Headlines Subscribe to this feed

Why the ‘gluten-free movement’ is less of a fad than we thought

Washington Post

What is still increasing is the number of people who have abandoned gluten for different reasons: how many have done so because it’s trendy or because they have a real allergy, researchers aren’t quite sure. Benjamin Lebwohl, the director of clinical research at Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center, estimates that more than half of the 3.1 million PWAGs observed in this latest study have a legitimate, non-celiac gluten sensitivity — a phenomenon that has only emerged in the past five years in the medical literature. “An increasing number of people say that gluten makes them sick, and we don’t have a good sense why that is yet,” Lebwohl said. “There is a large placebo effect — but this is over and above that.”

How to Stay Forever Young, Really


“An important key to aging successfully is feeling that our lives are meaningful, that we have created something that will endure beyond us,” says Linda Fried, dean and DeLamar professor of public health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. “At every age we need some structure in our lives and a reason to get up in the morning. Without it, sickness and earlier death are more likely.”

How LSD Saved One Woman’s Marriage

New York Times

The risks, however, are clear, said Dr. Elias Dakwar, a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center who researches mind-altering substances. LSD is sometimes adulterated or improperly synthesized, and may vary widely in potency, with someone intending to take a tiny, subperceptual dose at risk of having “a full-blown psychedelic effect when trying to do a PowerPoint presentation,” he said.

Obstetricians balk at FDA warning on anesthesia in pregnant women


Dr. Lena Sun, professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, has been studying the issue in children and said she believes the FDA acted in an abundance of caution.  “We do not need to unduly alarm the public, but we want the public to be aware of this potential risk,” she said in a phone interview. “While we are pretty sure and reassured that single and brief exposures in healthy children should not raise any concerns, we cannot offer the same reassurance for prolonged and repeated exposures,” she said.

‘Hidden’ celiac disease less common now in U.S.


Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, the director of clinical research at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York, told Reuters Health the findings are a departure from the longstanding problem of having many undiagnosed patients. Lebwohl, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email, “The numbers of patients are small, and this was only observed in the most recent two-year period, but if confirmed it may mark a turning point in our efforts to increase awareness and identify patients with celiac disease.”

One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die

New York Times Magazine

“What B.J. accomplishes is to talk about death without making it sound scary and horrible,” Rita Charon, a professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical School, says. “We know from seeing him standing in front of us that he has suffered. We know that he has been at the brink of the abyss that he’s talking about. That gives him an authority that others may not have.”

Girls from low-income families feel unprepared for puberty: Study


“Puberty is the cornerstone of reproductive development,” Marni Sommer, associate professor of sociomedical sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, said in a press release. “Therefore, the transition through puberty is a critical period of development that provides an important opportunity to build a healthy foundation for sexual and reproductive health. Given the importance of this transition, the research is striking in its lack of quantity and quality to date.”

Mellow Drivers? Study says states with medical-marijuana laws have lower traffic fatality rates.

Washington Post

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found an 11 percent reduction in traffic fatalities on average when examining places that have enacted medical-marijuana laws — 23 states and the District of Columbia. The presence of medical-marijuana dispensaries also correlated with fewer traffic fatalities, the study found. Silvia Martins, a physician and associate professor who was the study’s senior author, theorized that lower traffic fatality rates in states with marijuana laws might be related to lower levels of alcohol-impaired driving as people, especially younger people, substitute weed for booze.

This Pesticide Is Prohibited in Britain. Why Is It Still Being Exported?

New York Times

But the lead author of that study, Dr. Asa Abeliovich of the Columbia University Medical Center, said in an interview that “obviously there’s a bunch of solid epidemiological studies that link paraquat to Parkinson’s disease risk, so I think there’s definitely support for that.” Dr. Abeliovich also said the paraquat studies underscored “that there are certain environmental factors that matter,” which interact “with genetic factors.”

Drug Overdose Deaths Increased Significantly in Past 5 Years

New York Times

“It’s certainly disheartening for those of us in public health,” said Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University epidemiologist who researches drug abuse issues. “Part of what has been concerning for many epidemiologists and other public health professionals is the rise in these high-dosage opioids like fentanyl that really are contributing in very pervasive ways to the overdose epidemic,” she said.

A Year of Skyline Spectacle and Joy

New York Times

The Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center, devised by Diller Scofidio & Renfro (in collaboration with Gensler), is a whimsical 110,000-square-foot exclamation mark on Columbia University’s Upper Manhattan medical campus near the George Washington Bridge. The 14-story tower’s camera-ready face looks south. It presents a cheerfully teetering stack of cantilevered terraces, indoor bleacher seats, lounges and stairs. They spill toward a handsome wood-lined amphitheater linked by steps to the sloping sidewalk. One can picture a giant pinball bouncing from the top of Vagelos and rolling down Haven Avenue.

A new type of molecular medicine may be needed to halt cancers

The Economist

Facts such as these have led many cancer biologists to question how useful the gene-led approach to understanding and treating cancer actually is. And some have gone further than mere questioning. One such is Andrea Califano of Columbia University, in New York. He observes that, regardless of the triggering mutation, the pattern of gene expression—and associated protein activity—that sustains a tumour is, for a given type of cancer, almost identical from patient to patient. That insight provides the starting-point for a different approach to looking for targets for drug development.

NYC biotech industry to get big boost from new de Blasio initiative


Several big names in the biotech field, including Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Company and Acorda Therapeutics and schools such as Columbia University said they were on board with the initiative. “The initiative will make it possible to move discoveries from academic labs to the clinic through the growth of biotechnology in the city,” Dr. Tom Maniatis, the chair of the biochemistry department at Columbia University Medical Center, said in a statement.

One in 6 American Adults Say They Have Taken Psychiatric Drugs

New York Times

Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, who was not involved in the study, said the new analysis provided a clear, detailed picture of current usage: “It reflects a growing acceptance of and reliance on prescription medications” to manage common emotional problems, he said.

Why Doctors Still Worry About Measles

New York Times

“Two of the most contagious viral infections are smallpox and measles,” said Dr. Anne Gershon, the director of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Columbia. Before they develop that characteristic measles rash, children have high fever and respiratory symptoms, and they are therefore at their most infectious before the disease has been identified. “In the early stages of the disease there’s a lot of coughing, runny eyes and nose, but you don’t think of isolating somebody till the rash comes out and after that they’re gradually less contagious,” she said.

The Best Architecture of 2016: Structures New and Reclaimed

Wall Street Journal

In New York, Columbia University’s Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center encapsulates with dynamic elegance some of the latest thinking on how to foster teaching and the exchange of ideas. On a sliver site in Washington Heights overlooking the Hudson River, the 14-story tower features a cascading stair flowing into promontory-like balconies, meet-up eddies, café landings and other alluring pull-out spaces for the kind of unscheduled encounters currently associated with best practices in advanced education. The architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro have applied their acute ability to translate complex needs into compelling clarity—rendered here in an energized palette of douglas-fir paneling and burnt-orange terrazzo. Originally budgeted at $70 million, the building and its interiors impart an enduring sense of quality and sophistication that should excite students (and impress alums) for generations to come.

Life Expectancy in U.S. Declines Slightly, and Researchers Are Puzzled

New York Times

Dr. Peter Muennig, a professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said in an interview that the decline was a “uniquely American phenomenon” in comparison with other developed countries, like Japan or Sweden. “A 0.1 decrease is huge,” Dr. Muennig said. “Life expectancy increases, and that’s very consistent and predictable, so to see it decrease, that’s very alarming.”

How Physicians Pay Themselves

WNYC Radio

Miriam Laugesen, associate professor in the department of Health Policy and Management at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University and the author of Fixing Medical Prices: How Physicians Are Paid (Harvard University Press, 2016), explores the way reimbursement rates for doctors are set by their professional organizations and what that means for overall spending and care.

Heart problems tied to increased risk of suicide


Donald Edmondson, director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, told Reuters Health the study’s data are strong and people should pay attention to the results. While emergency department physicians and cardiologists are becoming aware of the psychological impact of cardiac events, there is not enough information yet to say what might lead patients to suicide, said Edmondson, who wasn’t involved with the new study.

Tracking Down One of Cancer’s Deadliest Culprits, the Ras Family of Genes


When it comes to the current state of cancer survival, Susan Bates feels like many of the rest of us. “It’s incredibly frustrating,” she says. For Bates, who treats pancreatic and other cancers at Columbia University Medical Center, the frustration is worsened by virtue of knowing her enemy—an elusive gene that “makes cancer grow very fast.”

Fear, Then Skepticism, Over Antibiotic-Resistant Genes in Beijing Smog

New York Times

“This is important work that may provide insights into the dissemination of antibiotic resistance not only in Beijing but in other cities as well,” W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, wrote in an email. “It’s not clear that bacteria in smog are a health threat,” Dr. Lipkin wrote, noting that smog may be the more likely cause of health problems. “What is clear is that the air isn’t clear. Pollution results in damage to airways that increases susceptibility to a wide range of viruses as well as bacteria,” he wrote.

Southern Africa’s AIDS epidemic takes nosedive


“We were amazed when we saw this,” says Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiologist who heads an international health-strengthening program called ICAP at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, which led the survey. “It’s really a credit to these countries—and they’re not the world’s richest places.”

