News from

Growing Brains in the Lab

8 hours 24 min

(Scientific American) – They are called brain spheroids (or three-dimensional brain cultures or cerebral organoids) and are a relatively new creation. They were first described in a splashy study published in Nature in 2013 and are one of the most technically impressive forms of tissue culture. What brain spheroids are not, however, is as important as what they are. They’re not ‘mini-brains’. They’re not generating thoughts and emotions. Without any sensory input they lack grounding in the physical world. Brain spheroids are also very small.

Syphilis Cases in Newborn Babies Reach 20-Year High, CDC Says

8 hours 55 min

(CNN) – Congenital syphilis cases — when a mother passes syphilis onto her baby during pregnancy or delivery — have more than doubled in the United States since 2013, according to an report released Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eight out of 10 pregnant women who have untreated syphilis will pass it onto their babies through the placenta and this can lead to stillbirth or death of a newborn in up to 40% of affected pregnancies, according to the CDC.

The DNA Detectives Hunting the Causes of Cancer

9 hours 39 min

(Mosaic) – Other parts of the world have their own cancer problems: there are strangely high rates of bowel cancer in Slovakia and Denmark, although they have low rates of liver cancer. People in the Czech Republic are more likely to be stricken by kidney or pancreatic cancer than the populations of neighbouring Austria and Poland. Do these differences lie in inherited genetic variations, or is it something to do with lifestyle? Is there an unknown carcinogen lurking in the environment? Or maybe it’s a bit of all three? The wild differences in rates of cancer across the world is a mystery – but a crack team of detectives is on the case.

Mosquitoes Genetically Modified to Crash Species That Spreads Malaria

9 hours 44 min

(NPR) – For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that a controversial new kind of genetic engineering can rapidly spread a self-destructive genetic modification through a complex species. The scientists used the revolutionary gene-editing tool known as CRISPR to engineer mosquitoes with a “gene drive,” which rapidly transmitted a sterilizing mutation through other members of the mosquito’s species. After mosquitoes carrying the mutation were released into cages filled with unmodified mosquitoes in a high-security basement laboratory in London, virtually all of the insects were wiped out, according to a report in Nature Biotechnology.

The Future of DIY Abortion Is the Internet, Not a Back-Alley Doctor

1 day 8 hours

(The Verge) – For many people, the phrase “illegal abortion” calls to mind images of back alley clinics, medical providers with questionable credentials, and, of course, the dreaded coat hanger — an object so evocative it’s often been used as a protest symbol. But those images are outdated, belonging to a pre-Roe era. These days, the real action in abortion is now online, as a group of reproductive rights activists use the internet to spread the word about how to use abortion pills. They hope to give pregnant people living in places where abortion is nearly inaccessible, or outright illegal, access to safe and effective ways to take charge of their own fertility.

Feds Target Misuse of Database on Clinical Trials by Stem Cell Firms, Others

1 day 9 hours

(San Francisco Chronicle) – Federal authorities unveiled plans Thursday to clamp down on misuse of a government-run database of clinical trials that for-profit clinics — many of them selling unproven stem cell therapies — use as a marketing tool to draw customers. The database,, is a massive clearinghouse for research studies, most of them testing the safety or efficacy of new drugs or medical devices in human subjects. Scientists have warned in recent years that for-profit companies, especially in the rapidly growing consumer stem cell industry, are listing clinical trials that are not federally sanctioned and don’t meet basic standards for how trials should be conducted.

County Jails Struggle to Treat Mentally Ill Inmates

4 days 11 hours

(NPR) – According to federal data from 2011 to 2012, more than 40 percent of jail inmates reported having been told by a mental health professional that they had a mental health disorder. And while about 1 in 4 jail inmates met the threshold for having serious psychological distress at the time of the survey, only about a third of those were receiving treatment for it.

Parents Are Leery of Schools Requiring ‘Mental Health’ Disclosures by Students

4 days 11 hours

(NPR) – Children registering for school in Florida this year were asked to reveal some history about their mental health. The new requirement is part of a law rushed through the state legislature after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The state’s school districts now must ask whether a child has ever been referred for mental health services on registration forms for new students.

