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NY’s Med Schools Say They Feel Squeeze in Finding Clinical Clerkships

Wall Street Journal

A department official said that process will be finished in about a year, and the agency also wants to examine the teaching hospitals’ capacity to absorb more students. Leaders of international schools want the moratorium lifted, while critics want them barred from New York clerkships altogether, or at least curbed from expanding. “If offshore schools go on buying more clerkships…we won’t have enough slots for our own New York students,” said Lee Goldman, chief executive of Columbia University Medical Center.

In IVF, Questions About ‘Mosaic’ Embryos

New York Times

What experts do not yet know is where in the embryo abnormal cells may end up; there is no way to track them as they proliferate. Until more data emerges, many fertility doctors remain unwilling to transfer mosaics. “We are not reassured that a small subset of normal, as characterized in babies — not children, not adults — warrants a complete change in policy and standard of practice,” said Dr. Mark Sauer, the chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Columbia University Medical Center.

False Scare or Dangerous Pandemic? How to Know

Men's Journal

Sometimes it seems like the world is at constant risk of being overrun by disease. Zika, Ebola, bird flu, swine flu, and SARS were all threats that rocketed from obscurity to the front of every magazine and the top of every newscast. When it comes to epidemics and pandemics, there are often two vocal camps: the handwringers and the eye-rollers. These groups, however, share the common desire to be right. The handwringers don’t want to be overreacting, and the eye-rollers don’t want to be unduly dismissing a lethal threat.  To help thread the needle, we spoke with Jeffrey Shaman, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Study: Life Expectancy Gap Between Rich and Poor Narrows in New York


Dana March, an epidemiologist at the Mailman School of Public Health, said in New York City at least some of the credit should go to the activist health policies instituted by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and continued by the current mayor.  “We have a ban on smoking [in public places], some of the highest tobacco taxes in the country, a ban on transfats,” said March, who was not involved in the multi-author study. “And one of the especially interesting things that is that you wouldn’t expect much of the improvement [from lower rates of cancer and heart disease] to show up statistically for many years.”

Income and Mortality in America: Much Ado About Nothing New

Scientific American

As a young researcher, I was very drawn to correlations. I felt that they could give us hints at how the world functioned. There are few experiences more exhilarating to budding young social scientists than running one’s first linear regression. Poof! The correlation pops up and tells you how something like income might be related to health. In those days, I played with a lot of these correlations and published quite a few of them. When I joined the faculty at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, I was lucky enough to land in a department filled with economists, political scientists, health services researchers, and even a lawyer or two. Being in a rich, interdisciplinary environment helped me grow as a researcher. But no one influenced my thinking more than the economists.

Having a baby… or not? Causes of and treatments for infertility


“Infertility can be a result of problems with the female or male, and in many cases it is a result of problems with both. Some common reasons for male infertility could be a result of a low sperm count, low sperm mobility, abnormally shaped sperm and problems with ejaculation,” says Dr. Rachel A. McConnell, an OB/GYN with ColumbiaDoctors, the faculty practice of Columbia University Medical Center, in both Scarsdale and New York City.

Are you an elite sleeper?

NBC Today

In Wednesday’s installment of our Good Snooze series, TODAY’s Al Roker spends the night in a sleep lab to find out how some people get away with only small amounts of sleep, and to find out if he’s part of the less than one percent of people who have a genetic predisposition to sleeping less and still being healthy and happy, or if he’s ignoring his body’s need for more sleep.

The Scary Thing About a Virus That Kills Farmed Fish

The Atlantic

We should be deeply concerned about such threats, but we’re not. By contrast, diseases that affect us directly, such as swine flu, Ebola, and Zika, saturate our headlines, prompt panicked talks of pandemics, and intense quests to develop vaccines and cures. But diseases don’t need to infect humans to screw us over: They can also take out the plants and animals that we eat. “It’s a matter of food security,” says Ian Lipkin from Columbia University, one of the world’s foremost virus-hunters. “There’s no major investment in the infectious diseases of fish, and that’s an error. The losses can be substantial.”

