KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Gene Therapy Staves Off Fatal Brain Disease In What Was Thought Of As An Impossibility

The treatment had never really been tried on diseases such as ALD, a rare, fatal disorder. In other public health news: neanderthal DNA in humans, cancer and obesity, MRSA and sports, and traumatized children.

The New York Times: In A First, Gene Therapy Halts A Fatal Brain Disease
For the first time, doctors have used gene therapy to stave off a fatal degenerative brain disease, an achievement that some experts had thought impossible. The key to making the therapy work? One of medicine’s greatest villains: HIV. The patients were children who had inherited a mutated gene causing a rare disorder, adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD. Nerve cells in the brain die, and in a few short years, children lose the ability to walk or talk. (Kolata, 10/5)

Los Angeles Times: As Much As 2.6% Of Your DNA Is From Neanderthals. This Is What It's Doing
Modern humans are a little more Neanderthal than we thought. A highly detailed genetic analysis of a Neanderthal woman who lived about 52,000 years ago suggests that our extinct evolutionary cousins still influence our risk of having a heart attack, developing an eating disorder and suffering from schizophrenia. Altogether, scientists now estimate that somewhere between 1.8% and 2.6% of the DNA in most people alive today was inherited from Neanderthals, according to a report published Thursday in the journal Science. (Healy, 10/5)

NPR: Neanderthal DNA Can Affect Skin Tone And Hair Color
Neanderthals died out some 30,000 years ago, but their genes live on within many of us. DNA from our shorter, stockier cousins may be influencing skin tone, ease of tanning, hair color and sleeping patterns of those of present-day Europeans, according to a study from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology published Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics. (Jochem, 10/5)

Columbus Dispatch: CDC: 13 Types Of Cancer Linked To Obesity, Overweight
The report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week shows that the overall rate of a dozen cancers associated with being overweight or obese rose by seven percent from 2005 to 2014. Meanwhile, cancers not associated with high weight were down 13 percent. (Viviano, 10/5)

The New York Times: The Never-Ending Battle Against Sport’s Hidden Foe
The first thing Colgate University did was purchase a sophisticated $14,000 machine that used ozone gas, not water or detergent, to disinfect all its athletes’ gear. An ice hockey player had come down with a staph infection, and Colgate, fearing the severe and sometimes fatal form of it known as MRSA, was not going to take any chances. The university didn’t stop at gassing gear. (Pennington, 10/6)

WBUR: For Traumatized Children, An Offer Of Help From The Muppets
Sesame is better known for teaching preschoolers letters and numbers. But those familiar furry characters are also taking on tougher topics, says Jeanette Betancourt of Sesame Workshop. ... The new trauma material focuses on simple coping skills for what many in the field call "big feelings" — like anger, anxiety and sadness. (Kamenetz 10/6)

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