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Major Shootings Led to Tougher Gun Laws, but to What End?

New York Times

“There’s no anti-mass shooting law to test,” said Charles Branas, the chairman of the epidemiology department at the School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York. “In terms of all of these instances, not just mass shootings, we need the politicians to create more laws to test.”

Medical pot laws don’t increase teens’ recreational use: Study

UPI

“For now, there appears to be no basis for the argument that legalizing medical marijuana has increased teens’ use of the drug,” Dr. Deborah Hasin, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School and senior author of the study, said in a press release. … “Although we found no significant effect on adolescent marijuana use, existing evidence suggests that adult recreational use may increase after medical marijuana laws are passed,” Hasin said.

Herbal Supplement Has Some New Yorkers Talking, Instead of Coughing

Wall Street Journal

Taking herbal supplements can involve health risks, including when they are used with medicines, consumed in excess or taken instead of prescription medication, said Dr. Keith Brenner, a specialist in pulmonary medicine at Columbia University Medical Center at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Megyn Kelly Takes a Stress Test To Measure Her Heart Health

TODAY

That suggests there’s an underlying bias in the medical system — and society at large — that women need to confront and overcome, said Dr. Jennifer Haythe, an assistant professor of medicine and co-director of the Women’s Center for Cardiovascular Health at the Columbia University Medical Center.

Some Songbirds Have Brains Specially Designed to Find Mates for Life

New York Times

“The biggest difference between male and female brains of the same species is found in songbirds,” said Sarah Woolley, a neuroscientist who studies finches at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute. Dr. Woolley’s lab has been looking into the acoustic systems of zebra, bengalese and long-tailed finches to see how their brains take in and process sounds — learning, performing and analyzing different parts of them to make sense of songs.

How ultraviolet light could be used to fight the flu

CBS News

Dr. David Brenner, the director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University, and a team are testing whether a certain type of ultraviolet light can kill the flu virus in the air. UV light is already used as a germ killer, but conventional UV light can penetrate and damage the skin and also cause cataracts. A certain type of UV light called far-UVC, however, can’t get past the top layer of the skin or the tear layer of the eyes. “It really does have the best of both worlds,” Brenner said. “It really does kill influenza viruses and it really doesn’t harm you and I.”

A Perfect Storm for Broken Bones

New York Times

A number of factors may have contributed to the downward trend in hip fractures that ended in 2012, according to Dr. Ethel Siris, a co-author of the new study and director of the Toni Stabile Osteoporosis Center of the Columbia University Medical Center in New York. “The population may be getting healthier, people are doing more exercise and may be more careful about falling,” she suggested in an interview. But most likely a leading factor, she and her co-authors believe, was the introduction in 1995 of the drug Fosamax, a bisphosphonate that slows or prevents the loss of bone density, resulting in stronger bones.

Imaging system helps determine chemo efficacy against breast cancer

UPI

“Patients who respond to neoadjuvant chemotherapy have better outcomes than those who do not, so determining early in treatment who is going to be more likely to have a complete response is important,” said Dr. Dawn Hershman, leader of the Breast Cancer Program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia. “If we know early that a patient is not going to respond to the treatment they are getting, it may be possible to change treatment and avoid side effects.”

UV light can kill airborne flu virus, study finds

United Press International

“Far-UVC light has a very limited range and cannot penetrate through the outer dead-cell layer of human skin or the tear layer in the eye, so it’s not a human health hazard,” [David] Brenner said. “But because viruses and bacteria are much smaller than human cells, far-UVC light can reach their DNA and kill them.”

Medical student Caroline Park will trade her stethoscope for hockey skates in Pyeongchang

ESPN

Park’s life intensified as well. In 2015 she was accepted to Columbia medical school, where she would work toward her goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. “It’s one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face,” says Park. “You’re trying to focus 100 percent on doing well in med school and taking care of patients, then in the back of my head I’m thinking, ‘OK, I get out of the hospital at 8 o’clock, I need to eat dinner then go to the gym and train for an hour or two, then go back and study for my exam and prepare for the next day of hospital duties. Or sometimes it’s, ‘OK, I do this then I have to go to Korea for the weekend.'”

