Spinal cord injuries can be some of the most devastating injuries, resulting in paralysis with little to no hope of recovery. Recent studies in monkeys, however, suggest that this dismal outlook may some day change. Study results published in Nature detail how such injuries were bypassed using wireless technology, allowing monkeys to walk again. Although results in monkeys may not translate to such results in humans, the technology is essentially the same as that already used in humans to treat recalcitrant Parkinson’s disease, so human trials may not be far off.
Read more, and watch paralyzed monkeys walk again, here: ‘Brain wi-fi’ reverses leg paralysis in primate first
Antibiotic resistance is a major source of anxiety for anyone in the healthcare field these days. So-called “superbugs” like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as MRSA) develop the ability to withstand the medications used to treat them, leading to a continuous race between bacteria and drug manufacturers to develop faster. This constant back-and-forth of changes in bugs, drugs, and bugs again appears unsustainable to many, even leading CDC spokesperson Dr. Arjun Srinivasan to declare recently that we have reached “the end of antibiotics, period.”
There still may be hope, however, from an unlikely source: the Tasmanian devil. A recent study found that the animal’s milk contains proteins (called cathelicidins) that can break down MRSA (possibly developed to allow baby Tasmanian devils to live in very dirty environments).
Read more here: Tasmanian Devil Milk Fights Superbugs
Nine months of preparation for your little bundle of joy? $5,000+. A six-week birthing class? $60-100. Getting the chance to hold your newborn baby? Priceless…and $40.
A Utah couple discovered the true price of that unforgettable moment when they received the bill for their son’s caesarian section and posted their experience on Reddit. “Skin-to-skin” is a common hospital practice in which newborns are placed on their mother’s chest soon after delivery, which has been shown to promote longer breastfeeding periods and better temperature stability in the infant. According to the hospital, the charge was incurred due to the extra nurse that needed to be present during the skin-to-skin time – a claim that was supported by a practicing Ob/Gyn.
The larger point in this case concerns the lack of federal rate-setting for the medical materials and procedures in the US. If you are covered under private insurance or paying out-of-pocket, the hospital sets the prices associated with your care. The federal government does set the rates for individuals with certain types of coverage, including Medicaid; however, by and large, this is far from the norm. In fact, the billing process is so bewildering for patients that companies are creating medical billing navigation apps to help them.
Pop quiz: What happens when the facial nerve (CN VII) causes the zygomaticus major to contract? — you SMILE! One reason to smile is the interdisciplinary work in the fields of medicine, dentistry, and microbiology! Recent collaborative efforts in these areas have identified and are working to prevent infectious outbreaks due to contaminated water at dentists’ offices. Dental unit water lines are ideal for the growth of biofilms, which also form pesky and durable microbial colonies on your teeth. Beyond having to brush a little better, these bacterial aggregates can lead to serious health problems.
Last week in Orange County CA, nearly two-dozen children receiving baby-root canals for dental caries (i.e. cavities) developed dangerous mycobacterium infections via inoculation from a contaminated dental water supply. This isn’t the first infectious outbreak from dental lines; in 2015 another outbreak occurred at a Georgia clinic. While full-blown infection development is rare, it can be serious and possibly even require surgery to treat. To prevent such infections, special water filters and treatments should be paired with frequent water testing at clinics. Meanwhile, research efforts are underway to combat stubborn biofilm growth. While targeted at oral biofilms versus ones associated with the water supply, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine is making progress in the field. Recently their work was published, describing certain plant peptides that act as antimicrobials, rapidly killing tooth-decay-causing bacteria by thwarting biofilm formation!
Article: Infection Outbreak Shines Light on Water Risks at Dentists Offices
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved eteplirsen, the first drug available for use against Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the debilitating muscle wasting disease affecting young boys. The drug works through exon-skipping and is only applicable to certain forms of the disease. Currently, similar methods of gene therapy are also being developed against other forms of the disease.
Expert advisors to the FDA had voted against approving the drug, citing the relevant drug study’s small size (12 boys) and inadequate control group, which they claimed provided insufficient evidence of the drug’s efficacy. A decision on the drug’s approval was delayed for months, and the FDA, despite granting approval, is requiring additional confirmatory efficacy trials. The drug’s ultimate approval is seen by many as the direct result of an impassioned lobbying campaign by patients and their advocates. (Such advocacy groups for muscular dystrophy have historically been highly vocal and organized.) Further, with the approval of this drug, its cost has skyrocketed, adding another layer of complexity to the ethical issues surrounding this case. Many see this drug’s approval as setting a precedent for the influence of patient groups and pharmaceutical companies on medicine, with widespread disagreement over whether this is a good or a bad development.
Article: FDA Approves Muscular Dystrophy Drug That Patients Lobbied For
Not So Sweet: The Influence of Big Sugar on American Perceptions of Diet and Heart Disease
An article published in this week’s JAMA Internal Medicine
outlines the ways in which the sugar industry shifted public discourse about heart disease in the 1960s. A team of UCSF researchers analyzed documents from Sugar Research Foundation, which paid a modern-day equivalent of $50,000 to a team of Harvard researchers in the 1960s to focus scientific blame on saturated fats in the pathogenesis of coronary artery disease. Of course, we now know that both fat and sugar intake play key roles in CAD; however, corporate interests still carry immense weight (pun totally intended) on food and public policy in this country. Just this week, the soda lobby sued the city of Philadelphia
over an approved volume-based soda tax, which was issued to combat epidemic levels of obesity
in the city.
Design thinking, defined as: “a human-centered approach to innovation that integrates the needs of the people, the possibility of technology, and the requirements for success,” has been recently recognized as a powerful tool to address major shortcomings in healthcare. Through the implementation of design thinking, care delivery, medical provider training, and overall healthcare experience can all be improved. Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine recently identified Sidney Kimmel Medical College (SKMC) as a leading innovator in implementing design thinking within medical education.
SKMC is going beyond supplying medical students with an arsenal of memorized facts and is training students to use design thinking to improve healthcare. JeffDESIGN is the first design program that has been implemented in a medical school. In this program, students work with a variety of mentors to solve real problems in healthcare. Success of implementing design thinking in medical education is evident in the outcomes observed at SKMC: an improved patient room, a smartphone app for patients, and a restructured medical curriculum (which was awarded 2nd place at the AMA Medical Education Innovation Conference). Currently, two student groups are filing for medical device patents. Further, design thinking was the basis behind the creation of our very own PEL— which is designed to fill gaps in medical education, better preparing SKMC physicians to become healthcare leaders.
Design thinking, although not novel to the art of medicine, is being re-discovered at SKMC as a feasible way to solve significant problems in healthcare and to develop physician leaders prepared to apply this approach in medicine.
Article: Making Design Thinking Part of Medical Education