Listen: Episode 19: From poop transplants to pill politics, here’s the year in ‘Signal’

first_img Related: Listen: Episode 7: How much are we willing to pay for cures? Listen: Episode 16: To make big profits, drug companies turn to monopoly shenanigans Subscribe to Signal on iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. Catch our previous episodes here, or sign up below for alerts.The podcast is produced by Jocelyn Gonzales. Co-host “The Readout LOUD,” CNBC senior health and science reporter Episode 6: Choosing scientific sides in the fight against Alzheimer’s Related: Related: Listen: Episode 18: How our next president could affect drug prices Episode 1: We are a constellation of our microbiome and ourselves Related: Related: Episode 2: For boys with Duchenne, and two drug companies, a moment of shared hope Related: Related: Listen: Episode 14: The Chinese hamsters that helped birth biotech Listen: Episode 10: Cancer is a low-down, dirty gangster ninja Related: Listen: Episode 9: How our perceptions of risk — and killer snails! — affect our health Episode 4: A shoppers guide to the genome sequencing market Signal PodcastListen: Episode 19: From poop transplants to pill politics, here’s the year in ‘Signal’ Related: @megtirrell Related: Listen: Episode 13: The superbugs are winning the battle against us Related: WE MADE IT.The “Signal” podcast is now a year old. And in this first year, we’ve been able to cover so much truly fascinating science.Looking back at some of the subjects of podcasts past, it’s clear to us how much things have changed — and how much the understanding of science and medicine can evolve in single year.advertisement Listen: Episode 8: How Wall Street reacts when a patient dies in a clinical trial Listen: Episode 15: Can scientists keep pace with Zika to develop a vaccine? Episode 3: Should we believe published scientific research? Related: Tags Alzheimer’smicrobiomepolitics About the Authors Reprints Listen: Episode 12: Before you pop that Tylenol, tune into this podcast Related: Listen: Episode 11: Sexism in biotech, from scantily clad models to how gender affects this podcast Related: By Luke Timmerman and Meg Tirrell Dec. 9, 2016 Reprints Related: Related: Meg Tirrell Listen: Episode 17: Gene-editing might eradicate disease — or be Pandora’s box in a bottle Molly Ferguson for STAT Episode 5: How biotech went from a risky investment to a booming business In this episode, we jump into our time machine to look back at human fecal matter transplants; drugs aimed at Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer’s; deaths in clinical trials; the cost of cures vs. drug prices; and the politics of medicine.Thanks for making our first year such a roaring success, dear listeners (200,000 of you out there decided to download or play “Signal” since our launch). Much more to come — even before this year is over.advertisement Related: Related:last_img read more

Hog jowls and clementines: A bid to awaken cancer patients’ ruined sense of taste

