The Week That Wasn't: See-Through Skulls, Fecal Soup, Microbiome Pill

Narrated by Frank Cusimano, medical student


April 26, 2019

Hello, my name is Frank Cusimano, a med student contributor to Medscape. Welcome to The Week That Wasn’t, our quick take on medical stories our news team chose not to cover.

Earlier this month, University of Minnesota researchers transplanted see-through windows on top of mouse skulls so they could watch their cortical activity in real time.

We don’t typically cover rodent studies on Medscape because they don’t always lead to clinical advances in humans, but this line of research could someday provide new insights into concussions, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other brain conditions. The new see-through device is equipped with high-tech video that offers a big-picture view of how the brain operates and is so precise, it can zoom in on individual neurons. Fascinating.

The US meat supply is drowning in "fecal soup," according to a new lawsuit against the government. While the food safety agencies claim a "zero tolerance policy" regarding the level of feces on food, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) asserts that this only applies to "visible" fecal matter. The group attributes the rise in E coli outbreaks to the waste that makes its way into our gastrointestinal systems from the foods we eat. They’ve been hammering this issue as far back as 2011, when a study they conducted found nearly 50% of chicken sold in the US is contaminated with feces.

The USDA says it disagrees with the lawsuit’s underlying assumptions. And meat and poultry industry groups are pushing back, pointing out that the PCRM is an animal rights group with a hard-line, pro-vegan agenda. We did give this story some consideration before passing — but ultimately the lawsuit seems like a consumer rather than a medical issue.

A pill packed with probiotic bacteria may someday ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A study is currently underway in England, where a few hundred volunteers are being given a capsule full of helpful gut bacteria to see if they can help soak up hydrogen sulfide, the smelly gas linked to IBS. If it works, researchers think it could help manage bloating, pain, and other IBS symptoms.

This study was presented at last year’s Digestive Disease Week meeting. Who knows why it’s trending now? The good news is we’ll have full coverage of DDW 2019, which takes place in May, so be sure to check back on Medscape for all of the news from this year’s conference in San Diego. 

For The Week That Wasn’t, I’m Frank Cusimano.

Script by Liz Neporent; video production by John Rodriguez

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