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Top 5 Reads of the Week

Epigenetics and Mental Illness: A study published this week in Molecular Psychiatry found that children who grew up in poverty had increased methylation in the area near the SLC6A4 gene—a gene known to be involved in depression—compared to their wealthier peers. The study suggests that not only genetics, but also environmental factors, influence whether a person develops depression. (Nature)

An Implantable Solution to the Opioid Crisis: In response to the nation’s opioid crisis, one company has devised an implantable solution. The product, Probuphine, is an implant placed under the skin that dispenses buprenorphine, a drug commonly used to treat addiction. The implant’s maker, Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, is so confident in their product that they’re offering patients a rebate if their medical bills are higher than those of patients taking comparable opioid addiction medication. “It’s a bet, in other words, that patients on Probuphine won’t relapse and end up doing a costly stint in rehab or develop expensive conditions like hepatitis C or HIV that disproportionately affect people addicted to opioids,” reports STAT News. The FDA is expected to make a decision about whether to approve the drug this week. (STAT News)

MIT’s Game-Changing Drug Machine: Chemical Engineers at MIT have developed a compact device that can manufacture pharmaceuticals, in some cases faster than a traditional factory. These tiny drug plants could be potentially deployed in combat zones, remote areas, or perhaps even hospitals where pharmacies could produce their own pills as needed.  The machine produces drugs in one continuous process, rather than the multi-step process currently used by drug manufacturers. (NPR)

Fighting Zika with Crowdsourced Computer Power: Biomedical researchers are using idle computers across the globe to learn more about the Zika virus. The World Community Grid divides large processing tasks among over 700,000 volunteered computers, which tackle small chunks of complex data sets. “Every day, the grid computes an amount of data that would take a high-end personal computer 500 years to complete,” reports the Atlantic. (The Atlantic)

Notes on the Medical Education Model: Dr. Dhruv Khullar of MGH believes that teaching hospitals’ emphasis on demonstrating knowledge and projecting confidence discourages budding physicians from thrusting themselves into uncertain situations in order to learn. “We’re educated in a model that demands certitude, confidence and rightness. But we work in a profession imbued with uncertainty. Ultimately, training doctors to grow — instead of show — may lead to more curious physicians, and more honest patient interactions.” (New York Times)

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