Tiny Human Esophagus Grown in the Lab–Here’s Why

4 days 12 hours

(National Geographic) – Here’s something to digest: Scientists in Cincinnati have grown miniature versions of an esophagus, the organ responsible for guiding your food to your stomach. And in a first, they did it entirely using human stem cells. Called organoids, these tiny balls of lab-grown tissue resemble a real human esophagus, the researchers report today in the journal Cell Stem Cell. Previously, scientists succeeded in growing all sorts of organoids—stomachs, kidneys, brains, and even an esophagus made using mature patient tissue as the starting material.

Scientists Create Immature Human Eggs from Stem Cells

4 days 12 hours

(NPR) – Scientists say they have taken a potentially important — and possibly controversial — step toward creating human eggs in a lab dish. A team of Japanese scientists turned human blood cells into stem cells, which they then transformed into very immature human eggs. The eggs are far too immature to be fertilized or make a baby. And much more research would be needed to create eggs that could be useful — and safe — for human reproduction. But the work, reported Thursday in the journal Science, is seen by other scientists as an important development.

Do IVF And Other Infertility Tech Lead to Health Risks for the Baby? Maybe

5 days 8 hours

(NPR) – Quinn, an infertility specialist and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles, now has a new hazard to consider. According to research published this month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, children conceived through certain infertility treatments may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Parents shouldn’t panic, the study’s authors say: The findings are preliminary, and the study cohort was fairly small. Still, they say, it means that families who used infertility treatments should be particularly vigilant about screening for high blood pressure in their children and help them avoid other cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

Human Skeletal Stem Cells Found

5 days 8 hours

(The Scientist) – Three years after its discovery of skeletal stem cells in mice, the same research team has identified the human version of this precursor to bone, cartilage, and stroma, the bone marrow’s support cells. In a study published today (September 20) in Cellthe authors show that these skeletal stem cells are both self-renewing and multipotent.

Far More Indians Kill Themselves Than Previously Assumed

5 days 9 hours

(The Economist) – Police say the deaths were a mass suicide, most likely prompted by occult beliefs. Yet, strange though the incident appeared, the Chundawats’ death was only one of numerous collective suicides across India this summer. In July in the state of Jharkhand alone, two families killed themselves, driven by the more prosaic motive of despair over debt. Suicide is often seen as a rich-world problem, but is all too common in India.

Why Some Hurricanes Are Most Deadly after the Storm

5 days 9 hours

(Quartz) – Thousands of people were killed by Hurricane Maria, which blasted Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017 with devastating results. But the Puerto Rican government has only publicly identified 64 victims. In the weeks and months after the hurricane, reporters from Quartz, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Associated Press set out to find the victims left out of the official death toll. We found 487—the most extensive record yet of who died and why because of Maria. Here is how our count compares to the government’s

Changing Dynamics of the Drug Overdose Epidemic in the United States from 1979 through 2016

5 days 9 hours

(Science) – Better understanding of the dynamics of the current U.S. overdose epidemic may aid in the development of more effective prevention and control strategies. We analyzed records of 599,255 deaths from 1979 through 2016 from the National Vital Statistics System in which accidental drug poisoning was identified as the main cause of death. By examining all available data on accidental poisoning deaths back to 1979 and showing that the overall 38-year curve is exponential, we provide evidence that the current wave of opioid overdose deaths (due to prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl) may just be the latest manifestation of a more fundamental longer-term process.

A Man Says His DNA Test Proves He’s Black, and He’s Suing

6 days 7 hours

(The Atlantic) – In its four-decade existence, the DBE program has long wrestled with questions of how to determine if someone is a minority. Proof of race and ethnicity “has been a thorn in the side of the DBE program for years,” said a 2001 article in the magazine Government Contractor. But Taylor’s case appears to be the first time, according to Jennifer Sommerville, a lawyer who has written about DBEs, that DNA evidence has come up in a lawsuit over eligibility for the program. According to several legal experts I spoke with, it might also be the first time a genetic test is being cited as evidence of race in any type of court case.

From Syria to Southern California: Refugees Seek Care for Wounds of War

6 days 8 hours

(Kaiser Health News) – Syrian refugees struggle disproportionately with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression because of their exposure to extreme violence and anxiety about relatives still in Syria, clinic staff and community volunteers say. Most who have fled spent years holed up in camps or apartments, with little access to routine medical care for war wounds or chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Virtually all of the people who enter this country as part of the federal government’s refugee resettlement program qualify by income for Medicaid, the government-run health insurance program for low-income people (known as Medi-Cal in California).

