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Monthly Archives: August 2013

New sensor for SERS Raman spectroscopy – almost as sensitive as a dog's nose

Scientists at ETH Zurich and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California have developed an innovative sensor for surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). Thanks to its unique surface properties at nanoscale, the method can be used to perform analyses that are more reliable, sensitive and cost-effective. In experiments with the new sensor, the researchers were able to detect a certain organic species (1,2bis(4-pyridyl)ethylene, or BPE) in a concentration of a few hundred femtomoles per litre. A 100 femtomolar solution contains around 60 million molecules per litre…

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Spouse's voice easier to understand or ignore in a crowd

If your spouse ignores your voice from across a crowded room, chances are they have chosen to. According to a recent study, the recognizable voice of a spouse stands out against background noise, sharpening perception and focus for other individual voices. Ingrid Johnsrude from Queen’s University in Canada, along with colleagues, recorded married couples between the ages of 44 and ȯ, who read scripted lines out loud. Then, each pair separately put on headphones and listened to his or her spouse’s voice as it played at the same time as a stranger’s voice…

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Gut bacteria 'too low' in quarter of population

Scientists say that around a quarter of the population, particularly those who are obese, have 40% less intestinal bacteria than needed to maintain good health, according to a study published in the journal Nature. Researchers from Europe conducted a genetic analysis on human gut microbial composition on 292 people from Denmark. Of the subjects, 169 were obese and 123 were at a normal, healthy weight. Results of the analysis revealed that a quarter of the participants hadನ% fewer gut bacteria genes and correspondingly less bacteria than average…

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Knee osteoarthritis risk unaffected by moderate exercise

A new study suggests that the risk of middle-aged and older adults developing knee arthritis is unaffected by doing up to 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, the level recommended by the US goverment. Researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), came to this conclusion after studying data on over 1,500 participants aged 45 and over. The study was published online on August 27th in Arthritis Care & Research. Lead author Dr…

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GOP Lawmakers Demand Information From Groups Getting Navigator Grants

In a move one leading health law expert has described as “intimidation,” 15 Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are asking recipients of the $67 million in health law navigator grants to brief the panel on how they intend to spend the money. 

The Aug. 29 letter directs the grantees to schedule a meeting no later than Sept. 13 and to provide additional documentation, including a written description of the work they intend to do, the number of employees and volunteers, their duties and how much they’ll be paid.

The committee members are also requesting information about how the navigators will be trained and monitored. “All documentation and communication” related to the grant, including application materials, are requested, including any communication between their organization and federal agencies involved in the health law, such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to the letter.

In addition, the letter asks for documentation of any contact with Enroll America, a group with close ties to the Obama administration. The organization is trying to educate consumers about new insurance options and drive enrollment in the new marketplaces opening this fall for coverage that takes effect in January.

Navigators will provide assistance on the phone and in person to individuals signing up for coverage in the health law’s insurance marketplaces, as well as for public programs including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. They will receive 20 hours of online training and have to pass a test before they can start working. Their efforts could include help in evaluating health plans for sale on the marketplaces, also known as exchanges. They are not, however, allowed to expressly tell people which policy to choose.

Timothy Jost, a professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, called the letter “an obvious attempt at intimidation of navigator programs, most of which are nonprofits that don’t have the resources to hire lawyers to fight this, nor the time to respond at this very busy time. … This attempt to bully these programs is shameful.” 

HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the Energy and Commerce panel did not immediately return a call for additional information about the letter.

The navigator program has raised controversy among opponents of the health law. Critics see navigators as potential competitors to insurance brokers, and some want the navigators to receive more rigorous screening before they can work with consumers. Some lawmakers and state attorneys general have expressed concerns that there are not enough safety guidelines in place to ensure that navigators do not misuse individuals’ personal information.

