Discoveries/Innovations: Kevlar-Based Cartilage?
Our natural cartilage is made of about 80% water and can still withstand the toughest forces in our bodies. Scientists had not been able to replicate this type of substance until researchers at the University of Michigan and Jiangnan University decided to try using the material we know best from bullet-proof vests. The new hydrogel consists of a network of tough nanofibers from Kevlar and polyvinyl alcohol, which is commonly used in cartilage gel replacements, offering the combination of strength and water content unlike any other artificial cartilage being tested.
This seemingly unthinkable combination can create the artificial combination that thousands of Americans need when undergoing joint replacement or cartilage therapy for painful arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases.
Trend Setting: Merck and Savor Health Collaborate on Oncology Nutrition Guide
Susan Bratton founded Savor Health, which provides personal nutrition guides and information for cancer patients, after experiencing the loss of her best friend to a brain tumor. Like one-third of all deaths caused by cancer, it was not the disease but inadequate nutrition that led to her passing. Susan partnered with Jessica Iannotta, an oncology dietitian specialist, and built a team of Registered Dieticians—the only medical professionals who undergo rigorous requirements for nutritional counseling—to provide further nutrition information for patients with pelvic, neck, and head cancer.
In order to push beyond the realm of drug therapy, Merck partnered with Savor Health to put together an all-star campaign to reach sufferers of head and neck cancer. Jim Kelly, former Buffalo Bills quarterback and cancer survivor, told the world, “This is what I needed and didn’t have,” during the Your Cancer Game Plan campaign.
An often neglected part of cancer treatment, nutrition is essential for properly responding to chemotherapy, for keeping patients strong when eating familiar food becomes physically impossible, and for enabling caregivers to help nourish and keep their loved ones happy. Not only is Merck helping the oncology nutritionists at Savor Health perform the research needed to help cancer patients live longer, happier lives, but they are also already reaching a community that was in desperate need of information about true nutrition.
TeleMed Texts: Virtual Reality as Post-Stroke Therapy
Virtual reality training is just as effective as regular therapy according to a study published in Neurology. “Virtual reality training may be a motivating alternative for people to use as a supplement to their standard therapy after a stroke,” says study author Iris Brunner, PhD, of Aarhus University, Hammel Neurocenter in Denmark. “Future studies could also look at whether people could use virtual reality therapy remotely from their homes, which could lessen the burden and cost of traveling to a medical center for standard therapy.”
The study involved elderly patients who had suffered a stroke and were experiencing mild to severe muscle weakness or impairment in their wrists, hands, or upper arms. Those operating virtual reality employed a screen and gloves with sensors to play several games that incorporated arm, hand, and finger movements using just sensor-equipped gloves and a large viewing screen. After five hour-long training sessions per week for four weeks, both those with regular therapy and virtual reality therapy had the same level of improved functioning.
DC Dispatch: Trump Won’t Resume Obamacare Subsidies
The Trump Administration cut off subsidies paid to insurance companies to reduce out-of-pocket costs for lower-income people as a step in the plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Eighteen state attorney generals brought this to court, arguing that the payments were necessary to help consumers get access to physicians and drugs that they need. However, a U.S. judge has ruled that the Administration is not legally obligated to resume these payments.
The payments reimburse insurers for the costs of lowering copays and deductibles, which they are required to do for low-income customers who buy coverage through the healthcare marketplaces created by President Obama’s law. The Administration refers to these payments as “bailouts,” saying in a statement: “The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system.”
A report by the CBO stated that the number of uninsured citizens would drop by 1 million in 2018, but rise steadily after 2020. It expects that insurers in some states would withdraw from, or not enter, some markets because of “substantial uncertainty.” But by 2020, “more insurers would participate, so people in almost all areas would be able to buy nongroup insurance.”
The FDA expanded approval of Hoffmann-La Roche’s Zelboraf to include treatment of the rare cancer of the blood called Erdheim-Chester Disease. Zelboraf can be used by patients whose cancer cells have a specific genetic mutation known as BRAF V600.
Hoffmann-La Roche and Genentech received approval of Alecensa for treatment of patients with anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Fast Track Designation
Alzheon received Fast Track designation for ALZ-801, its lead clinical investigation drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. The company is taking a precision medicine approach by evaluating ALZ-810 based on both genetic markers and disease stage. No drugs are currently approved that slow the cognitive and functional decline experienced by Alzheimer’s patients.
Med Device Approvals
Respicardia, Inc. received approval for the remedē® System, an implanted nerve stimulator used to treat moderate to severe central sleep apnea. The system includes a battery-powered pulse generator that is implanted under the skin in the upper chest and a thin wire that is threaded through veins near the nerve that stimulates breathing so it can transmit electrical stimulus to the nerve.