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Brainstorm Health Daily: April 3, 2017

Greetings, readers. Sy filling in today, Cliff will be back imminently.

In today’s edition, we’ll be tackling the right songs to listen to in order to prep yourself for an unexpected CPR session; more details about the technology used to birth the world’s first “three-parent baby;” and the continued saga of states attempting to shore up Obamacare in a time of intense uncertainty surrounding the health law.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


The team behind the world’s first three-person baby pulls back the curtain. Last April, Dr. John Zhang and his team achieved a remarkable milestone as the world’s first “three parent baby” was born. The child was conceived through a technique that involved taking the cellular nucleus from the mother’s egg, inserting it into a donor egg that had its nucleus removed, and then fertilizing this egg (which contained the mother’s DNA but not genetic mitochondrial defects) before inserting it back into the mother. The procedure brought up some ethical concerns at the time – but the technique has since been officially sanctioned in the U.K. Zhang, a doctor at the New Hope Fertility Center in New York, and his team have now published more information about the procedure in the journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online. And it’s not all necessarily good news despite its landmark nature. “The paper reports new details about the procedure, such as the method used to transfer the mitochondria: freezing and heating the embryo before using an electrical pulse to fuse the mother’s nucleus into the donor egg,” writes Nature. “The study also reveals that some diseased DNA from the mother was carried over inadvertently into the donor egg, which could have long-term repercussions for the child’s health.” Researchers will reportedly not continue to conduct more mitochondrial tests on the baby boy unless medically necessary. Zhang has insisted the parents received sufficient counseling and his team will continue testing the technique. (Nature)

Kite files CAR-T therapy in continuing race with Novartis. Kite Pharma has filed a marketing application for its next-gen chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) blood cancer therapy, just days after rival Novartis scored a “priority review” of its own rival treatment that could speed up the regulatory process considerably. Novartis and Kite have been jockeying to become the first company to have such a therapy, which involves reconfiguring immune cells to sniff out and kill cancers before they are inserted into patients, on the U.S market. At this point, Novartis still appears to have the edge. But it’s unclear how much that would matter given the existing uncertainties surrounding the CAR-T market, including whether doctors and insurers will be all that eager about them given the therapies’ high prices and scaleability issues (since these cells have to be extracted from individual patients, re-engineered, multiplied, and then re-inserted).


Astellas snaps up a Belgian pharma for $853 million with eyes on a drug for hot flashes. U.S.-based Astellas Pharma is buying privately-held Belgian biotech Ogeda SA for $533 million upfront in a deal that could eventually be valued at $853 million. Astellas’ main goal here is to get its hands on an experimental Ogeda treatment for hot flashes and night sweats associated with women going through menopause. If the therapy, fezolinetant, crosses certain regulatory thresholds, Ogeda could net another $320 million. “The transaction fits with our strategy to deliver innovative drugs in therapeutic areas with high unmet medical needs,” said Astellas president and CEO Yoshihiko Hatanaka in a statement. (Chicago Tribune)

More EpiPens are getting recalled. Mylan already had a bit of headache on its hands with the ongoing international recall of some 81,000 EpiPens throughout the world (on top of, you know, the whole price gouging controversy). Well, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced over the weekend that Meridian Medical Technologies (a manufacturer of Mylan’s EpiPen) is voluntarily recalling 13 lots of the life-saving, allergy-busting device in the wake of potentially defective parts. “While the number of reported failures is small, EpiPen products that potentially contain a defective part are being recalled because of the potential for life-threatening risk if a severe allergic reaction goes untreated,” said the FDA in a statement. (CNN)


How states are trying to stabilize their Obamacare marketplaces. At least two states – Minnesota and Alaska – are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to stabilizing premiums in Obamacare’s marketplaces. On Monday, Democratic Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton told state legislative leaders that he would allow a bill to pass, albeit without his signature, that would provide health insurance companies more than $540 million in reinsurance funds in an effort to bring down premiums in the state’s individual Obamacare market. This is partly an effort to convince insurers not to retrench from the health law’s exchanges in Minnesota, and could potentially bring down premiums significantly. Dayton still expressed some reticence about the bill over funding sources but said he would not veto it. In the meantime, the Trump administration is reportedly negotiating with the conservative House GOP Freedom Caucus (which helped sink Trumpcare) over ways to dismantle Obamacare administratively, including by nixing Affordable Care Act provisions which mandate that insurance companies provide certain types of benefits and “community rating” that keeps costs lower for older and sicker Americans.

Could a song help save your life? Administrating CPR is no joke. In a life-and-death situation, you have to deliver constant, forceful pumps to the chest at the rate of about 100 beats per minute. That can be pretty difficult to gauge under pressure. But at least one firm is trying to give layman heroes some critical training tools: music. New York-Presbyterian hospital has created a website with crucial information about how to perform CPR – as well as a a link to a Spotify playlist dubbed “Songs to do CPR to” that includes various pop hits that clip at the 100 to 120 beats per minute range. Some choice selections: Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees and Rock Your Body by Justin Timberlake. Oh, and lest you think we’re making light of such a serious scenario: you’re not actually supposed to listen to this music while performing CPR. Just keep it in mind as a handy mental metronome. (NPR)


Why China Is a Healthy Investment, by Joseph Jimenez

9 Health Gadgets for Better Sleep and Productivity, by Lisa Eadicicco

It Pays to Shun Your Digital Inbox, by Adam Lashinsky

Google’s Android Just Beat Microsoft Windows As Most Popular OS, by Lucinda Shen

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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