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September 27, 2022 BlogDiabetesMedEvidence

How does the body use energy? After we eat, most food is broken down into parts that cells can use for energy. The bloodstream carries these pieces through the bloodstream to our cells, which let them in and convert food to energy. In some cases, the cells don’t let food particles in. In these cases, the problem may be diabetes.

Cells need to separate their insides from the environment around them. Cells only let in specific molecules at specific times. Insulin is the molecule that tells cells to let in sugars in the form of glucose. It is produced by the pancreas and is released when the pancreas detects high levels of sugars in the blood. In some cases, such as with obesity, fatty acids can disrupt how cells absorb and use sugar in the blood. When this happens, cells are less sensitive to insulin and absorb less blood sugar per unit of insulin in the blood. Since blood sugar stays high, the pancreas produces more and more insulin, which has less and less effect. Cells can’t respond to all the excess insulin and are increasingly resistant to its effects.

Insulin is also the hormone the pancreas uses to communicate with the liver about blood sugar. When the liver detects insulin it converts blood glucose into glycogen, a short term storage molecule. When high levels of insulin persist, the liver sends extra energy to fat cells.

After long periods of insulin resistance, the pancreas itself stops working properly. Pancreatic cells become damaged and unable to produce insulin. This is called Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). With T2Ds, blood sugar stays high, insulin stops being produced, any produced insulin is less effective, and cells stop metabolizing properly. On top of this, the body gains excess weight which can stress the pancreas further. Other symptoms include cardiovascular disease, nerve dysfunction in the extremities (called neuropathy), and increased chance of death.

Diabetes is very common in the United States. Tens of millions of Americans have T2D. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder which results in pancreatic damage. Type 2 diabetes is an insulin resistance disorder and can have a slow onset.  Major risk factors are obesity and lack of exercise. These should be the first steps to managing T2D as well.

When a healthy diet and exercise aren’t enough to manage healthy blood sugars, or aren’t an option, several key medications exist to help with type 2 diabetes:

  • Insulin: By injecting insulin with meals, the effects of a compromised pancreas can be reduced. Synthetic insulin, such as glargine, is in wide use.
  • Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RA): These stimulate the pancreas and coerce it into properly releasing the correct amounts of insulin. It slows some pancreatic cells and helps restore the pancreas-liver communication lines. One generic name for GLP-1 RA drugs is semaglutide, often branded as Ozempic and Rybelsus. A benefit of these drugs is that a common side effect is weight loss, one of the drivers of type 2 diabetes.
  • Metformin: Originally inspired by the French Lilac plant, metformin lowers blood sugar levels by acting on the liver, bloodstream, intestinal tract, and even the gut microbiome! The complex action on different areas of the body results in overall lower blood sugar levels.
  • SGLT2 Inhibitors: These act on the kidneys, changing the threshold of reabsorption of sugar so they excrete more than usual removing blood sugar through the urine. 

Altogether, there are several medications which may be helpful for controlling type 2 diabetes. Discovering how these medications interact, lowering side effects,  and finding treatments that are easy and straightforward is key. If you have type 2 diabetes, look for enrolling studies soon and improve your diet and exercise if possible!

Written by Benton Lowey-Ball, BS Behavioral Neuroscience



Sources:

Berg, J. M., Tymoczko, J. L., & Stryer, L. (2012). Biochemistry (7th Ed., pp 798-803). New York: W. H. Freeman and Company

DeFronzo, R. A., Ferrannini, E., Groop, L., Henry, R. R., Herman, W. H., Holst, J. J., … & Weiss, R. (2015). Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nature reviews Disease primers, 1(1), 1-22. https://www.nature.com/articles/nrdp201519

Olokoba, A. B., Obateru, O. A., & Olokoba, L. B. (2012). Type 2 diabetes mellitus: a review of current trends. Oman medical journal, 27(4), 269. http://doi.org/10.5001/omj.2012.68

Rena, G., Hardie, D. G., & Pearson, E. R. (2017). The mechanisms of action of metformin. Diabetologia, 60(9), 1577-1585. https://doi.org/10.1007%2Fs00125-017-4342-z

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (August 10, 2021). Insulin Resistance and Diabetes https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/insulin-resistance.html

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (December 16, 2021). Type 2 Diabetes https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type2.html

Witters, L. A. (2001). The blooming of the French lilac. The Journal of clinical investigation, 108(8), 1105-1107.https://doi.org/10.1172%2FJCI14178


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Methods used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease are changing. In the past, the only definitive way to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease was after death, by an autopsy, which is not exactly helpful for treatment. The autopsy would reveal both amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain; these are hallmarks that characterize Alzheimer’s disease. Thankfully, science has drastically improved over the years. We currently have spinal fluid tests that look for these two key biomarkers and imaging tests that show changes in the brain.

A recent example of other evolving diagnosis methods is COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, when there were no COVID-19 tests, the only way to know if someone might have the virus was to check for a fever. Nowadays, we look for biomarkers – such as with a rapid antigen test – which can detect antigens to the virus even in asymptomatic people. 

We now understand that a person can be suffering from the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s even if they do not yet show signs of cognitive impairment. Without biomarker testing, most patients’ first symptoms are memory loss, including long and short-term. Alzheimer’s is usually associated with increased age because the biological underpinnings of the disease accumulate over time. Diagnosis can be made by using something called the ATN framework. This framework describes the two major proteins involved, amyloid plaques and tau tangles, and the associated neurodegeneration – changes in the brain structure.


Let’s discuss the AT part of ATN: the two protein accumulations called amyloid plaques and tau tangles. It is no coincidence that these are also the biomarkers sought by scientists and doctors when diagnosing Alzheimer’s. Amyloid plaques are bundles of protein that build up outside of cells in the brain. They disrupt how cells connect and communicate with each other. Tau tangles are proteins found inside the neurons. In a healthy neuron, tau proteins help stabilize the microtubule that transfers nutrients. In Alzheimer’s patients, the tau proteins become corrupted and tangled, blocking the neuron’s transport system. This leads to cell death. As more cells die and neural network connections break down, areas in the brain begin to shrink.  In the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, there is widespread loss of brain volume.


The N of ATN is neurodegeneration which is the deterioration of neurons causing specific structural changes to the brain. A structural MRI and a radioactive PET scan are two classic methods of determining neurodegeneration. These are effective as staging tools, discovering how far along the disease has progressed. They are effective but can be expensive and time-consuming.

The good news is that researchers are currently working on blood tests that will hopefully be able to detect tau biomarkers quickly and easily. A blood test should be easy, cheap, and relatively simple. With luck, these early biomarker findings will also help drive the effectiveness of clinical therapies, paving the way for better Alzheimer’s treatments in the years to come.

By Benton Lowey-Ball, BS Behavioral Neuroscience



Sources:

Kandel, E. R., Schwartz, J. H., Jessell, T. M., Siegelbaum, S., Hudspeth, A. J., & Mack, S. (Eds.). (2000). Principles of neural science (Vol. 4, pp. 1149-1159). New York: McGraw-hill.

Largent, E. A., Wexler, A., & Karlawish, J. (2021). The Future Is P-Tau—Anticipating Direct-to-Consumer Alzheimer Disease Blood Tests. JAMA neurology, 78(4), 379-380. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.4835

Ossenkoppele, R., Reimand, J., Smith, R., Leuzy, A., Strandberg, O., Palmqvist, S., … & Hansson, O. (2021). Tau PET correlates with different Alzheimer’s disease‐related features compared to CSF and plasma p‐tau biomarkers. EMBO molecular medicine, 13(8), e14398. https://doi.org/10.15252/emmm.202114398

Peterson, R. C. [UCI MIND] (2019, April 3).  Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in the era of biomarkers – Ronald C. Petersen, MD, PhD [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtS5xynes2M

What Happens to the Brain in Alzheimer’s Disease? (2017, May 16) National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-happens-brain-alzheimers-disease


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Imagine if your plumbing stopped up. Not your toilets, but your sink and shower. How would you get rid of the dirt and junk off your skin? How would you make sure you stay clean? Our kidneys ask this question every day. The blood in our body travels around and around, including the critical filtration stage of the kidneys. The kidneys act as a big two-way filter. Impurities and excess minerals or water are extracted from the blood, and necessary minerals or water are added as needed. The kidneys keep the ingredients of blood at healthy levels. Finally, kidneys get rid of waste products and extra water by producing urine. When this goes wrong, your blood can’t function properly and waste products can build up.