Study Finds Risks for Teens of Mothers Who Took Certain Antidepressants

Wall Street Journal

For example, normal mice run away when mild shocks are delivered to their feet. But the Prozac-exposed mice moved very slowly or didn’t escape at all when shocked. The mice “look perfectly normal until they reach the mouse equivalent of adolescence,” says Jay A. Gingrich, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University Medical Center, who led the rodent research and is a co-author of the new SSRI study. The early-life exposure led to slowed firing of neurons that respond to serotonin in the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain involved in memory and emotion regulation that develops rapidly in adolescence. Most distressing to Dr. Gingrich was that administering antidepressants to the adult mice didn’t reverse the anxious or depressed behavior. “That is what keeps me awake at night,” he says.

Scientists Identify the Structure of Zika Virus

Wall Street Journal

Vincent Racaniello, Higgins Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Columbia University, who was not involved with the study, said the findings could give researchers clues for developing antibody compounds that bind to the virus and for improving their effectiveness.

Lab Chat: A new suspect in celiac disease

STAT Morning Rounds

Though about 40 percent of people carry a gene that makes them vulnerable to developing celiac disease — an autoimmune condition marked by bad reactions to dietary gluten — only a tiny fraction of people actually do. New research in Science gives a clue as to why that is. Here’s what lead researcher Dr. Sankar Ghosh of Columbia told me about the findings.

Feelings Mixed as Tribeca Film Festival Boots Film on Vaccines

Wall Street Journal

“In response to an outcry of concern that came from more right-minded and reformed people in the scientific community, they reconsidered and thought better of it,” said Jeffrey Lieberman, psychiatrist-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. But Dr. Lieberman added that by accepting Mr. Wakefield’s film initially—and giving the documentary a platform—Tribeca already had done damage.

Opioid Use and Abuse

New York Times

To the Editor: Re “New Standards for Painkillers Aim to Stem Overdose Deaths” (front page, March 16):

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been doing a commendable job monitoring and controlling the prescription opioid drug overdose epidemic. But other federal government agencies can and should do more to address this public health crisis.

Specifically, the Drug Enforcement Administration should increase its crackdown on physicians running pill mills, and Congress should open an investigation into the role of the Food and Drug Administration in this completely man-made epidemic and hold hearings on the marketing approaches and other business practices of pharmaceutical companies that may have contributed to the skyrocketing increase in opioid drug prescriptions.


Study: Zika Landed In Brazil 2 Years Before It Was Detected

Associated Press

The researchers coupled cutting-edge genetic sequencing of the virus with an analysis of human travel patterns. They succeeded in piecing together “a very compelling story about both the route and the date of introduction of this virus into the Americas,” said Dr. Ian Lipkin, a prominent infectious disease specialist at New York’s Columbia University. The sequence information may also help in future understanding of how the virus causes disease, Lipkin said.

We’re More Honest With Our Phones Than With Our Doctors

New York Times Magazine

In March, I sat in a conference room with Jasmine McDonald, an assistant professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and Lauren Houghton, an associate research scientist at the same school. The scientists, who are in their 30s, have been studying puberty patterns in adolescent girls, particularly how various aspects of a girl’s menstrual cycle correlate with the development of certain diseases later in life.

Beyond the Catchphrase

Washington Post

The goal of psychologist Rachel Marsh is to uncover what goes wrong in the brain circuits of people with OCD, among the most intransigent of mental conditions. But the institute, part of Columbia University Medical Center, is probing on multiple fronts…. “This is an illness that really gets people off track in their lives,” said Helen Blair Simpson, director of the Center for Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders at Columbia.

Hunting the Genetic Signs of Postpartum Depression With an iPhone App

New York Times

But David Goldstein, director of Columbia University’s Institute for Genomic Medicine, who is not involved in the project, said another possibility was that postpartum depression’s links to hormonal fluctuations, in addition to emotional and other stresses that can accompany having children, might indicate it was “less likely to be genetic.” He said he had no objection to the project’s goal, but “it’s possible that you can collect information from tens of thousands of individuals and not find anything.”

