Week in Review: Jan. 19

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

For Now, Sequencing Cancer Tumors Holds More Promise Than Proof

People diagnosed with cancer understandably reach for the very best that medical science has to offer. That motivation is increasingly driving people to ask to have the DNA of their tumors sequenced. And while that's useful for some malignancies, the hype of precision medicine for cancer is getting far ahead of the facts. Via NPR.

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Century after Pandemic, Science Takes Its Best Shot at Flu

A century after one of history's most catastrophic disease outbreaks, scientists are rethinking how to guard against another super-flu like the 1918 influenza that killed tens of millions as it swept the globe. There's no way to predict what strain of the shape-shifting flu virus could trigger another pandemic or, given modern medical tools, how bad it might be. But researchers hope they're finally closing in on stronger flu shots, ways to boost much-needed protection against ordinary winter influenza and guard against future pandemics at the same time. We have to do better and by better, we mean a universal flu vaccine. A vaccine that is going to protect you against essentially all, or most, strains of flu," said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. Via ABC News.

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NIH Wants 1 Million Americans to Contribute to New Pool of Gene Data

Starting this spring, Americans across the country will be invited to contribute to a massive new pool of genomic information being assembled by the government, a project that represents the most ambitious effort yet to capitalize on the promising new frontier of gene-based medicine. Three years after the National Institutes of Health first announced its Precision Medicine Initiative—subsequently redubbed “All of Us”—the agency’s director, Francis Collins, says the large-scale project is ready to expand beyond its initial testing stages. In early spring, on a date yet to be announced, NIH is planning a nationwide launch to start enrolling what it hopes will eventually be as many as 1 million participants. Via Washington Post.

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Standing, Desk or Not, Is a Big Part of Many Jobs

The standing desk is having a moment among office workers, but not everyone needs to stand more at work. A study published in the latest issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report finds that many U.S. workers are already active on the job. Researchers analyzed the 2015 National Health Interview Survey—the most recent data available—and found that two-thirds of employed adults reported frequent standing at work. Food service workers; employees in farming, fishing and forestry; and cleaning and maintenance staffers were most likely to report frequent standing. Forty percent of adults reported frequent standing in addition to frequent exertion, meaning tasks like pushing, pulling, and lifting. Construction workers reported the most standing and physical work. Via NPR.

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Flu Season Warning: Babies and Children Hit Particularly Hard This Year

The U.S. is being hit with one of the worst flu seasons in years, with 45 states reporting widespread illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—four times as many as this time last year. Experts warn that young children are particularly vulnerable. CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula reports that the strain of flu that's spreading this season, H3N2, tends to hit younger and older people harder than others. "This is a bad bug," said Dr. Daniel Jernigan, director of the CDC's Influenza Division. "In years when there is H3N2, we do see that there are more deaths." Via CBS Health.

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Mayo Clinic News

Easily Affordable Whole-Genome Sequencing Is Goal of Latest Mayo Collaboration

Mayo Clinic has struck a collaborative and financial arrangement with a startup medtech firm seeking to overcome a cost barrier now standing in the way of much more widespread availability of whole-genome sequencing. If Boston-based Veritas Genetics is successful in delivering on its promise of being able to sequence a patient’s entire genome as well as provide an analysis for under $1,000 per test, it could result in many more people moving beyond current basic genetic testing, or genotyping, in which only specific genetic mutations associated with certain conditions are looked for. Via Twin Cities Business.

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Newly FDA-Approved Platform Will Rapidly “Manufacture” Stem Cells to Repair Our Bodies

Up until now, any patient receiving stem cells for a medical treatment has had to wait months for their doctors to create enough cells to make multiple doses. But that could soon change: the FDA recently approved an automated bioreactor, developed by scientists at the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine, that can manufacture stem cells by the billions in a matter of days. “The new platform represents a giant leap in regenerative medicine, in which stem cells currently are being investigated as treatments for wide-ranging medical conditions,” Guojun Bu, Ph.D., neurologist and Associate Director of Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine, said in a press release. Via Futurism.

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High-Sensitivity Troponin May Help Uncover Heart Failure Rise

In an accompanying editorial, Allan Jaffe, M.D., and Wayne Miller, M.D., Ph.D. (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota), say that the meta-analysis supports the hypothesis that high-sensitivity troponin assays can be used to identify patients at risk for developing heart failure, but also reveals substantial heterogeneity across studies. “So, rather than helping to clarify how to proceed based on the findings of the meta-analysis, uncertainty is extended,” they write. “This marked heterogeneity may be why the increase in C-statistic for the analysis is so small (0.03).” Via TCTMD.

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Most Patients with Unknown Spinal Cord Disease Later Given Specific Diagnosis, Study Show

A study by Mayo Clinic researchers found that most patients with suspected spinal cord inflammation of unknown cause have an alternative, specific diagnosis. The research is published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. "Our review draws attention to the critical need to properly diagnose spinal cord disease to initiate appropriate therapy early on and avoid unnecessary and potentially harmful treatments," says B. Mark Keegan, M.D., Mayo Clinic neurologist and senior author. Via Science Newsline.

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Mayo Clinic Minute: Preventing Colds and Flu

Right now is the peak of the common cold and flu season. Typically, the greatest number of those illnesses occurs between December and February, but some people may get sick as late as May. Gregory Poland, M.D., Director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group, says it's not too late to get a flu vaccine. And, for those older than age 65 or with a chronic medical condition, he says to consider vaccines against pneumonia. 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.