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In the news: No link between MMR vaccine and autism, even for children at risk for autism

In a new study published in JAMA, researchers yet again found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, even for kids who are at risk for developing autism.

According to Forbes, “the likelihood of developing autism was actually lower for those at-risk children if they received the vaccine, though that finding was not statistically significant and no one would suggest that vaccination reduces autism risk. What vaccination reduces is disease, the kinds that can disable and kill children and the kind that is even more likely to cause serious complications in children with neurological conditions.”

The study’s findings were not surprising to infectious disease experts, including Mark Schleiss, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease physician at the University of Minnesota.

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Research snapshot: Minimum distance requirements for critical access hospitals may harm the rural health care system

A new study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health finds more than 250 hospitals nationally could lose critical access status because of a minimum distance requirement, which requires the hospital to be located at least 15 road miles from the next nearest hospital. These critical access hospitals had higher patient volume, were more financially stable, were more likely to publicly report quality data, and had better quality performance than critical access hospitals located farther from other hospitals.

The study findings, published today in the April issue of Health Affairs, also found loss of critical access hospital status and cost-based reimbursement from Medicare would have considerable negative impacts on these hospitals and the rural communities that depend on them for health care.

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Expert perspective: Who delivers babies in rural hospitals?

Since late January, when the story broke about the upcoming closure of the maternity ward at the Grand Marais hospital, I’ve been thinking a lot about pregnant women, clinicians, and hospital administrators in Grand Marais, and in other rural communities in Minnesota and beyond.  For pregnant women in rural areas and for all individuals seeking care, both access and patient safety are necessary components of effective health care systems. They are not negotiable. In order to better understand how to ensure both access and safety, we need to start with relevant information for understanding both capacity and need for care in rural communities.

Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in a rural area, but only about 10 percent of the nation’s physicians are practicing in rural areas. Of the 2,050 rural U.S. counties, 77 percent are designated as health professional shortage areas.  A report from the Minnesota Department of Health highlights the workforce challenges and clinician shortages in Greater Minnesota.  And this is important, because rural Americans suffer worse health outcomes than those in urban areas, having higher rates of death, disability and chronic disease.

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Sexual cell fate reprogramming in mice

The sex of mammals is decided in the embryonic gonad. Until recently, scientists believed that this decision was permanent, establishing the sex of the gonad for the rest of life.

A new study led by University of Minnesota researchers shows that turning on the male sex regulatory gene DMRT1 in the ovary of mice can reprogram cell sexual identity, turning ovarian cells into their testicular counterparts, even in adults.

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A Unique Approach to Preventing Infection after Kidney Transplant

Today on World Kidney Day, we are highlighting research at the University of Minnesota that shows potential to reduce infections after kidney transplants.

Inspiration struck Priya Verghese, MD, MPH, during pediatric grand rounds with UMN Medical School professor Hank Balfour, M.D. Balfour was discussing viral infections, the leading cause of disease and death in patients receiving a kidney transplant.

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Research snapshot: New neuroimaging method to research the aging brain

Testing for age-related metabolic decline and loss of cognitive function could soon be seeing improvements.

By developing new ultrahigh field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) technologies, researchers at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) at the University of Minnesota, recently investigated whether new developments could aid in better understanding aging and metabolic disorder in human brains.

Following the establishment of an in vivo assay of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) – a test that works well for human brain application – U of M researchers have developed a new testing technique.

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