How Prenatal Pollution Exposure Can Lead to Behavior Problems in Children


In normal development, children gradually gain the ability to control their emotions and behaviors, learning how to delay gratification, for example, and manage their emotions and not always act on impulse. But the study showed that children whose mothers had higher levels of PAHs during pregnancy didn’t experience this normal trajectory of emotional and social development, which could lead to more high risk behaviors during adolescence, including drug abuse and aggression and violence. Abnormal self-regulation can also lay a foundation for problems in attention and socialization. “There is a significant association directly between PAH exposure and poorer social competence,” says Frederica Perera, a co-author of the study from Columbia.

Scientists create a new type of stem cell

Washington Post

This breakthrough has huge implications for progress in everything from gene editing to reproductive and regenerative medicine. The researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Columbia University Medical Center and the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute explained the implications of their work in a nifty video.

Scientists create human stem cells with only 23 chromosomes

New York Daily News

A scientific discovery unveiled Wednesday could revolutionize genetic research with new screening tools and therapies. Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center, the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute and Hebrew University have found a way to create human stem cells with only 23 chromosomes, rather than the usual 46.

FDA panel approves dissolving heart stent Absorb


“As a first-in-kind device with novel properties, including complete dissolution and natural restoration of vessel function, this is a remarkable achievement,” Dr. Gregg W. Stone, director, cardiovascular research and education at the Columbia University Medical Center and chairman of the clinical trial program for Absorb. “The available evidence supports an important role for this innovative device in the treatment of coronary artery disease.”

Scientists develop new human stem cells with half a genome


Human cells are considered diploid because they inherit two sets of chromosomes, 23 from the mother and 23 from the father. Reproductive egg and sperm cells are known as haploid because they contain a single set of chromosomes. They cannot divide to make more eggs and sperm. “What is fundamentally new is we have cells that can divide and renew with a single genome. That is just unprecedented,” said Dieter Egli of Columbia University Medical Center in New York, co-author of the study with Dr. Nissim Benvenisty of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Why We Eat Too Much When We Don’t Sleep Enough

Wall Street Journal

Marie-Pierre St-Onge, an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, has done neuroimaging studies on 27 people comparing their neural responses to food images when sleep-restricted to when they get a full night’s sleep. She found that when sleep-restricted, the individuals had a greater neural response in the brain regions involved in reward centers. The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2012, dovetail well with the recent endocannabinoid study, she said. More recently Dr. St-Onge did a secondary analysis of the data from her 2012 study and also found what we eat may affect sleep quality. When individuals were allowed to eat what they wanted, those who ate more fiber had more slow-wave sleep, whereas those with a higher saturated fat intake had less slow-wave sleep. Additionally, a greater sugar intake was associated with more arousals in the middle of the night. The findings were published in January in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. “It’s important to note that what you eat during the day can impact how you sleep,” she said. “It’s sort of a vicious cycle. Your sleep at night influences your appetite and food choices during the day” and vice versa, she said.

Centers to Treat Eating Disorders Are Growing, and Raising Concerns

New York Times

In an article to be published Monday in the journal Psychiatric Services, Dr. Evelyn Attia, a professor of psychiatry and director of the eating disorders program at Columbia University Medical Center, and four colleagues called for more transparency about the financial relationships between residential centers and the professionals who send them patients, and urged clinicians to be mindful of efforts to influence their recommended treatment. “The effect of these clinician inducements, which are aimed at building a program’s patient referral base, may not be fully recognized by the professionals they target,” wrote Dr. Attia and her colleagues, who included Dr. Guarda.

New ‘Smart’ Contact Lens Could Improve Vision, Predict Glaucoma Risk

CBS New York

“This contact lens allows us to differentiate those who were progressing faster from those who were stable,” Dr. C. Gustavo De Moraes explained. Patients wear a wireless device that sends a readout to the ophthalmologist. Doctors said the ultimate goal of the smart lens technology is to help monitor patients continuously, day and night. “We have no way of measuring pressure at night at the moment. We are missing critical pieces of information to help us make decisions,” Dr. Jeffrey Liebmann said.

