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U.S. mental health institute puts champion of basic science at the helm

Science

Up to now, Joshua Gordon has split his career between working with patients with mental illness and mice designed to mimic that illness. But this fall, the neuroscientist and psychiatrist will take control of the $1.5 billion U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland, the agency announced yesterday. Gordon, who treats patients at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City, is best known for developing mouse models that mirror aspects of anxiety and schizophrenia. His lab at Columbia University Medical Center has recreated cognitive deficits seen in schizophrenia by blocking the activity of neurons in mouse brains, for example, and has developed a mouse model of the genetic disorder 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, which predisposes humans to psychosis.

Diller, Scofidio + Renfro Unveils New Columbia University Medical Building

Architectural Digest

If there’s one thing that’s certain about the opportunity to build the crux of Columbia University’s Washington Heights–based medical campus, it’s that it’s a chance to help redefine medical education at the highest level. When it received the commission in 2010, celebrated architecture firm Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, in collaboration with Gensler, set out to do exactly that, using student and faculty behavior to determine the building’s ultimate form. The Roy and Diana Vagelos Education center, which will house medical education programs for the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, is a 14-floor glass tower with sweeping views of the nearby Hudson River. Its glass walls serve as a transparent shell that symbolically connects the center with its surrounding community.

Inside Columbia University’s Cascading New Medical Building

Curbed New York

In just over two weeks Columbia University Medical Center’s new Medical and Graduate Education building, now known as the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center will welcome its first batch of students to the uniquely designed space on Haven Avenue in Washington Heights between West 171st and West 172nd Streets. On Wednesday afternoon, Curbed got a sneak peak at the as yet-to-open space as part of a press preview organized by the University.

Why we still don’t know all of the ways you can contract Zika

QUARTZ

What about the man who contracted Zika in Utah? It’s possible that Zika can pass through other bodily fluids, though much less frequently. “I would guess the caregiver got infected via virus-containing saliva or urine,” said Vincent Racaniello, a virologist at Columbia University. “We know the virus can be in these fluids and it’s not hard to imagine getting contaminated with them while caring for a sick person.”

Heat Alters New York City Triathlon and Zaps Power for Thousands

Wall Street Journal

There was no shortage of water for participants of the city race, which started on the West Side of Manhattan and included a 1,500-meter swim and a 40-kilometer cycling course. Runners said they were often splashed by spectators holding jugs of water and hoses. “It feels amazing,” said Wolfgang Pernice, 28 years old, a researcher at Columbia University. Mr. Pernice, who has muscular dystrophy and ran the race to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, said he needed to walk at the end of the race as the temperature rose.

Uncle Sam Wants You — Or at Least Your Genetic and Lifestyle Information

New York Times

People can sign up through academic medical centers at Columbia University, Northwestern University in Illinois, the University of Arizona and the University of Pittsburgh, each of which is working with local partners. Columbia, for example, is collaborating with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Harlem Hospital and Weill Cornell Medicine.

Documentary: Blind Grandmother Gets Back Sight Stolen By Cataracts

NPR

In low- and middle-income countries, millions of people don’t have easy access to the surgery, says Dr. Norman Kleiman, a researcher at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health who studies cataracts. Maybe they live in remote parts where there’s no eye surgeon available – the whole country of Bangladesh has only 500 ophthalmologists for its 160 million-plus citizens, he notes. Or maybe they can’t afford the cost of the procedure.

Vaginal bacteria species can raise HIV infection risk and undermine prevention

Science

Until now, however, no one had clearly linked specific vaginal microbiomes to an increased risk of HIV infection. “Now we have actual data,” says CAPRISA’s director, epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim. The data come from a massive effort to identify bacterial species on vaginal swabs from the women in the CAPRISA tenofovir gel study. Ian Lipkin’s lab at Columbia University, which specializes in finding rare pathogens, extracted some 25,000 sequences of bacterial ribosomal RNA from each swab and used the genomic data to identify a total of 1368 species.

