaccines. "The first is one that I had this week, which is a shingles vaccine. Remember, a third of us are going to get shingles . . . it's a reactivation of chicken pox," Agus said, adding that there are 200,000 cases a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shingles among adults is increasing in the U.S. Via CBS Health.

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Word Ban at CDC includes "Vulnerable," "Fetus," "Transgender"

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the very agency tasked with saving and protecting the lives of the most vulnerable, are now under order by the Trump administration to stop using words including "vulnerable" in 2018 budget documents, according to The Washington Post. In a 90-minute briefing, policy analysts at the nation's leading public health institute were presented with the menu of seven banned words, an analyst told the paper. On the list: "diversity," "fetus," "transgender," "vulnerable," "entitlement," "science-based," and "evidence-based." Via CNN.

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Frozen Embryo "Snowbaby" Conceived the Year after Her Mother Was Born

The longest known frozen human embryo to result in a successful birth was born last month in Tennessee. Emma Wren Gibson, delivered November 25 by Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, medical director of the National Embryo Donation Center, is the result of an embryo originally frozen on Oct. 14, 1992. Emma's story begins long before the Gibsons "adopted" her (and four sibling embryos from the same egg donor). Created for in vitro fertilization by another, anonymous couple, the embryos had been left in storage so they could be used by someone unable or unwilling to conceive a child naturally. These are "snowbabies," lingering in icy suspension, potential human lives waiting to be born. Via KOAT.

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Opioids Now Kill More People Than Breast Cancer

More than 63,600 lives were lost to drug overdose in 2016, the most lethal year yet of the drug overdose epidemic, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of those deaths involved opioids, a family of painkillers including illicit heroin and fentanyl as well as legally prescribed medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. In 2016 alone, 42,249 US drug fatalities—66% of the total—involved opioids, the report says. That's over a thousand more than the 41,070 Americans who die from breast cancer every year. Via CNN.

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Mayo Clinic News

Eating Too Much Sugar Can Hurt Your Health, and for Some, It's Actually Addictive

Who hasn't been in a relationship we know is bad for us, but one we just can't quit? For many people, it's like that with sugar. Breaking up is hard to do. "People generally know that sugar isn't good, but they don't appreciate how powerfully negative it really is," says Donald Hensrud, Medical Director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. "If you look at all the things in our diet we can change, pulling away from refined or added sugar will do more good than anything else." Via Washington Post.

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First Genome-Wide Association Study of Dementia with Lewy Bodies

To obtain sufficient samples for GWAS, Bras and collaborators enlisted volunteers at 22 centers across 10 countries in Europe, North America, and Australia. “We all agreed to join forces. It’s the only way we could have succeeded,” said Bras. Co-first authors Rita Guerreiro, also at UCL, and Owen Ross, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida, analyzed DNA from 1,743 white patients of European ancestry. The researchers calculated that, overall, genetic variants account for about 36% of the risk for DLB in this sample. This is roughly the same as for PD, but much less than that for late-onset AD (Keller, et al., 2012; Aug. 2017 news). Via Alzforum.

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Mayo Clinic Cardiologists Explain How They Help Treat the Most Common Birth Defect

As one of the most common birth defects, congenital heart disease can affect people in varying degrees from simple to complex. Congenital heart disease can occur when there is one or more abnormalities in the heart's structure, altering the way that blood flows through to a person's heart. While people who have congenital heart disease are born with the condition, some may not show any indicating symptoms, while others might not even experience symptoms until later on in life. Via ABC 15 Arizona.

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Cancer Survivors often Face another Hurdle: Faster Aging

With the number of cancer survivors growing, the medical profession needs to start paying more attention to how to keep these people healthy throughout their now-extended lifetimes, said senior researcher Shahrukh Hashmi, M.D. He is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "We are now beginning to see the gravity of a multitude of complications among cancer survivors," Dr. Hashmi said. "There is an essential and immediate need for formal cancer survivorship programs to prevent complications in millions of cancer survivors." Currently there are about 30 million cancer survivors worldwide, but researchers predict that about 19 million new cancer diagnoses will be made every year by 2025. Many of those people will survive their cancer, only to face long-term health consequences. Via U.S. News & World Report.

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Mayo Clinic Minute: 3 Tips for Flu Prevention

If you haven't received your flu shot yet, now is the time to do so. Mayo Clinic experts say the best way to protect yourself from contracting the flu is to get the flu vaccine. But there are other precautions you can take to increase your odds of staying healthy during flu season. 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.