first_img Related: By Eric Boodman Dec. 21, 2016 Reprints LEXINGTON, Ky. — The medicines were rich and strange, their active ingredients so particular they sounded fictional.One regimen involved jowl bits from Red Wattle hogs; the pigs were bred from sows named Fart Blossom and Hildegard, and had spent the end of their lives gorging on acorns, hickory nuts, apples, and black walnuts. Another experimental drug included the flesh of the Ubatuba pepper, picked when it was red as a Santa suit, dried at precisely 90 degrees for five days, and then pulverized, seeds and all, into a fragrant, pinkish powder.These concoctions were meant to be therapeutic — but they hadn’t been devised by pharmacologists or biochemists or even lab techs. Their inventors had no scientific training whatsoever: They were celebrity Montreal chef Frédéric Morin and renowned Atlanta pastry-maker Taria Camerino, who would be facing off in an unusual culinary duel. They’d been challenged to help solve a problem that most clinicians and neuroscientists aren’t able to — the impairment of taste in cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy and radiation.advertisement General Assignment Reporter Eric focuses on narrative features, exploring the startling ways that science and medicine affect people’s lives. But behind the foodie fun is hard science and a real clinical conundrum. Killing cancer cells means killing healthy cells along with them. The poisons of chemo and the waves of radiation are especially good at taking apart the DNA of fast-dividing cells. That can help stop the out-of-control expansion of tumors. But the nerve cells in the nose and mouth replenish themselves quickly, and so they die, too.The resulting changes in taste and smell might seem like a small price to pay for a lifesaving treatment. Yet one’s desire to get up in the morning can be intimately connected to one’s ability to enjoy food. Lose your ability to taste properly and your mental and physical health — which, for cancer patients, is already fragile — can suffer even more.“Many people stop eating,” said Gary Beauchamp, a sensory perception researcher at the nonprofit Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. “It is a potentially lethal effect.”The loss of taste and smell is among the most common complaints of cancer patients. But those don’t necessarily bounce back even if you’re lucky enough to transition from patient to survivor.“The hope is that some of those taste abilities will come back. We’re all different. Some regain it very quickly; others — like myself — might not at all,” said Barry Warner, a 59-year old who was treated for throat cancer seven years ago, and one of the cook-off’s taste-testers. “The bottom line is, if after a period of time, it doesn’t come back, it’s something you’ll have to adapt to. There isn’t going to be anything the same as it was.”Most doctors hardly ask about this side effect, and when they do, they don’t have much to offer besides apologies and explanations. Their focus is keeping you alive.“You have no resources to help you deal with the taste aspect,” Morin said in an interview with STAT about a week before he flew to the conference, as he drove to visit a friend with late-stage metastatic cancer. “Who is the next specialist you talk to? It’s the nutritionist: an accountant of nutrition, a bookkeeper of calories. They don’t become nutritionists because they relish the smell and taste of the skin of a roast chicken.”Atlanta pastry chef Taria Camerino talks with the crowd before the cook-off between her and Montreal chef Frédéric Morin at the University of Kentucky’s demo kitchen. Clay Jackson for STATCamerino does a lot more than “relish” smells and tastes. By her own account, she lives through her sense of taste.“I taste everything — like, everything,” she told STAT. “I taste colors, people, emotions, music … I can’t remember songs or movies, but I know what everything tastes like.”That’s not just because she’s a celebrated pastry chef, who has devoted decades of her life to subtle differences in food. It’s also because she’s synesthetic. The unusual wiring of her brain makes her experience the world through her tongue. Sights and sounds conjure up complex flavors, allowing her to become a kind of mystical Willy Wonka, with top hat and plum velvet jacket swapped out in favor of big round glasses and snaking blue tattoos.Camerino talks about the flavors she perceives the way some saints talk about God — as an experience accessible only through metaphor. And just as monks might interpret their visions through the lens of scripture, she uses her training in French patisserie, Japanese confectionery, and coastal Italian cooking to pinpoint what exactly it is she’s tasting at that moment — and, in some cases, to reproduce it. On the other side of the kitchen, Morin was breaking up the fractal patterns of Romanesco broccoli into tiny bits of chartreuse, as a topping for his potato soup. “If he does not taste anything, I also have a bottle of bourbon,” he muttered in Québécois French.The kitchen began to fill with the smells of bacon and basil, a hint of curry, and the sweetness of cake. The dishes were ready. At the last second, Camerino spooned a glistening white ball of gelato onto the two desserts.The chefs each came forward to introduce their dish. Then they pulled back toward the kitchen. And with everyone watching, Warner and Radhakrishnan took careful bites, rolling around first the soup and then the cake in their mouths. The chefs looked on, tense, as Warner primly wiped his moustache.Both tasters complimented the moisture of the cake and the aromas of the soup, the way the spices enlivened the purée, the way the ice cream made it easier to swallow the cake. They would not reveal the winner until the next day, at the end of the conference, in an auditorium full of academics and clinicians.But a few minutes later, when the room’s attention had moved elsewhere, Radhakrishnan, whose sense of taste has largely come back after two battles with breast cancer, turned to Warner.“Barry, are you able to taste anything?” she asked, gesturing toward the cake.There was a pause. Warner looked serious, like he was concentrating on a math problem. “No,” he said quietly.Warner and Radhakrishnan judge Camerino and Morin’s dishes. Clay Jackson for STATIt might have worked for Warner while he was undergoing chemo and tasting its metallic tang. Or it might have worked for someone else. Just as Warner’s pleasure in food had been shaped in complex ways — by his genes, by the country cooking he’d sampled in the womb and as a child, and then by those foods he’d grown to appreciate as an adult — his preferences were equally unique after he’d lost his sense of taste. After all, a loss is only a loss in relation to what came before.To Camerino, the challenge was at once amazing and humbling. “I could have cried a lot — I cry really easily,” she said. The experiment only heightened her zeal: She is now working with a molecular sommelier to dream up four different lozenges for people with taste loss, and, for those without saliva, two aromatic sprays. She isn’t sure about the exact ingredients, but she is thinking citrus, basil, barley malt as a sweetener, and something reminiscent of anise.Han hopes that these events for chefs and scientists can move from “fun preclinical challenges” to more rigorous research about what can actually help these patients and survivors. Morin is working on an app for cancer patients to share what helps for which kinds of taste loss, and there are other ideas in the works. “We’re doing