Science & Research

Science & Research Roundup: Oct.2, 2013

By
Science & Research Editor
Tuesday, October 1, 2013

U. doctor performs single-incision hysterectomy

W. Scott Walker, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, became the first surgeon in the state to perform a robotic-assisted hysterectomy involving only one incision earlier this month.

During robotic-assisted hysterectomies, surgeons remove a woman’s uterus by controlling surgical instruments from a computer in the operating room, according to the Johns Hopkins Medical website.

Most robotic surgical procedures, including those for endometriosis, involve three to five incisions, according to a Lifespan Hospital Group press release.

But the hysterectomy that Walker performed involved only one small incision within a woman’s bellybutton, meaning she is unlikely to show any scarring, according to the release. The single incision also reduces the risk of complications.

“I am honored to be the first physician in our region to perform this procedure and excited to offer my patients the most advanced, minimally invasive surgical options,” Walker said in the release.

 

Researchers compile list of editing sites in fruit fly genes

University researchers have identified more than 3,500 editing sites in the genetic material of fruit flies. Their list includes locations in which an enzyme may replace a “G” nucleotide of RNA with an “A” nucleotide, altering the expression of certain genes. This process may affect the flies’ neural and gender development, according to a University press release.

Their work was published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology earlier this week.

Other research teams have attempted to compile lists of fruit fly RNA editing sites in the past, but the University team was able to report sites with increased accuracy using both biological sequencing and statistical estimation, according to the release.

Professor of biology and corresponding author of the paper Robert Reenan and lead author Georges St. Laurent GS experimentally validated almost 1,800 of the sites. They also collaborated with Charles Lawrence, professor of applied mathematics and the paper’s senior author, to predict more than 1,700 additional sites.

They then selected a proportion of those sites to test in the lab. Using their experimental results, the research team was able to determine the variables that make a nucleotide likely to be an editing site, which they then used to update their predictions.

Their final list is likely 87 percent accurate, according to the press release.

“How does the cell go about choosing which (nucleotides) are going to get edited and which aren’t is an interesting question this opens,” Lawrence said, according to the release.

 

Study unveils underreporting of risky prescriptions

A new study led by University researchers has found that when Medicare Advantage plans report data to the government, it underreports the number of seniors receiving high-risk medication.

Their work was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine earlier this month.

The research team, led by Alicia Cooper PhD’13, examined data from over 170 insurers and found that almost 27 percent of patients over age 65 received a high-risk medication. But the plans reported that the proportion was closer to 22 percent, according to a University press release.

“We’re using the same sources of data that Medicare Advantage plans are supposed to be using to derive this information,” Cooper said in the release.

These findings are significant because Medicare pays plans based on their quality, and the rate at which high-risk medications are prescribed plays a role in their determination of that, according to the release.

The research team’s finding also suggests that Medicare plans may be reporting more complicated data inaccurately as well, Cooper said in the release.

In their paper, she and other researchers suggest that policymakers increase their oversight of the plans’ self-reported data “to ensure the validity and reliability for patients and other stakeholders.”