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70 posts from June 2010

06/30/2010

Fran Bradley as health reformer...

Former Minnesota state Representative Fran Bradley of Rochester, Minnesota has been named by Governor Tim Pawlenty as a member of a new board charged with making recommendations to help the state fall in line with the requirements of the federal health law passed earlier this year by Congress.

"Governor Tim Pawlenty today announced the appointment of 14 members to the Health Care Reform Task Force. Created by the 2010 Legislature, the task force is charged with studying the Minnesota implementation of the federal health care bill and issuing a report in December 2010," says a statement from the governor's office.

Bradley, former chairman of the Minnesota House of Representatives' Health and Human Services Finance Committee, was named a member of the "experts in financing, access and quality" panel on the task force.

The full list of task force members includes:

State Agency representatives
DHS Commissioner Cal Ludeman – Chair
MMB Commissioner Tom Hanson – Member
MDH Commissioner Dr. Sanne Magnan – Ex-officio (non-voting) member

Leaders in Health Care Organizations and Health Plans
Carolyn Jones – Senior Director, Express Scripts
William H. Wenmark – Former Chairman and Founder, NOW Medical Centers
Henry T. Van Dellen – Senior Vice President, Health and Welfare Practice Leader, Aon Consulting

Labor and Business Community representatives
Harry Melander – MN State Building and Construction Trades Council
Scott Walker – United Brotherhood of Carpenters
Chris Schneeman – SevenHills Benefit Partners


Experts in Financing, Access, and Quality
Fran Bradley – former Chairman, Health and Human Services Finance Committee, Minnesota House of Representatives
Charles Montreuil – Vice President of Human Resources, Best Buy Co., Inc.
Peter Nelson – Policy Fellow, Center of the American Experiment
Stephen Parente – Director, Medical Industry Leadership Institute, Carlson School of Management
Elisabeth Quam – Executive Director, CDI Quality Institute, Center for Diagnostic Imaging

Pulse on Health

By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists

Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 

Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Grow me a lung ...

Imagine one day visiting a doctor after you've been told you need a lung transplant. She sends you to a laboratory where lab technicians take a biopsy of some of your own cells.

A few months later, your new lungs — grown from your own cells — are ready to be transplanted.

This kind of scenario is not as far-fetched as it once was. University of Minnesota researchers say they've developed the ability to grow a "bioengineered lung." They got lung stem cells to produce lung proteins. That's a step toward producing new lungs.

Donor lungs can be rejected by the patient, and not enough donor lungs are available.

"Ultimately, this work, we envision, may be able to supply a source of donor lungs for transplant that would not be rejected by the patient because they would be developed from their own lung cells," Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari says in a YouTube video.

This is another example of regenerative medicine, a field that — in my personal opinion — is ripe for an explosion of discoveries and real-world help for patients. Here in Rochester, Minnesota (which, by the way, hosts the new University of Minnesota Rochester campus affectionately known as UMR), Mayo Clinic has identified regenerative medicine as a top strategic priority.

We also have a new biotech company called ReGen Theranostics that plans to take patient tissue samples and "reengineer" them into adult stem cells — the kind where you don't need to use controversial embryonic stem cells.

I have also heard an UNCONFIRMED suggestion that a regenerative medicine company might be interested in the Elk Run biobusiness park in Pine Island, Minnesota.

In other words, regenerative medicine appears to be on the brink of flourishing in Minnesota.

Pulse on Health

By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists

Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 

Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Patents prevent technology improvement...

I have recently become enlightened about the lack of forward movement in development of improved technology related to medical devices.

I spoke recently with the representative of a biotech company. It produces medical devices used by patients to manage a chronic illness.

"Do all of you companies ever get together in a room and share ideas?" I asked. 

I had recognized that patient care could be greatly improved if an idea from one company's product got combined with a device from another company and a part from a third (etcetera). 

Take an idea from each of the companies and the end result would be so much better quality-of-life-wise for patients that it would make an incredible difference. Yet the biotech companies are unwilling to play ball (or maybe blinded to the possibilities). 

The biotech rep told me patent protection is what gets in the way (I translate that to mean money).

"Not everybody plays nice," she said. 

In other words, the biotech companies involved are so mired in a money-making mentality that they're incapable of seeing the big picture. I asked the representative if maybe the companies could get together and figure out a "partial patent" (my words) system so they'd all get a share of the profits if a new company wanted to, say, take the software from one company for, say, a heart device; the casing from another company, the electronics from a third and the tubing from a fourth with remote-access capability coming from a fifth.

She shook her head and said no, that will never happen.  Too bad, in my opinion, because it seems patient care could be improved while the best products could still make money.

Pulse on Health

By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists

Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 

Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Stabile Building jobs...

Here's a shout out to the folks in the Mayo Clinic Stabile Building here in Rochester, Minnesota for the work they do day after day without much fanfare. 

