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The Charlie Rose Brain Series: Year Three


Also joining us are Walter Koroshetz of the National Institutes of Health; Susan Margulies of the University of Pennsylvania; Thomas McCallister of the Indiana University School of Medicine; Dawn Comstock of the University of Colorado Anschutz; and Dr. Eric Kandel. He is a Nobel Laureate, a professor at Columbia University, and a Howard Hughes medical investigator. (Source: Bloomberg)

Animal Venom Database Could Be Boon To Drug Development


To create the database, assistant professor of biomedical informatics Nicholas Tatonetti and graduate student Joseph Romano first searched through 22 million medical research papers for references to therapeutic uses of venom. That turned up a list of 5,117 venom-related studies. Using computer algorithms, they then summarized the findings and found nearly 43,000 unique mentions of venoms having a specific effect on the body. The process behind creating VenomKB is described in the journal Scientific Data.

Coming to Grips with Obesity

The Scientist

Rudy Leibel is the Christopher J. Murphy Memorial Professor of Diabetes Research, director of the Division of Molecular Genetics in the Department of Pediatrics, and co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University.

Neurogastronomy: How Our Brains Perceive the Flavor of Food

Wall Street Journal

The close link between the senses of taste and smell is widely known, but exactly how the taste and odor systems work together isn’t well understood. The presence of odor receptors in the brain wasn’t discovered until 1991. The discovery, by scientists Richard Axel and Linda Buck while they were at Columbia University, won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2004.

Menopause: A Gold Mine For Marketers, Fewer Payoffs For Women


Dr. Hilda Hutcherson remembers her mother and friends whispering among themselves about their menopause symptoms at girls-only gatherings. But those were private conversations with good friends. Fast-forward to now: Hutcherson, an OB/GYN who teaches at Columbia University’s College of Medicine in New York, and her girlfriends don’t relegate The Talk to a closed-door room. “My girlfriends and I talk about it all the time,” Hutcherson says. “We compare notes: How are you dealing with your hot flashes, and how are you dealing with your desire? It’s so much easier to talk about all of those things now.”

Jury still out on omega-3s for depression

Reuters Health

“One of the problems with understanding results from clinical trials in general is that they are looking for an average effect, while many experts agree that the ideal approach would be to figure out which subsets of depressed patients could benefit from particular treatments, an approach the (National Institutes of Health) has called ‘personalized medicine’,” said Dr. Elizabeth Sublette of Columbia University in New York, who was not part of the new review. “At this stage we don’t yet know how to predict which depressed patients will respond to omega-3 supplements,” Sublette told Reuters Health by email. “They remain one potential treatment that may be worth trying, and I would encourage both doctors and patients to keep an open mind about this topic until more evidence of higher quality can be obtained.”


U.S. organ transplants: Researchers detail advantages of wealth

Washington Post

Lead author Raymond Givens, a transplant fellow at Columbia University Medical Center, said the multiple listings strategy appears to give an edge to wealthy patients over those with the most medical need. “It undermines a bedrock principle of organ transplantation — which is that the sickest people should be transplanted first,” Givens said. “We firmly believe the multiple listing policy needs to be reconsidered.”

Wealth May Give Advantage For Getting Organ Transplants

Associated Press

“Multiple-listed patients were more likely to get transplanted and less likely to die,” said Dr. Raymond Givens at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. “It’s a rational thing to do” from an individual patient’s point of view, but it raises fairness questions, and the policy should be reconsidered, he said.

Ask Well: What Is the Link Between Depression and Heart Disease?

New York Times

“It is clear that treatment with an S.S.R.I. reduces cardiac mortality in depressed patients post heart attack,” said Dr. Steven P. Roose, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia. “What is not clear is whether the reduction in mortality results from the antidepressant effect of the medication or the anti-platelet effect of the medication.”

Robin Williams’s Widow Points to Dementia as a Suicide Cause

New York Times

“If you’re young, if you have insight into what’s happening, and you have some of the associated symptoms — like depression, and the hallucinations,” said Dr. Edward Huey, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at Columbia. “That’s when we think the risk of suicide is highest.”

Why is diversity so important?

Columbia Daily Spectator

Editor’s Note:  Dr. Dennis A. Mitchell, a dental surgeon and a master of public health, is vice provost for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion at Columbia. He is also an associate professor of dental medicine at the medical center.

Cancer Drug Could Be Baldness Remedy, Too

NBC News

While cancer treatments are usually associated with hair loss, some specialized drugs called JAK inhibitors can actually help hair grow.  Angela Christiano and colleagues at Columbia University have been testing them as treatments for a rare form of hair loss called alopecia areata.  This condition is caused by the immune system’s mistaken attack on hair follicles, and the drugs work by suppressing inappropriate immune responses — that’s why they help rheumatoid arthritis and some forms of blood cancer that involve immune cells.

Could a Mediterranean diet help us hang on to brain cells?