Could a Vaccine Protect Football Players From Concussions?

Wired

“That period of continuing play, when a player has just been hit in the head and shaken up, is thought to be when they’re at highest risk for a much more dangerous injury,” says James Noble, a neurologist at Columbia’s Irving Medical Center who’s spinning out a company called NoMo to further miniaturize the components and send the helmet toward FDA approval as a formal diagnostic.

Researchers Discover ‘Anxiety Cells’ In The Brain

NPR

Kheirbek and a team including several researchers from Columbia University discovered the cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain known to be involved in anxiety as well as navigation and memory. They did it by studying some anxious mice, Kheirbek says. “Mice tend to be afraid of open places,” he says. So the team put mice in a maze in which some pathways led to open areas. Then the researchers monitored the activity of brain cells at the very bottom of the hippocampus.

The Famine Ended 70 Years Ago, but Dutch Genes Still Bear Scars

New York Times

By the time they reached old age, those risks had taken a measurable toll, according to the research of L.H. Lumey, an epidemiologist at Columbia University. In 2013, he and his colleagues reviewed death records of hundreds of thousands of Dutch people born in the mid-1940s. They found that the people who had been in utero during the famine — known as the Dutch Winter Hunger cohort — died at a higher rate than people born before or afterward. “We found a 10 percent increase in mortality after 68 years,” said Dr. Lumey.

This flu season is the most severe since 2009

PBS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared this year’s flu outbreak to be the worst on record since the 2009 flu pandemic. Last week, one in 15 doctors’ appointments were made for flu symptoms, and 37 children have died from the flu this season. Stephen Ferrara, an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Nursing, joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

Can Virus Hunters Stop The Next Pandemic Before it Happens?

Smithsonian

Yet while local labs are increasingly analyzing samples creating better surveillance on the ground, much of PREDICT’s work uncovering new viruses and creating a global database has been completed in Simon Anthony’s laboratory at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.  Anthony’s team examines and sequences more than 5,000 samples of blood and tissue annually. Many are from animals in the world’s disease hot spots, places where humans and animals carrying viruses often come into dangerously close contact. At one point, he was credited with discovering 150 viruses; Stephen S. Morse, a former co-director of PREDICT and a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, says Anthony has uncovered more new viruses than anyone.

 

Most states don’t require that kids be checked for health issues

Reuters

“There are many children, especially in low income communities, that are not succeeding academically because they have health conditions that are known to interfere with learning, but nobody is screening for them or treating them,” Dr. Irwin Redlener, Co-Founder of Children’s Health Fund and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told Reuters Health in a telephone interview. “That is something that has to be fixed.”

High-Fat Diet May Fuel Spread of Prostate Cancer

New York Times

“What this paper suggests is that fat or high-fat diets promote more aggressive prostate cancer,” said Cory Abate-Shen, interim director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University, who was not involved with the research. Now the scientists are planning a clinical trial in men with prostate cancer to see if the obesity drug may be an effective treatment for this cancer. “That’s really important,” Dr. Abate-Shen said. “Aggressive prostate cancer is lethal, and there are no curative drugs right now.”

Serena Williams’ exit from Australian Open sends message to new moms: It’s okay to take your time

ABC News

“From my own experience, I remember still feeling tired two weeks after having a vaginal delivery and being surprised,” said Dr. Cynthia Gyamfi Bannerman, the Ellen Jacobson Levine and Eugene Jacobson Associate Professor of Women’s Health in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University. “The body takes a lot longer to get back to where it was before and, as many women know, it never gets back.”

How to prepare for and survive a nuclear bombing

Fox News

Dr. David Brenner, the director of Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research, told Fox News that, depending on the size of the bomb, everyone within a half mile from the epicenter of the blast would die immediately. The other major issue is the radiation fallout, he said — the residual radioactive material that gets released into the upper atmosphere following a nuclear blast.  It looks like a massive mushroom cloud and, once the radiation begins to fall, the ground becomes full of dangerous radioactive material. “The major source of radiation exposure is the radioactive material on the ground,” Brenner said.