Thousands of Foster Children May Be Getting Psychiatric Drugs Without Safeguards, Watchdog Agency Says

6 days 8 hours

(STAT News) – A report released Monday by the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office found that about 1 in 3 foster kids from a sample of states were prescribed psychiatric drugs without treatment plans or follow-up, standard steps in sound medical care. Kids getting mood-altering drugs they don’t need is only part of the problem. Investigators also said children who need medication to help them function at school or get along in social settings may be going untreated.

Unprecedented Medical Case Shows How 4 People Got Cancer from Just One Organ Donor

6 days 8 hours

(Science Alert) – It’s a devastating case that serves as the medical warning we didn’t even know we needed. An organ donor didn’t just pass on her kidneys, lungs, liver, and heart to five desperate recipients – she also unknowingly bequeathed her undetected, malignant cancer at the same time. In doing so, this insidious transmission – which scientists only discovered months later – ended up killing three of the patients, researchers report in what they describe as an unprecedented, “extraordinary case”.

Study: Drug Companies Hike Prices During Shortages

6 days 8 hours

(UPI) – Pharmaceutical companies appear to be engaging in price gouging during drug shortages, with costs rising at double the normal rate when medications are in limited supply, a new study claims. Prices can be expected to rise about 20 percent for drugs facing a shortage, but only about 9 percent for medicines in good supply, researchers report.

Denied ‘Life-Extending Opportunities’: Black Patients Are Being Left Out of Clinical Trials Amid Wave of New Cancer Therapies

6 days 8 hours

(STAT News) – The Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2015 after patients in a clinical trial gained an average of six months without their cancer spreading. That trial, though, had a major shortcoming: its racial composition. One out of five people diagnosed with multiple myeloma in the U.S. is black, and African-Americans are more than twice as likely as white Americans to be diagnosed with the cancer. Yet of the 722 participants in the trial, only 13 — or 1.8 percent — were black. The scarcity of black patients in Ninlaro’s testing left unanswered the vital question of whether the drug would work equally well for them.

The Arbitrary 10-Year Time Limit for Women Who’ve Frozen Their Eggs

1 week 7 hours

(Quartz) – But women in the UK who attempt to plan ahead face a particular hurdle. The law mandates that eggs frozen for “social” reason can only be kept for 10 years, after which they must be destroyed. Eggs harvested for medical reasons, and sperm, can be kept for 55 years.

Physician Burnout Taking Center Stage

1 week 8 hours

(Reuters) – The medical establishment may finally be coming to grips with the issue of physician burnout. The evidence: two studies on the topic reported in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. One study found that nearly half of junior physicians were already having burnout symptoms at least one day a week. The other study underscored how hard it is to assess the problem. After reviewing previous studies, researchers found huge variations in definitions of burnout and estimated rates among doctors, which ranged from 0 to 80 percent.

AbbVie Is Accused of Paying Kickbacks, Using a Stealthy Network of Nurses to Promote Humira

1 week 8 hours

(STAT News) – Over a five-year period, the drug maker offered physicians a familiar menu of tempting items, from cash, meals and drinks, to gifts and trips, along with patient referrals, in hopes they would write more prescriptions for its Humira rheumatoid arthritis treatment, a $12.3 billion seller in the U.S. last year. However, AbbVie also engaged in an allegedly more nefarious practice in which registered nurses were hired to act as “ambassadors” to visit patients at home and help with administering the drug, but instead were used to ensure that prescriptions were continually refilled, the lawsuit stated.

Why Your DNA Is Still Uncharted Territory

1 week 8 hours

(New York Times) – You have a gene called PNMA6F. All people do, but no one knows the purpose of that gene or the protein it makes. And as it turns out, PNMA6F has a lot of company in that regard. In a study published Tuesday in PLOS Biology, researchers at Northwestern University reported that of our 20,000 protein-coding genes, about 5,400 have never been the subject of a single dedicated paper. Most of our other genes have been almost as badly neglected, the subjects of minor investigation at best. A tiny fraction — 2,000 of them — have hogged most of the attention, the focus of 90 percent of the scientific studies published in recent years.


Creative Commons License