Issue 51: Spinal cord stimulators, medical data ownerrship, CRISPR babies, and more

Spinal cord stimulators are killing and paralyzing some patients

Spinal cord simulators have caused a lot of deaths that no one is talking about until now. The AP, NBC, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and 50 other media orgs have teamed up for a year long investigative deep dive into the sketchy business of these devices. Spinal cord simulators make up one of the fastest growing segment of the $400 billion medical device industry. The stimulators have caused 80,000 serious injuries since 2008 and are ranked as the 3rd most common cause of medical device injury (after metal hip replacements and insulin pumps). The expose in STAT is shocking and you should really check it out to get an idea of how easily money finds it's way into shaping how devices are used by physicians even if there are adverse outcomes. The top 4 spinal cord stimulator companies have spend more than $20 million on lobbying to make it easier for their products to be implanted into patients. On top of that some companies have even been fined for bribing physicians and paying kickbacks to both doctors and hospitals!

Patients only own their medical data in ONLY one state: NH

literally the only state where you can own your medical data

Did you know that you don't own your own medical data? Yep it seems strange but it is indeed true. Patients do not legally own their medical records in 49 out of 50 states –– the only state that gives you ownership is New Hampshire. Furthermore when patients are asked to sign a consent form they are frequently sick and ethicists are wondering if hospitals are taking advantage of patients by getting them to sign over their data. This data can then be sold by hospitals for profit which if you think about it does seem a little sketch. Last year Memorial Sloan Kettering stirred up some controversy when it announced that it had sold exclusive access to data containing 25 million tissue sample slides to an AI startup. The for-profit AI startup called Paige.AI (super trendy domain name btw) will have EXCLUSIVE access to the data –– and in return MSK has an equity stake in the company.  HIPPA ,which was passed wayyyy back in 1996, doesn't have any hard rules on data ownership so basically hospitals are free to do whatever they want as long as that data is de-identified. In 2017 the sale of medical data hit $14 billion.

Chinese researcher claims he made world's first CRISPR baby

Image from AP news. Scientist Dr. Jiankui He

TLDR –– two physicists in China used IVF and CRISPR to create a designer baby that had a key gene in the development of HIV knocked out. The fathers who supplied the sperm in the experiment were all located in China and had HIV. The result was that twins were born and that the scientists claim that the "experiment" was a success. The parents were allegedly informed of the risks involved and were given the treatment for free as well as free insurance for the children until they turn 18. The results have not been formally published in a journal yet. Prominent US scientists like Dr. Eric Topol and Dr. George Church have criticized the experiment for being premature and/or completely unnecessary.

E.coli contaminated Romaine Lettuce 

When in Rome throw out the Romaine

Happy Thanksgiving, I hope you stayed away from chopping up some romaine lettuce on your glorious meal. If you did already, pray you won't get sick from E.coli infection. Get used to hearing about unwanted bacteria contaminating and threatening our staple foods. It was McDonald's, Trader Joe's, and Walmart couple months ago. And now CDC announces just ANY romaine lettuce? The problem is that these little bacteria actually can potentially cause serious, life-threatening harm to an unsuspecting consumer. Select strains of the E.coli bacteria  can release toxins can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, which results in damage to your small vessels in the gut, your red and white blood cells destroyed and their debris clogging up your kidney blood vessels. Yea, one might start peeing blood or with bloody diarrhea. It's most often associated with kids eating uncooked burgers, but when CDC announces something like this, everyone should stay away from romaine lettuce.

Sunscreen scare

don't be a square: grab some sunscreen

As if the whole anti-vaccine movement wasn’t enough, recently there was a sunblock scare in Australia. A few months ago, some studies had found that animals absorbed zinc-containing sunscreens deep into their skin, perhaps deep enough for the zinc oxide particles to cause DNA damage. And of course the public just loves hating on chemicals and anything it doesn’t see as “natural.” So when the Australian public found out about these studies, they noped out of sunblock real fast and starting ditching the (potential!!!) threat of sunscreen to instead leave their skin directly exposed to the sun’s powerful UV rays (which left their skin prone to DNA damage anyway smh). Luckily, a new study by the University of Queensland and the University of South Australia has now concluded that in humans, the zinc oxide particles don’t go very deep and safely stay in the most superficial layers of our skin, so they don’t cause any cellular damage. False alarm, folks. Wear sunscreen to protect yourself from skin cancer and reduce future wrinkle formation!

London's Calling: no more junk food adverts 


Yooo –– London is banning junk food ads on it's public transportation terminals. The London Mayor's office announced that by February of 2019 all those greasy artery clogging fatty food ads will be purged from sight. The effort is in part to reduce the obesity epidemic in London. Mayor Sadiq Khan wants to halve the number of obese kids by 2030.