Mammograms in 3-D may be better, but hard proof is missing
3-D mammography was approved by the FDA in 2011, but the technology is still too untested to determine whether it’s useful for most women. However, there’s been speculation that women with dense breasts may benefit from 3-D mammograms because the usual mammogram isn’t good at seeing through dense tissue. “We need to wait and see if the next round [of research] shows the same benefit [for women with dense breasts] and whether we can figure out if it’s for everybody, every year,” said Dr. Barbara Monsees. “I think it will get worked out eventually.”
The New York Times
Clots tied to heart pump open debate on risks patients face in trials
A new report showing an increase in blood clots associated with a popular heart device called the HeartMate II is dividing experts over whether a clinical trial of the implant potentially is too risky for patients. Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Scott Silvestry said, “We feel our patients will be served by a possibility of enrollment [in the trial].” Other outlets: Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Bloomberg,CNBC
15 biggest diet and weight loss stories of 2013
Listed among the year’s 15 biggest diet and weight loss stories was Washington University research that found giving obese individuals artificial sweeteners increased their peak blood sugar and insulin levels. “Our results indicate that this artificial sweetener is not inert — it does have an effect,” said first author Dr. M. Yanina Pepino. Related WUSM news release
Are we parenting for the short term?
No matter how well-intentioned, overpraising affects the pre-fontal cortex, the reward center of the brain. “The brain center says: ‘Don’t give up. Don’t stop trying,” said psychiatrist Dr. Robert Cloninger. “But a person who grows up getting rewarded too frequently will not have persistence because they’ll quit when the reward disappears. The end result is that kids learn to cheat, exaggerate and lie in order to avoid difficult real-life situations.”
Gene-sequencing project finds family of drugs with promise for treating childhood tumor
A St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital–Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project study identified drugs that enhance oxidative stress as possible weapons against rhabdomyosarcoma, the most common pediatric soft-tissue tumor. Other outlets: Health Canal,ScienceDaily
OxyContin tops list of abused prescription drugs: Survey
Oxycodone — the active ingredient in OxyContin — and hydrocodone are the most popular drugs among Americans who abuse prescription painkillers, a new study finds. “Opioids are prescribed to treat pain, but their misuse has risen dramatically in recent years,” said principal investigator Theodore Cicero. “Our goal is to understand the personal characteristics of people who are susceptible to drug abuse so we can detect problems ahead of time.”
Other outlets: Everyday Health, Health 24, ScienceDaily, Red Orbit,
Medical XPress Related WUSM news release
Could poor dental health signal a faltering mind?
Tooth loss and bleeding gums might be a sign of declining thinking skills among the middle-aged, a new study contends. “There might be a genetic link between the two, with a certain gene promoting both oral health issues and cognition problems,” said assistant professor of neurology Dr. Catherine Roe. “Or, of course, it could be simply that if you’ve got cognitive problems you just aren’t taking very good care of your teeth.” Other outlets: Medicine Net
How brain scans might change the way doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s
Neurologists John C. Morris, Randall Bateman and their colleagues have been tracking the health of people with a rare genetic mutation that guarantees Alzheimer’s will strike them at a young age. By using sophisticated brain scans that can estimate the amount of amyloid plaque in the brain while people are still alive, they have detected plaques in the brain 15 years before cognitive problems typically appear in such individuals.
Volunteering with violin in hand
St. Louis Children’s Hospital volunteer Phillip Hsu is studying neuroscience at Washington University with plans to become a physician. But in the meantime, he visits the patients at the hospital on a regular basis and shares his other passion – playing the violin. He may be classically trained, but he has mastered contemporary music so he can play music children will recognize. Other outlets: KSDK-TV
National Institutes of Health
NIH deposits first batch of genomic data for Alzheimer’s disease
Researchers now freely can access the first batch of genome sequence data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project (ADSP). The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has devoted $25 million in sequencing capacity at its three flagship centers, one of which is The Genome Institute at WUSM.
Researchers in New York City are out to sequence the city’s microbiome. So far, the so-called PathoMap project has collected and analyzed data from all of NYC’s 468 subway stations and found that most stations had a unique profile. They plan to extend the analysis to NYC parks, taxis, airports and beyond. But what will the data prove? “I think [these projects] might be effective and cost-efficient, but I think the unanswered question is whether the data are useful to epidemiology and disease-outbreak tracking/treatment,” said Dr. Elaine Mardis.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Harsh parenting, more common among poor, impairs kids’ brain growth
Harsh parenting unleashes so-called toxic stress in children, changing the structure and functionality of their brains, heightening chances for negative behavior, and potentially condemning a child to a life hampered by heart disease, among other maladies. Dr. Joan Luby recently published a study in Pediatrics about the effect of poverty on children’s brains. “This is an incredibly important public-health issue,” she said. Other outlets: Star Beacon (Ashtabula, OH)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Metro East girl, 5, has gene sequencing for rare brain cancer tumor
When doctors could not identify a rare brain cancer in 4-year-old Janet Pruneau, they decided to pursue genetic sequencing. “Ten years ago we would have taken our best guess” as how to treat Janet, said neurosurgeon Dr. Jeffrey Leonard. Instead, the physician team used the analysis of the sequencing to decide that the girl could be treated effectively using a standard treatment regimen as opposed to a more aggressive treatment.