When dealing with the kidneys, you may see three terms thrown about. The origin of “kidney” is unknown, but likely English. “Renal” is the Latin word for kidneys, and the prefix “nephro-” is Greek in origin. If you see any of these terms you can bet we’re dealing with the kidneys. With this in mind, when the kidneys fail to perform their job, we call it renal insufficiency.

There are two major divisions in how the kidneys fail, based on the amount of time. 

  • Acute kidney injury (AKI) has a sudden onset. It may affect 100,000 people a year in the United States, with a higher proportion of sufferers being Black or African American than White.
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the long term degradation of the kidneys.  It is harder to measure, as the kidneys do a pretty good job compensating: until they don’t. It is estimated that around 2 million Americans may be suffering from CKD, with the majority being men.

There are several possible causes of renal impairment. The vast majority of causes are “upstream,” meaning something affects the blood before it gets to the kidneys.

In acute cases, this can be hypotension – not enough fluid, some drugs, such as NSAIDs, or organ failure. When there isn’t enough fluid in the bloodstream, the kidneys compensate by releasing more water, which can deplete the kidney’s reserves and cause failure.

In chronic kidney disease, the most frequent cause is diabetes, especially type 2. Prolonged hypertension, and vascular diseases can also be the culprit. With chronic cases, the kidneys will do their best to compensate – constantly filtering out excess blood sugar, for instance. Over time, the excess sugar damages the blood vessels in the kidneys.  Some parts of the kidneys may fail and the remaining portions get stressed and eventually decompensate. This is when the kidney fails as an organ.

Other possible causes of renal impairment are contained in the kidneys and “downstream” blockages. The kidneys themselve can be the victim of disease or injury, possibly due to long term upstream stress. The ability of the kidney to release urine can also -in rare cases – be disrupted.

Regardless of the cause, renal impairment is very dangerous. The kidneys are responsible for keeping blood healthy. A failure of the renal system can result in a need for dialysis or transplant. Dialysis is when external technology filters blood and maintains levels. This is uncomfortable, cumbersome, and expensive.

Fixing renal impairment can be a tall order. The most important step is usually treating the underlying cause. Since the kidneys filter several drugs out of the bloodstream, stopping or replacing them may be key. Fluids may need to be replaced in acute cases, and lifestyle changes may be needed in chronic ones. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels can be key if the root cause is diabetes. For heavily progressed chronic renal impairment, dialysis or transplant may be the only options.

Transplant and dialysis are not fun, so we should try to avoid renal impairment before it starts. Many of the tactics to keep your kidneys healthy are the same to keep the rest of your body healthy. Exercise, not overindulging on sugar, and keeping your diet under control can help. Additionally, maintaining a healthy blood pressure is vital. Finally, lowering or cutting out tobacco and alcohol can help keep your kidneys healthy.  When it comes to filtering your blood, give your kidneys every advantage you can!

By Benton Lowey-Ball, BS Behavioral Neuroscience



Adapted from:

Bindroo, S., & Rodriguez, Q. BS; Challa, HJ Renal Failure. (February 24, 2022). StatPearls; StatPearls Publishing: Treasure Island, FL, USA. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519012/


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Heart failure is quite frankly, a terrifying sounding condition. It is severe, but not as immediately drastic as it sounds. Put simply, heart failure is when the heart fails to pump as much blood as the body will need long-term. The heart works like a balloon, filling with blood and contracting to pump it out. Ejection fraction is a term used to describe the amount of blood pumped out compared with the total the heart can hold. In a normal heart, 50-70% of blood is ejected with each heartbeat. When this amount falls below 40%, a person has a reduced Ejection Fraction (the rEF of HFrEF). This is a serious condition.

The heart pumps blood to every cell in the body. This is how cells receive oxygen and nutrients, and how they get rid of waste products. Without enough blood, cells suffocate. Oxygen isn’t reaching cells and the brain interprets this as being short of breath. Common symptoms of HFrEF include:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing, especially when lying down or sleeping
  • Inability to exercise
  • Ankle swelling

Inside the body, doctors can also look for diagnostic markers. These may include structural changes to the heart and increased natriuretic peptides. Natriuretic peptides are hormones that regulate the amount of salt and water in the blood. They act as vasodilators, opening blood vessels which can be helpful in compensating for heart failure. The body attempts to compensate for the loss of oxygen and nutrients in the blood in many ways, but long term the body has trouble sustaining with heart failure.

Who is at risk of developing HFrEF? Unfortunately, it is more prevalent in the United States than almost anywhere else, affecting 6.5 million Americans each year. Risk factors include age, being male, obesity, and smoking. Additionally, other medical conditions increase your risk of developing Heart Failure with reduced Ejection Fraction. Previous heart attacks, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension are some associated conditions. All told, HFrEF leads to around a million hospitalizations every year, and being hospitalized for HFrEF comes with a low 5-year survival rate.

What can be done? There are several methods of dealing with a reduced ejection fraction. Some methods treat symptoms, such as diuretics, and others can help reduce mortality, such as beta-blockers. There are several other medications and even some implantable devices that can help with HFrEF. These can help improve your ejection fraction or health outcomes but are not yet a silver bullet. New medications with increased outcomes and fewer side effects are entering clinical trials and may help with the underlying condition. To learn more about current heart failure research options, call our office today.

Written by Benton Lowey-Ball, BS Behavioral Neuroscience



Bloom, M. W., Greenberg, B., Jaarsma, T., Januzzi, J. L., Lam, C. S., Maggioni, A. P., … & Butler, J. (2017). Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. Nature reviews Disease primers, 3(1), 1-19. https://www.nature.com/articles/nrdp201758

Martinez-Rumayor, A., Richards, A. M., Burnett, J. C., & Januzzi Jr, J. L. (2008). Biology of the natriuretic peptides. The American journal of cardiology, 101(3), S3-S8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjcard.2007.11.012

Murphy, S. P., Ibrahim, N. E., & Januzzi, J. L. (2020). Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction: a review. Jama, 324(5), 488-504. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.10262


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If someone in your family had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 60, you could be at risk and might want to have your blood tested for this little-known hereditary risk factor, Lp(a). Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Determining and reducing the risk factors for cardiovascular disease is critical. 

Lipoprotein(a), also called Lp(a), pronounced “LP Little a” is a particularly dangerous culprit.  Its levels are controlled by a single gene, and a single genetic variation in this gene is enough to drastically change Lp(a) levels. Unfortunately, since it is genetically determined, diet, exercise, and lifestyle have little or no effect on Lp(a) levels. High Lp(a) can contribute to several cardiovascular conditions. These include a two to three times increase in the risk of developing:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Peripheral heart disease
  • Aortic valve stenosis
  • Ischemic stroke

Lp(a) has been referred to as the evil twin of the more familiar LDL (bad) cholesterol and is a triple threat because it is:

  1. Pro-atherogenic:  higher risk fatty deposits in the walls of arteries
  2. Pro-thrombotic:  promotes blood clots
  3. Pro-inflammatory:  inflammation is an important risk of cardiovascular disease

There are two methods of measuring Lp(a).  The most common method of measuring Lp(a) is by mass, in mg/dL. Measuring how many individual particles, regardless of size, is another method and is measured in nmol/L. It is important to know which method was used when understanding your numbers. If you have never had your Lp(a) level checked, we offer Lp(a) testing to our ENCORE community for those who pre-qualify (call for details). 

Currently, there are no approved therapies to lower Lp(a) levels and reduce one’s risk.  However, three exciting therapies are currently being studied in clinical trials at ENCORE Research Group sites across Florida. The good news is that because of clinical research and your involvement, we have new treatments for elevated Lp(a) on the horizon!

