Issue 43: Ig Nobel Prize, Genetic Researchers chase clout, the WHO tackles TCM and more

Ig Nobel Prize Trolls the Medical Community 

Ig Nobel Prize

Every autumn, researchers in various fields come together to celebrate the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. A parody of the Nobel Prize, the Ig Nobel Prize recognizes interesting, unusual, or funny advancements in science. This year, the crowning achievement in medicine was the discovery of a new treatment for kidney stones. This treatment happens to be noninvasive, and only has the side effect of thrills and excitement. What could it possibly be, you ask? A rollercoaster ride! Dr. David Wartinger of Michigan State University found that riding a rollercoaster with plenty of up/down and side to side motion can be enough to dislodge stones stuck in the urinary tract.  It all started when one of Dr. Wartinger’s patients excitedly told him that the Thunder Mountain ride at Disney World was able to dislodge a kidney stone. Dr. Wartinger was able to build a model of the renal system and test it out on multiple rides to evaluate the efficacy of this treatment. He has since recommended it to many of his patients with a lot of success. It seems like a little dose of fun can work wonders for our health!

Genetic researchers are chasing clout at the expense of scientific progress 

dank meme

A recent bombshell article in the NYT reveals that scientists are more concerned about clout than making new discoveries. Out of the 20,000 protein encoding genes in the human genome more than 5000 of them have never been studied or written about it in a paper. In fact only 2000 of those genes have been the subject of 90% of research papers. Now you're first thought might be that maybe the other genes just aren't important. Well the authors investigated more than 400 possible theories of this lopsided imbalance and the answer is NO. According to the researchers, some of the genes that barely get any attention are important in cancer development. The reason why scientists chose to study well understood genes is because it is easier to get a tenure track professorship that way. The unknown is scary and scientists apparently aren't willing to risk their careers to investigate it.

The WHO co-signs Traditional Chinese Medicine in ICD-11

Chinese Medicine gets co-signed by the WHO

Are you familiar with the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems? Yeah most people only know it by it's abbreviated name: ICD 10. Basically it's a really really long classification system for diseases that the WHO puts out that attending love to reference. The interesting part about their upcoming 11th edition is that the WHO is dedicating an entire chapter to Traditional Chinese Medicine. It should be noted that TCM experts from China have lobbied this for a number of years and even the Chinese President Xi Jinping gave the WHO a bronze statue last year showing acupuncture points on his body. The move will be controversial as TCM doesn't follow the same rigorous standards as western evidence based medicine. That being said Chinese TCM advocates hope that by being included in the newest ICD 11, it will open the doors for more Western adoption and clinical investigation. Unsurprising there are a lot of people in the western medical community who remain suspicious of the WHO's motivations. The TCM industry is currently valued at more than $50 billion dollars.

Fish Oil Succeeds in Landmark REDUCE-IT Study

Fish Oil

Earlier this week pharma company Amarin made history with the results of its latest REDUCE-IT clinical trial. The trial showed that patients taking highly concentrated fish oil tablets reduced the risk of cardiovascular related mortality in high risk groups. The 5 year investigation showed that Amarin's drug, Vascepa, decreased the risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes by 25 percent. Vascepa is basically a highly conentrated tablet of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and does not contain any DHA unlike most fish oil supplements. DHA has been linked to increased LDL. Vascepa actually received FDA approval back in 2012, but there wasn't good evidence that it actually worked back then. The recent news has caused Amarin's stock to skyrocket by more than 400%. The news is very promising since Vascepa has few side effects (comparable to most fish oil supplements). The cardiology community is still waiting for the official detailed results which will be revealed in October.

Hackers go hard on healthcare. Sell data on darkweb

Anonymous Hacker

Hackers are increasingly turning their attention to hacking into medical databases and selling the information on the dark web. Over an eight year period more than 2000 healthcare organizations have reported being hacked. It's estimated that more than 170 million individual medical records have been compromised in total. On the dark web each database sells of medical information sells for between $300-$400.


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