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Health

Will the Hardest-Hit Communities Get the Coronavirus Vaccine?

It is an idea that may never have been tried in wide-scale vaccine distribution: Citing principles of equity and justice, experts are urging that people living in communities hardest-hit by the pandemic, which are often made up of Black and Hispanic populations, get a portion of the first, limited supply of coronavirus vaccines set aside just for them.A committee of experts advising Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is considering the idea. But as it comes into focus, its underlying concepts and execution must be further defined, and the approach may then face legal and political challenges, even as the medical system grapples with the anticipated logistical hurdles of distributing new vaccines.The group that is formulating the alloc...

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World

The C.D.C. updates its definition of ‘close contact’ in relation to infection risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its definition of what it means to be in close contact with an infected person and therefore at risk of contracting the coronavirus. The agency made the update in its published guidance for coronavirus contact tracing on Wednesday.The new guideline says close contact means being within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. The previous guideline said a person was at risk after 15 minutes of exposure within 6 feet of an infected person. One school district in Montana interpreted that to mean that if students moved every 15 minutes, the risk of infection was mitigated.The change could mean that when contact tracers speak to people who were close to an infected person, they could consider...

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Science

Scientists Synthesize Jawbones From Pig Fat

In patients with congenital defects or who have suffered accidental injuries, the jawbone is nearly impossible to replace. Curved and complex, the bone ends with a joint covered with a layer of cartilage. Both parts must withstand enormous pressures as people chew.“It is one of the most loaded bones in the human body,” said Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, a professor of biomedical engineering, medicine and dental medicine at Columbia University in New York.In a paper published in Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday, she and her colleagues reported a surprising success: They managed to grow replacement bones, along with their joints, from the stem cells of pigs. A clinical trial will soon begin in patients with severe birth defects.The researchers say they hope the same sort of techniq...

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Science

Cartilage Is Grown in the Arthritic Joints of Mice

The researchers wanted to turn those awakened stem cells into cartilage. The recipe that worked was to treat the stem cells with bone morphogenetic protein, which is used to help fuse bones.The scientists also used a drug called Avastin, which prevents the stem cells from getting a blood supply. Unlike bone and bone marrow, cartilage has no blood supply, and the drug helped stimulate the stem cells to turn into cartilage.The investigators provided the drugs directly to the ends of bones, putting them in a gel.The cartilage that grew in the mice not only looked like normal but lasted for four months, a quarter of the animals’ lifetimes. Dr. Chan and Dr. Longaker envision a time when doctors will be able to “resurface” arthritic joints or, even better, to treat people who are just beginni...

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Health

An ‘Unprecedented’ Effort to Stop the Coronavirus in Nursing Homes

The coronavirus crept into Heartland Health Care Center, a nursing home in Moline, Ill., on the last day of July, when a member of the nursing staff tested positive.It was an ominous sign: The virus can spread through a nursing home in a flash. Older people — who are often sick and frail and need regular hands-on attention — are uniquely susceptible. Staff members who care for residents are at high risk of infection and of unintentionally spreading the virus.Although nursing home residents make up just 1.2 percent of the United States population, they account for about 40 percent of Covid-19 deaths.But this time, the nursing home was not defenseless. Heartland was the first facility to participate in a large clinical trial of drug that might protect residents from the infection in nursi...

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Science

Federal Study of Covid Treatments Enters a New Phase

A large federal study that found an antiviral drug, remdesivir, can hasten the recovery in hospitalized Covid-19 patients, has begun a new phase of investigation.Now it will examine whether adding another drug, beta interferon — which mainly kills viruses but can also tame inflammation — would improve remdesivir’s effects and speed recovery even more.So far, remdesivir, an experimental drug, has received emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration to treat hospitalized Covid patients. In a large clinical trial, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, remdesivir was shown to modestly shorten recovery time, by four days, on average, but it did not reduce deaths.The additional drug, beta interferon, has already been approved for treatment of multiple sclerosis, whi...

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Health

Dementia on the Retreat in the U.S. and Europe

Despite the lack of effective treatments or preventive strategies, the dementia epidemic is on the wane in the United States and Europe, scientists reported on Monday.The risk for a person to develop dementia over a lifetime is now 13 percent lower than it was in 2010. Incidence rates at every age have steadily declined over the past quarter-century. If the trend continues, the paper’s authors note, there will be 15 million fewer people in Europe and the United States with dementia than there are now.The study is the most definitive yet to document a decline in dementia rates. Its findings counter warnings from advocacy groups of a coming tsunami of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, said Dr. John Morris, director of the Center for Aging at Washington University in S...

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