CBS News

Study author Yian Gu, of Columbia University, in New York, said the results are exciting because they raise the possibility that people may potentially be able to prevent brain shrinking and the effects of aging on the brain by following a healthy diet. “The more you adhere to the Mediterranean diet, the better protection you get for your brain,” she told CBS News.

Marijuana use more than doubles in just 12 years

Washington Post

Lead study author Deborah Hasin, a professor of epidemiology in psychiatry at Columbia University, said she’s been particularly interested in tracking usage trends “given all the changes in attitudes and changes in laws.” But it’s unclear what’s behind such a dramatic increase in marijuana use. “We showed that it happened,” Hasin said. “Now, the thing that really needs to be researched is the why.”

Where The Girls Are (And Aren’t): #15Girls


But it’s difficult to get a good snapshot of what’s happening with girls around the age of puberty — not much information has been collected. This is a problem, says Marni Sommer of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. “There’s this assumption that [the age of menarche] is a nonissue since getting a period isn’t a deadly thing, but we’ve found that many girls have never had conversations about periods, and it is a significant issue. Maybe they keep it a secret or are ashamed. This is a relevant issue for girls’ health and well-being, for their confidence.”

Want a younger-looking brain? Eat fish, stay away from meat

Los Angeles Times

“In general, people’s brains tend to shrink with age and this can be associated with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Yian Gu, an epidemiologist at Columbia University and the lead author of the paper. “Our study found that the more you adhere to the Mediterranean diet, the more protection you get for your brain,” she said.

Ebola Survivor, Caregivers Unite One Year Later

Wall Street Journal

Craig Spencer, the New York doctor who survived the Ebola virus, returned to Bellevue Hospital Center on Tuesday to enjoy a victory lap with dozens of his caregivers. It was nearly a year ago that Dr. Spencer, who had been working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea, entered Bellevue Hospital with a 100.3 degree temperature and became the city’s first and only Ebola patient. After 19 days in the hospital’s infectious-disease unit he was given a clean bill of health on Nov. 11. Since then, Dr. Spencer, now 34 years old, married his fiancée, Morgan Dixon. He returned to his job in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. He also returned to Guinea in March to continue his volunteer service with Doctors Without Borders.

A Fukushima Worker Has Been Diagnosed With Cancer Linked to the Disaster


In the United States, a person might receive an average dose of 4 mSv per year from natural and medical sources, said David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University in New York City. “It is possible, but statistically unlikely, that a dose of 15 mSv was the cause of leukemia,” Brenner said. He said that it is generally very hard to assess the effects of radiation, especially in relation to cancer.

Do women need an annual pelvic exam?

PBS NewsHour

One of the first studies to suggest that routine pelvic exams were unnecessary, even potentially harmful, was published in 2011 by Carolyn Westhoff, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology who directs the division of family planning and preventive services at the Columbia University Medical Center.

Anorexia May Be Habit, Not Willpower, Study Finds

New York Times

“The thing about people with anorexia nervosa is that they can’t stop,” said Dr. Joanna E. Steinglass, an associate professor in clinical psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University Medical Center and a co-author of the new study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience. “They come into treatment saying they want to get better, and they can’t do it,” Dr. Steinglass added.

20 Mistakes You’re Making With Your Teeth


Alice Lee, DDS, an assistant professor in the Department of Dentistry for Montefiore Health System, and Alison Newgard, DDS, an assistant professor of clinical dentistry at Columbia University College of Dentistry, will clue you in on where you could be going wrong.

48 Hours: What causes gun violence?

CBS News

Ali M. Mattu, PhD, is a clinical psychologist at Columbia University Medical Center. He is featured on Saturday’s “48 Hours” investigation into the murder of California couple Andra and Brad Sachs. The couple’s son Ashton is charged. Mattu’s opinions do not necessarily reflect those of CBS News or “48 Hours.”

Trio Wins Nobel Prize for Mapping How Cells Fix DNA Damage

ABC News

Rodney Rothstein, who studies DNA repair at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said the Nobel award shows the importance of basic research. The award will be handed out along with the other Nobel Prizes on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.

Researcher: Children’s Cancer Linked to Fukushima Radiation

ABC News

David J. Brenner, professor of radiation biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center, took a different view. While he agreed individual estimates on radiation doses are needed, he said in a telephone interview that the higher thyroid cancer rate in Fukushima is “not due to screening. It’s real.”

On bringing emergency care to rural populations: Dr. Rachel Moresky


In many parts of the developing world, hospitals are far away and nearby healthcare providers lack the skills to deliver emergency medical care. With the proper training and tools, however, access to quality emergency care can be greatly improved, says Dr. Rachel Moresky, assistant professor of medicine and population and family health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and College of Physicians & Surgeons. “By decentralizing emergency care [and training and equipping local healthcare workers], we can bring that closer to the communities so that they can access that emergency care,” says Moresky in a video interview during the recent GE Developing Health Summit, which brought together the GE Foundation’s partners in global health.

WiFi, Cancer, and Paranoia

WNYC Radio

When it comes to cell phones, there’s some evidence that suggests a link between cell phone usage and a slightly elevated rate of cancer — but because these weren’t experimental studies, there’s no way of knowing whether cell phones are the culprit, or whether that rate has gone up because diagnostic techniques have improved. Mary spoke about this with David Brenner, a professor of radiation biophysics at Columbia, who pointed out that there are much bigger things to be worried about when it comes to cancer-causing radiation:

Wearable tech aims to give you a jolt – or help you relax

CBS News

Thync believes humans can’t control their own biological responses, but Randy Bruno, a neuroscientist at Columbia University, disagrees. “Almost everything we do during the day has been manipulating our biology. What you drink, what you eat…these are all active choices we make to change our biology, to change our mood,” said Bruno.

Airports’ Backscatter Scanners Met Radiation Standards, Panel Says


That the dose of radiation falls well below safety thresholds — and is less than what a body absorbs from cosmic radiation while flying across the country — is not surprising but is only one part of the equation, said David J. Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center. He didn’t work on the report but has seen a copy. “If you’re going to travel in an airplane, you can’t really avoid the radiation from cosmic rays. But there is an alternative to this radiation exposure [from X-ray scanners],” Brenner said. “The fact that we have other risks in our lives doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to minimize those that we can.”

Top Medical Schools React to Harvard’s Curriculum Change

The Harvard Crimson

The Medical School’s curriculum overhaul comes after some peer leading medical schools implemented their own curricular changes in recent years. One such medical school is Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Lee Goldman, the school’s dean, said Columbia underwent a similar change in fall 2009, suggesting that the idea of introducing a more interactive medical school curriculum is not itself novel.

Brain Series 3, Episode 1: Charlie Rose


On “Charlie Rose,” a look back at moments from the Charlie Rose Brain Series 3: Episode 1, focusing on aggression and the brain. We are joined by David Anderson of the California Institute of Technology, Richard Tremblay of the University of Montreal, Johanna Ray Vollhardt of Clark University, Emil Coccaro of the University of Chicago, Adrian Raine of the University of Pennsylvania and Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel of Columbia University.

Parental nicotine dependence predicts teen smoking


“The main message and what’s really new is the emphasis on dependence or addiction,” said lead author Denise B. Kandel of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York. “When parents are addicted to tobacco the risk of children becoming dependent on nicotine is greater,” Kandel told Reuters Health by phone.

Embryo battles likely to get a precedent in San Francisco case

Los Angeles Times

“It is compelling and dramatic how these issues play out,” said Dr. Mark Sauer, a reproductive endocrinologist and professor of medicine at Columbia University. “These are embryos that will potentially live lives. It is not like you are bartering over the furniture in your house.”

Let them play.


According to a study published earlier this year and co-authored by Dr. Christopher Ahmad, professor of orthopedic surgery at the Columbia University Medical Center and head team physician for the New York Yankees, 46% of youth baseball players report being encouraged, at least once, to keep playing despite feeling arm pain.

Federal researchers urge older adults to aim for much lower BP

Washington Post

For one thing, the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) examined patients who had a higher-than-normal risk of heart or kidney disease. It enrolled adults over 50 with systolic blood pressures of 130 to 180 and some history of cardiovascular disease, said Natalie Bello, an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, one of the 100 sites where patients were recruited.

IBM Watson Health Opens HQ, Launches Partnerships


Columbia University Medical Center’s Departments of Pathology & Cell Biology and Systems Biology will collaborate with IBM to test using IBM Watson to help oncologists in the Columbia Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center translate DNA insights into personalized treatment options for patients.

Study raises questions about transmission of Alzheimer’s protein

Washington Post

“We designed the experiments to tell if the cell is up regulating its own production of tau, as a result of being in the same environment of the cells making human tao,” Karen Duff, a professor at Columbia University and lead author of the paper told Time. “And we came to the conclusion that the tau was spreading. We suspect that the original cell dies and the tau is picked up by neighboring cells.”

Orchestrating Organoids

The Scientist

Of course, the devil’s in the details. Although the field of organoid research is maturing rapidly (see “2013’s Big Advances in Science,” The Scientist, December 24, 2013), with some organoids already moving into clinical studies to test drug efficacy, culture methods are still in their infancy, says Michael Shen, professor of medicine and of genetics and development at Columbia University in New York City.

Physicians Pay Respects to Oliver Sacks’s Medical Contributions

WNYC Radio

“We live in an era of ‘Big Data,’ where there’s this idea that if you just crank through thousands of data points and use sophisticated statistics, you’ll learn the truth about something,” said Dr. Scott Small, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center. “And he showed the more old-fashioned, time-honored and more enduring approach: if you take a single data point, a single patient and investigate them and characterize them clearly and carefully, it could really provide deep insight into neurological conditions and the brain.”