Is There a Downside to Going Gluten-Free if You’re Healthy?

New York Times

“There’s no reason for someone who feels well to start a gluten-free diet to promote wellness,” said Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, director of clinical research at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. “It is not an intrinsically wellness-promoting diet.” One of the main problems in avoiding gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye or barley as well as other grains is that it can reduce the overall quality of someone’s diet. “The most common issue people run into when starting a gluten-free diet is fiber intake often plummets,” Dr. Lebwohl said.

A Heart Risk Factor Even Doctors Know Little About

New York Times

“People don’t know about it, physicians don’t know about it, and we have to get an education program out there, but that’s expensive,” said Dr. Henry N. Ginsberg, the Irving Professor of Medicine at Columbia University and a leading expert on lp(a). “I would say that somewhere between 15 to 20 percent of the population would clearly benefit from knowing that this is their problem.”

Some people curse and say nasty things in their sleep. There’s a good reason.

Washington Post

Carl Bazil, director of the Division of Sleep and Epilepsy at Columbia University, who was not involved in the study, said that the findings show that sleep speech is much more “complex than expected” and supports the idea that there is “higher brain function” during all stages of sleep.

Viruses have a big impact on our lives, and this podcast gives them their due

Washington Post

Enter This Week in Virology, a podcast that makes it worth considering viruses more often. It’s hosted by Vincent Racaniello, a Columbia University professor, along with other virology experts. Together, the team picks apart the latest news in virology and discusses big-name viruses, such as Zika, HIV and influenza. The show sheds light on a field that’s expanding all the time and that presents difficult questions to scientists.

Could ultraviolet lamps slow the spread of flu?

Science

UV lights disinfect by disrupting the molecular bonds that hold together microbial genetic material or proteins. The most commonly used lights have a wavelength of 254 nanometers (nm), which has a relatively short UV wavelength—the so-called “C” category—but can penetrate the skin and eyes, leading to cancers and cataracts. So for the past 4 years, a group led by physicist David Brenner at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City has tested shorter wavelengths, known as “far UVC light” that can’t penetrate the outer layers of the eyes or skin. The researchers found that far UVC eliminated bacteria on surfaces and did not harm lab mice.

Amber-tinted glasses might get you more sleep

Chicago Tribune

“We expect that blue-light exposure before bedtime might contribute to sleep difficulties or exacerbate sleep problems in individuals who already experience difficulties, so we were not surprised there was an improvement in sleep quality,” said study author Ari Shechter, an assistant professor of medical sciences at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

In a turf battle for organs, a policy review rattles the national transplant system

Los Angeles Times

Her surgeon, Dr. Joshua Sonett, had co-written a 2013 analysis showing that for every lung transplant nationwide there was an average of nearly six sicker patients waiting elsewhere in the same region where the transplant was performed. He said he encouraged the lawsuit. “We’d been trying to change policy through scientific papers and standard petitioning,” Sonett said. “If it takes a little policing from the outside to force us to change, that’s OK.”

Gene Editing Shows Promise for Alleviating Hearing Loss

Scientific American

Gene editing and gene therapy are not the same thing. The latter involves the insertion of a good copy of a gene to overcome a deficiency in the copy that a patient is born with. One such clinical trial has begun for hearing loss that aims to regenerate hair cells in patients with acquired hearing loss by injecting a new gene. “It kickstarts supporting cells into becoming hair cells again,” says Lawrence Lustig, chair of otolaryngology at Columbia University Medical Center, one of three sites involved in the trial.

Asked About Retiring, They Have a Simple Answer: Why?

New York Times

At 88, Dr. Kandel heads his own research laboratory at Columbia University. “I like what I do,” he said. “Keeping engaged keeps you intellectually alive. I wouldn’t be surprised if it enhanced longevity.” Every day, Dr. Kandel interacts with much younger scientists, supervising their investigations, teaching and mentoring them. At the laboratory, he says, “people don’t ever speak to me about my age. I think they are surprised that I am 88.”

