Daily Rounds: Stem Cell Nobel; Meningitis Sparks Oversight Calls; Tricky Medicare Choices; Fecal Therapy

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Gurdon, Yamanaka win Nobel Medicine Prize (AP in the NYT) - "British researcher John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. Scientists want to harness that reprogramming to create replacement tissues for treating diseases like Parkinson's and for studying the roots of diseases in the laboratory. The prize committee at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute said the discovery has "revolutionized our understanding of how cells and organisms develop." Gurdon showed in 1962 that the DNA from specialized cells of frogs, like skin or intestinal cells, could be used to generate new tadpoles. That showed the DNA still had its ability to drive the formation of all cells of the body."

Meningitis sparks call for FDA action (AP in The Boston Herald) - "U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is calling for stronger government oversight of so-called "compounding pharmacies" amid a meningitis outbreak in several states that has killed seven people. The Connecticut Democrat said Sunday that he will be writing to U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to ask for stricter scrutiny of such pharmacies. He said the facilities appear to operate in a "regulatory black hole" and are only marginally overseen by the FDA. Federal officials have linked the outbreak to a steroid for back pain produced by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. More than 60 people in nine states have contracted fungal meningitis."

Related: Mass. pharmacy linked to meningitis outbreak issues wide recall (AP on WBUR)

For families of Medicare recipients, insurance choices are tricky (NPR-Shots) - "Osterweil, who is 59 and a self-employed benefits consultant, is shopping for his own health insurance. "I'm really surprised at how hard it could be for just the average person who isn't an actuary or benefits consultant to figure any of this out. It's astonishing." When a spouse or parent signs up for Medicare, it is often perplexing — and unnerving — for the rest of the family who may have grown used to cushy employer-sponsored coverage. Joe Baker is president of the Medicare Rights Center, a patient education group with a busy hotline for those with Medicare questions."Poop therapy: More than you probably wanted to know about fecal transplants (Mother Jones) - "It's Monday morning—always a terrific time to think about fecal transplants. (Feel free to finish your breakfast first.) Playful references to this kind of poop therapy keep popping up in the news, as in the headlines two weeks ago about a young woman from Marietta, Georgia, whose fecal treatment cured a raging bacterial infection. Fecal transplantation isn't a new idea; the first reported case of someone receiving the treatment was in 1958. Undoubtedly, the "ick" factor has limited its appeal. But given the emerging evidence of effectiveness in some hard-to-treat cases, doctors and patients are taking much more notice. So here are some things you might want to know."

This program aired on October 8, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.



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