very early studies to take stem cells to see if we could regrow the system,” said Beauchamp, the researcher from the Monell Center. “But we’re a long way from that.”For now, Warner keeps to the regimen he’s turned to for seven years. He uses whomever he’s eating with as a timer for when he can stop making himself take bites. He smells coffee in the morning, sipping it as he heads into his sunroom to listen for birds. He feels that first burn of bourbon, and notices how it falls away with each subsequent sip. Warner no longer tastes those stomach-turning flavors — but he can’t taste anything else either. He might be able to identify mashed potatoes, say, by the texture, and maybe a little by the smell. But beyond that, he wouldn’t be sure what he is eating.Now, at the lunch before the cook-off, Warner took tiny bites of the squash-and-goat-cheese appetizer that was in front of him. Partially he was saving room for the two different regimens that were on their way to try to rekindle some of those lost gastronomic pleasures for him and a fellow survivor. But that is also just how he’s had to eat since treatment: slowly, mostly without talking, and with little enjoyment, forcing himself to take one small bite after another.“I don’t really get hungry,” he said. “You might sit down at your meal thinking about how good it tastes. Instead, I’m counting how many bites it will take me to get through it. And you never think about how much eating is part of your social life. That changes dramatically.”Warner has kept some of his habits anyway. He still drinks bourbon socially — a taste wired into him as a Kentuckian — and he can smell it, and feel the burn of the first sip. And he still drinks a cup of coffee every morning. But he can’t taste either one.He doesn’t complain about these long-term side effects. “I am so grateful and indebted to the doctors that saved my life, I consider my hearing loss and my loss of taste just … collateral damage,” he said. “Seven years ago, when I was getting my diagnosis, the odds of me having this conversation were less than a flip of a coin.”Still, part of him wishes that he could experience what he remembers of food and drink. He hopes he’ll wake up one day and be able to taste his coffee.Camerino works on her dish of a clementine upside-down cake during the cook-off. Clay Jackson for STATCamerino has devoted herself to sweets, studying chocolate-making and practicing the way to twist a pastry bag so a spritz cookie has the perfect swirl. But suffering, loss, illness, pain — those, too, have distinct flavors for her.She grew up in a poor, abusive household in Gainesville, Fla., with a heroin-addicted father. “Everything tasted like too-salty water, the kind that you gargle when you’re sick and you’re not supposed to drink,” she said.She remembers a year when they ate little but white rice and packaged brown gravy. She remembers struggling through eating disorders without ever seeing a doctor. She remembers the smell of the Miller High Life her father drank. Yet she also remembers her mother getting a job at the African and Asian languages department at the University of Florida, being invited over and presented with foods she had never imagined. Those visits pushed her into studying linguistics.It was only a chance encounter with a pastry magazine that made her switch course: “I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to create something that’s bite-sized that can change your perspective on life.’” This cook-off in the University of Kentucky’s demo kitchen was the opener for the second annual Neurogastronomy Symposium, which was born over a boozy, late-night chance encounter between neuropsychologist Dan Han and Morin in the chef’s restaurant. Together, they envisioned a conference that would combine neuroscience, agriculture, history, nutrition, medicine, and cooking — to understand the art and science of why we eat what we eat, and how we could change it for the better.It isn’t your everyday scientific conference. It’s the kind of conference where invited neuroscientists and neurologists experience the flavor wheel of bourbon, sampling Woodford Reserve along with hazelnuts and then orange flesh to see how the liquor migrates into different parts of the palate. The kind of conference where a panel discussion on the science of taste includes a hip New York chef telling a roomful of dietitians that those with binge eating problems should “have sex! It will take your mind away from food.” The kind of conference where attendees suck lollipops designed to evoke the 1812 Overture.You know, that kind of conference.advertisement Don’t MissHog jowls and clementines: A bid to awaken cancer patients’ ruined sense of taste Watch: Eat, drink, but be wary — 4 foods that interact with medications STAT+: The day of the challenge began snowy and gray. Two days before, fatty jowl bacon had been fetched from a long-bearded breeder of Red Wattle hogs, and driven 60 miles back to Lexington, for whatever taste-saving concoction Morin, the Montreal chef, had in mind. Now, the University of Kentucky chef-in-residence Bob Perry was picking up last-minute ingredients from the research farm where the Ubatuba peppers grow.Morin, it turns out, hadn’t really planned his dish out in advance. He’d asked for some vegetables, wine, bacon, spices. He’d figure something out. Camerino, on the other hand, arrived at the university’s demo kitchen with her own ice cream maker and a duffel bag of tools — infrared thermometers, weird tweezers, Q-tips, an offset spatula, an elaborate assortment of spoons. She was going to bring her own olive oil, too, but thought that might be overkill.Before they headed into the kitchen, the clinicians and scientists and chefs and sommeliers gathered around Warner and another cancer survivor named Erica Radhakrishnan like overeager medical students crowding around a rare and fascinating case. They peppered the two with questions. What was their most memorable meal? Are there textures you find comforting? Did you eat processed foods before? What about the savory taste, which the Japanese call umami?Then, with whatever intel they could gather, the chefs began to cook. Morin peeled potatoes and fried bacon. Camerino cracked eggs with a single hit on the side of the bowl, a quick squeeze and a pull.Camerino adjusted her recipe slightly, making room for local ingredients. She incorporated a sprinkle of Ubatuba paprika into a syrup for the cake; she used molasses boiled down from the green juice of sorghum grass instead of cane sugar.She had been nervous when she arrived, but now she was in her element. She needs no timer to know exactly when something should come out of the oven, perfectly brown. She tasted a spoonful of the basil-pistachio pesto. “This is a trip to Sicily,” she said. “Your marriage is struggling, it’s winter, you’ve lost the ability to communicate … and you go to Sicily with your partner. That’s what this is.” About the Author Reprints Tags cancerneurosciencenutritionpatients Related:center_img Please enter a valid email address. Deep dive into diets shows just how much processed food Americans eat Molly Ferguson for STAT [email protected] Leave this field empty if you’re human: The invitation to the Neurogastronomy Symposium seemed like a perfect opportunity. And as with many of her concoctions, she would be guided by both her synesthesia and her culinary education. This time, though, the food would be a kind of medicine. “I’ve wanted to do something meaningful with this superpower,” she said.She had been told next to nothing about the patients she would be cooking for. Instead, she both did external research — and turned inward. She began conjuring up the flavors evoked by cancer, by chemotherapy, by terrible pain. They were not so different from what she tasted during the long recovery from a motorcycle accident she had this summer: something acidic, a bit like blood, with an astringent metallic edge. She wasn’t surprised that this was the same taste that many cancer patients got when undergoing treatment.