A new weapon in the fight against superbugs

TED Talk

Drug-resistant bacteria known as superbugs killed nearly 700,000 people last year, and by 2050 that number could be 10 million — more than cancer kills each year. Can physics help? In a talk from the frontiers of science, radiation scientist David Brenner shares his work studying a potentially life-saving weapon: a wavelength of ultraviolet light known as far-UVC, which can kill superbugs safely, without penetrating our skin. Followed by a Q&A with TED Curator Chris Anderson.

Fentanyl is so potent doctors don’t know how to fight it

PBS NewsHour

Methadone and buprenorphine are long-term treatments that interact with these receptors too, but produce less euphoria and fewer cravings, if taken correctly. Buprenorphine, akin to naloxone, partially works by binding to but not activating opioid receptors. When people on medication-assisted therapy take heroin, “they basically can’t feel the positive effects,” said Sandra Comer, a clinical neurobiologist at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. “To them it’s almost like getting water. They can’t feel the high that they used to feel.”

Breast reconstruction after cancer less common at cash-strapped hospitals

Reuters

Compared to women treated at hospitals with few or no financial problems, women treated at hospitals with high levels of financial distress were 21 percent less likely to receive immediate breast reconstruction, the study found. “It is not surprising that hospital factors have an influence on receipt of care,” said senior study author Dr. Dawn Hershman, leader of the breast cancer program at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

A Comeback for the Gateway Drug Theory?

New York Times

A similar study from 2011 — conducted by some of the same researchers, most notably Denise Kandel, who helped formulate the gateway theory in 1975 — produced comparable findings using nicotine and mice. … “Now that we’ve done the animal experiment, we see that using one drug changes your brain in such a way that using another drug becomes more rewarding,” said Dr. Kandel, a professor of sociology at Columbia University. “And there is an order. Cocaine doesn’t create this effect.”

Were the Cuban ‘Sonic Attack’ Victims Actually Poisoned?

Daily Beast

The symptoms the diplomats are experiencing line up with how white matter damage can affect someone’s health. Adam Brickman, an associate professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University and an expert in the AP’s report, said abnormalities within white matter can manifest themselves in the ways victims are reporting. But Brickman emphasized that whether these victims will experience long-term effects is largely dependent on the cause of the damage and difficult to do without knowing its source—which is, of course, the whole mystery here.

Study confirms higher breast cancer risk with hormone-based contraception

Reuters

“I don’t think anyone’s going to say stop taking oral contraceptives. That’s not necessary and not supported by the data,” said Dr. Roshni Rao, chief of breast surgery at New York – Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, who was not involved with the study. “But it does show an increased risk, so for people who don’t have a great reason for taking oral contraceptives, or are amenable to alternatives, perhaps they should think about it.”

Small risk of breast cancer seen with hormone contraceptives

Associated Press

Women with a family history of breast cancer may want to ask their doctors about other contraceptives, said Dr. Roshni Rao, a breast surgeon at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. “Oral contraceptives are like any other medication,” Rao said. “There are risks and there are benefits. If you have a reason to be taking them, it’s perfectly reasonable to do so.”

With $250 Million Gift, Columbia’s Medical School Looks to End Student Debt

New York Times

Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, 88, the former chairman of Merck & Co., and his wife, Diana, are donating $250 million to the school, $150 million of which will fund an endowment that the school projects will ultimately enable it to underwrite its student financial aid. Those students with the greatest financial need would receive full-tuition scholarships, while others would get only grants, not loans, to make up their need, the school said.

Tiger Woods Tries to Shake His Own Ghost

Wall Street Journal

Paul McCormick, director of the Spine Center at Columbia University Medical Center, said fusion surgery typically eliminates pain in the area operated on. But the kind of torque on which a golfer relies can put more stress on the area directly above it. “What we find is that while the average person does very well with that surgery, the superior athlete may not do as well,” McCormick said. “The stakes are higher because their level of function is higher.”

How Opioids Started Killing Americans

Bloomberg

More than half of all people who succumbed to an overdose between 2001 to 2007 were chronic pain sufferers who filled an opioid prescription and sometimes even saw a doctor in the month before they died. Only 4 percent were ever diagnosed as having an abuse problem, said Dr. Mark Olfson, one of five researchers who conducted a massive study of the crisis and its causes for Columbia University Medical Center.

Gift of $600 Million to Help Fight Cancer

Wall Street Journal

A $600 million gift from a son of Brooklyn will support patient care and clinical programs for cancer research, Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian said Thursday. The donation comes a year after the death of Herbert Irving, a New Yorker who was the co-founder and former vice chairman of Sysco Corp., which distributes products to food service providers. Mr. Irving, an Army veteran who served in Europe during World War II, was 98 when he died. Mr. Irving and his wife, Florence, who survives him, are longtime donors to Columbia University’s medical center. The shared medical campus of Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian was renamed for Mr. and Mrs. Irving in September 2016. Several other initiatives at the medical center are also named for the Irvings.

First Digital Pill Approved to Worries About Biomedical ‘Big Brother’

New York Times

“Many of those patients don’t take meds because they don’t like side effects, or don’t think they have an illness, or because they become paranoid about the doctor or the doctor’s intentions,” said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, director of law, ethics, and psychiatry at Columbia University’s psychiatry department. “A system that will monitor their behavior and send signals out of their body and notify their doctor?” he added. “You would think that, whether in psychiatry or general medicine, drugs for almost any other condition would be a better place to start than a drug for schizophrenia.”

Smog may harm bones in older adults, study suggests

UPI

“Decades of careful research has documented the health risks of air pollution, from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases to cancer and impaired cognition [thinking skills], and now osteoporosis,” said senior author Dr. Andrea Baccarelli. He chairs environmental health sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. “Among the many benefits of clean air, our research suggests, are improved bone health and a way to prevent bone fractures,” he said in a school news release.

Heart Health: Will exercising really help my heart?

ABC New York

David Engel, Associate Professor of Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center, explains why running is very beneficial for the heart (in the video player above). Engel also delves into how one should/should not feel while exercising, why some doctors recommend an exam before starting to train and what’s the least someone should do when it comes to exercising and the heart.

9-year-old boy with rare disease now has engineered skin covering 80% of his body

Los Angeles Times

Angela Christiano, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University in New York who studies genetic diseases of the skin, said the De Luca team’s success offers a “transformative approach” to treating young patients with JEB and related conditions, which are estimated to affect more than 125,000 people in the United States. Christiano added that the insights generated by what she called a “landmark paper” also will help a much larger patient population whose skin problems go much deeper and may not be helped by a transplant.

Study questions whether stents relieve chest pain

PBS NewsHour

A new medical study questions whether the hundreds of thousands of Americans with clogged heart arteries who choose to implant stents to relieve chest pain will actually feel any benefits. The study, recently published by The Lancet, found that while the mesh wire did improve blood flow, patients were still hurting. Dr. Ajay Kirtane, director of Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories at Columbia University Medical Center, joins Hari Sreenivasan to talk about its implications.

Puerto Rico’s water woes raise fears of health crisis six weeks after Hurricane Maria

USA Today

“Over the past two weeks, we’ve seen a continuous stream of adult and pediatric patients with gastrointestinal illness, most often involving fever, vomiting, and diarrhea,” said Christopher Tedeschi, an emergency medicine physician at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, who returned Thursday from Puerto Rico. “It’s hard to say the source — or more likely sources — of the illness, although contaminated food and water are very likely.”

Sustained Alcohol Use Increases Vulnerability to Cocaine Addiction

Inverse

What the Columbia University Medical Center scientists behind the study, led by psychiatrist Edmund Griffin Jr., M.D., Ph.D., were trying to figure out was how the “gateway drug” hypothesis actually works. While “gateway drug” has become a ubiquitous term to describe mild substances that lead to harder drugs, it hasn’t been clear how those first-time drugs make users vulnerable. “The mechanism was always a big question of social vs. biological,” Griffin tells Inverse. He says some scientists think it depends on whether a potential user is hanging out with people who use drugs, while others think some people are genetically predisposed to drug use.