Issue 23: Lettuce, Apple Health, Weed, & CRISPR

Stay Away From Romaine Lettuce
contaminated lettuce may cause you to sh!t your pants

The Centers for Disease Control gave an update to the countrywide E. coli outbreak. Yes, if you have been eating romaine lettuce and have not been admitted to the hospital, good for you. So far, there have been about a 100 cases and half of them have led to hospitalization. Ten lettuce victims developed a condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure that is caused by toxins of E. coli O157:H7 damaging the kidney. The disease is typically caused by red meat and can more acutely result in bloody diarrhea. Stay away from the Caesar salad for now.

Apple Health is Here, but is it too Bougie?
Image from 9to5 Mac

Apple creeped up into the health care sector by partnering with more than thirty leading hospital systems from the U.S. on their futuristic app, Apple Health. Using their popularity and credibility among tech-savvy users, Apple will allow hospitals such as NYU, Partners, Penn, and Johns Hopkins to streamline their data to the patient's’ iPhone. In light of nifty technology that will somehow improve patient engagement and health outcomes, another question is whether the app is also implementable by smaller networks. It sounds easy for big name hospitals and iPhone users who have instant access to their medical data, but will it be the industry standard?

All the buzz about cannabidiol (aka marijuana without the buzz) 

As mores states legalize the use of marijuana, there has been a growing interest in cannabidiol (CBD). This is a cannabis extract that does not contain THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. In the past two years, the CBD industry has doubled in size and is estimated to be worth $200 million. So what is CBD being marketed as? In many cases, it is being used to control anxiety and for stress relief. Animal studies and short term human studies have shown that cohorts treated with CBD versus a placebo experienced significantly less anxiety. However, this research is very minimal and more comprehensive randomized controlled trials need to be conducted. The use of CBD for treating children has some promising results--researchers from Vanderbilt University have found that CBD can be a useful supplement in kids with epilepsy to reduce symptoms. With further research and evidence to present to the FDA, CBD may have a future as a regulated treatment option for some patients.

Jackson Withdraws From Nomination for Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Not so long ago, president Trump fired David Shulkin, who Trump appointed in 2017 as the secretary of Veterans Affairs with a 100-0 Senate vote. President Trump then nominated White House physician Ronny Jackson as the new secretary. This is how things have been in Capitol Hill lately, if you have not noticed. One day you are on, and the next day out. Jackson was met with opposition, which was mostly led by the senator from Montana. The accusations were that Jackson was drunk and indecent in a hotel on an overseas trip and that he lacked the administrative experience to lead and reform Veterans Affairs. Whether the accusations were true or not, Dr. Jackson decided to withdraw from the nomination.

Could Your Phone Be Causing Cancer?

A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives focused on the dangers of exposure to blue light at night, and the results are alarming. Smart phones and blue lights have been linked to increased cancer risks for quite some time, but in this study, researchers worked to determine what exactly the correlation is. They studied about 2,000 breast or prostate cancer patients and 2,000 controls and their exposure to blue light emitted from outdoor LEDs, smartphones and tablets. Overall, researchers found that exposure to high levels of outdoor blue light at night led to about 1.5X higher risk of breast cancer, and a 2X higher risk of prostate cancer. Also, men exposed to high levels or indoor artificial light were found to have a 2.8X higher risk of prostate cancer. If you’re wondering what’s so different about this study compared to others conducted in the past, it is the first time researchers were able to place an experimental value on the correlation between blue light in the general population by looking at individual cases in depth. In the past, we’ve gotten our information from satellite imaging using calculate values in large cities, but this study was based on individual patients. One important distinction to make however, is that these findings were only significant for artificial blue light, and not general bright light or outdoor artificial lights high in red or green light. So, if you needed any reason to stop watching cat videos on YouTube and get on with studying- here it is!

Artificial Sweeteners Associated with Diabetes and Obesity
artificial sweeteners

Ah, perhaps the most heartbreaking news of this week. Sugary foods are just so comforting and heart-warming (although perhaps heart-clogging as well). Ever since the dreadful discovery that sugar’s not all that great for us, we lived in dark times and cut back on sweet foods—or just cheated the system by simply replacing sugar with things like NutraSweet, Sunnett, and Splenda. But like many seemingly easy fixes, it appears that the promise of artificial sweeteners was too good to be true. A recent study found that despite having no calories, aspartame and acesulfame potassium still resulted in a dramatic increase in both obesity and diabetes when fed to a group of rats. Excess accumulation of acesulfame potassium in the blood even led to harmful effects on cells. Despite being metabolized differently than sugar, artificial sweeteners still impacted the metabolism of these rats and caused the body to alter its mechanisms of storing fat and releasing energy. In fact, unlike sugar (which in moderation does provide some energy), the lack of actual energy in artificial sweeteners caused the mice to burn away muscles in order to get the required energy. Ah well, looks like we’ll have to go back to controlling our sugary cravings.

CRISPR search engine
Jennifer Doudna - one of the discoverers of CRISPR

Startup Mammoth Biosciences wants to be the Google of Crispr. The company has created a search engine in which anyone can enter a guide RNA and a target DNA or RNA sequence that a CRISPR protein can act on. The unique technology uses a reporter molecule that changes color when it binds and snips the genetic material that was searched indicating that it was present in the sample. The company explains that, "This could be as simple as a rapid test on a credit-card sized disposable paper strip that anyone could use at home… For at-home testing, once the user has completed the test, they will securely upload an anonymous photo of the strip to Mammoth’s corresponding application for remote analysis and then receive their confidential results and professional advice – all in under an hour." The company has raised an undisclosed amount of VC funding and was co-founded by the OG discoverer of CRISPR - Jennifer Doudna.

60 Minutes Special on CRISPR

CBS NEWS recently did a special on CRISPR - it's really good and you should def check it out HERE.

Dr. Phil gets hella funded 
Dr. Phil gettin that skrill

Telemedicine startup Doctors on Demand, which was co-founded by Dr. Phil (yes that Dr. Phil) recently received $74 million in funding led by Goldman Sachs. The company offers 24 hour service with doctors on call 7 days a week. The service is currently covered by major insurers and the company claims that it offers services that are cost effective aka saving the consumer hella skrill. Although the company is in a huge area of future growth Doctors on Demand has yet to become profitable.

The Contributors: