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What we’ve been reading: Week of January 26, 2015

What we are reading 4Vector’s picks of recent pediatric healthcare, science and innovation news.

U.S. proposes effort to analyze DNA from 1 million people (Reuters)
President Obama provided more detail last week on his Precision Medicine Initiative, which would allocate $215 million toward developing treatments tailored to patients’ genetic makeup, including $70 million for cancer research. The initiative is being hailed as a shot in the arm for research and innovation (this cancer example is but one of many), but skeptics question whether precision medicine will live up to its touted potential, citing the shortcomings of genomics in determining disease risk or in reversing diseases, even when genetic variants have been well studied.

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What we’ve been reading

What we are reading 4Vector’s picks of recent pediatric healthcare, science and innovation news.

Trial of 2 Ebola Vaccines’ Effectiveness Is Announced (New York Times)
The first clinical trial of an Ebola vaccine is scheduled to begin in Liberia early February, testing candidate vaccines from Merck and Glaxo Smith Kline.

Guinea’s Health Minister Says Ebola Situation ‘Improving’ (
“We saw people shaking hands,” reports correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, speaking from Guinea’s capital. But is it a real turn-around?

Smart jewelry that camouflages tech reflects consumer wellness trend (MedCity News)
Fitness or fashion? New smart jewelry makes wearables more attractive for women.

Scientists Work to Contain Modified Organisms to Labs (New York Times)
George Church is at it again. Reporting in Nature, his team has developed a complex safety technique to contain genetically modified bacteria, engineering them to require an amino acid that can only be supplied artificially.

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Along with “fixing” cleft lip comes correcting misperceptions about its causes

OP-Smile-IThroughout the world, a child is born with a cleft lip or palate nearly every three minutes. In resource-poor areas, many of these children die before their first birthday, and those who survive have difficulty eating, speaking and being accepted by their peers.

Lauren Mednick, PhD, a pediatric psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, knows this all too well. As a child life specialist with Operation Smile, she was part of a medical missionary team that traveled the world providing safe, effective reconstructive surgery and treatment to children with clefts and other facial deformities.

Working closely with these children and their families, Mednick was amazed at how many of them blamed the child’s condition on themselves, the supernatural or a combination of the two. She listened as a mother in Morocco “confessed” that her baby had been born with a cleft lip, because she looked at an animal with a cloven hoof during her pregnancy. She sat with a Haitian woman who attributed her child’s cleft lip to an afternoon when she spent too long looking at a child in her village with a facial deformity.

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As life expectancy with cystic fibrosis grows, so does quality of life

lungs-x-ray-shutterstock-croppedIn the not-too-distant past, the medical community wasn’t overly concerned about the quality of life of adults with cystic fibrosis (CF). It’s not that doctors were callous; the life expectancy for the disease was just so low that the vast majority of CF patients never lived to see adulthood. But improved understanding and management of the disease in the past 30 years has changed that.

On average patients with CF are living into their late 30s, up 85 percent from the early 1980s. Today, more than 40 percent of all CF patients in America are more than 18 years old.

But data on the quality of life these patients enjoy have been seriously lacking. To fill this void, researchers from the Cystic Fibrosis Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and nine other CF centers across America conducted one of the first studies to look at quality of life for adult CF patients.

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Science is a girl thing, just not like this

With their “Science: It’s a girl thing” campaign, I’ll give the European Commission (EC) a bit of credit for trying to do something good: tap the power social media and online video to encourage girls and young women to get interested in science and scientific careers.

But they couldn’t have gotten off to a worse possible start.

The EC (which helps create and implement policies for the European Union) launched the campaign Friday morning with a teaser video featuring a male scientist, three teenage girls, and a lot of pink, lipstick and giggling. See for yourself:

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A Vector holiday gift guide: Gifts for the sci-curious to the science obsessed

Finding a gift for the average Joe is challenging enough, but what about your hard-to-please nerdy science friends? Luckily, Vector is here to help. We’ve scoured the Internet and found gifts for kids and adults that we think will pass the test.

We had three criteria when selecting gifts for Vector’s first-ever holiday gift guide: 1) creativity, 2) originality, and 3) quality. Each gift also had to be tied to science in some way. So without further ado, here are the six gifts that are at the top of our list this holiday season:

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The “lighter” side of TEDMED

TEDMED, Wurman, Nurjana BachmanTEDMED was fascinating, and it was a great experience for the Children’s team who attended. Based on the conference attendees and the intimate size of the gathering, it offered our constituents ample opportunity to interact with peers from other fields, policy decision makers, media influencers, future collaborators and potential sponsors in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in any other setting.

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“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them”

syringeThis is how Dean Kamen, the consummate inventor, framed his talk on Day 3 at TEDMED. If this is the definition of genius, then Marc Koska, who developed a syringe which cannot be reused and also spoke yesterday, certainly is one. The syringe and the associated public health campaign he ran in India and other parts of the developing world to raise awareness about the danger of reusing needles, common practice in these countries, is credited with saving 10 million lives.

Both Kamen’s and Koska’s presentations touched on a theme that hasn’t been discussed much here: the interface between the technology inventor and the private sector industry that develops, manufactures, markets and distributes products.

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Stat: 74% of teleconsults led to a change in diagnosis or treatment

Stat: 60% of telehealth cases solved without a face-to-face visit

Stat: 75% of U.S. consumers say they would use telehealth

Stat: $30 for a telehealth consult vs. $75 for an office consult

Stat: $6.28 billion market for telehealth by 2013

Stat: 30% of smartphone users are likely to use wellness apps by 2015

Stat: 500 mobile health projects worldwide

Stat: 80,000 homes have been wired for remote healthcare monitoring

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