More evidence poor sleep habits may raise diabetes risk

Reuters

The results for women contradict results from numerous previous studies, noted Dr. James Gangwisch, a researcher at Columbia University in New York who wasn’t involved in the study. One shortcoming of the study is that it didn’t examine what people ate, Gangwisch said by email. “Getting adequate sleep can help with insulin sensitivity and appetite,” Gangwisch said. “Getting enough sleep can also help provide the energy necessary to exercise regularly.”

‘Ending AIDS’ in New York means finding the most vulnerable

PBS NewsHour

Nearly one in 10 Americans living with HIV live in New York, where an ambitious plan aims to cut new infections and HIV-related deaths. But it has serious challenges, including keeping people on their meds, and stopping the spread among IV drug users. William Brangham reports with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in the third installment of our “The End of AIDS?” series.

Mainlining Vitamins Is Silly and Harmful

The Atlantic

“It’s not a free ride. We see lots of infections, but people have been kept alive for decades that way,” says Dr. David Seres, director of medical nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center’s Institute of Human Nutrition. …“I don’t think there’s a single vitamin that doesn’t have some toxicity associated with too much,” says Seres. “Just because something is a nutrient—a vitamin or an antioxidant—doesn’t mean that more is better.”

Huge study of diabetes risk shows many common genes at play

Reuters

Critics, including geneticist Dr. David Goldstein at Columbia University, argued that such studies were a waste of resources because they only found common variants that explained just a small fraction of the risk for disease. He said the really important drivers of common diseases such as diabetes and schizophrenia were more likely to be found in extremely rare genes, those occurring in individuals or in families, not those shared by large populations of people.

The Sound of Your Voice May Diagnose Disease

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

“I don’t think that right now we have the technology to figure out who a person is, just based on their voice alone,” said Cheryl Corcoran, a schizophrenia researcher at Columbia University who has collaborated with IBM Watson. “But that’s technology that may very well exist in the future.”

New study shows chronic fatigue isn’t just in your head.

Washington Post

But ME is finally emerging from the basement. Brand-name institutions and big-time researchers now recognize the huge burden ME places on society: tens of billions in medical expenses, lost productivity and missing tax revenue each year. Columbia University’s Ian Lipkin is searching for infectious triggers, and has reported severe immune problems in patients. Columbia received $150 million in NIH grants in 2015; Lipkin’s operation gets a big chunk of that not for ME/CFS research but for finding viruses such as those that cause SARS and MERS. But when the famous virus hunter applied for a trifling $1 million for ME research, the NIH turned him down, twice. So spurned, Lipkin and colleague Mady Hornig recently resorted to eating habanero peppers to raise money as part of a social media ME Chili Challenge inspired by the hugely successful ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Harnessing The Gut-Brain Axis

Forbes

Kallyope was founded by 3 renowned scientists at Columbia University: Charles Zuker, Tom Maniatis, and Richard Axel, who are all very well-known for their work in neuroscience and molecular biology. They had a vision of how one could apply a deep understanding of neuroscience and neural circuits, together with recent advances in technologies, for the study for the study of the gut, our second brain.

US Medical Schools Expand Training to Curb Painkiller Abuse

Associated Press

Dozens of schools, including Brown and Columbia universities, have received federal grants to teach a standard interviewing method that helps screen patients for drug abuse. “Students are expected to be able to identify and address that as well as they would someone’s diabetes or hypertension ,” said Dr. Frances Levin, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia’s medical center.

Leaving the Pediatrician? Not at 26

New York Times

“Many pediatricians are uncomfortable with talking about birth control, condom use,” said Dr. Karen Soren, director of adolescent health care at the NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “This is part of why adolescent medicine came into being.”

The Zika Olympics

The Atlantic

It’s just a very uncertain situation, and uncertainty is pretty much Zika’s calling card. “Most of what we thought we knew turned out to be mistaken,” says Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, referring to Zika’s neurological surprises and the fact that it can be transmitted sexually, neither of which were known before this outbreak. “The great uncertainty that we all feel about this is really underlying a lot of this decision—the arguments about moving or [postponing] the Olympics are largely based on the perception of risk.”

