Week in Review: Jan. 26

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

Biomechanical Mapping Method Aids Development of Therapies for Damaged Heart Tissue

Researchers have developed a new way to capture the detailed biomechanical properties of heart tissue. The high-resolution optical technique fills an important technology gap necessary to develop and test therapies that might eventually be used to heal heart damage after a heart attack. "Today, about one million people suffer heart attacks every year, and there is currently no cure for the resulting cardiac tissue scarring," said Kirill V. Larin of University of Houston, Texas who co-led the research with James F. Martin from the Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Heart Institute. "We are working to develop ways to regenerate heart tissue and our research works to measure the mechanical properties to determine if the heart is healing in response to therapies." Via Science Daily.

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Air Quality Is Leading Environmental Threat to Public Health

The 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) finds that air quality is the leading environmental threat to public health. Now in its twentieth year, the biennial report is produced by researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. The tenth EPI report ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across 10 issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality. Switzerland leads the world in sustainability, followed by France, Denmark, Malta, and Sweden. Switzerland's top ranking reflects strong performance across most issues, especially air quality and climate protection. In general, high scorers exhibit long-standing commitments to protecting public health, preserving natural resources, and decoupling greenhouse gas emissions from economic activity. Via Science Daily.

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Cancer Blood Test "Enormously Exciting"

Scientists have taken a step towards one of the biggest goals in medicine—a universal blood test for cancer. A team at Johns Hopkins University has trialled a method that detects eight common forms of the disease. Their vision is an annual test designed to catch cancer early and save lives. UK experts said it was "enormously exciting." However, one said more work was needed to assess the test's effectiveness at detecting early-stage cancers. Tumors release tiny traces of their mutated DNA and proteins they make into the bloodstream. Via BBC.

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Forget Concussions. The Real Risk of CTE Comes from Repeated Hits to the Head, Study Shows

For more than a decade, researchers trying to make sense of the mysterious degenerative brain disease afflicting football players and other contact-sport athletes have focused on the threat posed by concussions. But new research suggests that attention was misguided. Instead of concerning themselves with the dramatic collisions that cause players to become dizzy, disoriented, or even lose consciousness, neuroscientists should be paying attention to routine hits to the head, according to a study that examines the root cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, better known as CTE. Via LA Times.

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Virus Shown to Be Likely Cause of Mystery Polio-Like Illness

A major review by UNSW Sydney medical researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralyzed children in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. The study, by a team led by UNSW Professor Raina MacIntyre, Director of the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Epidemic Response, is published in the journal Eurosurveillance. "In 2014, children in the US began to be diagnosed with a mystery illness that caused a polio-like paralysis," says Professor MacIntyre. "More than 120 children developed the condition, known as acute flaccid myelitis, in the US alone but experts were baffled as to the cause." Via Science Daily.

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Mayo Clinic News

Mayo Clinic Unveils New, Stronger MRI Machine

A new piece of equipment at Mayo Clinic could give new hope to people with undiagnosed diseases. Mayo Clinic is unveiling its new "7-Tesla" MRI scanner. "There's a real wow factor that when our physicians come in and see the images off the new scanner and compare them to images off our older scanners, they are really impressed and really believe that this scanner is going to make dramatic improvement in the way we take care of patients at the Mayo Clinic," said Kirk Welker, M.D., part of the Neuroradiology MRI Committee. Via KTTC.

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9 Things You Need to Know about Thyroid Cancer

Sometimes, most often in women, the thyroid gets out of whack. In fact, the majority of thyroid cancers (about 75%, by some estimates) occur in women, says John Morris, III, M.D., past president of the American Thyroid Association (ATA) and an endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Morris explains that, while thyroid cancer and autoimmune diseases like hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (an underachieve thyroid) are indeed significantly more common in women than in men, no one quite understands why just yet. And, FYI, thyroid issues like hypothyroidism are linked to an increased risk of thyroid cancer. Via Women's Health.

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Cancer Immunotherapy Found Safe in Patients with Rheumatologic Diseases

"Based on our observations, immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy should be considered in select patients with pre-existing rheumatologic disease," said senior author Uma Thanarajasingam, M.D., Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic. "However, there is an immediate and pressing need for prospective, and ideally, multicenter trials to study rheumatic patients who go on to need immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy—both to better understand their safety profile in this under-studied patient group, as well as elucidate risk factors and biomarkers for the development of immune-related adverse effects." Via Medical Xpress.

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Is It Too Late to Get the Flu Shot?

“We need more research, so we can develop an influenza vaccine that works 100% of the time, for 100% of people,” says Pritish Tosh, M.D., a Mayo Clinic infectious disease physician and researcher. “But we do have a vaccine that is effective in preventing influenza infection and also, in those who get infected, in preventing complications such as hospitalization and even death. While the research is ongoing to create a better vaccine, we need to use the one that we already have.” Via Health.

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Blood Test to Detect 8 Cancers Early Gives Promising Results

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. Greg 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 NY Times.

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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.