Tag Archives: Health

When Even the Simple Stuff Is a Crisis

By Robert Schlesinger – What’s going on? If everyone agrees on these successful programs, why are they stuck in legislative purgatory?

The proximate cause is that the Republican majority got too distracted with its endless, fruitless attempts to roll back the Affordable Care Act. That consumed their attention through the year and very specifically in the crunch time during which the final deals should have been cut on basically noncontroversial legislation like renewing funding for CHIP and community health centers. But that went by the boards when the GOP dropped everything to push the late, unlamented, half-baked Graham-Cassidy bill.

Uncertainty abounds. And again, we’re talking about noncontroversial stuff here, which speaks to a larger problem with the political system. The failure of this Congress to understand “the need to act responsibly, to reauthorize needed programs without catastrophic disruption … is simply striking,” says the American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein, who has written extensively on GOP dysfunction (most recently “One Nation After Trump,” with Thomas Mann and E.J. Dionne). more> https://goo.gl/1xQG84

Updates from GE

By Amy Kover – Standing on a 10-foot-wide platform 365 feet above the rolling green hills of Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia, Kristen Hough looks tiny. The winds at this height are strong enough to spin a 500,000-pound wind turbine at 14 revolutions per minute. One strong gust could push a person over.

But Hough, 28, also looks unafraid. A wind technician, Hough is part of a team that is responsible for the electrical and mechanical upkeep of 61 turbines here that can produce 185 megawatts of energy — enough to power an entire city. She makes the climb to the top of a wind turbine at least once a day. At that height, Hough is in her element. “Even climbing the turbines [the first few times], it was so exciting that I knew it was what I was supposed to do,” she says.

Hough’s shift typically begins each morning at 7 a.m. when lead technician Mitch Burns assigns Hough and her five teammates to either handle routine maintenance — like tightening bolts and greasing gears — or troubleshoot problems. For instance, if the temperature in the gearbox appears a bit high, Hough needs to figure out why and fix it. Sometimes she can resolve the issue with a few taps on her laptop, but it -often requires hands-on attention instead. That’s when Hough gets out her safety gear and starts the long ascent to the top of the turbine. more> https://goo.gl/vWg2At

Updates from GE

New Center Helps Scientists Reprogram The Immune System to Kill Cancer


By Tomas Kellner – Cell therapy is a complex process that involves more than manufacturing a pill. It requires a setup that resembles a biotech factory. “Cell therapy has the potential to cure everything from cancer to diabetes,” says Phil Vanek, general manager for cell therapy growth strategy at GE Healthcare. “But we need to make it affordable and scalable.”

Vanek’s business and others are racing to make that happen and deliver on cell therapy’s promise. He says that says that hundreds of patients have already benefited from CAR-T in clinical trials that have reported 80 percent success rates. Some 300,000 people could be receiving the treatment by 2024. A report by Roots Analysis estimates the T-cell therapy market, which includes CAR-T therapy, could read $30 billion by 2030.

Crucial to that race is a new cell therapy research and process-development facility called the Center for Advanced Therapeutic Cell Technologies (CATCT), which officially opened in Toronto on Thursday. It’s designed to help pharma companies, university researchers and technology companies like GE to scale faster. more> https://goo.gl/CRxNv4

Updates from Georgia Tech

Driving Cassini: Doctoral Student Controls Spacecraft in Mission’s Final Days

By Jason Maderer – When the Cassini spacecraft plunges into Saturn on September 15 to end a nearly two-decade mission, Georgia Tech student Michael Staab will have a front row seat. It’s almost literally the driver’s seat.

Staab is working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California while pursuing his aerospace engineering doctoral degree in the distance learning program. He’s a Cassini Spacecraft Flight Controller, which means he’s one of only three people authorized to tell the machine what to do and where to go as it orbits Saturn.

The job is almost finished. Just before 8 a.m. (Atlanta time) on Friday, Staab will hear Cassini’s signal for the final time before it dives into the planet’s atmosphere, becoming a part of Saturn.

Prior to attending Georgia Tech, I was a flight test engineering intern at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California and, later, a test requirements and analysis engineer for Boeing in St. Louis. I had a lot of control room and operations experience, which is exactly what JPL was looking for.

The duty of a flight controller at JPL is fairly straight-forward; we possess absolute command and control authority of the spacecraft when tracking it through the Deep-Space Network. more> https://goo.gl/aAU76G

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Updates from Georgia Tech

You and Some ‘Cavemen’ Get a Genetic Health Check
By Ben Brumfield – Heart problems were much more common in the genes of our ancient ancestors than in ours today, according to a new study by geneticists at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who computationally compared genetic disease factors in modern humans with those of people through the millennia.

Overall, the news from the study is good. Evolution appears, through the ages, to have weeded out genetic influences that promote disease, while promulgating influences that protect from disease.

But for us modern folks, there’s also a hint of bad news. That generally healthy trend might have reversed in the last 500 to 1,000 years, meaning that, with the exception of cardiovascular ailments, disease risks found in our genes may be on the rise. For mental health, our genetic underpinnings look especially worse than those of our ancient forebears. more> https://goo.gl/txQhqU

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Five Things to Know About the Latest Gene Editing Breakthrough

By Ben Panko – In this study, scientists worked with the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system, which is kind of like cut and paste on for genes. It’s based on a naturally occurring immune system found in many bacteria species in which the microbes keep a “hit list” of virus DNA in their genomes so they can recognize future dangerous intruders.