Written by Benton Lowey-Ball, BS Behavioral Neuroscience



Sources:

Kamstrup, P. R. (2021). Lipoprotein (a) and cardiovascular disease. Clinical chemistry, 67(1), 154-166. https://doi.org/10.1093/clinchem/hvaa247

Miksenas, H., Januzzi, J. L., & Natarajan, P. (2021). Lipoprotein (a) and cardiovascular diseases. JAMA, 326(4), 352-353. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.3632

Health.harvard.edu

Amgenscience.com


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Fatty liver disease is incredibly prevalent in the United States. Some estimates place the number of Americans with non-alcoholic fatty liver at over 30%, that’s around 100 million people in this country! Liver diseases are deadly serious; the liver is a critical organ and without it we cannot survive. The biggest problem with all liver diseases is that they frequently progress without symptoms. Because of this, the disease may progress to a dangerous or irreversible stage before it is even detected. Clearly, early, and routine testing for people at risk is critical.

We can’t see the liver from the outside, so the only way to learn about how it is doing is by looking at it. We can look through the skin using technology or under a microscope using a biopsy.

A biopsy – looking at a section of the liver under the microscope – is the “gold standard” of liver diagnostic techniques. This has drawbacks, however. Patients typically need to dedicate half a day to the procedure, and there can be rare complications. A biopsy is an invasive procedure requiring a piece of the liver be taken and examined. It is a critical piece of the liver diagnosis pie but is not a routine procedure to be done without cause.

Imagining techniques can be very effective in diagnosing a fatty liver. Some techniques, such as a CAT scan and ultrasound, can’t diagnose the amount of scarring on the liver but can give an indication that there is fat present. CAT scans use x-rays, but imaging is otherwise safe. An ultrasound is fast and non-invasive. It is an excellent first step that many doctors use when they suspect a fatty liver. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the next best diagnostic procedure to a liver biopsy. With an MRI, doctors can clearly see the state of the liver. They are expensive, however. This again means they are an excellent tool for those who are known to have fatty liver but may not be an option for all patients to use regularly.

Ultrasonic elastography is a different technique. It is commonly called Fibroscan, after the manufacturer of the diagnostic tool. Fibroscan uses sound waves to gently shake the liver and measure how it responds. The liver will stretch slightly. In a healthy liver, the tissue stretches more, but hard scar tissue is less elastic. The fibroscan can interpret the difference and determine how much fat and scar tissue is present. The test is very similar to an ultrasound; it is painless, fast, and safe. The fibroscan does not replace other imaging techniques but is cheap and effective at determining the stage of fatty liver present. Unlike other techniques, a Fibroscan can be done routinely for anyone who is at risk of having fatty liver.

Fibroscans are very popular around the world, including in Europe, Asia, South America, and Canada. It is a cheap procedure with little reimbursement for practitioners, which unfortunately prevents widespread use in the USA. Risk factors for non-alcoholic fatty liver include being overweight or obese, being prediabetic or having diabetes, and eating a high-fat diet. If you are concerned about fatty liver, talk to your primary care physician and/or contact ENCORE Research Group for a complimentary Fibroscan.

Written by Benton Lowey-Ball, BS Behavioral Neuroscience



Afdhal, N. H. (2012). Fibroscan (transient elastography) for the measurement of liver fibrosis. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 8(9), 605.

Koren, M. (Host). (2022, July 20). Common fibroscan technology questions [Audio podcast episode]. In Medevidence! Truth behind the data. ENCORE Research Group. https://encoredocs.com/medevidence/

Koren, M. (Host). (2022, July 13). You cannot live without your liver [Audio podcast episode]. In Medevidence! Truth behind the data. ENCORE Research Group. https://encoredocs.com/medevidence


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Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions which have been slowly rising in people in the United States. It is also known as insulin resistance syndrome.

It is currently defined as three of the following conditions:

  • Excess fat around the waist
  • High plasma glucose concentration
  • High blood pressure
  • High triglycerides
  • Low levels of good cholesterol or HDL 

Having one of these conditions does not mean that you have metabolic syndrome. Having three or more of these conditions will result in a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome and will increase your risk of health complications.  If left untreated, metabolic syndrome can lead to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and stroke. 

Metabolic syndrome is incredibly prevalent – affecting over one-third of Americans. Hispanic adults are at the highest risk. Among non-Hispanic adults, white men and black women are at higher risk than other groups. Other risk factors include lifestyle, age, family history, and use of some medications. Similar conditions may increase the chances of getting metabolic syndrome. These include being overweight or obese, immune system and sleep problems, and PCOS. Unfortunately, these risk factors overlap with the symptoms. This implies that metabolic syndrome may spiral and get worse over time.

The exact mechanism of metabolic syndrome is unknown, but scientists have an idea of what is to blame. It may be insulin resistance, dysfunctional fat cells, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Insulin resistance causes the cells to store sugars instead of using them. This makes cells (and people) tired and increases fat. Fat cells may become overactive and grow so large that they die, prompting an immune response. The immune system may cause inflammation and plaque build ups in the bloodstream. Inflammation can further cause skin problems and long-term damage.

While it sounds like this is all the fault of insulin resistance, it is not that clear cut. There may be many pathways into metabolic syndrome. Inflammation can be caused directly through a dysfunctional molecule responsible for fighting tumors. The liver has an important role in guiding the insulin response of the body. Obesity can cause oxidative stress that damages fat cells. Several other processes can interrupt these systems. Additionally, each symptom can increase the risk of developing others.

So what can we do about metabolic syndrome? There are no approved medications to cure the underlying condition. For medical solutions, doctors may prescribe symptomatic treatments. These treat the parts of metabolic syndrome that we can diagnose: high triglycerides, cholesterol, and hypertension. 

Currently, our best way to fight metabolic syndrome is through diet and exercise. This may seem overwhelming to some people and making solid changes takes time. Instead of exercise, many need to think of movement.  Movement can look like walking in the neighborhood, gardening, housecleaning, or anything that gets you moving, gets your heart rate up and is something you enjoy. 

Changes in other lifestyle choices may include consuming less sugar and sugary drinks, cutting out smoking and drinking, and getting regular sleep! Lack of appropriate sleep can increase your appetite for high-calorie foods due to hormonal changes.  There are two hormones that make you hungry or full.  Ghrelin is the hormone that increases your appetite and makes you crave food.  Leptin is the hormone that makes you feel full with little appetite.  These hormones can become unbalanced with lack of sleep, leading to negative changes in appetite.

There is no silver bullet for everyone, but it’s a good start to take steps towards healthier lifestyle changes.

Written by Benton Lowey-Ball, BS Behavioral Neuroscience



References:

McCracken, E., Monaghan, M., & Sreenivasan, S. (2018). Pathophysiology of the metabolic syndrome. Clinics in dermatology, 36(1), 14-20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clindermatol.2017.09.004

Moore, J. X., Chaudhary, N., & Akinyemiju, T. (2017). Peer reviewed: Metabolic syndrome prevalence by race/ethnicity and sex in the United States, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–2012. Preventing chronic disease, 14.

Zimmet, P., Alberti, K. G. M. M., Stern, N., Bilu, C., El‐Osta, A., Einat, H., & Kronfeld‐Schor, N. (2019). The Circadian Syndrome: is the Metabolic Syndrome and much more!. Journal of internal medicine, 286(2), 181-191. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/joim.12924


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With flu season on the horizon, reviewing the vaccine pathway and how we got to where is worthwhile. We have an amazing and complex immune system. It has several specialized cells, but detection is the first line of an immune response. Detecting a harmful organism that has invaded the body can be surprisingly tricky. This is because cells have to chemically discover specific proteins or sugars on the outside of pathogens. These proteins or sugars can (and do) mutate in quickly-replicating pathogens. Luckily, our immune system can learn the danger of closely-related pathogens. 