How Can You Listen to Music When You Can’t Really Hear?

Mother Jones

Some researchers are trying to make cochlear implants more music-friendly, but it’s no easy task: The devices are already quite sophisticated, and it’s difficult to encode pitch in real time. Dr. Anil Lalwani, director of the Cochlear Implant Center at Columbia University Medical Center, is trying a different approach: Instead of tweaking the implants, he’s tinkering with the music itself, trying to engineer songs that even the hardest-of-hearing can enjoy.

Newborn neurons keep memories crisp and fresh


A second, more novel experiment was “particularly exciting” to the team, however, says Attila Losonczy, a neuroscientist also at Columbia and co-author to the study. In this set-up, mice ran on a treadmill receiving sips of water as a reward, while different sounds, scents, visual cues, and textures of the treadmill belt simulated two similar but not identical environments. As the mice traveled through the virtual contexts, the researchers peered into their brains, using a special type of microscope that can excite and image fluorescent molecules deep within tissues. Young neurons had been engineered to express a red fluorescent protein to distinguish them from older cells. Meanwhile, both young and mature cells expressed a green fluorescent protein that glowed in response to changes in the concentration of calcium ions, a proxy for neuronal firing.  “To actually watch these cells, look at their activity and compare it with their mature counterparts had not been done before—not even attempted,” Losonczy says.

Newborn neurons observed in a live brain for first time

New Scientist

For a long time, it was thought that we are born with all the brain cells we’ll ever have. Now we know that certain regions of the brain continue to make new neurons throughout life. Slices of brain tissue show that most of these are created in the hippocampus – a seahorse-shaped structure known to be crucial for learning and memory. Yet, until now, we had never seen these neurons in action in a live animal. Attila Losonczy at Columbia University Medical Center in New York and his colleagues combined several techniques to achieve the feat. They first implanted a device that included a miniature microscope into the brains of live mice. They also modified the mice so that newly made neurons would glow.

Genetic Test Firm to Put Customers’ Data in Public Domain

New York Times

Specialists welcomed Ambry’s move, but some said it was unclear how useful the information will be. The Exome Aggregation Consortium, an academic collaboration based at the Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard, already has a similar publicly available database containing information from more than 60,000 exomes. “It is not clear to me that 10,000 exomes changes the game much,” said David B. Goldstein, professor of genetics at Columbia University.

Telling docs they overprescribe addicting drugs doesn’t make them stop


Still, the study’s lead author said the results will help researchers who are studying ways to get doctors to pay attention. “I think if there is a way to make these letters effective it may be one tool in the arsenal to curb the high rate of opioid deaths,” said Adam Sacarny, of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City.

Some fertility treatments produce more boy babies. Here’s why


Also note that IVF births account for just 1 to 2 percent of total births in the United States, so having more males born via fertility treatments is unlikely to affect the gender ratio of babies nationwide. “I don’t think anyone should be worried even if there’s a slight increase in male births in patients undergoing fertility care,” said Dr. Mark Sauer, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Columbia University Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.

Gun control: What works, what doesn’t and what remains open for debate

Washington Post

Gun control works, but you have to be smart about it. That’s the takeaway from a major new analysis out this month in the journal Epidemiologic Reviews. Columbia University’s Julian Santaella-Tenorio and a team of researchers pored over the results of 130 studies on gun control legislation passed in 10 different countries to find out which policy interventions worked, which ones didn’t and on what issues the jury was still out.

Age-Old Issue Gets Diminished in Election 2016

Wall Street Journal

Yet the candidates also appear to be evidence of what scientists have increasingly come to understand, that chronological age isn’t a reliable predictor of vitality, said Dr. Ursula Staudinger, director of the Aging Center at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Data and studies are generally showing that our biological age is roughly 10 years less than our chronological age, she said. “We are watching this finding in action,” she said, noting that if anything, there has been more negative talk about the youthfulness and length of experience of GOP candidate and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, 44.