If any of that DNA is present, the bacteria deploys enzymes called Cas (CRISPR-associated proteins), which precisely and efficiently snip out that DNA.

This research was notable for its use of viable embryos, or embryos that could likely develop into a baby if allowed to grow, reports Dina Fine Moran for Scientific American.

This is the first time this has ever happened on U.S. soil, but scientists in China have already been pushing the envelope for years. more> https://goo.gl/oxtpXQ

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Updates from Georgia Tech

Decades of Data on World’s Oceans Reveal a Troubling Oxygen Decline
By Takamitsu Ito, Shoshiro Minobe, Matthew C. Long and Curtis Deutsch – A new analysis of decades of data on oceans across the globe has revealed that the amount of dissolved oxygen contained in the water – an important measure of ocean health – has been declining for more than 20 years.

The majority of the oxygen in the ocean is absorbed from the atmosphere at the surface or created by photosynthesizing phytoplankton. Ocean currents then mix that more highly oxygenated water with subsurface water. But rising ocean water temperatures near the surface have made it more buoyant and harder for the warmer surface waters to mix downward with the cooler subsurface waters. Melting polar ice has added more freshwater to the ocean surface – another factor that hampers the natural mixing and leads to increased ocean more> stratification.

Falling oxygen levels in water have the potential to impact the habitat of marine organisms worldwide and in recent years led to more frequent “hypoxic events” that killed or displaced populations of fish, crabs and many other organisms. more> https://goo.gl/3F17TB

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The American healthcare system is for profit, not patients

BOOK REVIEW

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back, Author: Elisabeth Rosenthal.

By Elisabeth Rosenthal – Everyone knows the healthcare system is in disarray. We’ve grown numb to huge bills. We regard high prices as an inescapable American burden. We accept the drugmakers’ argument that they have to charge twice as much for prescriptions as in any other country because lawmakers in nations like Germany and France don’t pay them enough to recoup their research costs.

But would anyone accept that argument if we replaced the word prescriptions with cars or films?

The current market for healthcare just doesn’t deliver. It is deeply, perhaps fatally, flawed.

Imagine if you paid for an airplane ticket and then got separate and inscrutable bills from the airline, the pilot, the copilot, and the flight attendants. That’s how the healthcare market works.

In no other industry do prices for a product vary by a factor of ten depending on where it is purchased, as is the case for bills I’ve seen for echocardiograms, MRI scans, and blood tests to gauge thyroid function or vitamin D levels.

The price of a Prius at a dealership in Princeton, New Jersey, is not five times higher than what you would pay for a Prius in Hackensack and a Prius in New Jersey is not twice as expensive as one in New Mexico.

The price of that car at the very same dealer doesn’t depend on your employer, or if you’re self-employed or unemployed. Why does it matter for healthcare? more> https://goo.gl/5oBK5k

America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People

BOOK REVIEW

The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, Author: Peter Temin.

By Lynn Parramore – America is not one country anymore. It is becoming two, each with vastly different resources, expectations, and fates.

In one of these countries live members of what Temin calls the “FTE sector” (named for finance, technology, and electronics, the industries which largely support its growth). These are the 20 percent of Americans who enjoy college educations, have good jobs, and sleep soundly knowing that they have not only enough money to meet life’s challenges, but also social networks to bolster their success. They grow up with parents who read books to them, tutors to help with homework, and plenty of stimulating things to do and places to go. They travel in planes and drive new cars. The citizens of this country see economic growth all around them and exciting possibilities for the future.

They make plans, influence policies, and count themselves as lucky to be Americans.

The FTE citizens rarely visit the country where the other 80 percent of Americans live: the low-wage sector. Here, the world of possibility is shrinking, often dramatically. People are burdened with debt and anxious about their insecure jobs if they have a job at all. Many of them are getting sicker and dying younger than they used to. They get around by crumbling public transport and cars they have trouble paying for. Family life is uncertain here; people often don’t partner for the long-term even when they have children. If they go to college, they finance it by going heavily into debt.

They are not thinking about the future; they are focused on surviving the present. The world in which they reside is very different from the one they were taught to believe in. more> https://goo.gl/LKhYy6

Is Singapore’s “miracle” health care system the answer for America?

By Ezra Klein – This is a key difference between Singapore and America. The bulk of the American government’s intervention into the health care system is done through health insurance, and so American analysts often look at Singapore’s insurance system and stop there. But the bulk of the Singapore government’s intervention into the health care system is through the health care system itself

Take the way the two countries subsidize medical care. In America, insurance is often subsidized — by paying the bills of Medicare or Medicaid enrollees, by giving tax credits to Obamacare enrollees and employer-sponsored health plans. In Singapore, medical treatment itself is subsidized.

More than 80 percent of the hospital beds in Singapore are in public hospitals, and those hospitals are cut into different “wards” with different levels of amenities: A-class wards provide unsubsidized care but have single rooms and air conditioning, while C-class wards are overwhelmingly subsidized but are set up like shared dormitories with common toilets.

There are a number of ward levels in between, too, all with a sliding scale of comfort and subsidization. So both A-ward patients and C-ward patients are paying for their own care, but the prices they’re paying are very, very different, because the government is absorbing the direct cost of care in the C-wards. more> https://goo.gl/Gc4oy1