“The first thing I wanted to do was dim that down. If I can gain control of the taste in their mouth, if I can get rid of it, I can give them some relief,” she said. “Blood or metal, the best way to compete with that would be citrus. I’m not using a really strong citrus: Clementines are sweet, they have a little more of a delicate flavor. The clementine will cut through — it will literally cut through — the blood and metallic taste, so now I have a pathway through into their experience.”University of Kentucky neuropsychologist Dan Han helps chop clementines for Camerino. Clay Jackson for STATYet she also knew that some patients didn’t have much sense of taste left at all, so she wanted flavors that, to her, produce vibrations felt beyond the mouth: basil and pistachio. “By using the basil, now I’m opening up from the top of the mouth to the top of the forehead, that’s where basil affects you, now I have their whole attention. And pistachio, it has a floral quality, it’s reminiscent of the Mediterranean, of the ocean.”She wasn’t completely giving up on the mouth, though. She thought of how fat can fall soothingly on the palate, another sensation beyond taste. Butter was too heavy, too overpowering, she said. Instead she went with olive oil.The medication she came up with would be delicate, fragrant, and not too sweet: a clementine upside-down cake with a dab of basil and pistachio pesto, crowned with a scoop of olive oil gelato.She wasn’t sure how well it would work. She had never made it before, and had no plans to try it out before she arrived at the event. She knew nothing about these particular patients. Yet as she was preparing for the symposium, she became so excited about the idea of helping patients with taste loss that she even began to dream up a lozenge with the same goal.“I’ve made people experience emotions by combining particular flavors,” she said. “If I’ve made them experience disappointment, satisfaction, joy, then it may be possible to activate certain parts of the brain and make them experience all of that even without their sense of taste.”Morin stirs some turmeric into his soup. Clay Jackson for STATCancer survivor Erica Radhakrishnan tastes Camerino’s dish. Clay Jackson for STAT @ericboodman Privacy Policy Misophonia: When a crunch, chew, or a sniffle triggers hot rage Eric Boodman When she was tasked with “profiling” the chef and television personality Andrew Zimmern in a cake, she was startled that the first thing to appear on her palate was prawn shell. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’” she said.“How do I take a prawn shell and put it into a cake? You toast it. I toasted it low, for a long time, so it never burned and it didn’t become overly sharp, and then I ground it into a powder and I folded it into the cake batter, so all you got was the essence, nothing overwhelming.” The other flavors she had felt — green Szechuan peppercorns, bay leaves, miso, Asian pear — became accompanying syrups and jellies, until she was confident her cake perfectly embodied Zimmern’s spirit.Sometimes, she’ll get flavors she’s never had before, and only through extensive research can she identify them. A band she was taste-profiling a few years ago conjured up a tang that turned out to be a Southeast Asian fruit called calamansi. A man she met around 2001 evoked a taste that turned out to be mare’s milk, as used in Tibetan and Mongolian cuisine. She is sure of it, even though she’s never tasted horse milk of any kind.When Han, the neuropsychologist at the University of Kentucky, emailed to invite Camerino to the conference, she thought it was a joke. Like most people, she had never heard the term “neurogastronomy.” After all, it was only coined in 2011, in the title of a Yale neuroscientist’s book. She wasn’t sure that such a conference existed.But after a back-and-forth by phone and email, she agreed. The arrangement had a fairy-tale ring to it: The woman for whom taste is everything would concoct a special dish that could rekindle patients’ pleasure in food.Barry Warner, one of the cook-off’s taste-testers, lost his sense of taste after being treated for throat cancer seven years ago. Clay Jackson for STATBarry Warner’s first hint of flavor began at least as early as 1957, in the months before he was born. His mother had grown up on a farm southeast of Louisville, where dinner came from the pigpen, the cowshed, and the vegetable patch. That kind of country cooking was what she learned and continued making into her adult years, and during her pregnancy, its fragrant particles filtered down though her digestive system and into her amniotic fluid, shaping what Warner would like once he was born.He was raised among the rolling corn and tobacco farms of Nelson County, in a small town with a single stoplight. His parents weren’t farmers, but starting at 11 or 12, he helped neighbors to bale hay, loading it into trucks and stacking it in barns for the winter. He loved his mother’s cooking: cornbread sticks made in a cast-iron skillet, cooked cabbage, pork chops soft enough to cut with your fork.But in 2009, eating became painful. “Every time I tried to extend my mouth wide enough to take a bite out of a sandwich or a hamburger, I had a burning sensation in my tongue,” he said. He went to see a friend, an oral surgeon who’d removed his wisdom teeth years before, and asked him to take a look.“He thought it was cancer, but he didn’t tell me that and he didn’t tell my wife until he got confirmation,” Warner said. “I didn’t know about it until then.”Throat cancer was one assault on his body and his ability to eat, but the treatment brought about many more. Five days a week, for seven weeks, he would be immobilized onto a steel table and inserted into a machine for radiation. He also got periodic rounds of chemo.Those didn’t just dampen his ability to taste; they also left him without saliva and made him taste flavors that weren’t there.“It really starts out when you’re undergoing chemotherapy, that metal taste you get,” said Warner. “It seems like no matter what you eat, the taste isn’t right.”He could have been tasting the drugs in his bloodstream — but he could also have been experiencing what some call phantom flavors. Those phantoms, some scientists say, can be the product of a taste system that is no longer in control, like a trained horse gone crazy, bucking off its rider and reverting to a frenzy of kicks and twists.“Taste has an interesting function beyond what you experience when you eat,” said Linda Bartoshuk, a taste perception expert at the University of Florida. “Nature wants you to eat, so the taste system can be used to turn off sensations that might interfere with your eating. Taste input actually turns down pain. How does taste do that? It does that by sending a lot of inhibitory messages in the brain.”Take away those inhibitory messages, Bartoshuk said, and those unwanted sensations come roaring in. Related: Newsletters Sign up for Weekend Reads Our top picks for great reads, delivered to your inbox each weekend. Exclusive analysis of biopharma, health policy, and the life sciences. last_img read more

