Issue 39: Protein responsible for hearing, hub-and-spoke model, how much is safe to drink, One Medical funding, and more

Harvard discovers molecular protein underlying hearing

Trapper of the Century aka Lil Pump dressed as a HMS doctor

I have a confession to make. I've been listening to a lot of lil Pump's music recently. Don't judge me. He was suppose to release his new album Harvard Dropout on August 17th, but all that lean and recreational drug use have caused some delays. As we wait for that tape to drop, we're gonna have to take solace in the fact that lil pump's alleged alma matter Harvard announced that scientists have discovered the molecular protein responsible for sensing hearing and balance. A feat that has stumped scientists for more than 40 years. HMS scientists reported last week in the journal Neuron, that the protein responsible is called TMC1. TMC1 is a sound- and motion-activated pore that converts sound and head movement into nerve signals that travel to the brain. The molecular converters for the other senses such as touch and taste have already been discovered but hearing was so freaking elusive because of the difficult-to-access cells in the human inner ear. For comparison the retina has a hundred million sensory cells while the inner ear has only around 15k. Reportedly HMS scientists are celebrating by getting matching face tattoos and blasting D ROSE

Placebos Actually Work Apparently

dank meme

A professor at Harvard Medical School decided that over the years, he got tired of lying to study participants about whether or not they were taking a placebo. So for a study on Irritable Bowel Syndrome, he straight up told everyone that they were taking a placebo right at the beginning of the trial. What he didn’t expect was twice as much symptom relief among people taking the placebo as compared to people taking no treatment. What’s more wild is that the placebo caused about as much relief as actual medications used to treat IBS. It goes to show that your mind and expectations can really have a quantifiable impact on your health!

Contributed by Sameera Chaudry from Rutgers 

The Hub-and-Spoke Model to Combat Opioid Use Disorder

Image from ruralhealthinfo.org

Did you know that the center of a bike's tires is called the hub and the metal rods that come out of it are its spokes? Well some people whose job it is to take random things from everyday life and turn them into analogies for models came up with the appropriately-titled "hub-and-spoke" system. California Health Care Foundation has put in $78 million to set up said system to improve medical assisted treatment (MAT) programs for substance use. The hub is a large-scale addiction treatment clinic where people can be started on buprenorphine--an effective MAT for opioid use disorder--and the spokes are a primary care clinic or mental health center where people are referred for management of this treatment program. The ER at Highland Hospital in Oakland, CA (the hub) has been offering people buprenorphine, and then referring them to a substance use clinic (the spoke). This is following a study done in 2015 at Yale-New Haven Hospital which found that patients who were given buprenorphine in the ER were twice as likely to continue treatment a month later than those who had just been given educational materials on substance use treatment options. 375 patients were offered buprenorphine at Highland's ER since February 2017 and two-thirds of them accepted along with an initial visit to the hospital's addiction center. To further increase access to MAT, city health workers in San Francisco are developing a program to provide buprenorphine directly to those on the streets--reducing the barriers that the homeless population faces in accessing care in a hospital setting. Props to all the providers out there working to combat the opioid epidemic one Hub and many Spokes at a time.

Contributed by Aish Thankur from UCSF 

Safe level of alcohol? Study finds new evidence suggesting otherwise

drinks

A new study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation—most know for bringing the disability-adjusted-life-year (DALY) to eminence with the Global Burden of Disease study (GBD)—published new findings in The Lancet quantifying alcohol consumption and attributable DALYs globally from 1990 to 2016. Overall, researchers found that alcohol was the 7th leading risk factor for both deaths and DALYs worldwide, but the leading risk factor for young people (15-49)—yes you’re still young at 40! It’s no surprise that all-cause mortality rose with increasing alcohol consumption. What is surprising, however, is that the data suggests zero alcohol is optimal to minimize health loss, a finding in direct opposition to prior studies which suggest possible health benefits from mild alcohol use for cardiovascular health, for example. So what’s the takeaway? It’s clear that alcohol negatively impacts health, and that the possible health benefits with respect to some conditions are under increasing scrutiny. Whether this new data impacts behavior is up to the individual. Just know that your “health” excuse for that second glass of wine is looking pretty flimsy. And now for what you’ve all been waiting for, the most boozie and sober countries of 2016:

