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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


“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


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


“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


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.

Parents Are Reaching for Teachable Moments on Sex Harassment

New York Times

Dr. Karen Soren, a professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, urged parents not to shy away from the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused by more than 50 women of sexual harassment or assault. “The Harvey Weinstein case and the ‘Me Too’ movement (are) exposing the scale of sexual abuse and harassment for women worldwide,” she said. “These are serious issues and parents may often feel that they’re ‘adult topics.’ However, kids of all ages and genders pick up on these conversations at school, on playgrounds and on social media, so it’s important to address them openly at home as well.”

A Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist’s Literary Ambitions

Wall Street Journal

Soon after Joachim Frank won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in early October, he called a literary magazine to ask, “What’s going on?” The Columbia University professor, who is also a novelist and short-story writer, was wondering whether his win had changed the status of one of his fiction submissions. The magazine had been promising to publish one of his short stories for three years, he says. Did he mention that he won the Nobel? He laughs sheepishly and says, “Well, I told them about it to speed them along.” The story was published on Friday.

The Rules of the Doctor’s Heart

New York Times Magazine

Siddhartha Mukherjee is the author of “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” and, more recently, “The Gene: An Intimate History.”

One Last Question Before the Operation: Just How Frail Are You?

New York Times

Unlike some conditions, frailty is something patients and doctors can actually do something about. “There are interventions that can improve or even resolve it,” said Dr. Linda Fried, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and a pioneer in frailty research. First, many surgical centers offer a “prehabilitation” program, shown to improve patients’ results through exercise, better nutrition and smoking cessation. Undertaken even for a few weeks before an operation, “it improves your bounce-back capability,” Dr. Fried said. Physical activity, in particular, “seems to be the key to preventing frailty and its progression,” Dr. Fried added — even for those not contemplating surgery.

Arsenic Reductions in Drinking Water Tied to Fewer Cancer Deaths

New York Times

The senior author, Dr. Ana Navas-Acien, a professor of environmental health sciences at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said that water treatment to remove arsenic is expensive and a challenge for smaller cities. “We are trying to provide information in a way that’s useful for policymakers,” she said. “If we could eliminate arsenic entirely, it would be ideal. But we have to be realistic.”

Robotic-assisted surgery: more expensive, but not always more effective


“Whether robotic-assisted surgery for some procedures represents ‘value’ for either the individual patient or the health care system is unlikely,” writes Dr. Jason D. Wright from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York in a related editorial. “From a policy perspective, robotic-assisted surgery exemplifies the difficulty of balancing surgical innovation with evidence-based medicine,” he concludes. “Both the generation of high-quality evidence evaluating new procedures and then the utilization of this evidence to guide practice should remain priorities for surgical disciplines.”

Your memories are less accurate than you think

Popular Science

It’s easier for our brains to handle categories than minute details, says coauthor Ning Qian, a neuroscientist at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute. “Whether the second line is clockwise or counterclockwise from the first, that’s just one bit of information, it’s kind of like black versus white, yes versus no,” he says. “The lower-level feature, which is each line’s individual orientation…can vary continuously over 0 to 180 degrees, and that’s much harder to store.”

Motherhood Is Hard to Get Wrong. So Why Do So Many Moms Feel So Bad About Themselves?


Catherine Monk, a psychologist and associate professor at Columbia University Medical Center, whose research focuses on maternal stress, echoes Minkin. “There’s a crescendo of voices saying, ‘If you don’t do X or Y, you’re doing it wrong,'” Monk says. The result is “a kind of over-preciousness about motherhood. It’s obsessive, and it’s amplified by the Internet and social media.”

Can you teach a cell new tricks? Diabetes research aims to do just that.

Chicago Tribune

Domenico Accili confesses it all sounds a little like science fiction, or maybe simply magic, but the professor of medicine at Columbia University is convinced he can coax endocrine cells in the gut to change jobs and, in the process, reverse Type 1 diabetes. If it works — and it’s too early to say that it will — that would be a game-changer for the chronic condition.

Scalpel, Sponge, Magic Beans: When Doctors Moonlight as Actors

New York Times

Mid-chest would have been just as suitable a descriptor, but dropping anatomical references in design discussions is standard practice for the Bard Hall Players, as every member in the troupe is studying to join the medical profession. The student-run theater company at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons was preparing for its production of this Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine riff on classic children’s fairy tales. The production, the final show of the company’s 50th anniversary season, will run Oct. 26 to 28.

Should Your Spouse Be Your Best Friend?

New York Times

Amir Levine is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Columbia University, and the co-author of “Attached.” A student of social relations, Dr. Levine explained that everyone has what he calls a hierarchy of attachment, meaning if something bad happens to us, we have a ranking of the people we call. In our early decades, those on the highest rungs are usually our parents or other family members. “The problem as you grow older is, how do you let somebody close who’s basically a total stranger?” he said. “Nature came up with a trick: It’s called attraction. Sexual attraction brings down all the barriers, lets you get close to a new person in a physical way that you don’t get close to your family.”

Start Skin Cancer Prevention Early, Health Experts Say

U.S. News

“Providing behavioral counseling to children, their parents and young adults encourages sun-protective behaviors,” said Karina Davidson, a U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) member. “These actions — such as using sunscreen, wearing sun-protective clothing and avoiding indoor tanning — can help prevent skin cancer later in life,” Davidson explained in a USPSTF news release. She is vice dean at Columbia University Medical Center’s departments of medicine, cardiology and psychiatry and director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health, in New York City.

Giving antibiotics prior to low-risk surgery may prevent resistance


“Guidelines don’t comment on relatively straightforward procedures, including some general surgical procedures, simple or diagnostic laparoscopy, or elective orthopedic, gynecologic, and urologic procedures because there has not been enough evidence about their benefit,” Dr. Daniel Freedberg, a specialist in internal medicine, said in a press release. “So some surgeons feel strongly that antibiotics are beneficial and always give them. Others never give them because of concern about the use of antibiotics and the later development of antibiotic resistance and bacterial infections that have no or almost no treatment options.”

What Happens In Your Body and Brain While You Sleep

NBC News

You might think of sleep as the negative time in your day when nothing on your to-do list gets done. Your brain and several other systems in your body see it quite differently. “Your brain is actually very active during sleep doing important things — it’s not just resting,” says Carl W. Bazil, MD, PhD, the Caitlin Tynan Doyle Profesor of Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center. “And if you don’t get sleep you don’t function on a number of levels the way you should.”

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded for 3D Views of Life’s Biological Machinery

New York Times

The winners are Jacques Dubochet, a retired biophysicist at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland; Joachim Frank, a professor at Columbia University in New York; and Richard Henderson, a scientist at the British Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. The Nobel committee said the technique, cryo-electron microscopy, produces “detailed images of life’s complex machineries in atomic resolution.”

The work that won the Nobel Prize in chemistry—in terms everyone can understand


Biology is in the midst of a revolution, and the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to the researchers who are at the forefront of innovation in the field. According to the prize citation, Jacques Dubochet (University of Lausanne), Joachim Frank (Columbia University), and Richard Henderson (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK) deserve the award for developing “cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution.”

Why Trump Was Wrong To ‘Guess’ the Las Vegas Shooter Was a ‘Sick’ Man


The implication of comments like this, that people with mental disorders are responsible for mass shootings, has become a “meme” in the wake of such events, Columbia University psychiatrist Paul Applebaum tells Newsweek. And as mass shootings in the U.S. continue, so does the inclusion of mental illness in discussions of gun violence among public figures and in the media. “To jump to the assumption that” a shooter “is ‘sick’ in some way is simply to continue the stigmatization of people with mental disorders who commit only a small portion of acts of violence in this country,” he says.

Skipping breakfast tied to higher risk of hardening in arteries


Individuals who regularly eat breakfast also tend to have a healthier lifestyle, exercising more, eating better and smoking less than people who skip their morning meal, said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, a nutrition researcher at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City who wasn’t involved in the study. “I think that, for everyone, consuming a healthy breakfast is a great way to meet guidelines for fruits, whole grains, lean protein,” St-Onge said by email.

Home blood pressure monitoring works best with extra support


Even though a 3-mmHg reduction in blood pressure might not seem that large, if it’s sustained over time for a broad population of people it can translate into a significant decrease in heart disease and deaths, said Dr. Ian Kronish, a researcher at Columbia University Medical Center in New York who wasn’t involved in the study. “Taking action at the time of elevated readings provides opportunities for teachable moments in which education and counseling may be more likely to lead to behavior change on the part of the patients,” Kronish said by email. “Similarly, with self-monitoring, clinicians may have more opportunities to take action to get patients’ blood pressure to goal through increased medication.”

What Is the Link Between Sugar and Depression?

U.S. News

This last study was conducted by James Gangwisch and his colleagues in the department of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. “It has long been known that people with depression tend to crave sweets,” he says. He wondered if the reverse was true as well: If you take someone who is not depressed and give them lots of sugar, will it increase risk?