A huge international study of gun control finds strong evidence that it works


The authors are careful to note that their findings do not conclusively prove that gun restrictions reduce gun deaths. However, they did find a compelling trend whereby new restrictions on gun purchasing and ownership tended to be followed by a decline in gun deaths. “Across countries, instead of seeing an increase in the homicide rate, we saw a reduction,” Julian Santaella-Tenorio, a doctoral student in epidemiology at Columbia University and the study’s lead author, told me.

Some Germ Prevention Techniques Aren’t As Effective As You Think

CBS New York

“A lot of things we think make us feel better are really not for health reasons,” Elaine Larson, associate dean of Columbia University School of Nursing, said. Larson said the sidekick toilet flush may not help you much. “The thing that you flush isn’t any dirtier than a lot of other surfaces,” she said. “There’s no evidence that it makes any difference.”

What’s normal for the abnormal? A close look at NBA players’ hearts


It’s well-known that the heart changes with long-term athletic activity. It becomes bigger, heavier, and thicker. “But we don’t know where the boundaries are,” said Dr. David Engel of Columbia University Medical Center, who led the research team. “There’s a gray zone between the athletic changes that you [typically] see versus underlying cardiac conditions that put people at risk.” His team’s goal was to draw a sharper line in that gray zone.

Lab Chat: The surprisingly silent synapses in your brain

STAT Morning Rounds

Scientists have taken a detailed look at how information is transmitted in the brain, and what they found surprised them: Only a fraction of the synapses that serve as connections seem to be active. They focused on synapses that respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Here’s what lead researcher and neuroscientist Dr. David Sulzer of Columbia told me about the findings, published in Nature Neuroscience.

Zika May Increase Risk of Mental Illness, Researchers Say

New York Times

Schizophrenia and other debilitating mental illnesses have no single cause, experts emphasized in interviews. The conditions are thought to arise from a combination of factors, including genetic predisposition and traumas later in life, such as sexual or physical abuse, abandonment or heavy drug use. But illnesses in utero, including viral infections, are thought to be a trigger. “The consequences of this go way beyond microcephaly,” said Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, who directs The Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University.

Should all young children be screened for autism? Task force is inconclusive


“The family with a lot of resources that has a strong educational background … is going to raise concerns earlier and is going to push for a referral,” said Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. “Whereas the family without those resources won’t necessarily push or be in a position to push in the same way.” Veenstra-VanderWeele wrote an editorial in JAMA Psychiatry criticizing the task force’s approach.

Among keys to curing cancer, academic medical centers loom large

The Hill

Academic medical centers are already hard at work bringing together essential components in the fight against cancer. Working with government, industry and other stakeholders, academic medical centers will step up to the moonshot challenge and transform care for patients with cancer.

Corwin is president and CEO of New York-Presbyterian. Goldman is dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. Glimcher is the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss dean of Weill Cornell Medicine.

Nova: Memory Hackers


Memory is the glue that binds our mental lives. Without it, we’d be prisoners of the present, unable to use the lessons of the past to change our future. From our first kiss to where we put our keys, memory represents who we are and how we learn and navigate the world. But how does it work? Neuroscientists using cutting-edge techniques are exploring the precise molecular mechanisms of memory. By studying a range of individuals ranging—from an 11-year-old whiz-kid who remembers every detail of his life to a woman who had memories implanted—scientists have uncovered a provocative idea. For much of human history, memory has been seen as a tape recorder that faithfully registers information and replays intact. But now, researchers are discovering that memory is far more malleable, always being written and rewritten, not just by us but by others. We are discovering the precise mechanisms that can explain and even control our memories. The question is—are we ready?

Why Is It So Hard To Test Whether Drivers Are Stoned?


And that changes everything. “It’s really difficult to document drugged driving in a relevant way,” says Margaret Haney, a neurobiologist at Columbia University, “[because of] the simple fact that THC is fat soluble. That makes it absorbed in a very different way and much more difficult to relate behavior to, say, [blood] levels of THC or develop a breathalyzer.”