‘Magic mushroom’ psychedelic may ease anxiety, depression

Associated Press

The work released Thursday is preliminary and experts say more definitive research must be done on the effects of the substance, called psilocybin (sih-loh-SY’-bihn). But the record so far shows “very impressive results,” said Dr. Craig Blinderman, who directs the adult palliative care service at the Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He didn’t participate in the work.

The Life-Changing Magic of Mushrooms

The Atlantic

However, psilocybin is still many years from becoming a prescribed treatment for cancer-related dread. Though researchers can acquire psilocybin for studies, it’s still illegal, adding an extra hurdle to the drug-development process. “Current laws, not based on evidence, impede research by onerous storage and security requirements, difficulty in obtaining funding, and the near impossibility of actually obtaining restricted compounds without having them synthetically produced at great cost,” wrote Columbia University psychiatrists Jeffrey Lieberman and Daniel Shalev in one of the psilocybin editorials.

Preventing Mental Illness With a Stress Vaccine

The Atlantic

By the time [Rebecca]  Brachman’s results were published, in January 2015, she’d long since moved on to and completed a doctoral program at Columbia University, where she had begun collaborating with the neurobiologist Christine Denny.

Returning to Mott Haven and the South Bronx

WNYC Radio

Diana Hernandez was an ’80s kid. She grew up in the South Bronx in Section 8 housing at a time when the area was filled with drugs and disease. She got out of the neighborhood through education. At the age of 19, she began her Ph.D. in sociology at Cornell University. Now, Hernandez is an assistant professor of sociomedical sciences at the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, where she conducts research on poverty and public health.

Many Insured Children Lack Essential Health Care, Study Finds

New York Times

“The fact that more than 20 million children in the U.S. experience insurance and noninsurance barriers to getting comprehensive and timely health care is a challenge that needs to get the highest-priority attention from the new administration,” said the report’s lead author, Dr. Irwin Redlener, president of the nonprofit Children’s Health Fund and a professor of pediatrics and health policy and management at Columbia University.

UN Agency Lifts Zika Emergency, Prepares for Long-Term Fight

New York Times

Traditionally, WHO’s emergency declarations are designed to motivate governments to take steps to curb epidemics. “But Zika has traveled quite far by now. It’s not quite clear to me what the impact” of continuing the declaration would be, Stephen Morse, an infectious disease expert at New York City’s Columbia University, said.

Experimental Vaginal Ring Fights HIV, But Will Women Wear It?


Other HIV researchers find these results promising, says Dr. Jessica Justman, an associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “If you don’t use something, it doesn’t work. That’s not a surprise,” says Justman, who has learned through her clinical research studies that it takes time for people to accept something that’s different.

More U.S. teenagers battle major depression in cyber bullying era, study finds


The findings suggest “fairly impressive increases in depression” and “should be of concern to parents, teachers, and pediatricians,” said Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and a co-author of the study. “These trends support a renewed focus on outreach, early detection and intervention for depression in young people,” he told Mashable.  Olfson said more research is needed to understand why young people are increasingly depressed.

Health Under Trump

The Atlantic

“I don’t think they really want to repeal the whole thing, despite all the rhetoric,” Michael Sparer, chair of the department of health policy and management at Columbia, told me. “You’ve got 20 million people who have health insurance right now who didn’t have it before. Taking it away from them overnight isn’t something anybody is going to want to do, politically.”

Women Rush To Get Long-Acting Birth Control After Trump Wins


Dr. Anne Davis, consulting medical director for Physicians for Reproductive Health and an associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, says that on Wednesday six women called “in a panic” to schedule IUD appointments. Normally, only about one woman calls to book an IUD insertion each day. “And these women weren’t just looking for an appointment somewhere in the future. They wanted one right now. They were very, very scared and distraught that they would lose access to birth control,” Davis says.

Obamacare under President Trump: What happens next?

CNN Money

“I don’t think anyone would want to pass a bill overnight that cost 20 million people their health insurance,” said Michael Sparer, chair of health policy and management at Columbia University’s School of Public Health. “The question is what does he really want to do.”

NIH to double funding for chronic fatigue syndrome, but patient distrust remains


Some scientists working on the disease agree. “The fact that there is a budget for it at all means that the agency is taking it seriously. And it’s not coming only out of Francis Collins’s discretionary fund, but from the individual NIH institutes,” says Ian Lipkin, an immunologist at Columbia University, who serves on the Advisory Committee to the Director, Collins’s key group of external advisers. Lipkin is also the principal investigator on a $766,000 grant from NIH’s infectious diseases institute to collect samples from hundreds of patients and controls, looking for biomarkers that could be used to diagnose the disease and searching for clues to its causes.