Scanning the brains of adults with dyslexia and the brains of normal readers, scientists found no differences in the brain’s interpretations of human speech sounds. Rather, adults with dyslexia may have difficulty processing speech sounds because of a dysfunctional connection between frontal and temporal language areas of the brain. Advances in neuroimaging techniques like fMRI have helped researchers in “understanding the brain and behavioral relationships in dyslexia,” said radiologist Todd Richards.
Columbia Daily Tribune (Columbia, MO)
Neurofibromatosis patients find support community helps them navigate the disorder
Neurofibromatosis (NF) affects more than 100,000 Americans but is often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. However, according to NF Center director Dr. David Gutmann, “We’ve made an amazing amount of progress” in the past 20 years. The mutant genes have been identified and some treatments that were initially successful in mice are currently part of clinical studies in people with NF-1 and NF-2.
Dance class for kids with cerebral palsy
Dr. Jan Brunstrom, head of the cerebral palsy program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, has cerebral palsy herself. She is well-known for her refusal to use the word “can’t.” That’s why she encouraged the mother of patient Gracie Gibson to start a dance class for children with cerebral palsy, regardless of their physical abilities.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
‘Murderball’ players from St. Louis area looking for wins, not sympathy
The St. Louis Rugby Rams play ‘murderball’ or wheelchair rugby. They’re ranked 7th in the nation, out of 48 teams. Two members of WUSM’s Occupational Therapy faculty are involved with the team: Kerri Morgan is one of only 10 women nationwide who plays, and Sue Tucker is the coach.
St. Louis Beacon
Many concerns — and some hope — in health data on blacks in the region
The St. Louis region has made progress in the past 10 years in reducing death rates for African-Americans with three chronic medical conditions: diabetes, heart disease and cancer, according to new research co-authored by Dr. Bettina F. Drake. However, diabetes and cancer rates are still a cause of concern. Other outlets: KSDK-TV
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Four babies hemorrhage after parents refuse vitamin K shot
Drs. Kelly Ross and Carolyn Smith are worried by rising trends at MoBap, BJH and at hospitals across the country, where parents are refusing vitamin K shots for newborns. Vitamin K is necessary for effective blood clotting. Most newborn babies are vitamin K deficient because the nutrient does not transfer effectively from the placenta, so they are given an injection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report last month about four babies in Nashville, Tenn., who hemorrhaged after their parents refused vitamin K injections at birth.
KWMU/St. Louis Public Radio
Racial divide leads to health disparity in St. Louis
In a policy brief from For the Sake of All, a collaborative, inter-disciplinary study of the health of African-Americans in St. Louis and St. Louis County, WUSM researcher Dr. Melody Goodman and SLU’s Dr. Keon Gilbert explain how segregation affects health. The researchers write that segregation results in some neighborhoods with high rates of poverty. This is associated with fewer banks investing in these areas, lower home values and poor job opportunities. “Segregation itself is not the problem,” Goodman said. “Segregation is just people of different races living in different communities. The issue with segregation is that it often causes inequality.”Related WUSM news release
Flu numbers on the rise in Missouri, Illinois
Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports flu activity in Missouri and Illinois is sporadic, cases are on the rise. Since Nov. 6, 54 cases of influenza have been confirmed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. More than two-thirds of those cases were diagnosed during the first two weeks of December.
KTVI-TV Fox 2
Winter car seat safety
Child safety expert Abbey Iffrig explains why kids should not wear their winter coats when getting buckled into their car seats. Because coats are soft, they compress during an impact, which would cause the child to be thrust farther than if they’d been secured tightly into their seat without a coat.
Local high school wins life-saving AED
Bayless High School is the winner of a BJH contest giving away an automated external defibrillator (AED). Earlier this month, members of the WUSM/BJH Heart and Vascular Center presented the AED to the school during its winter sports recognition assembly. Representatives from Missouri and Illinois high schools were asked to submit an essay describing the important role athletic programs play in the lives of their high school’s students, along with how their school educates students on the health benefits of being active. Anna-Marie Barker, a nurse from Bayless High School, submitted the winning essay.
Study shows promise for preventing graft-vs.-host disease after bone marrow transplant
A new class of drugs reduced the risk of patients developing graft-vs.-host disease, according to a study from researchers at WUSM and the University of Michigan. The study showed the drug vorinostat, combined with standard medications given after transplant, was safe and tolerable with manageable side effects.
Blues brighten day of kids with illness
The St. Louis Blues visited kids at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Cardinal Glennon and Ranken Jordan. They make the annual visit to brighten the spirits of kids who are spending the holidays in the hospital.
St. Louis Beacon
Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children’s Hospital
With help from Dr. David Gutmann, head of the Neurofibromatosis Center at WUSM and SLCH, accomplished jazz musician Regina Carter performed for kids in the Child Life playroom at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Her visit was made possible through a connection between Dr. Gutmann and Jazz St. Louis.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Flu shots and lice are on parents’ minds during the weekly parenting chat
Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann shared a physician perspective during her weekly parenting chat with columnist Aisha Sultan. Topics during this week’s discussion were head lice, flu shots, melatonin and sleep routines.
Washington University and Barnes-Jewish heart specialists first in Missouri to implant subcutaneous ICD
Heart specialists at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital Heart & Vascular Center were the first in Missouri to implant a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD) into a patient. Unlike the traditional ICD used to help treat arrhythmias such as tachycardia, the S-ICD does not place wires inside the heart or blood vessels. “This is a significant leap forward for patients because it bypasses all of the problems associated with running a wire through a blood vessel into the inside of the heart,” said Dr. Mitch Faddis.
Synthetic RNAs designed to fight cancer
Xiaowei Wang, PhD, and his colleagues at Washington University have designed synthetic molecules that combine the advantages of two experimental RNA therapies against cancer.Related WUSM news release
10 top medical and technological innovations of 2013
2013′s most exciting innovations in health care include research by Dr. Joshua Hood showing that nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom can destroy the HIV virus while leaving surrounding cells unharmed.
Related WUSM news release
Study aims to boost safety in construction
Construction workers often injure themselves lifting heavy materials, working in awkward positions and performing repetitive tasks. As part of a study, Dr. Ann Marie Dale along with the safety director for a local mechanical contracting firm, developed safer ways for sheet metal workers to complete their tasks. They shared the information with the workers as part of a six-week training course. Preliminary results indicate that the workers had an increased awareness of the risk of injuries, and they also tried new tools and sometimes changed the way they performed work tasks. Analysis is continuing to determine if there were fewer injuries. Related WUSM news release
Breaking down stress: Mindfulness, breathing and yoga can beat back stress’ side effects
Experts believe the simple act of being present, called mindfulness, can counteract stress, especially during the holiday season. “Let’s face it, when most of us get stressed, we’re thinking about something in the past we can’t change or something potentially in the scary future,” said Dr. Kathryn Liszewski. “Learning to live and appreciate the present moment is an antidote to stress. But it also requires living mindfully and changing unproductive habits.”
Related WUSM news release
Rare gene variants double risk for Alzheimer’s disease
A team led by researchers at WUSM has identified variations in a gene that doubles a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. The newly identified variations, found in a gene never before linked to Alzheimer’s, occur rarely in the population. “We were very excited to be able to identify a gene that contains some of these rare variants,” said lead author Dr. Carlos Cruchaga. “And we were surprised to find that the effect of the gene was so large.” Other outlets:Medical XPress, Bioscience Technology Related WUSM news release
Diabetes drugs affect hearts of men, women differently
The commonly prescribed diabetes drug metformin had positive effects on heart function in women but not in men, who experienced a shift in metabolism thought to increase the risk of heart failure. “We saw dramatic sex differences in how the heart responds to the different therapies,” said senior author Dr. Robert J. Gropler. Other outlets: Red Orbit, ScienceDailyRelated WUSM news release
Outdoor recess ups quantity, intensity of physical activity
Outdoor recess is associated with increased quantity and intensity of physical activity compared with indoor recess settings, according to a study by physical therapist Dr. Irene Tran and collegues. The authors suggest that school policies should promote outdoor recess.
The Daily Statesman
Giving thanks, again and again
The Robinson family of Bloomfield, Mo., shared their experience with the Fetal Care Center at BJH and SLCH after delivering a set of twins with a rare anomaly impacting blood flow to the placenta. The twins were born 10 weeks early and spent 52 days in the NICU.
Technology Review (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
World’s smallest pacemaker can be implanted without surgery
A new pacemaker is small enough to fit inside the heart and can be implanted through a patient’s veins. In addition, researchers have developed artificial valves for patients whose natural valves have become damaged that also can be delivered by catheters snaking through large blood vessels. Cardiologist Dr. Brian Lindman and colleagues have found that less invasive catheter-based procedures for valve repair can be safer for high-risk elderly patients and can enable doctors to treat patients who are too frail to undergo surgery. Other outlets: MedCity News
New mutations in the estrogen receptor drive strong drug resistance exhibited by human breast tumors
Human breast tumors transplanted into mice are excellent models of metastatic cancer and provide insights into how to attack breast cancers that no longer respond to the drugs used to treat them. Dr. Matthew Ellis said the research is a step toward precision medicine, allowing scientists to study tumors from patients whose treatment regimens are well-documented. Related WUSM news release