Can Heart Disease Shed Light on Cancer?

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 most recent book is “The Gene: An Intimate History.” This is his debut On Medicine column.

Report Finds Gaps in Access to Opioid Addiction Help on Staten Island

New York Times

The report, which was distributed last week, was a model for multidisciplinary needs-assessment projects on opioid addiction and recovery, said Dr. Silvia Martins, an associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. Dr. Martins was a faculty adviser on the project, along with Dr. Lisette Nieves, a New York University professor. “Even within the same institution, we don’t always talk to each other. We are too busy with our own research projects,” Dr. Martins said. “I think that projects like this that bring together people with different expertise should be done more often. For sure. Not only at the city level but at the state level.”

Opioid ODs Have Cut Into U.S. Life Expectancy: CDC

U.S. News

So the fact that opioids are now dragging down U.S. life expectancy is no surprise, said Dr. Adam Bisaga, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. “These findings put what we already know into a different perspective,” said Bisaga, who was not involved in the new study. “There is an urgency to this problem,” Bisaga added. “The tragedy is, we have medication to treat opioid addiction. But death rates keep going up.”

A patch to get rid of love handles? Researchers suggest it’s possible

USA Today

The research, published Friday in ACS Nano, suggests the patch turned “white fat,” which stores excess energy, into “dark fat,” which burns fat to produce heat. It’s a process called “browning” and for years researchers have sought to use it as a way to fight obesity and diabetes. Study co-leader Li Qiang, a CUMC assistant professor of pathology and cell biology, said “browning” drugs exist but can cause side effects such as an upset stomach. In contrast, a patch lessens those side effects by injecting the medicine directly into the fat.

A New Understanding of Inflammation in the Spine

The Atlantic

The real difficulty is not knowing which genes cause disease, but figuring out how they do, explains Tom Maniatis, chair of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center. Some ALS-causing genes encode proteins that are prone to clumping, while other genes can exacerbate that clumping, and still others can disrupt the pathway that helps cells dispose of those clumps. “You can’t tell just by watching people’s clinical course which process is happening at the cellular level,” Maniatis explained. “There are complex physiological events happening in very similar ways almost irrespective of the cause of the disease.”

How affirmative action could cure cancer and heart disease

The Conversation

Providing women and minorities with access to our finest educational research institutions is not only morally correct, it makes good sense. I know this because I started a program that provides minority students with biomedical research training at Columbia University, and I have witnessed firsthand how dramatically lives can be changed.

Get Up, Stand Up!

New York Times

In essence, the data showed that “both the total hours spent sitting each day and whether those hours are accrued in short or long bouts” of physical stillness influenced longevity, says Keith Diaz, an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University, who led the new study.

Yes, sitting too long can kill you, even if you exercise

Sit less, move more” is what the American Heart Association encourages all of us to do. But this simplistic guideline doesn’t quite cut it, said Keith Diaz, lead author of the new study and an associate research scientist in the Columbia University Department of Medicine. “This would be like telling someone to just ‘exercise’ without telling them how,” Diaz wrote in an email.

More evidence links exercise to lower stroke risk


“How people exercise changes over time and some individuals exercise when they are a young adult but do not keep it up when they are older,” said lead study author Dr. Joshua Willey of Columbia University Medical Center in New York. “In our study, we found that maintaining exercise levels was protective against stroke, and that taking up exercise when not being active while younger was also protective,” Willey said by email. “Similarly, those who no longer exercised on the follow-up assessment did not have a lower risk of stroke.”

Researchers build first functional vascularized lung scaffold


The team at Columbia University report they are the first to successfully bioengineer a functional lung with perfusable and healthy vasculature in an ex vivo rodent lung. The approach allows for the removal of pulmonary epithelium while still maintaining the viability and function of the vascular network and lung matrix. “We developed a radically new approach to bioengineering of the lung,” Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, a pioneer in tissue engineering who directs the Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering at Columbia, said in a press release.

“Movement Maps” Found Deep Inside Brain

Scientific American

To investigate further, neuroscientist Rui Costa of the Zuckerman Institute at Columbia University and his colleagues created a strain of mice carrying a genetically encoded calcium sensor in neurons in the striatum. This sensor, a protein, emits fluorescent light in response to the increases in calcium ion concentrations that occur in cells when they become active. By combining this with a recently developed imaging technique called one-photon microendoscopy, the researchers were able to visualize the activity of up to 300 individual neurons in the striata of freely moving mice—using miniaturized microscopes attached to the animals’ heads—and to capture the dynamics of the cells’ firing patterns in time and space.