Why do we love and hate different tastes?


Dr. Charles Zuker, a neuroscientist from Columbia University in New York, says all animals are “pre-wired” to prefer sweet tastes to bitter. “There are no lions out in the wild drinking tonic water,” he says. But Dr. Zuker says there are also “acquired tastes,” where the social reward outweighs an initial dislike – such as drinking beer and coffee.

Trump Has Been Clear on His Plans to Repeal Affordable Care Act


“Certainly, there’s a lot of public support for insurance regulation and the protection of patients,” said Miriam Laugesen, an associate professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “Not everything in the ACA is likely to be repealed just because they are popular policies.”

The Doctors Who Solve Medical Mysteries

Wall Street Journal

When patients have a disease that can’t be diagnosed, they get sent to Wendy Chung. Dr. Chung heads the Discover program at NewYork Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, which uses genetics to diagnose rare and complex diseases that have eluded traditional doctors and specialists. Dr. Chung, a 48-year-old geneticist and pediatrician, says she started the program about 18 months ago after having successfully diagnosed a number of patients with genomic analysis. She sensed a need for a more comprehensive approach to caring for such patients. So far, Dr. Chung has discovered 28 new diseases—mostly rare, genetic, pediatric conditions.

How uninfected hospital patients can pass along a nasty bug

Philadelphia Inquirer

If the first occupant of a given bed was given antibiotics for some reason, the subsequent patient had a higher risk of developing C. diff, the authors reported in JAMA Internal Medicine. That held true even when the initial patient had no C. diff symptoms, said lead author Daniel E. Freedberg, an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia. That suggests the bacteria are being passed along by patients who were colonized with C. diff but not symptomatic, he said.

Scientists Study if Pap Smear Could Spot Birth Defects Early

New York Times

The work is intriguing but still preliminary, said Dr. Ronald Wapner, a prenatal screening specialist at Columbia University. Especially this early in pregnancy, “we have to make sure the cells you get are truly representative of what’s going on in the fetus,” he said, something larger tests could determine.

Study Finds Pollution Exposure Is Higher in Active City Children


“Black carbon is an indicator of diesel exhaust pollution exposure, so exposures can be high near traffic areas,” says Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir, assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center and the study’s lead author. “However, there are also indoor sources of black carbon, including residential heating and cooking. In New York City, depending on the season, indoor sources can be greater than outdoors. So it is still unclear if indoor or outdoor activity is better.”

Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center at Columbia University

Architectural Record

Approaching the new Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center from the jumble of hulking facilities in Upper Manhattan that make up the Columbia University Medical Center, the first thing that comes into view is the tower’s attention-grabbing south elevation. Its 14 stories of canted planes, transparent glass, and projecting boxes offer a striking counterpoint to both the sprawling medical complex—which includes Columbia’s teaching hospital, New York Presbyterian—and the surrounding low-scale but dense Washington Heights neighborhood.

We Really Are Losing Sleep Over the Election

Wall Street Journal

Philip Muskin, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, estimates about one-third of his patients mention the election. Some tell him it’s affecting their sleep. His female patients especially say they are upset about Mr. Trump’s treatment of women.

Understanding The Link Between Pancreatic And Breast Cancers

ABC New York

“But it is much less known and understood that these mutations have been linked to several gastroenterological cancers, including pancreatic cancer,” says John A. Chabot, MD, Chief of the Division of GI/Endocrine Surgery and Executive Director of The Pancreas Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. “For men and women who carry the BRCA mutations, there is about a three- to four-fold higher risk for pancreatic cancer.”

A Challenge for Mental-Health Experts: Weigh In on Trump?

Chronicle of Higher Education

“I don’t think that, without an examination of an individual, one can make an assessment of the person’s psychological profile,” said Maria A. Oquendo, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who is also president of the American Psychiatric Association. An expert can observe the public behavior of a political candidate, Dr. Oquendo said. “But you really cannot know what is motivating the behavior or what the underlying thought process is,” she said.

Antidepressants in pregnancy tied to health risks for kids


There were no links between SSRI exposure in the womb and scholastic or motor disorders in the children, according to Dr. Alan Brown at Columbia University in New York City and his colleagues, who included researchers from the University of Turku in Finland. But as reported in JAMA Psychiatry October 12th, for children whose mothers purchased at least two SSRI prescriptions during pregnancy, the risk of speech and language disorders was 37 percent higher than it was for children whose mothers had depression but didn’t take the drugs and 63 percent higher than for children whose mothers didn’t have depression. “There is a possible association between SSRIs during pregnancy and speech and language delays,” Brown told Reuters Health.