Air pollution tied to high blood pressure risk

Reuters

“Without a clear mechanism we cannot conclude that pollution ‘causes’ hypertension,” said Dr. Gaetano Santulli of Columbia University Medical Center in New York, who was not part of the new study. “However, we should recall (going back to 1954) that epidemiological evaluations provided strong statistical support in linking cigarette smoking and cancer.”

Coloring Is Basically Like Meditation

Teen VOGUE

“The demand for coloring books is tapping into a desire for people to find simple, inexpensive ways to de-stress and engage in activities that are ‘mindful’ and ‘playful,’” Dr. Jane Bogart, Director of Student Wellness at Columbia University Medical Center, tells Teen Vogue. At Columbia, one of the initiatives she leads includes “Crafternoons” – an opportunity for graduate students and faculty to do art projects, including coloring, as a way to relax from the demands of working in the health sciences.

Scientists still track health fallout of nuclear bombing of Japan

PBS NewsHour

More than 70 years have passed since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the long-term health effects of nuclear radiation are still not fully known. But American and Japanese scientists have been studying survivors since the end of the war, and are uncovering valuable information about how to fight and prevent the bombs’ atomic consequences. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports.

Antidepressants aren’t just for depression anymore, study finds

Los Angeles Times

Columbia University psychiatrist Mark Olfson, one of the authors of that 2011 study, said the new data appear to reflect some progress and is somewhat reassuring. The prescribing decisions reflected in the new study frequently reflected good practices backed up by solid research, he said. As an example, Olfson said, the use of trazedone — an antidepressant that is sedating — is increasingly seen as a safer medication for insomnia than benzodiazepines, which can cause dependency and other unwanted side effects.

Babies Behind Bars: Should Moms Do Time With Their Newborns?

Associated Press

Columbia University researcher Mary Byrne, who spent years studying mothers and children who started life in Bedford Hills, said that the youngsters formed critical attachments to their mothers and that a second study after they were released found they were no different from children raised entirely on the outside. “Many people would assume any exposure to prison would cause problems … they’ll be exposed to violence and horrible people, it will scar them,” she said. “But that’s not what we found.”

Our long and winding road to understanding ‘The Gene’

PBS NewsHour

The field of genetics has seen exponential growth in recent years, and today may be on the verge of further breakthroughs that will radically change the way we function as a species. But to understand genetics now, one must first understand its complex past dating back to the 19th century, a past chronicled in Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s new book “The Gene.” Mukherjee joins Judy Woodruff for more.

The Improvisational Oncologist

New York Times Magazine

Siddhartha Mukherjee, a cancer physician and scientist at Columbia University, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction for his book “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.” His new book, “The Gene: An Intimate History,” will be published this month.

Why, Exactly, Do Our Bodies Fight Us on Weight Loss?

New York Magazine

What we eat and what we burn off are usually coupled, says Michael Rosenbaum, an obesity researcher and professor of pediatrics and medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. “If you exercise more and burn more calories, you’re probably going to eat more. If you eat less, you’re probably going to burn fewer calories to compensate for that,” he says.

Larger hippocampus makes PTSD treatment more likely to work, study says

UPI

“If replicated, these findings have important implications for screening and treating patients who have been exposed to trauma,” Dr. Yuval Neria, a professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and director of the PTSD Program at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, said in a press release. “For example, new recruits for military service may be scanned before an assignment to determine whether they are capable of dealing with the expected stress and trauma. Having a smaller hippocampus may be a contraindication for prolonged exposure to trauma.”

Could a gluten-free diet in kids do more harm than good?

CBS News

“I think there’s a side to the story of the gluten-free diet that’s not often in information that’s readily accessible to families and pediatricians,” the paper’s author, Dr. Norelle R. Reilly, a pediatric gastroenterologist at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told CBS News.

Why, Exactly, Do Our Bodies Fight Us on Weight Loss?

New York Magazine

What we eat and what we burn off are usually coupled, says Michael Rosenbaum, an obesity researcher and professor of pediatrics and medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. “If you exercise more and burn more calories, you’re probably going to eat more. If you eat less, you’re probably going to burn fewer calories to compensate for that,” he says.

