Highlighting Daily Health News: 3D-Printed Organs, Antimicrobial Resistance in Ukraine, and More


ByElizabeth Cooney Dec. 8, 2023

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Investigating scientific research misconduct is necessarily a heavy lift for universities and other institutions. Many are now saying that proposed changes from the U.S. Office of Research Integrity could force them to lose their independence in reviewing misconduct allegations.

The updated policies and procedures, estimated to require approximately 95,000 hours and $10 million to implement, propose a new 30-day limit for institutions to perform an initial assessment of an allegation. “Rushing this process could lead to rushed decisions and potential miscarriages of justice,” stated Purdue University in a public commentary on the regulations portal. Elizabeth Bik, a recognized authority on scientific integrity, pointed out that a vaguely phrased proposal allowing whistleblowers’ identities to be revealed to those who “need to know” could dissuade people from reporting concerns. For more insight on this matter, refer to Annalisa Merelli’s report on STAT News.

Private equity has an unfavorable standing in the hospital industry, with research indicating that private equity ownership increases the cost of health care and loads hospitals with debt. 90% of financially distressed hospitals are owned by private equity firms, as we learned last year from STAT’s Tara Bannow and Bob Herman. They explained how Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, a private equity firm currently under FTC investigation, pursued profits by exploiting gaps and government schemes within niche areas of the healthcare sector.

Yesterday, the Senate Budget Committee initiated a bipartisan investigation into the ownership of hospitals by private equity firms. Their concerns lie in the possible adverse effects of such relations on both health care providers and patients. “As private equity has extended its reach into the health care sector, we have become increasingly alarmed by the related negative outcomes for patients,” remarked Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). For further details, read Brittany Trang’s article.

Envision yourself as a patient sitting in a chair. You require one of your organs to be fixed or even replaced, however, the procedure will not involve the traditional method of a surgeon’s scalpel. Rather, a robotic arm under the guidance of Artificial Intelligence will handle an ultrasound transducer to 3D-print a patch or an organ right inside your body using a precise pattern. The material used for this process will be a bioink delivered via catheter or syringe. This upcoming technology, known as deep-penetrating acoustic volumetric printing, was outlined recently in Science and paves the way for various potential applications in the medical field.

To reach this point, researchers had to replace light, which is usually used in printing engineered tissue, flexible electronics, or medical devices, with sound. They opted for a focused ultrasound transducer that converts electrical energy into sound waves. These sound waves can be remotely altered to travel through the tissue in order to create any structure. The ink used was a mixture of chemicals that react to sound waves. STAT’s Debbie Balthazar has more details, including addressing the potential issue of “soundburn.”

Antimicrobial-resistance is a worldwide health threat which is exacerbated by the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria among patients injured in the Ukrainian war. Antimicrobial resistance rates were already high in Ukraine, but a recent survey of three Ukrainian hospitals, released yesterday by the CDC, showed that several patients had war-wound infections that were difficult to treat owing to resistant bacteria. These findings align with what has transpired in other conflicts, including Iraq.

Gaps in infection prevention and control as well as laboratory capacity may be contributing to delays in identifying these hazardous germs. This could potentially lead to their spread within Ukraine and beyond its borders. An example of the crisis: Among 353 patients on surveyed hospital wards, 50 had health care–associated infections. Researchers assert that “The spread of antimicrobial resistance in Ukraine is an urgent crisis that must be addressed, even during an ongoing war.”

A study published in Lancet Infectious Diseases yesterday on a live microbial dietary supplement’s effects on long Covid was praised in a commentary as “a foundational step.” But caveats should be foregrounded: People’s reports of a treatment’s effects on their symptoms may not be reliable, and results from one ethnic group may not apply to others.

Previous research has shown people with long Covid have less diverse microbiomes, so the study randomized half of participants with at least one long Covid symptom to take an oral combination of prebiotics and probiotics daily for six months. The other half took a placebo.

At the trial’s end, more people in the treatment group said their fatigue, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, GI upset, and general unwellness had eased compared with people in the placebo group, which also generally felt improvement. The authors speculate that lower systemic inflammation thanks to higher gut microbial diversity might be at play, while urging more study of the gut microbiome in long Covid.

“Nothing about us without us” has been a rallying cry for generations. The expression came to mind in light of this study published yesterday in JAMA Oncology on the dearth of underrepresented populations in clinical trials. Among more than half a million women with endometrial, ovarian, or cervical cancer, the odds of clinical trial enrollment were lower among Asian, Black, and Hispanic women compared to white women. The overrepresentation of white women when measured against the U.S. population persisted for all three gynecologic cancers, while underrepresentation was true for Asian and Hispanic women. Black women were adequately represented for endometrial and cervical cancers but underrepresented for ovarian cancer.

Overall, women who were diagnosed with one of the three cancers between 2016 and 2019 were approximately 10 times more likely to participate in clinical trials compared to those who were diagnosed between 2004 and 2006. Even so, the researchers note that racial and ethnic disparities in clinical trial enrollment are unfair and impede the development of new cancer treatments.

Reporter, Morning Rounds Writer

Liz Cooney is the author of STAT’s Morning Rounds newsletter.





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“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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