This Scientist’s ‘Reason To Live’? Helping Others Fight The Disease That Has Ravaged His Body
Rahul Desikan had just begun the biggest study ever of the genetics of ALS when he himself was diagnosed with the disease. Now he's continuing his research even as the condition takes its toll on his health. In other public health news: cellular recycling, JUUL, fertility treatments, IBM's Watson, gang violence, and living wills.
The Washington Post:
Devastated By ALS, Trying To Save Others
Rahul Desikan sits at his dining room table, a large computer screen before him, and works on his latest scientific paper. He types a single letter, then another, then another. For a man in a hurry, desperately trying to rid the world of terrible diseases, it’s an excruciatingly slow process. Using a special mouse strapped to his forehead that detects his smallest movement, Desikan moves a cursor around an on-screen keyboard. When he finds the letter he wants, he clicks a button with his right thumb, and it appears in a white space to the side. Repeating the process over and over, he debates research ideas with colleagues, analyzes reams of data and competes for grants. He types so much that he occasionally wears out the clicker. (McGinley, 6/13)
Is It Time To Target Autophagy To Treat Disease?
Agrowing number of small companies and a few large drug makers are taking a serious look at co-opting cellular recycling, or autophagy, as a way to treat disease. Cells use this process, whose Greek roots mean “self-eating,” to clear damaged proteins, adapt to starvation, or fight infection, all by digesting their own contents. When autophagy’s essential genes are mutated and the process goes wrong, diseases from cancer to inflammatory bowel disease to Parkinson’s can result. (Cooney, 6/14)
Pulse Check: The Rise Of JUUL, With Tevi Troy
Tevi Troy helped lead the nation's health department under President George W. Bush. Now he's helping steer JUUL — the nation's most popular e-cigarette company — through the Washington policymaking process and public health scrutiny. "Using a JUUL is worse than doing nothing," Troy acknowledged on the podcast. But"if we can get people to switch away from [traditional] cigarettes… there's a potentially huge public health benefit." (Diamond, 6/13)
Should Insurance Companies Have To Cover Fertility Treatments For Cancer Patients?
It used to be that cancer patients gave up on having children of their own, but with technological advances in reproductive medicine, there are options now. Many younger patients go through treatments to preserve their fertility; they extract eggs, bank sperm and freeze embryos. But when cancer patients want a chance at parenthood, who pays for the expensive treatments? (Dillon, 6/13)
IBM Watson Health Hampered By Internal Rivalries And Disorganization
When IBM launched its Watson Health division three years ago, promising to revolutionize medicine, not everyone in the sprawling technology company was on board. An existing group of employees was already working with health care clients and had its own secure cloud to store data, according to two former employees. But the new Watson Health team, with headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., started promoting another cloud, creating what seemed to be duplication — even competition — between old and new guards. (Ross and Swetlitz, 6/14)
The Washington Post:
How Emoji Can Kill: As Gangs Move Online, Social Media Fuel Violence
Instead of tagging graffiti, some rival gang members now upload video of themselves chanting slurs in enemy territory. Taunts and fights that once played out over time on the street are these days hurled instantaneously on Twitter and Instagram. The online aggression can quickly translate into outbreaks of real violence — teens killing each other over emoji and virtually relayed gang signs. Social media have profoundly changed gang activity in the United States, according to a new report by a Chicago nonprofit. Of particular concern, researchers say, is how social media often appear to amplify and speed up the cycle of aggression and violence. (Wan, 6/13)
Kaiser Health News:
That ‘Living Will’ You Signed? At The ER, It Could Be Open To Interpretation.
“Don’t resuscitate this patient; he has a living will,” the nurse told Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy, handing her a document. Williams-Murphy looked at the sheet bearing the signature of the unconscious 78-year-old man, who’d been rushed from a nursing home to the emergency room. “Do everything possible,” it read, with a check approving cardiopulmonary resuscitation. (Graham, 6/14)