The quest for one of science’s holy grails: artificial blood

first_imgIn the LabThe quest for one of science’s holy grails: artificial blood The need for such a product is clear. Blood loss from traumatic injuries is responsible for thousands of deaths annually, and even when people survive, oxygen depletion can leave tissue permanently injured. Fresh blood can only be stored for 42 days, and only lasts for a few hours unrefrigerated. A substitute could be vital in settings like battlefields or rural areas without easy access to blood, used as a stopgap measure to keep the injured alive until they get to a hospital. Tags drug developmentethicsresearch [email protected] Andrew Joseph “These are all things that you really have to be concerned about,” said Scott, who also works at the Center for Blood Research at the University of British Columbia. “Is the size going to lead to a lot of vascular leakage? Is the hemoglobin that’s inside the shell stabilized so it won’t cause acute or chronic toxicity?”One advantage of the small size of the substitute blood, both Scott and Doctor said, is that it could be used for people with sickle cell disease. During sickle cell crises, the misshapen red blood cells gum up blood vessels, and it’s possible that ErythroMer could get around the logjams and deliver oxygen past those points. Doctor also raised the idea that it could be used to oxygenate organs during transplant operations.In addition to overcoming the biological hurdles, the ErythroMer team will eventually have to convince regulators that its product is safe enough to test in people (depending on its success in animals, that is). Several scientists said the Food and Drug Administration seems hesitant to green-light new trials of blood substitutes — and some said rightfully so — because of safety concerns from past products. Plus, clinical trials of trauma-related treatments often run into ethical quandaries about informed consent.In an email, an FDA spokeswoman said that studies on these types of products have found they are not safe or effective, but that the agency recognizes they “potentially could be lifesaving in situations where blood transfusion is necessary, but blood is not available … or can’t be used.” She said future clinical studies “remain possible.”Still, human studies are a long ways away, the researchers acknowledge. So far, Doctor and his team, whose work has been supported by the Department of Defense, have presented results from rodent studies at a scientific conference. And they have their own questions about how ErythroMer will perform as they test it in larger animals, first in rabbits: Does it damage other cells in the bloodstream? Does it interfere with the clotting process?The team has formed a company called KaloCyte (Greek for “good cell”) to make the substitute for further studies. Doctor likened it to moving the production from a craft brewery scale — so far, Doctor said, it’s been “lovingly made by graduate students, batch by batch” — to the scale and standards of another St. Louis blend, Budweiser. Please enter a valid email address. Privacy Policy Leave this field empty if you’re human: But the quest to develop substitute blood has bedeviled researchers in academia, the military, and the biopharma industry, with several companies — including Baxter, Northfield Laboratories, and Biopure — abandoning their attempts.advertisement Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. General Assignment Reporter Andrew covers a range of topics, from addiction to public health to genetics. By Andrew Joseph Feb. 27, 2017 Reprints About the Author Reprints The artificial blood researchers have been trying to cook up is not a true substitute, in that it wouldn’t perform all of blood’s functions, but rather provide a means to deliver oxygen throughout the body.One key problem: Hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to needy tissues, can damage tissue and cause blood vessels to constrict. That’s one reason why hemoglobin is contained in cells — to isolate it and its toxic iron.Any successful blood substitute will need to transport and deliver oxygen, while staving off the threat hemoglobin poses.In past attempts, scientists have tried to tweak hemoglobin to make it safer, but so far, no blood substitute has been approved for use in the United States or Europe. (One substitute, Hemopure from HbO2 Therapeutics, is used in South Africa, and a clinical trial of a stem cell-based substitute is expected to begin this fall in the United Kingdom.)But instead of trying to engineer hemoglobin, Doctor and his colleagues have encased it in a synthetic polymer designed by one of Doctor’s collaborators, Dipanjan Pan of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.Doctor, in his office at Washington University in St. Louis, is trying to develop an artificial blood that could be used in places where blood from donors is not available. Dom Smith/STATThey hope the case will ensure that their substitute blood, called ErythroMer, won’t cause a tightening in the blood vessels, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.At the same time, ErythroMer detects where oxygen should be delivered based on the pH level of the blood, moving oxygen from the lungs to where it’s most needed like a junkyard magnet picking up a car in one spot and dropping it elsewhere.If it’s successful, ErythroMer could be freeze-dried into a powder and stored safely for years, so that when it’s needed, it can be mixed with sterile water and administered. It’s designed to be “immune silent” so that the immune system doesn’t attack it and it could be given to people of any blood type.Scientists not working on ErythroMer said it appears to be an improvement in some respects over earlier candidates, but note that it is not the first to attempt enclosing hemoglobin in various materials. So far, no one has cracked the code of creating an artificial blood, and it’s not clear this group will either.“It’s not as easy as it sounds,” said Dr. Ernest Moore, the vice chair of trauma and critical care research at the University of Colorado, Denver, who has helped run clinical trials of other substitutes.One concern for Mark Scott, a senior scientist at Canadian Blood Services, is the tininess of ErythroMer. Each particle is about one-fiftieth the size of a normal red blood cell, and Scott said that increased the risk that it could leak from the bloodstream into surrounding tissue. And when someone loses a lot of blood and goes into shock, their blood vessels only become more “leaky,” Scott said. ST. LOUIS — When red blood cells are poured into the test tubes here in Dr. Allan Doctor’s lab, tiny tools measure the reaction of the rabbit aortas strung up inside, computing if and how strongly the aortas constrict. Doctor and his team are trying to make sure that when they dump in the artificial blood they’re developing, the aortas react the same way.The experiments being conducted on a recent day were not only just a few of the many the team will need to run before testing their blood substitute in people, but were also early steps to show that their design, with any luck, can steer them beyond the decades of failure in the field.There has been “about 50, 60 years of research in trying to make a blood substitute that has not worked,” said Doctor, a pediatric critical care physician and researcher at Washington University in St. Louis.advertisement @DrewQJoseph Related: Pentagon hopes to use foam, injected through belly button, to save bleeding soldiers The artificial blood being developed in Dr. Allan Doctor’s lab could be freeze-dried into a powder and then mixed with sterile water when needed. Dom Smith/STATlast_img read more