The Improvisational Oncologist

New York Times Magazine

Siddhartha Mukherjee, a cancer physician and scientist at Columbia University, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction for his book “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.” His new book, “The Gene: An Intimate History,” will be published this month.

‘Second Skin’ May Reduce Wrinkles, Eyebags, Scientists Say

New York Times

The report published on Monday describes pilot studies, the first test of the product. The researchers say that they are not sure yet when they will have enough data to submit to the Food and Drug Administration for marketing approval — they will know more later this year. “I think it is brilliant,” said Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia, who was not involved in the research. “What they have done is design a clever biomaterial that recapitulates the properties of young and healthy skin. They can use it as sort of a Band-Aid over old and aging skin and get very significant results.”

 

After two tragedies, N.J. mom’s unusual procedure brings her a healthy boy

Daily News

For her third pregnancy, Ruffins, 32, had an unusual procedure — an abdominal cerclage done while she was carrying the baby. Also known as a cervical stitch, the cerclage reinforces the cervix, allowing the fetus to grow to term. This condition only happens in 1 to 2% of all pregnancies, said Dr. Annette Perez-Delboy, director of Labor and Delivery and co-director of The Mothers Center at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. There are usually no warning signs. “They come for a sonogram and the doctor says your cervix is short, or they are dilated,” Perez-Delboy said. “They say, ‘I was doing fine and I went to the toilet and the baby came out.’ ”

Dr. Robot scrubs in, and suturing may never be the same

Los Angeles Times

“In current robotic surgery, it’s basically still a surgeon doing an operation: he’s just using what we call a robot,” said Dr. Jason D. Wright, chief of gynecologic oncology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Under a surgeon’s direct gaze, and often mimicking the movement of a surgeon’s hands, current robotic surgical systems perform a range of surgical tasks. “It’s like a surgical assistant,” said Wright, who was not involved with the newly published research. By contrast, said Wright, “this is actually an autonomously functioning robotic surgery…that’s quite a different system.”

Short Answers to Hard Questions About Weight Loss

New York Times

It sounds simple enough, but “this is not as easy a proposition as it sounds,” says Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, a doctor and obesity researcher at Columbia University. The brain controls your hunger and your cravings for food, and it is all too easy to accidentally consume more calories than you burned exercising. That is a major reason studies that use exercise alone to help people lose weight have generally failed to find an effect. Exercise also has an unexpected effect, documented by Dr. Rosenbaum and Dr. Rudolph Leibel at Columbia University. They found that after you lose 10 percent or more of your weight by diet alone, your muscles start using genes that make them more efficient. They burn 20 to 30 percent fewer calories for the same exercise.

Most students at top colleges have the same sleep pattern

Quartz

“It makes a lot of sense to me,” said James Gangwisch, a sleep researcher and assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center, in an interview. “These [higher-ranking] schools are demanding and harder to get into so perhaps the students they get are used to living on less sleep, trying to pack more into the day.” He was careful to point out that the results did not show causation—that late bedtimes will not gain students entry to tougher schools—nor did they point to higher intelligence per se.

Cocoa Could Help Reverse Memory Loss By Decades

CBS New York

Dr. Scott Small of Columbia University said it occurs in all of us starting at the age of 30. That’s right, at the tender age of just 30 we start the initial slide into frustrating and inevitable forgetfulness. “Some people call it a cognitive epidemic as more and more of us are living longer,” Small said. Small is a professor of neurology of Columbia University Medical Center and said there may actually be a simple and effective cure for this cognitive aging. “Cocoa flavanols,” he said.

After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight

New York Times

Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, an obesity researcher at Columbia University who has collaborated with Dr. Hall in previous studies, said the body’s systems for regulating how many calories are consumed and how many are burned are tightly coupled when people are not strenuously trying to lose weight or to maintain a significant weight loss. Still, pounds can insidiously creep on. “We eat about 900,000 to a million calories a year, and burn them all except those annoying 3,000 to 5,000 calories that result in an average annual weight gain of about one to two pounds,” he said. “These very small differences between intake and output average out to only about 10 to 20 calories per day — less than one Starburst candy — but the cumulative consequences over time can be devastating.”