LabBook June 29, 2012

Welcome to LabBook, our weekly roundup of University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences research news from around campus and the world wide web. Each Friday, LabBook will recap the week on the blog, link to news stories about our faculty and studies, and briefly summarize a handful of recent publications by our researchers.


Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to hold up the majority of the Affordable Care Act means that attention will now shift to implementing its programs. One initiative emphasized by the legislation is the shift to patient-centered medical homes, primary care clinics designed to more effectively serve, treat and track patients. While studies have demonstrated that these medical homes produce health care savings by reducing unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency room visits, a new study led by University of Chicago Medicine researchers finds that they also carry a cost. Though the estimated savings and medical benefits far outweigh those costs, the authors cautioned that structural and policy changes are necessary to make the medical home model economically sustainable.

Staying home sick is increasingly considered a courtesy to one’s co-workers rather than a sign of weakness or laziness. But one industry where that cultural change hasn’t quite set in is medicine, where doctors often feel pressured to show up to work even when they’re feeling under the weather. A new survey of medical residents found that more than half of the young physicians had worked despite flu-like symptoms in the past year, citing obligations to colleagues and patients as the most popular reason for not calling in sick. “Faculty should ensure residents are taught that refraining from work while ill is the best and most professional way to ensure responsible and safe care for patients,” said Vineet Arora, one of the study’s authors.

Clinical trials don’t always work, but negative results attract a mere fraction of the attention that successful trials receive. However, important information about treating patients can be gleaned even when a trial fails to find an effective new treatment. Imre Noth, director of the Interstitial Lung Disease Program at the University of Chicago Medicine, talks about what can be learned from two recent failed trials for a fatal and untreatable disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.


The Supreme Court news this week also super-charged the political discourse leading up to this year’s presidential elections. In an editorial for CNN, University of Chicago behavioral biologist Dario Maestripieri describes what voters can read from Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s hand gestures. “If you want to know what’s really important to each candidate and what they really care about versus just pretend to, pay attention to which hand they wave while speaking,” he writes.

Can a common fungicide (not used in the United States, fortunately)be linked to diabetes? Robert Sargis, instructor in endocrinology at the University of Chicago Medicine, presented research at the Endocrine Society Annual Meeting that suggests tolylfluanid, an anti-fungus used on crops and boats in China and other countries, can produce insulin resistance in fat cells.

About Rob Mitchum (525 Articles)
Rob Mitchum is communications manager at the Computation Institute, a joint initiative between The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.
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