Watch: The man with the most famous brain in science

first_img“OK, but who is that?”“Who?”advertisement The man with the most famous brain in scienceVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9SettingsOff0295_colin27_famousbrain_wgFont ColorWhiteFont Opacity100%Font Size100%Font FamilyArialCharacter EdgeNoneBackground ColorBlackBackground Opacity50%Window ColorBlackWindow Opacity0%ResetWhiteBlackRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyan100%75%25%200%175%150%125%100%75%50%ArialCourierGeorgiaImpactLucida ConsoleTahomaTimes New RomanTrebuchet MSVerdanaNoneRaisedDepressedUniformDrop ShadowWhiteBlackRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyan100%75%50%25%0%WhiteBlackRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyan100%75%50%25%0% facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/2017/08/02/colin-holmes-famous-brain-science/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0004:0704:07  As brain maps proliferate, scientists aim to sync them up Colin Holmes never planned for his brain to go viral, but it’s showed up in 800 scientific papers and it’s being used in over 1,000 labs. Jeffery DelViscio/STAT WAUKESHA, Wis. — “We used the Colin 27.”“What’s a Colin 27?”“It’s a brain atlas standard.”advertisement Related: Tags neuroscienceresearch Holmes has never received royalties for the use of his brain image, and had no idea it would be so widely applied. He said he’s just glad his brain has been useful to science.“It still surprises me that every other day I get an announcement of someone citing that work, even though it’s from 1998.”In June, Holmes recreated his original scan, just to see what has changed in his skull after two decades. He said he was hoping not to see any “massive gaps” or “shrinkage” in his cortex.“I’m still pretty young, we’re hoping,” he said.About an hour later, he was checking back in on Colin 27. His reaction? Relieved.“I think I’ve got some time left.” By Jeffery DelViscio Aug. 2, 2017 Reprints Privacy Policy Leave this field empty if you’re human: But while Colin 27 is known widely throughout neuroscience, Holmes’s personal identity has been a mystery to most scientists.“I’m not a promotional person,” he said in a recent interview.It has been more than 20 years since Holmes, now 52, laid in stiff repose, undergoing more MRI scans than most of us will have in our lifetimes. At the time, he was 28 and a graduate student at the Montreal Neurological Institute. The hours of voluntary work were all in the name of making a better image of a living brain — his own.Today, you could get a high-quality MRI in about 10 minutes. But back then, it was real work. If Holmes breathed too deeply: wrecked scan. If he sneezed: wrecked scan. If he moved his eyes: wrecked scan. He said he still has a sore spot on the back of his head — an occupational safety science hazard, perhaps.In the end, he was able to combine 27 10-minute scans to make one high-quality average — hence Colin 27.Holmes is now a director of product management for GE in Waukesha, and often bumps into his brain while traveling for work.“I’ve seen it all across the United States. I’ve seen it in Japan, Korea, all over Europe,” he said. Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. In the LabWATCH: The man with the most famous brain in science Please enter a valid email address. “Colin 27.”“I dunno. Probably a guy named Colin.”And that’s how I first met Colin Holmes — or, rather, his famous brain.Kareem Zaghloul, of the National Institutes of Health, had put it up on a projector screen during a visit to his lab last year. Colin 27, he said, was great for helping to map out epileptic hot spots in the brains of his patients.And it’s not just Zaghloul’s patients.Holmes has the most notable brain in science. Also known as “Average Colin,” it has appeared in over 800 scientific papers — and more citations come in almost every week. It’s been featured in studies of stroke, HIV, Alzheimer’s, and even the brain benefits of eating fish. Holmes also noted that over 1,000 labs around the world use his brain in some way.last_img read more

Two-thirds of pregnant women aren’t getting the flu vaccine. That needs to change