Hospitals, universities, Indian tribes, patient advocacy groups and local food banks were among organizations awarded $67 million in federal grants to more than 100 groups earlier this month to help people sign up for coverage in new online health insurance marketplaces that open for enrollment Oct. 1.

According to a Commonwealth Fund assessment in July, 14 states, including Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, have passed laws setting requirements for navigators and five others are considering such action.

Navigators will be required to adhere to strict security and privacy standards, including how to safeguard a consumer’s personal information, according to HHS. All types of enrollment assisters – including navigators – are subject to federal criminal penalties for violations of privacy or fraud statutes, in addition to any relevant state penalties. 

Phil Galewitz contributed to this article.

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A glass of wine a day may keep depression away

We have all heard that drinking a glass of red wine in moderation may be good for our health. But now, researchers have found that drinking wine may also reduce the risk of depression, according to a study published in the journal BMC Medicine. Researchers from Spain analyzed 2,683 men and 2,822 women over a 7-year period from the PREDIMED Trial – a study that conducts research around nutrition and cardiovascular risk. All participants were between 55 and 80 years of age, with no history of depression or alcohol-related problems when the study began…

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Major cause of age-related memory loss discovered

Scientists say they have discovered a protein deficiency in the brain that is a major cause of age-related memory loss, according to a study published online in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The researchers, from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), say this discovery offers the “strongest causal evidence” that age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease are individual recognizable conditions…

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Jet lag recovery sped up in mice

New research led by the University of Oxford in the UK suggests it may be possible to speed up recovery from jet lag by targeting a mechanism that prevents the body clock adjusting quickly to changes in patterns of light and dark. Working on mice, they found a protein called SIK1 acts as a buffer or brake to limit the effect of light on the body clock. When they blocked the activity of the protein, the mice adjusted faster to changes in their light/dark cycle. One of the team leaders, Dr…

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Geriatric Safe Medicines Summit, 6-17 September 2013, London

Call for specialists involved in clinical trials in older people SMi Group reports (August 29, 2013): Call for geriatric specialists: Big Pharma Companies will meet in London to discuss challenges and opportunities for performing clinical trials in older people There are onlyÂ�3 weeks left until leading industry experts will gather in London at Geriatric Safe Medicines Summit (16-17 September) to discuss major challenges faced when performing clinical trials in older people. Through a novel range of case studies, attendees will discover new market gaps, market strategies and much more…

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White House Readies Major Health Law Push

The strategy will feature the president, as well as First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, appearing in key states over the next six months to encourage people to enroll in new coverage options. Politico also looks at how former President Bill Clinton will be part of the effort to sell the American public on the overhaul.

Politico: President Gearing Up For Major New Obamacare Push
Three years after signing Obamacare into law, President Barack Obama finally looks eager to talk about it. The White House is mapping out a strategy to deploy the president, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden in what will be their most coordinated effort yet to sell Obamacare, senior administration officials said (Budoff Brown, 8/30).

Politico: The Obama-Clinton Health Care Bond
Bill Clinton will attempt again next week to do for Obamacare what has long eluded its namesake: Cut through the political noise and change the perception of a law much of the public doesn’t like or understand. His speech at Clinton’s presidential library in Arkansas Wednesday is a continuation of the relationship that benefited the former and current president in the 2012 campaign. It’s a role Clinton has played before on behalf of the Affordable Care Act, which is rooted in the failed effort by he and his wife, Hillary Clinton, to pass comprehensive health care reform two decades ago (Haberman and Millman, 8/30).

Meanwhile, labor unions appear to be making progress in getting the administration to address their health law concerns –

The Wall Street Journal: Labor Official Sees Progress On Health-Law Concerns
Unions are making some progress in getting the Obama administration to address their concerns about the new health law, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez is playing a central role, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday. “We’ve been working with the administration to find solutions to what I think are inadvertent holes in the act. I’m hopeful that we’ll get something done in the very near future,” Mr. Trumka said at a breakfast with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor (Trottman, 8/29).

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