Vaccines have a long and storied history. From the first records of vaccines in China hundreds of years ago to the first inoculation against smallpox (using cowpox) to today’s cutting-edge mRNA vaccines, the technology is constantly improving. Here are some of the major ways vaccines are made:

Use a weak virus

The cowpox-smallpox vaccine was an example of a live, whole-pathogen vaccine. This is a type of vaccine where doctors inject small amounts of live viruses into the body. The body responds and becomes inoculated against large doses of the virus in the wild. In the 1950’s live-attenuated vaccines became available. In these, the virus is weakened in a lab so it does not cause serious disease in people. This type of vaccine provides a strong and long-lasting response. Examples of live attenuated vaccines include measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR), smallpox, chickenpox, and yellow fever. 

Use a dead pathogen

There are other methods to mitigate the problems of live viruses. An inactivated vaccine uses dead virus or bacteria. This makes the vaccine much safer and comes with fewer side effects, but is less effective. The current yearly flu vaccines are inactivated vaccines. Some manufacturers use hen’s eggs to grow the vaccine before inactivation. The resulting vaccine can contain very small amounts of egg protein as a result. The CDC still recommends those with egg allergies get the flu vaccine.

Use part of a virus or bacteria

Subunit vaccines are pieces of a pathogen – generally protein or sugar pieces. These aren’t whole viruses and have fewer side effects as a result. Additionally, these subunits may be able to grant protection against many forms of a pathogen. The Hepatitis B vaccine is an example of a protein subunit vaccine.

Target a dangerous product

Toxoid vaccines such as DPT can help lessen the damage of infection because some bacteria do their damage by releasing dangerous toxins instead of attacking cells. Toxoid vaccines train the body to recognize these toxins as dangerous. Diphtheria and tetanus vaccines are examples of toxoid vaccines. 

Get the body to do the work

Nucleic acid vaccines are a new and different approach that has many benefits. Instead of using a weakened or inactivated pathogen to trigger our immune system, nucleic acid vaccines employ the body to make the vaccines in house. DNA, mRNA, and vector virus vaccines use genetic code created in a laboratory; there is no virus needed to develop the vaccine. Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are the best known and use mRNA, a blueprint for creating specific proteins. When injected into the body, they provide the instructions for our body to produce antigens (proteins) that trigger an immune response. The T-cell and antibody response that follows can fight the disease. This can provide long-lasting, stable, relatively low symptom responses. The real benefit, however, is the time it takes to develop a new vaccine is drastically reduced. This was evident with COVID-19, when researchers created a brand-new vaccine in less than a year. Equally important was distributing it to hundreds of millions of people one year after. A typical vaccine takes 10-15 years to develop – and even longer to scale production.

New studies are coming to compare the effectiveness of mRNA-based vaccines to inactivated vaccines for viruses and diseases beyond covid. Keep a lookout to join this new and developing vaccine research. 

Written by Benton Lowey-Ball, BS Behavioral Neuroscience



References:

NIH, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2021). Flu vaccine and people with egg allergies. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/egg-allergies.htm

NIH, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2019). Vaccine types. https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/vaccine-types

Greenwood, B. (2014). The contribution of vaccination to global health: past, present and future. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 369(1645), 20130433.

Boylston, A. (2012). The origins of inoculation. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 105(7), 309-313.


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Earlier this year, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the US congress to increase diversity in clinical research trials. The DEPICT act, as it’s called, has many major changes to how clinical trials would be conducted. These changes would affect sponsors, the government, and clinical research sites. Sponsors are the companies which develop new drugs and devices in clinical trials.

The bill would require new demographic analyses for drug and device trials by sponsors. Demographic data includes age, sex, race, and ethnicity. Sponsors would investigate the rates of a disease among demographic groups before starting a trial. They would then devise a diversity action plan. This ensures the clinical trial includes a representative sample of the affected population. Let’s say a drug targeted lung cancer, for example. The sponsor would have to find out who has increased chances of getting lung cancer. If they found that Black Americans were at higher risk, they would make a plan to ensure this group was included in any research trials. Plans could include community outreach, specific site selection, and diversity training.

A key aspect of the bill is discovering how to best reach diverse communities. Research sponsors would need to submit annual reports. These would outline how successful their studies were at reaching the demographic goals. If they failed to meet goals, they would give possible reasons they did not. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would compile and analyze the reports. The FDA would issue public reports on diversity and enrollment targets. They would also publish justifications for failure to meet targets and recommendations to solve this. Additionally, the National Institute of Health (NIH) would provide outreach. For sponsors, they would issue best practices for increasing diversity. They would engage with minorities to bring awareness of clinical research trials. They would also help local organizations inform their community about research trials.

The final piece of the bill is increasing access. The bill would enhance clinical research infrastructure in underserved communities. The bill provides grants to expand clinical research facilities. These would be in rural areas, on Indian tribal lands, and in federally recognized underserved communities. The grants would help facilities conduct research trials in these areas.

Altogether, this bill addresses the shortcomings of clinical trials in diverse communities. It closes the gap between who suffers from medical conditions and who participates in clinical research trials. It helps find out which methods increase clinical trial diversity. It also helps expand access to clinical trials in underserved communities. There is still a long way to go before this bill makes it to the voting floor, but it’s a good step.

Written by: Benton Lowey-Ball, B.S. Behavioral Neuroscience



Source:

Text – H.R.6584 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): DEPICT Act. (2022, February 3). https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/6584/text


The-Fight-Against-Hypertension.jpg

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Hypertension is one of the most prevalent conditions on the planet. Scientists estimate that it affects 30-45% of adults, somewhere over a billion people! Hypertension is the chronic elevation of blood pressure. The CDC defines it as above 130 mmHg systolic or above 80 mmHg diastolic. For short periods of time, elevated blood pressure can be useful – for exercise, say. People can have high blood pressure for years without symptoms. For long periods of time, however, hypertension is deadly serious. Unfortunately, living with high blood pressure can lead to a host of problems. Hypertension can lead to heart attack and stroke, and damage to the heart, brain, kidneys, and even eyes!       

Everyone is at risk of high blood pressure. In America, men have a higher likelihood of hypertension. There are also differences in ethnicity and race, non-Hispanic Black or African American adults are at the highest risk. Unfortunately, even the lowest risk categories still have around a 40% prevalence of high blood pressure. Clearly this is a large issue in America and around the world.           

The big culprit behind hypertension is the Renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system (RAAS). RAAS is a critical system for maintaining blood pressure. It regulates two primary factors: the amount of blood and how constricted blood vessels are. It does this through the kidney, liver, and adrenal gland (just above the kidneys). In response to body signals, the kidneys release an enzyme to the liver. In response, the liver produces the hormone angiotensin I. Another enzyme, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) converts this to angiotensin II, which goes to work.  

Angiotensin II has wide-ranging effects to increase sodium and water retention. It also causes blood vessels to constrict. Angiotensin II is very short-lived, only lasting 1-2 minutes. One of its many effects is to get the adrenal gland to produce aldosterone. Aldosterone has similar effects as angiotensin II, but instead of a few minutes, it takes hours or days to take effect. The end result is that two major hormones – one fast-acting and one slow-acting – cause high blood pressure.          

There are many medications available to fight hypertension. Most of these, such as diuretics or beta-blockers, have wide-ranging side effects. This is because they are system-wide, indiscriminate actors on the body. Beta-blockers, for instance, slow the heart. This is helpful in lowering blood pressure but obviously leads to other effects on the body. RAAS-acting specific medications may be more helpful in combating hypertension with minimal side effects. ACE inhibitors, for instance, stop the fast-acting angiotensin II from having its effect on the body. This targeted approach to hypertension can lead to fewer side effects in some patients. Unfortunately, by acting on only the fast-acting portion of RAAS, they must be taken daily. Even worse, a few missed doses can have longer-term effects on blood pressure. Luckily, researchers are investigating other targeted methods of reducing the effect of RAAS, and blood pressure! Keep an eye out for a clinical research study to help investigate this exciting part of the fight against hypertension.

Written by: Benton Lowey-Ball, B.S. Behavioral Neuroscience



Sources

Fountain, J. H., & Lappin, S. L. (2017). Physiology, renin angiotensin system.