I asked Mayo Clinic spokesman Karl Oestreich about employment within the Stabile Building.

Stabile Building
 [Vincent A. Stabile Building. Copyright.]

Stabile is both a research and a medical-education facility, because it includes Mayo's Genomics Research Center, the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics and the Mayo Multidisciplinary Simulation Center.

At the simulation center, Mayo Clinic Medical School students get to try out simulations of emergency situations, replete with actors who play patient roles and replica humans that can be intubated, checked for a pulse and given intravenous fluids.

Blog simulation center 

[Mayo Clinic Multidisciplinary Simulation Center. Copyright.]
 

According to MayoClinic.org, the Stabile Building, along with the Hilton Building, also contains "most of Mayo's clinical laboratories." MayoClinic.edu says Stabile contains a "state-of-the-art anatomy laboratory." 

The answer about employment that we got back from Oestreich, via Mayo Public Affairs staffer Makala Johnson, is that 546 people worked in the Stabile Building full or part-time as of June 2010, for a total of the equivalent of 476 full-time jobs.

Atop the Stabile Building is the laboratory headquarters of the Minnesota Partnership, where 3-D images of molecules can be manipulated on a wall-sized screen and viewed with special goggles so researchers can consider the possibilities of finding biomarkers and other lock-and-key answers to questions about why some geometric molecular shapes can block the hole (my word) of a peculiar molecule while other geometric shapes can be used to unlock that same configuration.

A population of 546 workers makes for a lot of research, a lot of medical education and a lot of clinical laboratory work. 

Pulse on Health

By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists

Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 

Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

06/29/2010

Alzheimer's fundraiser...

The Alzheimer's Association of Minnesota-North Dakota has announced an upcoming fundraiser. Here are the details:

Date: Sunday, July 4, 2010

Title: Marge Kuehn’s 9th Annual Alzheimer’s Fundraiser

Donation amount: $20 minimum donation per person includes… 

• Breakfast @ Tilly’s in Oronoco 9 to 11a.m. 

• Motorcycle Poker Run 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

• Hog Roast Dinner at Grampa Ed’s on Lake Zumbro from 6 to 8 p.m.

For more information: www.tillysrvresort.com

What is the money raised used for? "100% of proceeds donated to the Alzheimer’s Association."

Pulse on Health

By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists

Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 

Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Peek at "Minnesota Partnership" collaborators...

Here's a glance at the Swedish medical research university Karolinska Institutet, which recently entered a partnership with the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, which has its laboratory headquarters located on the Mayo Clinic campus here in Rochester, Minnesota.

I thought you might enjoy viewing this video because it includes a a few peeks at Karolinska's exterior and interior, including laboratory researchers actually performing work with pipettes and petri dishes. The video focuses on an upcoming conference, but I think it gives you a "sense of place" so you can have a better concept of what might seem a far-away, out-of-sight/out-of-mind location.

Karolinska and the Minnesota Partnership now have a formal collaboration designed to further the research goals of both organizations. The Minnesota Partnership is a state-funded association between Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota.

Minnesota Partnership
[The laboratory headquarters of the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics is located in the Vincent A. Stabile Building on the Mayo Clinic campus in Rochester, Minnesota. Copyright.

"Karolinska Institutet holds agreements with academic institutions around the world, comprising research collaboration as well as student and staff exchange," the institute says online. Karolinska is involved in research related to cancer, circulation, immunology, neurology, reproduction and growth-and-development.

The Karolinska Institutet recently announced, for example, that it has made a discovery related to pancreatic cancer that could help identify the illness earlier, something that could improve a patient's prognosis.

"One of the reasons for the poor prognosis associated with pancreatic cancer is that the disease is hard to detect at an early stage. The researchers believe that their results can be of significance to the development of better diagnostic methods and treatment strategies," the institute says.

The Minnesota Partnership and Karolinska Institutet want to collaborate, sharing their knowledge, exchanging researchers and conducting joint research. It will be interesting to watch future developments as the Minnesota Partnership continues to go global.

Pulse on Health

By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists

Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 

Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

06/28/2010

Olmsted Medical Center cracked open...

Olmsted Medical Center appears to be nearing completion of the structure phase of its main clinic remodeling on 9th Street S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota.

The effort will most likely produce better traffic flow (both patient and automobile). 

Olmsted Medical Center new entrance June 2010
[View of the new Olmsted Medical Center main clinic entrance looking from the west toward the east. June, 2010. Copyright.

I've heard that the new pharmacy setup inside is pretty cool, though I haven't seen it yet myself. It's always fun to check out new digs, whether it's at a restaurant, a store or, in this case, the local community clinic

During the economic downturn, this project I'm certain made some construction workers happy with a steady income. In the days ahead, the west-side parking lot at the clinic will continue to be under restoration. 

So give the clinic a while longer to get everything finished. After that, maybe you can take the back way to the new clinic entrance, freeing up traffic on 9th Street a little.

