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Transfusions may harm heart attack patients

Blood transfusions delivered to heart attack patients may increase their risk of death, according to a study led by cardiology fellow Saurav Chatterjee published last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Physicians often provide blood transfusions to anemic patients following heart attacks, though national guidelines neither support nor warn against them, according to a University press release. Though transfusions are sometimes necessary, they also increase the likelihood of blood clots and may trigger an inflammatory response from the body’s immune system, Chatterjee said in the press release.

After examining data from over 200,000 patients across 10 previous studies, Chatterjee and his co-authors found that patients who received larger blood transfusions or who received transfusions when their red blood cell count was only slightly below normal were twice as likely to have another heart attack than those who received smaller or no transfusions. Their risk of death also increased 12 percent.

“What we found is that the possibility of real harm exists with transfusion,” Chatterjee said in the press release, a practice which occurs “in emergency departments all across the United States.”

To better understand the effects of blood transfusions on heart attack patients, a randomized trial needs to be conducted, Chatterjee said in the press release.


DNA likely to enter nanopores end-first

Strands of DNA can be pulled through nanopores in the same way that a piece of string can be pulled through a hole — end-first, in one long strand, or folded and pulled through by its middle. University physicists discovered that the strands are several times more likely to enter the nanopores end-first. Their study was published in the journal Physical Review Letters earlier this month.

In nanopore sequencing, a new technology used to analyze DNA, an electric current rapidly pulls strands of DNA through a tiny hole that joins two separate pools of salt water. Sensors around the hole are then used to determine the sequence of nucleotides that pass through it, according to a University press release.

Assistant Professor of Physics Derek Stein, Mirna Mihovilovic GS and Nick Hagerty ’10 observed 1,000 DNA strands passing through nanopores. By analyzing the changes in the electric current around the hole, the researchers were able to determine how it passed through — DNA that enters unfolded and end-first disrupts the current around the hole differently than DNA that enters folded and middle-first.

“If you’re trying to engineer something to control that molecule — to get it to do what you want it to do — you need to know what it’s up to,” Stein said in the press release.


Meal delivery systems reduce unnecessary nursing home residence

States that spend more on meal delivery systems for elderly individuals have a lower proportion of nursing home residents who do not actually need the level of skilled care that the homes provide, according to research by gerontology fellow Kali Thomas and Professor of Medical Science Vincent Mor. Their study was published online in the journal Health Services Research in December.

About 12 percent of nursing home residents are considered “low-care,” meaning “they could be cared for in a community setting, whether that’s assisted living or with a few hours of home care,” Mor told the New York Times earlier this month.

The percent of “low-care” residents in nursing homes varies from state to state, which Thomas and Mor found can be explained, in large part, by the amount that states spend on meal delivery systems.

Each state could reduce its percent of “low-care” nursing home residents by 1 percentage point by spending an additional $25 above the national average per elderly individual on home-delivered meals annually, according to the study.


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