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. (September 27, 2027). Facts about hypertension. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm


Celiac-Disease-Article.jpg


Celiac disease is one of the major health issues on our planet, affecting around 1% of the population (that’s about 80 million people!). Celiac disease is more likely to occur in females. Though onset can occur at any age, it is most likely to be discovered around age two or during young adulthood.

Celiac disease is commonly known as gluten intolerance and is classically characterized by its gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, and other digestive issues. Additionally, there are other symptoms that are unrelated to the digestive system. These include anemia, bone density issues, neurological symptoms, skin rash, and more. Together these make for a severe detriment in the quality of life of most celiac sufferers.

Like most autoimmune disorders, the leading symptoms come from the body’s immune system overreacting and causing damage. Celiac disease is unusual in that the reason for the immune response is gluten, which we eat. Gluten is a structural protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and kamut. Gluten isn’t fully digestible, and some intact protein pieces make it through the stomach into the intestines. In celiac patients, the protein pieces cross the intestinal lining and are mistaken for dangerous particles or microorganisms. This can trick the immune system into action, causing inflammation and damage.

The number of people with celiac disease has been growing significantly. Five times as many people had the condition in 2000, compared with 1975. Scientists are still unsure why the disease has been growing worldwide. Better clinical testing, a spread of high gluten Mediterranean diets, and new varieties of grain are leading theories. Scientists have been able to discover much of the underlying mechanism of how celiac disease occurs, thankfully. It is genetic, and the key player appears to be HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 antigens which mistake gluten for danger. The presence of HLA-DQ2/DQ8 isn’t enough to guarantee celiac disease, but it is required. Additional contributors are thought to be other genes, environmental factors, and gut microbiota. Regardless, 95% of celiac patients have one of these dangerous antigens.

Currently, the only treatment for celiac is a strict gluten-free diet. This can be difficult to maintain, and even with a gluten-free diet, some patients continue to have symptoms. Additionally, contaminants can be unknowingly present in food and even low amounts of gluten can cause a resurgence of symptoms. Scientists are looking for new ways to combat this disease and participating in clinical trials is the best way that you can help move celiac disease medicine forward.

Written by: Benton Lowey-Ball, B.S. Behavioral Neuroscience



Source:

Caio, G., Volta, U., Sapone, A., Leffler, D. A., De Giorgio, R., Catassi, C., & Fasano, A. (2019). Celiac disease: a comprehensive current review. BMC medicine, 17(1), 1-20.




On this month’s MedEvidence radio episode, Doctors Michael Koren, MD, Matthew Todd Braddock, DO, Jackson Downey, MD, Albert Lopez, DO and WSOS Radio Host Kevin Geddings discuss NASH, Fatty Liver, and Fibroscans.

This month’s MedEvidence! Radio will answer:

  • What is NASH?
  • What are the stages of NASH?
  • How do you treat NASH?
  • Is NASH reversible?
  • Is NASH related to cholesterol problems?

MedEvidence! Radio is a monthly live broadcast from WSOS 103.9 FM / 1170 AM with Kevin Geddings from St. Augustine, Florida. Dr. Michael Koren is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals.  Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital/Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/Cornell Medical Center.  On a personal note, Dr. Koren has a lifelong interest in history, technology, Public Health, and music. He has written two musical plays.


Listen to the full episode here:




Clinical Trials Day is celebrated around the world in May to recognize the day that James Lind started what is often considered the first clinical trial aboard a ship on May 20, 1747.

Here’s the story…

Also included in this month’s MedEvidence! Radio

  • Why we do Clinical Trials
  • Phases of Clinical Trials
  • Why you may want to participate in clinical trials

MedEvidence! Radio is a monthly live broadcast from WSOS 103.9 FM / 1170 AM with Kevin Geddings from St. Augustine, Florida. Dr. Michael Koren is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals.  Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital/Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/Cornell Medical Center.  On a personal note, Dr. Koren has a life-long interest in history, technology, Public Health, and music. He has written two musical plays.


Listen to the full episode here:




This week’s MedEvidence podcast is on Medical Marijuana. Meet Dr. Charlie Booras, former Principal Investigator at Jacksonville Center of Clinical Research, and Baptist Primary Care physician who grew his practice into Booras MD as a tribute to his father after treating his ALS with medical cannabis as a medication. Dr. Michael Koren and Dr. Booras dive into the scientific basis for the efficacy of medical cannabis.

You will learn:

        • Florida Medical Marijuana Law and Process
        • THC vs. CBD
        • Health Benefits for Medical Marijuana
        • History of Marijuana
        • Learn more about Clinical Research
        • Learn more about BoorasMD

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!






This week’s MedEvidence podcast is the second episode in a two-part series on Liquid Biopsy.

In this 24-minute episode Doctors, Michael Koren and Bharat Misra discuss liquid biopsy usage now & in the future of medical evaluations.

You will learn:

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Bharat Misra is the Medical Director of ENCORE Borland Groover Clinical Research and has been a Principal Investigator of numerous clinical trials. He also serves on the board of directors at Memorial Hospital and Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research in Jacksonville, Florida. He completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in gastroenterology at the Nassau University Medical Center, State University of New York, and his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Gandhi Medical College in India.


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This week’s MedEvidence podcast is a two-part series on Liquid Biopsy: What is it & Do I Need One?

In this 22-minute episode Doctors, Michael Koren and Bharat Misra explain liquid biopsies and conditions that are subject to evaluations with liquid biopsies.

You will learn

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Bharat Misra is the Medical Director of ENCORE Borland Groover Clinical Research and has been a Principal Investigator of numerous clinical trials. He also serves on the board of directors at Memorial Hospital and Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research in Jacksonville, Florida. He completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in gastroenterology at the Nassau University Medical Center, State University of New York, and his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Gandhi Medical College in India.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





“What New with the Flu?”  Dr. Michael Koren, Dr. Victoria Helow, and Michelle McCormick discuss Flu and COVID.

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Victoria Helow, is a well-respected pediatrician, clinical research investigator at ENCORE Research Group, and practicing emergency room physician.


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Wrapping up this month’s MedEvidence! podcast series on “What to do after a Heart Attack or Stroke?”  Doctors, Michael Koren and Albert Lopez, DO discuss treatments, medications, and clinical research you need to know as a post-heart event patient.

You will learn:

  • Treatment therapies to use after a heart attack or stroke
  • What is Lp(a)
  • Male vs Female Symptoms
  • Cardiovascular Disease Research

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Albert Lopez, DO practices Internal Medicine with Millennium Physician Group in Jacksonville, Florida. He is also a Principal Investigator with ENCORE Research Group specializing in lipid clinical trials. Dr. Lopez, DO completed his residency at the University of Pennsylvania and his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University in Miami, Florida. He is known as one of the earliest evidence-based physicians in Jacksonville utilizing nutrition and lifestyle for disease prevention.
I believe in “N” of one” because “N of one” is about the patient. If it is not about the patient, then it is about nothing. – Dr. Albert Lopez, DO


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This month’s MedEvidence! podcast is a three-part series on “What to do after a Heart Attack or Stroke?” In the first MedEvidence segment we established that people who have had either a heart attack or stroke have a high risk for a repeat procedure or event. We also discussed knowing who’s on your Heart Health Team, PCP, specialist, and family. What’s abnormal, normal, and what to do when symptoms last greater than 20 minutes? In this 15-minute episode, Doctors, Michael Koren and Albert Lopez DO discuss the Risk Factors You Need to know for your heart health.

You will learn:

      • What modifiable risk factors are
      • What non-modifiable risk factors are
      •  What you can do to help your risk factors
      • How clinical trials and research find other drug benefits
      • How to be involved in a clinical trial

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Albert Lopez, DO practices Internal Medicine with Millennium Physician Group in Jacksonville, Florida. He is also a Principal Investigator with ENCORE Research Group specializing in lipid clinical trials. Dr. Lopez, DO completed his residency at the University of Pennsylvania and his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University in Miami, Florida. He is known as one of the earliest evidence-based physicians in Jacksonville utilizing nutrition and lifestyle for disease prevention.
I believe in “N” of one” because “N of one” is about the patient. If it is not about the patient, then it is about nothing. – Dr. Albert Lopez, DO


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This MedEvidence! podcast is a three-part series on “What to do after a Heart Attack or Stroke?” In this episode, Doctors, Michael Koren and Albert Lopez, DO help you identify your heart health team.

You will learn:

    • Who do I call if I think I’m having a heart attack?
    • What are my risks for another event?
    • How can my family help?
    • How to find a clinical trial

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Albert Lopez, DO practices Internal Medicine with Millennium Physician Group in Jacksonville, Florida. He is also a Principal Investigator with ENCORE Research Group specializing in lipid clinical trials. Dr. Lopez, DO completed his residency at the University of Pennsylvania and his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University in Miami, Florida. He is known as one of the earliest evidence-based physicians in Jacksonville utilizing nutrition and lifestyle for disease prevention.
I believe in “N” of one” because “N of one” is about the patient. If it is not about the patient, then it is about nothing. – Dr. Albert Lopez, DO


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





In this final 30-minute episode Doctors, Michael Koren and Bharat Misra dive into new treatments in clinical trials for Fatty Liver Disease and NASH.

You will learn

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Bharat Misra is the Medical Director of ENCORE Borland Groover Clinical Research and has been a Principal Investigator of numerous clinical trials. He also serves on the board of directors at Memorial Hospital and Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research in Jacksonville, Florida. He completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in gastroenterology at the Nassau University Medical Center, State University of New York, and his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Gandhi Medical College in India.


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This month’s MedEvidence! Hour is a three-part series on You Cannot Live without Your Liver.   In this 14-minute Part 2 episode Doctors, Michael Koren and Bharat Misra answer your questions on Fibroscans.

  • Who should receive a Fibroscan
  • How often should I get a Fibroscan
  • Should I ask my primary doctor for a Fibroscan
  • Liver Biopsy vs. Fibroscan
  • Insurance and Fibroscan
  • What should I do after my Fibroscan
  • How to find a free Fibroscan

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Bharat Misra is the Medical Director of ENCORE Borland Groover Clinical Research and has been a Principal Investigator of numerous clinical trials. He also serves on the board of directors at Memorial Hospital and Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research in Jacksonville, Florida. He completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in gastroenterology at the Nassau University Medical Center, State University of New York, and his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Gandhi Medical College in India.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





This month’s MedEvidence is a three-part series on the liver.   In this 12-minute episode Doctors, Michael Koren and Bharat Misra discuss technologies to diagnose dysfunctions of the liver.

You will learn:

  • Technologies in clinical research
  • What a fibroscan is
  • Why your doctor may not be offering you a fibroscan
  • Liver biopsy vs. MRI vs. fibroscan

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Bharat Misra is the Medical Director of ENCORE Borland Groover Clinical Research and has been a Principal Investigator of numerous clinical trials. He also serves on the board of directors at Memorial Hospital and Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research in Jacksonville, Florida. He completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in gastroenterology at the Nassau University Medical Center, State University of New York, and his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Gandhi Medical College in India.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





In this episode, Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick wrap up their discussion on how clinical trials find the truth as well as truth vs. faith and the conclusion of lady tasting tea. Could she actually tell whether the milk or tea was put in first?

Dr. Michael Koren is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





In this episode, Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick walk through the history of Clinical Trials. From Biblical stories of Daniel through the smallpox pandemic to our present COVID pandemic. How far have we come and where do we go from here?

Some of what you will learn:

  • History of Clinical Research
    • Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar
    • Newgate Prison
    • Cotton Mather & Onesimus
  • Current Vaccine Trials
    • Chickenpox
    • Shingles
    • Covid
    • Flu
    • RSV
  • Future of COVID

Dr. Michael Koren is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





In this second episode, Dr. Michael Koren, New York Central High School alumni, and Michelle McCormick take us back to high school minus having that awkward conversation about asking your date to prom.  Listen to find out what your high school classes have to do with clinical trials.

Some of what you will learn:

  • What makes a good hypothesis
  • Statistical concepts
  • Statistical methods involved in carrying out a study
  • The vocabulary of clinical research
  • History of clinical research
    • Newgate Prison
    • Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar
    • Pepsi vs. Coke

Dr. Michael Koren is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





In a four-part series on What are Clinical Trials & Why are they important, in this first episode Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick talk about The Science of Clinical Trials, What makes a good Clinical Trial, good?

What do these things have in common?

  • R.A. Fisher
  • Lady Tasting Tea
  • Truth vs Faith
  • Experiments
  • Clinical Trials

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





In the final episode of Kicking the Nicotine Habit, It’s a Brain Thing. The MedEvidence! doctors roll out the clinical trials on Cytisinicline, an approved therapy in central and Eastern West Europe for the past 20 years.

This month Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick talk with Dr. Mitchell Rothstein, a clinical Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine physician for 30 years in the Jacksonville, Florida area.  Dr. Rothstein is the Medical Director of the Phase 1 unit at Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research.

Inside this episode:

  • Cytisinicline
  • Alpha4beta2 Nicotine Receptor
  • Clinical Trials to help quit smoking

Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





Part 3 in a 4 part series on Kicking the Nicotine Habit, It’s a Brain Thing. The MedEvidence doctors continue their discussion on smoking while diving into nicotine replacement therapies.

This month Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick talk with Dr. Mitchell Rothstein, a clinical Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine physician for 30 years in the Jacksonville, Florida area.  Dr. Rothstein is the Medical Director of the Phase 1 unit at Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research.

Inside this episode:

  • Nicotine Replacement Therapies
  • Quit smoking medications
  • E-cigarettes & Vaping
  • IQOS – heated tobacco products

Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





Part 2 in a 4 part series on Kicking the Nicotine Habit, It’s a Brain Thing. Today the doctors dive into the behavioral habits of smoking and give you 5 strategies you can start NOW.

This month Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick talk with Dr. Mitchell Rothstein, a clinical Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine physician for 30 years in the Jacksonville, Florida area.  Dr. Rothstein is the Medical Director of the Phase 1 unit at Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research.

Inside this episode:

  • Do you want to stop smoking?
  • How do you get to that point?
  • Behavioral Modification strategies
  • 5 Things you can do today to stop smoking

Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





Part 1 in a 4 part series on Kicking the Nicotine Habit, It’s a Brain Thing.

This month Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick talk with Dr. Mitchell Rothstein, a clinical Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine physician for 30 years in the Jacksonville, Florida area.  Dr. Rothstein is the Medical Director of the Phase 1 unit at Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research.

Inside this episode:

  • What makes smoking harmful?
  • What makes smoking so addictive?
  • Preventable form of Cardiovascular factors

Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





This month’s MedEvidence guest, Dr. Steven Toenjes, MD, a board-certified neurologist, former staff neurologist in the U.S. Navy, and an award-winning director of neurology residents at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and decorated Navy veteran, joins Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick to discuss the future of Alzheimer’s research and what your gut has to do with Alzheimer’s.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





What are all the hullabaloos about Aduhelm, the first new Alzheimer’s drug approval since 2003? This month’s MedEvidence guest, Dr. Steven Toenjes, MD, a board-certified neurologist, former staff neurologist in the U.S. Navy, and an award-winning director of neurology residents at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and decorated Navy veteran joins Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick to discuss the first new Alzheimer’s drug approval since 2003 and the controversy over FDA’s approval of Biogen’s Aducanumab (Aduhelm).


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





In Part 2: Is it Alzheimer’s or Something Else? Drs. Toenjes and Koren begin by answering the popular question, “When do you know something is wrong? Followed by explaining amyloid proteins, DNA structure, Alzheimer’s therapy, and the research behind it.

Dr. Steven Toenjes, MD, a board-certified neurologist, former staff neurologist in the U.S. Navy, and an award-winning director of neurology residents at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and decorated Navy veteran, joins Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick to discuss Alzheimer’s disease in a four-part series.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





This month’s MedEvidence guest, Dr. Steven Toenjes, MD, a board-certified neurologist, former staff neurologist in the U.S. Navy, and an award-winning director of neurology residents at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and decorated Navy veteran joins Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick to discuss Alzheimer’s disease in a four-part series.

With over six million Americans believed to have Alzheimer’s disease and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, MedEvidence breaks down Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s, including diagnosis and treatments.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





In this final episode on longevity, Dr. Michael Koren, Dr. Victoria Helow, and Michelle McCormick talk about medical research and apply its wisdom to maximize a healthy lifestyle. Topics discussed:

  • Aspirin: Doses, Purposes & Populations
  • Types of anti-inflammatories
  • Importance of Cholesterol numbers
  • RNA Technology
  • Viruses
  • Vaccines
  • Hugging vs. Handshake
  • Becoming Part of Advancing Science

Related articles:


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





What is the formula to living longer? In this third episode in our four-part series Dr. Michael Koren, Dr. Victoria Helow, and Michelle McCormick apply medical research to fish, nuts, sex, sunscreen, and more.

Related articles:


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Can medical research help us live longer? In this four-part series Dr. Michael Koren, Dr. Victoria Helow, and Michelle McCormick discuss the relevant medical evidence and apply its wisdom to discover the secrets to longevity.

Related articles:


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Can medical research help us live longer? In this four-part series Dr. Michael Koren, Dr. Victoria Helow, and Michelle McCormick discuss the relevant medical evidence and apply its wisdom to discover the secrets to longevity.

Related articles:


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!



10-Early-Signs-of-Alzheimers-Disease.jpg

Alzheimer’s Disease is devastating. An estimated 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2021. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow memory decline. It can also affect your thinking, problem-solving, and reasoning skills. There are ten signs that you or a loved one may be experiencing early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. If any of these signs persist, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor and come in for a free memory screening at Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research (JCCR).

1.Memory Loss that Disrupts Daily Life 

A critical factor in spotting Alzheimer’s Disease’s early stages is noticing the memory loss of recently learned information. The memory loss examples include forgetting dates and events and asking the same questions multiple times. 

2. Difficulty Completing Normal, Daily Tasks

It can be difficult for a person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s to complete daily tasks. For example, they may find it difficult to find familiar locations or do simple things such as making a grocery list or remembering the rules to a favorite game.

3. Trouble with Planning or Problem Solving 

It can sometimes become difficult for those with Alzheimer’s to work with numbers. Tasks such as paying bills may get swept under the rug or have excessive errors. They also have difficulty planning things as simple as everyday errands.

4. Confused about the Current Time or Place

Alzheimer’s Disease can cause confusion and result in anxiety or panic. Frequently, they can forget where they are or how they got there. 

5. Trouble with Vision and Depth Perception 

Alzheimer’s Disease and vision issues can go hand-in-hand. For example, they may show difficulty reading, balancing, or distinguishing the depth and color of objects. 

6. Difficulty Pronouncing Words or Writing 

It can be difficult for someone with Alzheimer’s to join a conversation. They may stumble on their words. They may have trouble remembering names and often repeat themselves. 

7. Losing Important Items Often

Everyone loses their keys, remote, or wallet every once in a while. However, someone suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s may often lose these things or put them in strange places. For example, they are putting their keys in the fridge. 

8. Poor Judgement

Someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease may have poor judgment. Examples of this can be poor hygiene, trouble dealing with money, or acting irrationally.

9. Becoming Socially Distant

It can become difficult for people with Alzheimer’s to work or interact socially. You may notice them pulling away from normal social activities. They may start to have trouble keeping up with their favorite activity. 

10. Mood Swings 

Suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease can be extremely frustrating. It is common to experience sudden mood changes and sometimes act irrationally. They can quickly become confused, suspicious, depressed, or even fearful.

It is important to remember that we can have a natural decline in cognitive ability as we age. However, when that decline disrupts daily life, it is time to see a doctor for a memory screening. 

Thankfully, there have been many breakthroughs in memory research, although there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s. Clinical trial studies are the only way to continue to learn about this disease in hopes of and finding a cure. If you or a loved one is currently experiencing any of these early symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, we encourage you to get a memory screening. ENCORE Research Group offers free memory screenings at our Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research location and has several studies enrolling for Alzheimer’s Disease.

For more information, visit encoredocs.com or call 904-730-0166.


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November 17, 2021 BlogClinical Trials

The Hawthorne Effect is an interesting phenomenon where people alter their behavior due to the awareness of being observed. This effect was first discovered in the 1950s outside of Chicago. The experiment was done on factory workers, and it found that workers had a positive response to the extra attention given by managers who cared about them.

This same phenomenon has been noticed in clinical trials as well. “When you’re doing a clinical trial, and you’re involved with something that is being observed, your patients tend to do better regardless of how they are being medically treated.” Dr. Michael Koren, CEO of ENCORE Research Group, says. For example, if a patient is in a clinical trial for weight management, they may be more likely to lose weight if they must keep a log of everything they eat and present it to their study coordinator. 

So what does that mean for you? It means that you have the chance to improve your health just by participating in a clinical trial, even if you happen to be on a placebo. Studies have shown that patients in clinical studies are more adamant and knowledgeable about their health in the first place. It is safe to say your health will likely improve no matter what study you participate in! To see what studies are available right now, visit our enrolling studies page!


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We asked, “What motivates you to participate in clinical trials?” With over 160 responses, the answer is clear. People who participate in clinical trials are dedicated to helping others by improving medicine for future generations.

We also found that very few were participating in order to receive the stipend for time and travel. This says a lot about the type of people who are willing to participate in clinical trials. They are in it for the cutting edge treatment, and the need to help others.

There is truly only one way to improve healthcare, and that is to participate in clinical trials. Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey, and everyone who participates in these trials.


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On a sailing ship in 1747, twelve sailors who had begun the voyage feeling fine were overcome with fatigue.  Their gums were swollen and sore, making it difficult to eat.  Their teeth were falling out.  Their legs were swollen and purple from bruising.

 

Dr. James Lind was a passenger on that ship, and he set out to find the cause.  He set up what may have been the first clinical nutrition experiment.  He decided on six groups of treatments, 2 sailors in each group:

 

  1. drank one quart of cider a day
  2. gargled with sulfuric acid
  3. had two spoonfuls of vinegar, 3 times a day
  4. drank ½ pint seawater a day
  5. drank barley water
  6. ate two oranges and 1 lemon a day

 

Within six days, the sailors who ate the oranges and lemon felt better and were able to work again.  The other sailors in the experiment felt worse.  The ill sailors were suffering from a lack of vitamin C, now known as Scurvy. They had plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables when they first set out on the voyage.  But fresh foods ran out on the long voyage, and they suffered symptoms from this lack. After this finding, sailors often brought lime juice aboard ship because it could be stored longer. This is how sailors earned the nickname “limey”.

 

1747 was well before the requirement of informed consent of the patient, detailed eligibility criteria, protocols and regulations, which are a foundation of today’s clinical research.  Nevertheless, it is an interesting example of a method of discovering the best treatment for a disabling condition.

 

Scientific minds are still seeking solutions for medical problems.  Modern clinical research is strictly regulated for the safety and well-being of the research volunteer.  Great progress has been made in medical science over the last decades.  This progress could not happen without dedicated volunteers. Participation in clinical trials can be a rewarding endeavor for both investigators and volunteers alike.

 

Written by: Julia Baker, RN, CCRC

Resources:
https://askabiologist.asu.edu
https://www.umass.edu/nibble/infofile/limey.html

 

 

 


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Why do our volunteers want to participate in clinical trials?  Volunteers are often motivated by a combination of several reasons. Here are 6 of the top reasons to participate.

  1. The potential of finding relief from their symptoms

We can’t promise relief from symptoms due to placebo and efficacy of the medication being tested.  However, the Hawthorne Effect proves that patients who participate in a research trial have better outcomes than those not participating.

  1. To learn more about their condition

You might argue that to learn about a condition you can just look it up on the web, and we all do that.  However, often these websites can be misleading or provide the worst-case scenario results, which don’t apply to most of us. Another option is to ask your primary physician, and that is a good thing to do.  Unfortunately, physicians are often rushed or running behind and questions are forgotten.  Participating in a clinical trial provides you ample one on one time with a research professional and physician so that all your questions can be answered.

  1. Access to new cutting-edge treatments

When participating in a clinical trial, there is access to new cutting edge treatments that are not available yet to the public. There can even be access to medications that have been newly FDA approved, but are much too expensive to afford.  Study required medications are most often provided at no cost!

  1. Receiving medical care at no cost

Sponsors such as pharmaceutical companies, governments and foundations fund medical research through study grants. The grants fund local research sites for conducting the study so you don’t pay a thing.  In fact, we don’t even ask you for your insurance information!  Can you believe most studies compensate patients for time and travel?

  1. Making a difference

Clinical Trials help shape the future of medicine and healthcare.   Volunteer participation helps researchers discover more about health conditions and find better ways to treat them!

  1. Moral and emotional support

Having medical conditions that others don’t necessarily understand can make some people feel alienated.  When involved in research, support staff understand the patient’s condition and what they may be experiencing and can provide moral and emotional support.

We will do everything we can to help find a trial that is a good fit for interested volunteers.  New clinical trials are constantly enrolling so do not be discouraged if we don’t currently have the perfect trial for you.  The majority of volunteers who completed a clinical trial are interested in participating in another one, so call us and find out your reason to participate!

 


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At ENCORE Research Group it is our mission to help every patient that walks through our doors qualify for the clinical trial of their choice. Often times we get to experience the thrill of telling our patients that they successfully qualified and will soon enroll in the study. However, this is not always the case and we understand our patients’ frustration when they decide to commit to a trial only to later find out that they do not qualify. Here at ENCORE Research Group we were curious how this situation affected their thoughts about applying for future studies. This month, curiosity got the best of us and we reached out to some of our community members to find out!

Thomas recently came to Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research (JCCR) to have an evaluation for a high triglyceride and weight loss study.  Fortunately for Thomas, he was not eligible for the trial because his triglyceride level was too low.  Thomas stated “it’s good that I am healthy enough not to be in this research study.  But they are looking at another study that I may be interested in.” As you can see, Thomas was not discouraged that he did not qualify, but optimistic that he may qualify for a different study.

We also reached out to Latasha, who is new to research, and may qualify for a study that has a waiting list for interested participants.  When discussing with her how some patients are not eligible to join a trial, she stated “I would want to know why I did not qualify, but that would not prevent me from trying to get in another trial.” Fortunately for Latasha and all of our participants, ENCORE Research Group is very transparent about the screening process and explains exactly why they may have been ineligible. Hopefully she will receive a spot in the study she applied for!

Mark was passionate about participating in a Sjogren’s research trial but did not qualify.  He said “it’s not unusual for someone with Sjogren’s Disease not to qualify for studies with systemic therapies if they do not have the antibodies. But when you’re sick, your driving force is to get better for yourself and your family.  I tried the conventional way but it did not work for me.”  After doing more research on the specific clinical trial, Mark decided to pursue the FDA Expanded Access program. “It’s a relatively new program to help people get access to new medications.” Fortunately for Mark, he had the resources and insight to look into alternative treatment options.

We also asked an experienced researcher how she saw things. Linda Gray, site manager of the Nature Coast Clinical Research site in Inverness, Florida, has many gastrointestinal (GI) studies currently enrolling.  Linda acknowledges that “some of our patients are not eligible for a study because they have mild disease, and the sponsors are looking for moderate to severe disease.  If the disease is not measurable enough for objective data, we will not be able to tell if we’ve reversed it or slowed the progression.  Our NASH studies include a liver biopsy to determine the extent of the disease to see if the patient is eligible.” It is unfortunate that this can limit access to drugs for those in need, but we have to believe that obtaining clear and objective data will help a greater number of people in the future.

The reality is, every clinical trial is different and has unique qualifying criteria. The pharmaceutical companies that sponsor clinical trials create the criteria in order to make the strongest case possible to the FDA on the drug’s safety and efficacy. While we would love to involve every one of our community members that are interested, it is just not always possible. The good news is that all seven of our research sites are always getting new clinical trials to enroll in! So, just because you didn’t qualify the first time doesn’t mean you won’t qualify for the next one! We look forward to working with you in the ENCORE community.

 

 


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The practice of medicine has changed in major ways in recent years. Though many of these changes reflect good intentions, the real world consequences to patients often don’t match expectations. To understand this divide between reasonable intentions and the less salubrious reality from which we may collectively suffer, I’d like to share a recent anecdote that occurred at the airport when regulations ran amok.

During recent travel, I witnessed an unfortunate incident that you may have seen before. An airline gate agent stopped a member of our party and reprimanded her for carrying a small overnight suitcase, a computer bag and her pocketbook. The gate agent, working on behalf of the airline, stated that she had to follow FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) rules and only allow two bags on board even though the computer bag and pocket book were small. Unfortunately, when asked to “consolidate” the three bags into two, we had a problem. No bag really fit into any of the other bags. The agent wouldn’t “gate check” any of the bags so that we could pick it up when exiting the plane and running off to our next flight. Further, our discussion with the gate agent failed to alleviate our concern that, if checked to its “final destination,” we wouldn’t see a checked piece of luggage any time soon given the shortness of time for our connection.

The solution that followed satisfied no one. Over the next 10 minutes, embarking passengers stepped around the contents of the three bags which littered the entrance to the Jetway. At first, the gate agents ignored the situation, but as tempers flared due to the obstruction of foot traffic, an agent “helped” by aggressively stuffing the computer bag into the overnight bag. A busted zipper later, the bulging overnight bag limped down the Jetway led by a very unhappy customer.

Does this scenario prove airline excellence because the agents showed how well they can comply with government rules? Hardly! Most folks would conclude that this messy scenario wasn’t necessary. In complex situations, the empowerment of professionals to act judiciously given a set of circumstances leads to excellence. The above scenario required the gate agents to apply context while making an overall effort to comply with government regulations. Unfortunately an excellent result didn’t happen in this case.

Similarly, we face the issue of context and judicious interpretation every day in medicine. As a common example, computerized medical records, a well-intended effort to characterize complex information, often fail to convey the true story of a patient or the nuances that make each of us unique. Summarized, bullet point information can easily miss the point. The great composer Mozart famously observed that musical excellence doesn’t lie in the notes but actually in the space and timing in between the sounds. Medical excellence involves a similar concept. Health care providers must read “in between the lines” and understand and respond both to what is and isn’t stated.

What this concept means to the average patient depends on the circumstances. For example, some people with neck pain may need consideration for a heart condition (angina) whereas others should check in immediately for an MRI of the spine and others should book a massage. Distinguishing the underlying cause of the neck pain relies on both a description of the nature of the symptom and on understanding the quiescent pauses of relief between episodes of pain. Excellent clinicians make this distinction by asking the right questions. Excellence during the medical evaluations of headaches, arthritis, and memory problems, among other things, also require this same commitment to careful questioning.

Clinical research promotes excellence by demanding great attention to detail.  During research programs, physician investigators and their staff members must extensively analyze many aspects of our patients’ health.  This thorough analysis usually exceeds that which occurs at the time of general physician visits, a setting during which time pressed clinicians must limit their focus and move on to the next patient. Research also requires the deployment of state of the art technology. The combination of technology and attention to detail of symptoms, signs and lab values leads to an experience which most patients highly value and describe as a demonstration of medical excellence.

In sum, medical excellence involves more than compliance or automatically matching a disease with a drug. Medical excellence is a philosophy of understanding the needs of a patient and putting those needs in context through the development of an individual treatment plan. Clinical research promotes medical excellence by demanding a culture of detail and caring.


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As a proven clinical research organization, we take every precaution to assure the safety of and maximize the value for our research volunteers. Qualified doctors, nurses and study coordinators on staff provide support and care throughout the research trial. Participation is always voluntary. We appreciate the time and effort that research volunteers bring to this important process.

Copyright 2021 ENCORE Research Group