first_img About the Author Reprints Rates of flu are skyrocketing in the U.S., with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracking high rates especially in the South, Midwest, Southwest, and West.Lost in the flurry of news stories is the startling and alarming report from the CDC in December that only about one-third of pregnant women are getting flu shots. A startling 64 percent of pregnant women had not been vaccinated against the flu, despite recommendations from the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.While 98 percent of pregnant women reported visiting a doctor or other medical professional at least once before or during pregnancy, the CDC found that only about 59 percent reported receiving a recommendation for and offer of flu vaccination from a doctor or other medical professional, while 16 percent received only a recommendation for — but no offer of — the vaccine. A whopping 26 percent received neither a recommendation for nor an offer of flu vaccination.advertisement First OpinionTwo-thirds of pregnant women aren’t getting the flu vaccine. That needs to change Tags infectious diseaseinfluenzapediatricswomen’s health A pregnant woman gets vaccinated against the flu at a Boston hospital. Lisa Poole/AP By Mark N. Simon Jan. 18, 2018 Reprints I work for a company that develops and manages obstetric and gynecology hospitalist programs at more than 100 hospitals across the country. Our doctors have been seeing an increase in pregnant women in the emergency department. At least one flu-related death of a pregnant woman, in Tennessee, has been reported.Pregnant women and their unborn babies are especially vulnerable to influenza and are more likely to develop serious complications from it. About one-third of cases of pneumonia are caused by respiratory viruses, the most common of which is influenza. Pneumonia and other complications increase the risk of preterm labor. Babies in utero are also at risk of complications: Pregnant women who develop the flu are more likely to give birth to children with birth defects of the brain and spine.advertisement Related: Related:center_img If a pregnant woman begins to experience symptoms of the flu, such as cough, fever, sore throat, muscle or body aches, fatigue, or headaches, which can be subtle at first, she should be seen immediately by a physician or midwife to diagnose the flu, or rule it out, as early as possible. Pregnant women with the flu will see the best resolution of their symptoms when they are able to start on antiviral medication within 48 hours of symptom onset.Keeping pregnant women out of the main emergency department to keep them from mingling with potentially infectious patients with flu-like symptoms is also important. When a pregnant woman is sick enough to necessitate a trip to the emergency department, having a dedicated obstetric emergency department can ensure that pregnant women are seen and triaged in the best location for them and can speed the diagnosis and treatment of the flu.These are important takeaways as we reach the peak of the flu season. In the long run, though, we must channel our concerns about the low rate of pregnant women who get vaccinated against the flu into a broader dialogue on strategies for improvement. With intent and purpose, we can increase the vaccination rate and improve care and outcomes for pregnant women and their babies, even in the height of flu season.Mark N. Simon, M.D., is chief medical officer of Ob Hospitalist Group, the nation’s largest provider of obstetric hospitalist programs. Mark N. Simon Pregnant women who need medications face a risky guessing game. A federal task force is now trying to help [email protected] ‘The problem child of seasonal flu’: Beware this winter’s virus @obhgcares Flu shots not only protect mothers, but also confer passive immunity on unborn babies, providing them with antibodies against the virus in the first six months after birth.So why aren’t more pregnant women vaccinated against the flu?Despite efforts by the medical community to quell public health myths, there is confusion about whether these vaccines are safe for pregnant women and their babies. Despite a wide body of evidence about the safety of flu vaccines for women and their babies, misinformation about thimerosal, an ethyl-mercury-based preservative used in multidose vials to safeguard against contamination of the vial, still circulates on the internet, despite multiple studies that demonstrate no evidence of harm. In addition, thimerosol-free versions of the vaccine are readily available.A few simple steps can help keep pregnant women safer and healthier. First, having policies in place to let patients get the flu vaccine without a new order from a physician or midwife would serve as a stopgap for missed opportunities to vaccinate, particularly for the one-quarter of pregnant women who are not informed about the flu vaccine or offered it. Quality metrics for care organizations should also consider whether obstetricians are offering and providing medically recommended vaccinations as part of their quality review for patient safety.last_img read more

Sanofi is the latest drug maker to say average net prices fell last year

first_img GET STARTED By Ed Silverman June 4, 2018 Reprints What’s included? Pharmalot About the Author Reprints Tags drug pricingpharmaceuticalsSTAT+ Pharmalot Columnist, Senior Writer Ed covers the pharmaceutical industry. @Pharmalot STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. Jacques Brinon/APcenter_img Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. Sanofi is the latest drug maker to say average net prices fell last year What is it? Log In | Learn More Ed Silverman [email protected] Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free! GET STARTED Amid heated controversy over drug prices, Sanofi (SNY) is the latest large pharmaceutical company to release top-line numbers indicating average prices for its medicines fell last year, after accounting for rebates and discounts.Specifically, the company posted a brief summary stating the average wholesale — or list— price for its drugs increased 1.6 percent in 2017, but pricing actually declined by 8.5 percent when subtracting rebates and discounts paid to pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, and health plans. In 2016, the average price hike was 4 percent, but the net price fell 2.1 percent.last_img read more

After nearly dying five times, a young doctor learned to treat himself. Now he wants to help others with rare disease

first_imgBiotech By Matthew Herper Sept. 12, 2019 Reprints STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. Unlock this article — plus daily coverage and analysis of the biotech sector — by subscribing to STAT+. First 30 days free. GET STARTED Matthew Herper [email protected] Log In | Learn More Dr. David Fajgenbaum has nearly died not once, but five times. The cause each time was a rare disorder called Castleman disease, an affliction on the boundary between cancer and an autoimmune disorder. It caused his entire body to swell up. Previously a muscled college football player, he first became bloated, then very thin.Fajgenbaum, who was in medical school when he got sick, did something extraordinary. He founded a patient advocacy group, the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network. But more than that, he delved into the science of his disease, and proposed the treatment that, after five relapses, has kept him healthy since. It was an existing drug, sirolimus, that no one had thought to use for Castleman disease. Football, he said, helped him deal with the failure inherent in medical research.Now 34, Fajgenbaum details his experience in a new book, “Chasing My Cure,” in which he also writes about his mother’s death from brain cancer and the way the disease affected every aspect of his life, including his relationship with his wife. He’s an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. @matthewherper Senior Writer, Medicine, Editorial Director of Events Matthew covers medical innovation — both its promise and its perils.center_img What’s included? GET STARTED Dr. David Fajgenbaum answers questions from a young woman who has been diagnosed with Castleman disease and her mother in his office at the University of Pennsylvania. Jessica Kourkounis About the Author Reprints Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. What is it? After nearly dying five times, a young doctor learned to treat himself. Now he wants to help others with rare disease Tags biotechnologycancerdrug developmentpatient advocacylast_img read more

