$100M wasted on booze

The Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health Trial (MACH15) was designed to observe the effects of moderate drinking versus being a nerd responsibly abstaining. But the National Institutes of Health has shut down the study after compromising contacts between scientists and alcohol industry executives were exposed by The New York Times. The NIH conducted its own internal investigation of the claims that scientists had courted these executives to fund the study through a nonprofit—which itself is a violation of government policy. The investigation found staffers “hid facts” from team members, apparently to frame the study in a pro-alcohol light. Talk about beer goggles. Score one for ethics in research at least.

The golden Gates are open again

Yep, Bill and Melinda are at it again and the world will likely be a better place for it. Kinda makes this writer feel bad for bashing Windows 98. Sorry. The Gates Foundation is “establishing a non-profit medical research institute (called the Bill and Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute or Gates MRI) that will combat diseases that disproportionately impact the poor in low- and middle-income countries by accelerating progress in translational science.” It is anticipated the institute will be co-located in Seattle and Boston and that Penny Heaton, who currently leads the foundation’s Vaccine and Surveillance Program, will take a senior leadership role. In a May 2017 release they anticipate spending $100M and employing 80-120 full-time employees. See this ~5 min video interview with Heaton regarding the announcement. All together now… “Thank you Willie and Millie.” We just made that up. You can use it.

Sex, drugs and… depression?

A new study released by the CDC in the US found that fewer teens are having sex and doing drugs. 39.5% of teens reported ever having sex, down from 47.8% in 2007 and 57% in 1988. Illegal drug use seems to be following the same trend as sex. Less of it. 14% of teens reported ever using illegal drugs compared to almost 23% in 2007. That’s a big drop. Now for the bad news. Those who are having sex report lower rates of condom use than in years past. And depression. 31.5% of teens reported “persistent feelings of sadness or loneliness” compared to 28.5% in 2007. So, let’s get this straight… less sex, less drug use, more depression. I’m certain there’s a joke in there somewhere but ending up with more depression is a terrible punchline. Some hypothesize that the growing use of social media—you know, the thing that’s supposed to connect people—is leading to increased social isolation. Frowny-face emoji.

Cancer caused by CRISPR?

Two studies released this week looked at the tumor-suppressing gene p53 and found that it doesn’t play nicely with CRISPR-Cas9. P53 is responsible for scrambling emergency services when DNA is damaged, which CRISPR-Cas9 does when cutting into DNA strands and adding some new DNA. The emergency response is a take-no-prisoners approach which either ‘fixes’ the DNA, rendering the gene therapy useless, or kills the cell. Astute readers may notice this also makes the therapy useless. That could answer why gene editing can be inefficient, and that’s also where the cancer risk comes in. The only cells that survive this process have faulty p53 genes, thus compromising the cells’ ability to fight future tumors. This was only observed with the DNA insertion process, so don’t sound the death knell for CRISPR just yet.

Orange’cha glad I didn’t say bananas

Turns out that the cool mist that comes from orange peels that you used to light on fire as a kid has some more applied uses in the world of medicine. Researchers at the University of Central Florida “have figured out the mechanics of how oranges release that thin stream of fragrant oil when squeezed. They characterized the orange peels’ structure and figured out the role the layers have in creating the microjet dynamic. By mimicking nature’s mechanism of an orange layer, pharmaceutical companies may be able to develop a less expensive and less complex way to deliver airborne medication.” What’s next, using asparagus to change the smell of pee? Seems like Mother Nature is pretty smart and the folks at UCF are trying to learn from her. BTW, there is one word that rhymes with orange, so have-at-it pharma marketeers.

Less chemo on the horizon

A Phase III study of over 10,000 women with breast cancer has determined about 70% of breast cancer cases can be treated with hormone therapy alone. That’s huge news for patients who are apprehensive about starting chemotherapy, which has many undesirable side effects like immune deficiency and hair loss. Researchers used a genetic assessment on 21 genes linked to breast cancer to determine a score to identify which women are at low-risk for recurrence, and thus can skip the harsh therapy. This mainly affects patients with early-stage breast cancers, since those cases are less likely to have metastasized. Click here to learn how to properly perform your monthly breast exam. Don’t worry, it’s technically safe-for-work. They make sure to use man boobs instead of women’s to avoid censorship.