“Personhood” legislation has the potential to upend many common IVF practices, experts say. Of greatest concern to fertility practices are potential restrictions on the freezing or discarding of embryos. Most children born in the U.S. as a result of IVF procedures are born from frozen embryos. “The practice of IVF really requires that we generate more embryos than will be used in a given cycle,” says Kara Goldman, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and medical director of the fertility preservation program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. In nature, she says, it’s known that only a small number of eggs will be competent to generate a baby. When patients have completed their family, unused embryos are donated to research, donated for adoption or destroyed. If embryo destruction is outlawed, Goldman says, it will have serious ramifications for the practice of IVF. And if personhood legislation prohibits destroying any embryos, others wonder: would a lab technician who accidentally dropped and destroyed an embryo be subject to charges? If an embryo is declared a person, it could also affect a practice called preimplantation genetic testing, or PGT.
The work done by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine faculty members (and even some students) is regularly highlighted in newspapers, online media outlets and more. Below you’ll find links to articles and videos of Feinberg in the news.
There are more than 29,000 supplements on the market, with another 1000 being launched every year, according to the FDA – but many are a waste of money if not downright dangerous. “Patients ask all the time, ‘What supplements should I be taking?’ They’re wasting money and focus thinking there has to be a magic set of pills that will keep them healthy when we should all be following the evidence-based practices of eating healthy and exercising,” says Jeffrey Linder, chief of general internal medicine in the department of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Supplements you don’t need include vitamins A and E, beta carotene, iron, copper, vitamin C and COVID-19 supplements. Dr. Linder says it is more important to take care of your body by eating well and practicing physical activity, rather than try to make up for that with supplements.
Governor JB Pritzker is updating the state’s executive order on the COVID pandemic. Under the requirements now, long-term care facilities in areas with moderate transmission will have to test staff every week who are not up to date with COVID vaccinations. The latest strain, BA.5 can sidestep immunity from previous omicron infections and vaccinations. “There is some early data that suggests people who were infected with earlier variants of BA.1 are actually susceptible to being re-infected with this variant,” said Dr. Egon Ozer, a Northwestern Medicine infectious disease specialist. Doctors say that if people don’t get vaccinated and boosted, the virus could mutate into something much more severe. “Every time there’s a new infection, there is a new opportunity for the variant to emerge and to change further, and we don’t know what that change is going to be,” said Ozer.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker is ending Illinois’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate for college students and faculty and easing some test requirements for unvaccinated healthcare workers, changes that come despite growing concerns about new coronavirus variants that appear more able to evade immunity. Jaline Gerardin, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University who works on virus modeling, expressed skepticism at the latest changes to Pritzker’s COVID-19 protocols. “I would feel more comfortable with relaxing requirements if we had a high-functioning surveillance system and were prepared to make tough decisions based on what it was telling us,” said Gerardin. “Since we don’t know what new variants may come our way, when and where they’ll show up, how our existing natural and/or vaccine-induced immunity may or may not protect us…we could be playing with fire since we are flying blind with respect to being able to quickly understand the on-the-ground situation.”
Tokoya Williams wanted to be a cardiac surgeon when she began medical school. But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer during her last year of medical school – leading to chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction – she was forced to put that plan on hold. Now, about 10 years after she first found a lump in her breast, she’s working as a postdoctoral research fellow for one of her own plastic surgeons, Dr. Robert Galiano, associate professor of plastic surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Patients seeking breast reconstruction have several options, including using implants or using tissue from elsewhere in their bodies. As part of the decision-making process, patients often view photos to get an idea of how each option might look. Williams noticed, however, that it was difficult to find images of women of color who’d undergone the procedures. Williams and Galiano suspect issues related to scarring may be part of the reason for lack of photos. For reasons that aren’t fully understood, Black patients often tend to have more visible scars after surgery than lighter-skinned patients, Galiano said.
For the first time, a pharmaceutical company has asked for permission to sell a birth control pill over the counter in the U.S. Hormone-based pills have long been the most common form of birth control in the U.S., used by millions of women since the 1960s. They have always required a prescription, generally so health professionals can screen for conditions that raise the risk of rare, but dangerous, blood clots. For most women, the drugs are overwhelmingly safe. For every 10,000 women taking combination pills annually, three to nine will suffer a blood clot, according to the FDA data. That compares with one to five clots among 10,000 women who aren’t taking birth control. Medical professionals point out that blood clot rates are much higher in women who become pregnant. “What I definitely see is a misunderstanding of the dangers of these pills. It is much safer to take the pill than to be pregnant” said Dr. Maura Quinlan, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The latest omicron offshoot, BA.5 has quickly become dominant in the United States, and thanks to its elusiveness when encountering the human immune system, is driving a wave of cases across the country. Many people now see the pandemic as part of the fabric of modern life rather than an urgent health emergency. Beyond the direct suffering of such a massive outbreak, there could be economic disruptions as tens of millions of people become too sick to work. “It feels as though everyone has given up,” said Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, an epidemiologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Carnethon said she also isn’t as cautious as she used to be. She is worried she’ll contract the coronavirus again, but doesn’t think a “zero covid” strategy is plausible. Population-level immunity is one reason the virus remains in mutational overdrive. The risk of reinfections has increased because newly emergent subvariants are better able to evade the front-line defense of the immune system, and there is essentially no effort at the community level to limit transmission.
The changing landscape of abortion access across the country has prompted many Americans to turn to the internet for answers, including how to self-manage an unwanted pregnancy at home. Google searches for “DIY abortion” have skyrocketed since the Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year landmark ruling legalizing abortion nationwide. Experts urge pregnant people to stay away from herbal concoctions as they can cause immediate and long-term danger to both the fetus and mother. Dr. Melissa Simon, vice chair for research in the obstetrics and gynecology department at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said, “It breaks my heart that we are here at this point in time where people are going to attempt something that could potentially kill them.” She further shared, “I really hope that people don’t home remedies to accomplish an abortion…It’s extremely dangerous.”
There is a large divide between whether or not most women regret having abortions. However, there is a difference, experts say, between the emotion of regret – for instance, regretting the circumstances around an unwanted pregnancy – and actually feeling that abortion was not the right decision. “When people express sad or complicated or negative emotions, we’re quick to call that regret, but that usually isn’t accurate,” said Katie Watson, associate professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This is the key question: If you had a time machine and you could go back to that moment of unwanted pregnancy, but you can’t change anything else … knowing what you know now, would you make a different decision?” she said. “That’s actually true decisional regret.” According to the research, they found no evidence of emerging negative emotions or abortion decision regret. More than 95 percent of the 667 women studied said having an abortion was the right decision for them, even five years after. Over those five years, relief was the most commonly felt emotion at all times.
The condition of prosopagnosia is not related to memory loss, vision impairment or learning disabilities. Prosopagnosia is only face blindness, not color blindness or overall visual impairment, said Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour, behavioral neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. It’s not the same as forgetfulness or sometimes struggling to find the right word. Prosopagnosia varies in severity; some people with the condition may have trouble recognizing a familiar face, like a friend or family members, while others may not even be able to identify their onw reflections. There is no treatment for the condition, Dr. Bonakdarpour said, but there are ways to manage it. People with prosopagnosia often focus on features like hair color, walking style or voices to tell people apart. People who acquire prosopagnosia later in life, opposed to being born with the condition, may have lesions in the brain as a result of a head injury or trauma. People can also acquire the condition after strokes or as they develop Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Bonakdarpour said.