Five Most Fascinating Stories In Recent Medical News

Every few weeks we try to bring you the top five most compelling stories in recent medical news. Keep reading to learn about about how a selfie cost a man $153K in medical charges, how precision medicine can be used to treat lung cancer and more!

  1. Big Data Algorithm Has Huge Potential

Digital health has been a trending topic as more and more researchers across the globe explore ways to approach data collected through the EHR in a way that could improve opportunities for healthcare. Most recently, researchers at Rice University have created a cost-effective big data algorithm that optimizes how health data is clustered for the most impactful analysis. The algorithm extracts characteristics from patients and then analyzes them in a way such that it can identify similarities across different groups of people. What does this mean for healthcare? “Progeny” clustering, as it is called, ensures that clustering data is as accurate as possible, meaning more effective clinical trials and ultimately resulting in more personalized treatments. Currently this algorithm is being tested in Texas Children's Hospital in Houston to design a clinical trial for those with childhood leukemia. [Source:]  

  1. Man Ends Up With $153k Medical Bill After “Rattlesnake Selfie”

Earlier this month, San Diego resident Todd Fassler was bitten by a rattlesnake after trying to pose with it for the perfect selfie snapshot. Fassler reported his entire body feeling paralyzed immediately after the bite, as well as his arm turning purple and an inability to control his muscle spasms. Todd is lucky to be alive, but now he faces a $153,161.25 medical bill to cover his treatment. Nearly half of these expenses are from the antivenom needed to counteract the deadly snake bite. Right now the only antivenom drug available is CroFab, which has only one manufacturer and has limited supplies. Depending on how venomous the snake is, a snake bite can require as few as 3 vials of CroFab but Fassler needed so much of the antivenom to treat his bite that he used up the supply from two separate hospitals. The rate hospitals pay to CroFab’s manufacturer is $2,500 per vial at wholesale, but the markup to patients and insurance is much higher. As of right now, Fassler’s insurance company is in negotiations with the hospital and his portion of payment is still unknown. [Source:]


  1. Precision Medicine Delivers New Lung Cancer Approach

Researchers in New York recently published a study that can provide improved health outcomes for specific forms of advanced lung cancer. Using the precision medicine approach to create basket trials of patients with a particular tumor mutation, they arrived at the conclusion that a drug currently used to combat skin cancer could treat this specific mutation. According to the NIH, “Precision medicine is an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.” This personalized medical trial, according to the study’s authors, has provided one of the first deliverable results of precision medicine in successfully treating patients. There are still many practical factors that can hinder the accuracy of precision medicine-based studies, but researchers are cautiously optimistic that this study will pave the way for what the future of precision medicine might look like. [Source:]  

  1. Discovery Of Metabolic Pathway To Burn Or Store Fat

Obesity affects more than 500 million people across the world and is a large contributor to cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. The economic burden of obesity in the US alone is estimated to be around $200 billion annually. But a study from MIT scientists, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, claims the discovery of a metabolic pathway associated with the FTO gene (a gene associated with obesity) that controls whether fat cells will burn or store fat. This study eschewed the traditional view that obesity is controlled by food intake and exercise, and instead focused on how genetics can contribute to an individual’s metabolism. The discovery of this cell-level mechanism associated with a specific genome has vast potential in creating applications to manage or even prevent obesity. [Source: ]  

Fat Cell Atrophy by Nephron (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (

Fat Cell Atrophy by Nephron (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (

  1. Genomics Technology Is Being Used To Boost Livestock

The Genome Analysis Center is using its technologies in genomics and phenomics to boost productivity of a vital livestock feed crop known as Brachiaria. The technology is currently being tested in the UK, Colombia, and Kenya to explore its effect on forage breeding of crops in these areas, as the need to provide food for rapidly growing populations has been creating concerns about how sustainable it is in some areas to grow enough livestock crops to manage the demand. Brachiaria is already a significant crop in this regard, as it is pest and drought resistant with high nutritional properties. The scientists at TGAC have been working to crossbreed different strains and identify specific genes in Brachiaria to make it even stronger in sustaining food production, while also reducing carbon dioxide to alleviate some effects of climate change. [Source:]

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