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On 'Sound Medicine': Deadly viruses, human gene patents and stuttering in children

  • July 10, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- The award-winning “Sound Medicine” announces its program for July 14, including segments about a deadly new virus that has spread from the Middle East to Europe, childhood stuttering and keeping elderly pets comfortable.

Where did deadly new virus originate? A new and deadly type of coronavirus  virus known as MERS-CoV, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, has caused respiratory failure and killed several dozen people in the Middle East. The virus is now making its way to Europe and has 53 confirmed diagnoses. A coronavirus usually causes mild to moderate colds and upper-respiratory tract illnesses; however, some coronaviruses can be deadly. Mark Denison, M.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, joins host Barbara Lewis to discuss the disease outbreak. According to Dr. Denison, MERS-CoV has never been seen in humans before now and resembles a coronavirus that infects bats in Southeast Asia. The cause of MERS-CoV is not known, and the mortality is over 50 percent. According to the World Health Organization, health care providers and hospitals should prevent the spread of the virus by implementing infection prevention and control measures.

How does human gene patent ruling affect health care? The Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled that naturally occurring human genes cannot be patented. The case involved Myriad Genetics and its claim to mutations in two types of naturally occurring biological matter, BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. Mutations to both of these genes indicate a hereditary chance of breast or ovarian cancer. Kathy Miller, M.D., co-leader of the breast cancer program at the IU Simon Cancer Center, and Aaron Carroll, M.D., M.S., the director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research discuss how the ruling will affect the health care industry. According to Dr. Carroll, the Supreme Court’s decision only prohibited companies from patenting genes that already exist; Myriad Genetics only developed a test for mutations. Dr. Miller says the ruling opens the door for cost-friendly testing; the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutations test previously was only available through Myriad Genetics and cost $3,000 to $4,000. 

What research is being done to assess childhood stuttering? Christine Weber-Fox, Ph.D., and Anne Smith, Ph.D., both professors at Purdue University, recently received a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study why some children grow out of stuttering and others don’t. Dr. Weber-Fox joins host Anne Ryder to discuss the grant and stuttering, a developmental disorder that affects 4 to 5 percent of preschool-age children. According to Dr. Weber-Fox, stuttering can hinder a child’s performance in school, extracurricular activities and career choices later in life. Stuttering assessments include measuring three areas: emotion, language and motor skills. Dr. Weber-Fox and Dr. Smith hope their research will provide clinicians with a test to determine whether stuttering will cease or persist.

Is there a relationship between farming and health? Daphne Miller, M.D., discusses some surprising links between farming and health in her book, “Farmacology.” Dr. Miller became fascinated with sustainable farming as the organic craze swept the nation. In her book, she profiles a different type of farming in each chapter. At a California vineyard, Dr. Miller learned that forward-thinking farmers manage pests rather than “blasting” them out of the field. She contends this same philosophy can be applied to metastatic and invasive cancers. Dr. Miller also learned from an urban farmer in the Bronx that urban farming reduces rates of depression, allows the elderly to feel involved in the community and even absorbs some of the pollution in the atmosphere. Dr. Miller is an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at University of California San Francisco.

Should houses be pet-proofed for older pets?  Healthy pets expert Elizabeth Murphy, DVM, joins host Barbara Lewis to talk about keeping elderly dogs and cats safe. Like humans, pets’ eyes, sense of taste and sense of hearing change as they age. Pets also have trouble going down the steps. Dr. Murphy suggests putting a contrasting color on the edge of the steps, so pets can see to go down safely. As a pet begins to lose its hearing, it may follow its owners around and become a bit annoying. To help with the constant following, Dr. Murphy suggests keeping the lights turned up so pets are able to see clearly.

“Sound Medicine” covers controversial ethics topics, breakthrough research studies and the day-to-day application of recent advancements in medicine. It’s also available via podcast and Stitcher Radio for mobile phones and iPads and posts updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Co-produced by the IU School of Medicine and WFYI Public Radio (90.1 FM) and underwritten in part by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Sound Medicine  airs on the following Indiana public radio stations: WBSB (Anderson, 89.5 FM), WFIU (Bloomington, 103.7 FM; Columbus, 100.7 FM; Kokomo, 106.1 FM; Terre Haute, 95.1 FM), WNDY (Crawfordsville, 91.3 FM), WVPE (Elkhart/South Bend, 88.1 FM), WNIN (Evansville, 88.3 FM), WBOI (Fort Wayne, 89.1 FM), WFCI (Franklin, 89.5 FM), WBSH (Hagerstown/New Castle, 91.1 FM), WFYI (Indianapolis), WBSW (Marion, 90.9 FM), WBST (Muncie, 92.1 FM), WBSJ (Portland, 91.7 FM), WLPR (Lake County, 89.1 FM) and WBAA (West Lafayette, 101.3 FM).

“Sound Medicine” is also broadcast on these public radio stations across the country: KSKA (Anchorage, Alaska), KTNA (Talkeetna, Alaska), KUHB (Pribilof Islands, Alaska), KUAF (Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Ark.), KIDE (Hoopa Valley, Calif.), KRCC (Colorado Springs, Colo.), KEDM (Monroe, La.), WCMU (Mount Pleasant, Mich.),  KMHA (Four Bears, N.D.), WYSU (Youngstown, Ohio), KPOV (Bend, Ore.) and KEOS (College Station, Texas).

Please check local listings for broadcast dates and times.

Mary Hardin