Pharmalittle: Coronavirus vaccine testing starts in Seattle area; New Mexico law caps monthly insulin co-pay at $25

first_img Alex Hogan/STAT Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. Ed Silverman Log In | Learn More @Pharmalot Hello, everyone, and how are you today? We are doing just fine, thank you, courtesy of clear and sunny skies hovering over the Pharmalot campus, which has settled down now that the short person has left for the local schoolhouse. This leaves us to engage in our usual rituals. You know the drill — we are firing up the coffee kettle for a cup of stimulation and getting our to-do list in order. Never a day goes by without a to-do list, yes? So time to get cracking. Here are some tidbits to help you on your own journey. Hope today is successful and do keep in touch…Researchers have started to recruit healthy Seattle-area volunteers to participate in the first clinical trial of an experimental coronavirus vaccine, a faster-than-expected start for the first vaccine readied for testing, The Wall Street Journal notes. Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle said Wednesday it aims to enroll 45 adults from the region in the trial. The study will test the safety of various doses of the vaccine developed by Moderna (MRNA) and whether the shots produce an immune response. What is it? [email protected] Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free! GET STARTED What’s included?center_img STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. Pharmalittle: Coronavirus vaccine testing starts in Seattle area; New Mexico law caps monthly insulin co-pay at $25 About the Author Reprints Pharmalot Pharmalot Columnist, Senior Writer Ed covers the pharmaceutical industry. By Ed Silverman March 5, 2020 Reprints GET STARTED Tags pharmalittleSTAT+last_img read more

Ignoring cancer care now may trade one public health crisis — Covid-19 — for another, NCI chief warns

first_img“We think that [mortality] estimate we provided is very conservative and likely to grow if we continue to postpone screening treatment and other cancer care,” Sharpless told STAT. “We’re very worried about the consequences of … delaying therapy on our patients.”Now is the time to reopen cancer care, Sharpless said. Hospitals that are now seeing fewer Covid-19 patients are beginning to ramp up care and patients shouldn’t be afraid to go there, if they observe reasonable precautions, he said. advertisement @cooney_liz HealthIgnoring cancer care now may trade one public health crisis — Covid-19 — for another, NCI chief warns By Elizabeth Cooney June 19, 2020 Reprints Mammograms for breast cancer screening. Damian Dovarganes/AP Elizabeth Cooney “Clearly, postponing procedures and deferring care as a result of the pandemic was prudent at one time, but the spread, duration, and future peaks of COVID-19 remain unclear,” he wrote in an editorial published in this week’s Science. “However, ignoring life-threatening non-COVID-19 conditions such as cancer for too long may turn one public health crisis into many others. Let’s avoid that outcome.”What if states’ decisions to reopen and relax social distancing measures drives another surge in Covid-19 cases?Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images“We now have a lot more experience than we did a few months ago, starting to understand its route of transmission and patterns of spread,” he said in the interview. “I think now we can be judicious in the use of testing and mask wearing and good social distancing and certain [other] behaviors.”What if there’s a second wave in the fall?“We can open hospitals and worry about a second wave. I think it’s possible to do both. We have to,” he said. “To do otherwise, we’re going to trade different public health emergencies. So I think we can’t delay cancer care forever.” Routine cancer screenings have plummeted during the pandemic, medical records data show NCI estimates a drop of 75% in mammograms since March, which may be conservative, Sharpless said, compared to the 95% cited by Epic, the electronic health records vendor. Whether “upstaging,” the term for diagnosing cancer at a later stage, will become a problem depends on the cancer. Some cancers are called indolent because their growth can be slow enough that a three- or six-month delay won’t matter. But in lung cancer, for which there is no screening equivalent to mammography or colonoscopy, even a month’s delay can be harmful.“Three months is a lot of time and six months — well, then you start to see a 1%  increase in mortality,” he said.  Ned Sharpless is worried.The director of the National Cancer Institute believes the Covid-19 pandemic is posing a danger to cancer patients across a wide spectrum of care and research. People — and their health care providers — are postponing screening measures like mammograms and colonoscopies. Fewer cancers are being diagnosed, and treatment regimens are being stretched out into less frequent encounters. Clinical trials have seen patient enrollment plummet.An NCI model looking just at breast cancer and colorectal cancer predicts there will be 10,000 excess deaths in the U.S. over the next 10 years because of pandemic-related delays in diagnosing and treating these tumors. That’s about a 1% increase over the number of expected deaths during that time span, with most of the rise coming in the next two years. And that assumes cancer care depressed by the coronavirus rebounds after six months.advertisement Please enter a valid email address. Privacy Policy Leave this field empty if you’re human: Certain adaptations made by hospitals treating cancer patients and researchers running  cancer clinical trials could continue, including telemedicine visits for some care and oral consent over the phone rather than in person to participate in trials. “The coronavirus pandemic is a public health event that everyone should be worried about and should behave appropriately, including people who run hospitals. They need to preserve capacity and take a proper pandemic response,” Sharpless said. “But the things we do to diminish our risk are not without impact on other areas. Public health and cancer outcomes are inextricably linked.“We have to realize the tradeoffs we make when we work on one versus the other and find that right balance.” About the Author Reprints General Assignment Reporter Liz focuses on cancer, biomedical engineering, and how patients feel the effects of Covid-19. Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. [email protected] Related: Tags cancerCoronavirusgovernment agencieshospitalslast_img read more

CBC Group sets up AffaMed, EverInsight merger, eyes IPO

first_img With Everest Medicines’ $451 million listing now in the rear-view mirror, health care-focused CBC Group is paving the way for another portfolio company to IPO. But, first, a merger.AffaMed Therapeutics announced last week that it is merging with EverInsight Therapeutics, another biopharmaceutical company. Both firms were founded by CBC, formerly known as C-Bridge Capital. CBC Group sets up AffaMed, EverInsight merger, eyes IPO Biotech About the Author Reprints GET STARTED Log In | Learn More By Jonathan Chan Oct. 20, 2020 Reprints What is it? @JChanPharma center_img Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. Jonathan Chan STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. What’s included? [email protected] Tags biotechnologyChinaSTAT+ Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free! GET STARTEDlast_img read more