Science Policy For All

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Science Policy Around the Web – June 16, 2015

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By: Danielle Friend, Ph.D.

Health Policy

A Bill to Fight Obesity

A bill titled “Treat and Reduce Obesity Act of 2015” was recently sponsored by Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and would amend title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act in an attempt to treat and prevent obesity in America. The bills states that “According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 34 percent of adults aged 65 and over were obese in the period of 2009 through 2012, representing almost 15 million people”. The bill also brings up the important point that obesity also “increases the risk for chronic diseases and conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, certain cancers, arthritis, mental illness, lipid disorders, sleep apnea, and type 2 diabetes”. Importantly, “the direct and indirect cost of obesity is more than $450 billion annually” and that “a Medicare beneficiary with obesity costs $1,964 more than a normal-weight beneficiary”. The bill would attempt to reduce obesity rates and lower the financial costs to society by allowing the Social Security Act to cover intensive behavioral therapy for obesity. In addition, the amendment will also allow Social Security to cover pharmaceuticals used to treat obesity or for weight loss management.

Data and Biomedical Research

National Library of Medicine urged to take on broader role

Originally established in 1836 as a small collection of medical books and journal housed in the Office of the Surgeon General of the army, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) has now grown into the world’s largest biomedical library. Consisting of an extensive collection of both paper and digital sources, the NLM also runs GenBank, MedlinePlus, and This year, Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, organized a working group to determine the new vision of the NLM. Although the working group determined that the current programs run by the NLM should stay in place, the working group also decided that the NLM should expand its role as a leader in sharing biomedical data. The working group suggests that the NLM should coordinate data science programs and run the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative at the NIH. Other main points of the report include continuing to serving as a leader through gathering and sharing biomedical research, supporting data sharing, research reproducibility, and transparent analysis. The NLM is also encouraged to support education in biomedical informatics, data science and library science. The complete report on the future vision of NLM can be found here. (Jocelyn Kaiser, ScienceInsider)

Therapies of the Future

Researchers discover genes associated with resistance to spongiform encephalopathies

Authors of a recent paper published in Nature have discovered a human genetic variant that lends resistance to certain individuals against some types of spongiform encephalopathies. Spongiform encephalopathies are currently most visible in the public mind as “mad cow”disease and the human variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (vCJD). These currently incurable encephalopathies are caused when abnormal prion proteins (PrP) spread throughout the brain, damaging tissue and ultimately leading to death. Researchers of the recent paper entitled “A naturally occurring variant of the human prion protein completely prevents prion disease” found that a variant of PrP found in certain individuals gave mice resistance to developing one kind of spongiform encephalopathy, Kuru, when exposed to diseased prions. Researchers have hopes that understanding how this genetic variant prevents the propagation of PrP may lead to future medical treatments possibly through the inhibition PrP during spongiform encephalopathies. (Glen Telling, Nature News and Views)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

June 16, 2015 at 9:00 am

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