Pulse on Health

By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists

Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 

Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

A new salsa ingredient for me...

This weekend while I was pulling the monstrous grasses that had invaded my garden with the onset of heavy rains, a man came up and asked if I was going to throw away what I was pulling. Well, I planned to put it in the compost pile....

He pointed to one of the plants and said, "In Mexico, that is food." Here I was, trying to grow food and at the same time tossing aside what to some is a delicacy. I recognized the plant as amaranth and he confirmed that's what it's called.

I asked what he makes with it, and he said salsa. He left with an armload of plants that he planned to transplant. I'm not sure how well that worked because I transplanted one myself and it just about kicked the bucket. After he left, I set aside a row just for amaranth plants, figuring I'll try using them myself.

I've since done a little research and found that amaranth (which I kind of knew) have been used for centuries, dating clear back to the Aztec time period. I'm still not sure whether you make the salsa with seeds or leaves from amaranth. But I tasted a leaf and it did have a spicy flavor. My online research suggests there are many uses for the seeds, and that the leaves are also used.

So I've got a fun new experiment for the summer, thanks to a fellow Rochester resident. That's another reason I like living in Rochester, Minnesota. There's always something new to learn here — and friendly people to help you learn it.

Pulse on Health

By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists

Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 

Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

06/27/2010

S.E. Minnesota: Avoid road water...

Just a note that if you're out there driving around in this storm (which is more fun to watch than to drive through) or the aftermath, avoid water if you see it covering  a roadway. The National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wisconsin issued this flood watch Saturday: "CREEKS AND RIVERS ARE ALREADY RUNNING HIGH...AND ADDITIONAL RAINFALL COULD RESULT IN FLOODING. AND WITH THE VERY MOIST GROUND FROM ALL OF THE RECENT RAINFALL...MUD SLIDES COULD ALSO OCCUR IN AREAS WITH STEEP TERRAIN."

So be cautious out there tonight and into Sunday. My experience with floods is that they're often in process on the sunny days following the storm. So please don't be fooled if we get a sunny day Sunday. If you see water across a roadway, turn around. Back up if you have to, safety advocates have advised during previous flood situations.

You see those people on TV getting rescued from their cars (if they're lucky) and you figure they were stupid to drive into deep water. But, often, those people thought they could make it because only a couple of inches of water covered the pavement. Well, just a couple of inches of strong current can float a car enough to knock it off the roadway and into the torrent of flooding streams.

I think back to a horrific 911 phone call of a woman in Des Moines, Iowa who was telling dispatchers during the floods of 1993 that she was sure she was going to die if they didn't find her floating in her car in the midst of tumultuous water. And, indeed, she did perish.

Don't try going through water with your vehicle. Just back your car away from the water and find another way around. You'll get where you're going evetually and your boss will understand if you have to take a different, longer, route to work. Just tell her you wanted to be extra productive and, to do so, you felt compelled to stay alive.

If you see water on the road, assume the road is washed away and that the water is 6 feet deep. That's enough to sink your car -- and carry it away.

Pulse on Health

By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists

Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 

Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

06/26/2010

A biomarker for kidney disease...

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) has announced a "DNA study of American Indians in Arizona, in which a TGen-led  team discovered a genetic biomarker with a significant association to kidney failure." The strongest assocation with end stage renal disease (ESRD) was with marker rs13315275, but the researchers say they also found evidence of association with four other markers.

"All five biomarkers are genetic variants of the gene SUCNR1, which is located in a chromosomal region of the human genome identified as 3q24-q27," says an announcement from TGen. "This region has been linked to diabetic nephrophathy (DM), or diabetic kidney disease, in previous studies."

The TGen findings are being presented at the 70th Scientific Sessions of the Amercian Diabetes Association.

TGen has laboratory space on the campus of Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona and branched out into much larger facilities in Phoenix after first locating on the Mayo campus. TGen has acquired many multii-million-dollar grants for research projects since locating in Ariona and is the type of company Minnesota biotech proponents hope will flourish in Rochester and Pine Isand. Only about one in 10 biotech startups actually succeed. So it's important to keep that in mind. But if 20 or 30 biotechs get started in the Rochester economic region within the next few years, if only two or three succeed it could transform the region.

It's interesting to watch TGen from afar and see the success it's had, including the announcement this week related to diabetes.

My friend who needed dialysis for much of his life after being diagnosed with diabetes would often ask me if I have any kidney problems. Not so far, I would always say. And an endocrinologist once told me that, after the number of years I had lived with diabetes, it was unlikely I would ever experience kidney failure. I don't know if I ever fully trusted his assessment. But, to date, he's been right.

And perhaps genetics plays a role in that. I look forward to hearing more from TGen in the future. Past studies, the TGen researchers say, have shown that diabetes is "relatively high" among Native Americans in Arizona.

Pulse on Health

By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists

Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 

Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel