Top Stories: Netflix Show Linked to Youth Suicide; Saving Newborns with Genomics; and More

Here are the top stories covered on the Homepage of  DocWire News this past week. In this week’s edition, a popular Netflix Original has been linked to youth suicide, a look at why optimism among terminal cancer patients can be a bad thing, a study on how decoded brain signals can now be used to provide voice to the voiceless, and a report on how genomics can save newborn infants.

The popular Netflix Original “13 Reasons Why” caused a spike in youth suicide the month following its initial release on March 31, 2017, according to a study published in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The series, which has received criticism from some who claim it glorifies teen suicide, significantly increased the rate of suicide among the 10-17 age group immediately following its launch (IRR=1.29; CI, 1.09 to 1.53). The study’s lead author said, “Youth may be particularly susceptible to suicide contagion, which can be fostered by stories that sensationalize or promote simplistic explanations of suicidal behavior, glorify or romanticize the decedent, present suicide as a means of accomplishing a goal, or offer potential prescriptions of how-to die by suicide.”

Optimism among patients with terminal cancer is a psychological state that can become contagious and have a negative influence over physicians’ prognostic abilities, according to a study published in Psycho-Oncology. In this direct-observation, multisite cohort study, researchers assessed and audio-recorded 189 patients with advanced cancer who were consulted about palliative care. The study results suggest that an association exists between patient optimism and clinical overestimation of their survival prognosis. The authors noted that their findings “suggest that patient-level optimism might exert an unforeseen influence over palliative care clinicians’ prognostic judgements,” adding that “if so, then raising clinician awareness about these effects and including debiasing steps in prognostication skills training may lead to more accurate estimates.”

Decoded brain signals can be transformed into spoken words and sentences to provide a potential solution for people with the inability to speak or gesture due to neurological impairments, according to a study published in Nature. To conduct this study, researchers assessed five volunteers with epilepsy. While recording signals located in the brain’s speech centers which control the tongue, lip, jaw, and larynx, the volunteers were prompted to read hundreds of sentences, which were subsequently decoded by a computer and used to synthesize speech. Results of the study suggest that listeners could effectively transcribe speech through brain activity. One professor said of the results, “I pressed play, I listened to it with my eyes closed and what I heard was something that was a recognizable as speech.”

Rapid whole genome sequencing may provide hope for critically ill children, particularly infants, according to a study published in Science Translation Medicine. In this study, researchers analyzed whole genome sequencing and electronic health record data from dried blood spots of 101 children with 105 genetic diseases. According to the results, automated, retrospective diagnoses correlated with manual interpretation with 97% recall and 99% precision in 95 children with 97 genetic diseases. Overall, the findings suggest that automated whole genome sequencing may offer an efficient solution to reduce diagnosis to treatment time. “Genome sequencing with automated phenotyping and interpretation in median 20:10 hours may increase adoption in ICUs and, thereby, timely implementation of precision treatments,” the authors wrote.