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Health Capsules: March 21

By: Lisa Russell

Washington University scientists have developed an inexpensive way to transport blood and other lab samples without the need for refrigeration.

Area scientists develop new method to transport lab samples 

Preserving the quality of lab samples as they are transported to and from testing facilities long has been a challenge. To provide accurate test results for patients who may live many miles from hospitals and labs, their blood or urine samples must be refrigerated throughout transport, which often is an expensive and difficult process.

Using nanotechnology, a team of researchers at Washington University has eliminated that need for refrigeration. They have developed a new preservation technique that creates a protective shield around protein biomarkers in various types of samples. Using this method, which can be implemented at low cost, lab samples maintain 95 percent of their purity while providing accurate information to healthcare providers.

The Wash U research, which recently was published in Chemistry of Materials, is the first to use an emerging class of nanomaterials, called metal-organic frameworks, to work with biological specimens such as blood, urine, serum and plasma. The research team plans to test this new method with other types of biomolecules to create more potential applications for both research and clinical settings, as well as to develop a kit that would allow patients to prepare their own samples to send to labs for testing. The team is working to patent the technology, and also intends to develop it into a product for the healthcare industry.

CDC report shows worsening opioid crisis, particularly in Midwest 

The most recent Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] shows that America’s opioid overdose epidemic continues to accelerate. The report, based on emergency department data collected in 45 states, found that the rate of suspected opioid overdoses increased nationwide by 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017. The rate of overdoses increased for both men and women, among all age groups, and throughout all regions of the country; however, the increases varied by state, and were greater in urban than rural areas.

Although all five U.S. regions designated by the CDC experienced rate increases, by far the largest was seen in the Midwest, with a 70-percent rise in overdoses – followed by the West [40 percent], Northeast [21 percent], Southwest [20 percent] and Southeast [14 percent].

Significant increases were seen in all states reporting in the Midwest, including Wisconsin [109 percent], Illinois [66 percent], Indiana [35 percent], Ohio [28 percent] and Missouri [21 percent]. Men and women experienced similar increases in the overdose rate [30 percent vs. 24 percent].  The problem also was spread fairly evenly among age groups, with the greatest increase of 36 percent seen among people ages 35-54.

The report’s findings spotlight the need for better prevention and treatment efforts in emergency rooms and for greater access to evidence-based opioid use disorder treatments, according to CDC officials. “Long before we receive data from death certificates, emergency department data can point to alarming increases in opioid overdoses,” said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. “This fast-moving epidemic affects both men and women, and people of every age. It does not respect state or county lines and is still increasing in every region in the United States.”

‘I-talk’ may signal emotional distress

Those people who always seem to make themselves the topic of conversation are not necessarily annoying, self-centered narcissists … instead, they may be experiencing depression, anxiety, anger or other negative emotions, according to University of Arizona researchers. In an earlier study, those researchers found that frequent use of the first-person singular pronouns I, me and my – also known as “I-talk” – when speaking may indicate that a person is depressed. Their new study confirms that link, and found an even stronger connection between high levels of I-talk and a more general predisposition toward emotional distress.

The researchers’ findings were based on data from more than 4,700 people, from six participating labs in the U.S. and Germany. The data included measures of individuals’ use of I-talk compared with their measures of depression and negative emotionality, which refers to a person’s tendency to become easily upset or distressed. While the average person speaks about 16,000 words a day, up to 2,000 of those words may be “I,” “me” or “my” among those with high negative emotionality.

The new study will be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

On the calendar

St. Luke’s Hospital sponsors an informational program, Chew on This: Foods That Keep You Healthy, from 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28 at the hospital’s Desloge Outpatient Center, Building A, 121 St. Luke’s Center Drive in Chesterfield. This class will provide strategies to include more foods that promote well-being and tips to eliminate foods that do not benefit health. A cooking demo with food samples and resources is included. The course fee is $10.  Register online at  stlukes-stl.com; call (314) 542-4848 for more information.

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A Babysitting 101 course, sponsored by St. Louis Children’s Hospital, is offered from 9 a.m.-1 p.m on Thursday, March 29. at the Schroeder Park Office of Manchester Parks and Recreation, 359 Old Meramec Station Road in Manchester. A workbook and light snack are provided. There is no minimum age requirement; the course fee is $30. To register, visit stlchildrens.org/registration or call (314) 454-5437.

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St. Luke’s Hospital presents a free program on back pain management, “Ohh, My Aching Back!”, from 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4 in Building A of the hospital’s Desloge Outpatient Center, 121 St. Luke’s Center Drive in Chesterfield. To register, visit  stlukes-stl.com.

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St. Louis Children’s Hospital offers an Asthma Control Education course from 9-11 a.m. on Saturday, April 7 at the St. Louis Children’s Specialty Care Center, 13001 N. Outer 40 Road in Town & Country. The group size is limited to 16 participants to allow individualized attention to each child’s personal asthma management plan [children age 5 and over only]. Attendance is free, but advance registration is required by visiting stlchildrens.org/registration or by calling (314) 454-5437.

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TEDxGatewayArch hosts its first chapter event of 2018, Think Well: Healthcare Out Loud from noon-4:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 12 at Sheldon Concert Hall, 2648 Washington Blvd. in St. Louis. The event will focus on cutting-edge ideas in health, wellness and medicine and will feature six TEDTalk presenters along with a special interview with Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Ticket prices start at $45. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit tedxgatewayarch.org/think-well-2018.

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