POPULATION AVERAGE OF STANDARD DRINKS DAILY, ALL AGES, 2016

Men
Women

Country
Drinks, #
Country
Drinks, #
Greatest
Romania
8.2
Ukraine
4.2
Portugal
7.3
Andorra
3.4
Luxembourg
7.3
Luxembourg
3.4
Lithuania
7
Belarus
3.4
Ukraine
7
Sweden
3.2
Bosnia and Herzegovina
6.5
Denmark
3.2
Belarus
6
Ireland
3.1
Estonia
6
United Kingdom
3
Spain
5.8
Germany
2.9
Hungary
5.5
Switzerland
2.8
Lowest
Pakistan
0.0008
Iran
0.0003
Iran
0.004
Kuwait
0.01
Kuwait
0.02
Mauritania
0.02
Comoros
0.02
Libya
0.02
Libya
0.02
Pakistan
0.03
Bangladesh
0.03
Timor-Leste
0.04
Palestine
0.04
Palestine
0.04
Mauritania
0.05
Yemen
0.04
Yemen
0.05
Tunisia
0.04
Saudi Arabia
0.05
Syria
0.05

Contributed by Chris Margono from UCSF 

NYU and FB want to make MRIs 10x faster


NYU and FB partnership

NYU made headlines last week by offering all their students free tuition. Now they are at it again by announcing a partnership with Facebook. FB will work on a research project to create a faster MRI scan, creatively called fastMRI, using the latest advances in AI. A traditional MRI scan can take anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour but preliminary results show that the social media giant can make the process 10 times faster. NYU has supplied FB with a dataset of 3 million MRI scans as well as 10,000 clinical cases to train the AI. This is not the first time FB has partnered with hospitals. A couple of months ago back in April FB started asking US hospitals to share anonymized patient data for a "research project". At the time FB said the data would be linked to FB profile info to help hospitals determine which patients would require extra care. That project however has been put on hold since the Cambridge Analytica scandal was revealed. FB promises that it will not use any FB data in the fastMRI project. 

Depressed Residents Will get Fitbits at Michigan

dank meme

It's no secret that medical residents have staggeringly high rates of depression and anxiety. In a 2008 study conducted on 1,400 interns it was seen that depression rates increased from 3.9% at the start of residency to 27.1% during the first 3 months of residency. The rates of suicidal ideation also increased by more than 350%. Residency programs have sought to combat these trends by introducing buzz words such as resiliency and wellness onto their residency application websites. Instead of using buzz words the University of Michigan is taking a more scientific approach and giving their residents Fitbit trackers to measure how much activity and sleep they are getting. The hope is that by tracking these variables the symptoms of depression can be more easily predicted and treated.

One Medical gets $350 million in funding

One Medical's swanky offices

Last Wednesday primary care group One Medical announced that it had received a $350 million investment from PE firm The Carlyle Group. One Medical which was started in SF now has 72 clinics across the country and with this most recent round of funding should be a unicorn. The company offers concierge medical service for an extra cost of around $150-$200 per year in addition to taking traditional insurance payments. One Medical states that it has brought down healthcare costs by 5.5% for the 1000 employers it serves. One Medical was founded in 2007 by Tom Lee who previously helped found Epocrates. In total One Medical has raised $530 million.

Nebulizers might be more popular if they looked like e-cigs 

FLYP

The FLYP is a new FDA approved medical device created by an emergency medicine doctor that functions as a nebulizer but looks like an e-cig. The idea came to founder Dr. Ralph Finger (weird last name) after treating patients in the ER and seeing his family members suffering from severe asthma and respiratory conditions. The nebulizer is brightly packaged, sleekly designed, and costs about $200. The company has raised around $4 million of venture money and seeks to sell 25k units in its first year.