News from Bioethics.com

CRISPR Gene Editing Can Cause Risky Collateral DNA Damage–Study

12 hours 58 min

(Reuters) – Scientists studying the effects of the potentially game-changing gene editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 have found it can cause unexpected genetic damage which could lead to dangerous changes in some cells.  The findings, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology on Monday, have safety implications for gene therapies that are being developed using CRISPR/Cas9 – a type of molecular scissor technology that can be used to edit DNA.

Genetically Testing Human Embryos: What You Need to Know about the Debate

14 hours 56 min

(The Conversation) – Screening embryos for genetic abnormalities in IVF was first successfully performed in 1989, resulting in the birth of the Munday twins. A test to screen for a specific genetic abnormality was later developed, choosing embryos with the correct number of chromosomes and discarding those with too many or too few. This test is widely used in fertility clinics to increase the chance of live birth and a healthy baby. Whether it should be performed at all, however, is hotly debated.

Egypt Court Finds 37 Guilty at Illegal Organ Trading Trial

1 day 14 hours

(Reuters) – An Egyptian court on Thursday convicted 37 people on charges related to illicit trading in human organs and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from three to 15 years in jail, witnesses said. The Cairo Criminal Court also cleared three people in the case involving a total of 41 people, including doctors, nurses and middlemen who were rounded up during a 2016 raid in which millions of dollars were recovered.

‘Like a Ghost Town’: Erratic Nursing Home Staffing Revealed Through New Records

4 days 18 hours

(Kaiser Health News) – Most nursing homes had fewer nurses and caretaking staff than they had reported to the government, according to new federal data, bolstering the long-held suspicions of many families that staffing levels were often inadequate. The records for the first time reveal frequent and significant fluctuations in day-to-day staffing, with particularly large shortfalls on weekends. On the worst-staffed days at an average facility, the new data show, on-duty personnel cared for nearly twice as many residents as they did when the staffing roster was fullest.

Why the Case of Jahi McMath Is Important for Understanding the Role of Race for Black Patients

4 days 19 hours

(The Conversation) – Much of the popular discussion in the case centered on the family’s refusal to accept the diagnosis of brain death. However, as a philosopher who writes on bioethics and race, I believe an underappreciated aspect of the discussion was the role of race – both in how the medical personnel dealt with the family and how the family interpreted their interactions with the medical establishment.

In Search of a Miracle

4 days 19 hours

(San Francisco Chronicle) – When Luane first considered stem cell therapy for Jordan, she asked his neurologist at Stanford about it. I won’t stop you, the doctor told her, but I can’t recommend it. She knew of other parents who had sought out stem cell therapies, the doctor said. None had seen results. By American standards of medicine, there is no proven stem cell therapy for seizures or autism. Anyone claiming otherwise is offering, at best, an untested treatment with unknown benefits and consequences. At worst, they are selling something they know doesn’t work.

The Untested Drugs at the Heart of Nevada’s Execution Controversy

5 days 19 hours

(Wired) – A district court judge today halted the execution of Nevada death row prisoner Scott Dozier—a man who has repeatedly expressed his desire to die—hours before he was scheduled to be put to death with an untested injection of three drugs: midazolam, fentanyl, and cisatracurium. The temporary injunction hinges on midazolam, a sedative produced by pharmaceutical company Alvogen. It doesn’t want anyone using its drug to kill people, and claims Nevada prison officials obtained the drug illegally. The company has demanded the state return its midazolam supply and not use it in Dozier’s execution.

System for Reporting Suspicious Opioid Orders Repeatedly Failed, Report Finds

5 days 19 hours

(STAT News) – A Senate report released Thursday lays out systematic failures in the reporting system for suspicious opioid orders, faulting some drug distributors and manufacturers for their roles and criticizing the Drug Enforcement Administration for a years-long lull in enforcement actions.

Why Vaccine Opponents Think They Know More Than Medical Experts

5 days 19 hours

(The Conversation) – Given the consistent message from the scientific community about the safety of vaccines, and evidence of vaccine success as seen through the eradication of diseases, why has the skepticism about vaccines continued? One possibility is that attitudes about medical experts help to explain the endorsement of anti-vax attitudes. Specifically, building on past research, our research team contends that some U.S. adults might support anti-vax policy positions in part because they believe they know more than medical experts about autism and its causes. We wanted to test this theory.

Trial of Anti-Ageing Drugs That Rejuvenate Immune System Hailed a Success

5 days 19 hours

(The Guardian) – Scientists have hailed the success of a clinical trial which found that experimental anti-ageing drugs may protect older people from potentially fatal respiratory infections by rejuvenating their immune systems. In a trial involving people aged 65 and over, those who received a combination therapy of two anti-ageing compounds reported nearly half the number of infections over the following year as a control group who received only placebos.

Japan Flood: At Least 179 Dead After Worst Weather in Decades

6 days 15 hours

(BBC) – Japan is still reeling from one of its worst flooding disasters in decades, which has killed at least 179 people and left 70 missing. Torrential rains triggered landslides and floods in central and western areas. More than 8 million people have been ordered to evacuate their homes. The rain has relented but the country is still struggling to deal with the extensive damage left in its wake. This is the highest death toll caused by rainfall in Japan since 1982.

Iceland’s Ethical Debate: Should DNA Donors Be Told if They Are Predisposed to a Deadly Disease?

6 days 16 hours

(Canadian Broadcast Co) – If you knew someone was genetically predisposed to cancer, would you tell them? Dr. Kari Stefansson would. The Icelandic neurologist is the CEO of deCODE Genetics, a company that has collected the DNA of nearly half the country’s population. Using the company’s data, he said that he can pinpoint 1,600 people at risk of deadly cancers in Iceland. The government, however, won’t let him.

Ebola Survivors Suffer Severe Mental and Neurological Problems

6 days 16 hours

(Reuters) – People who survive the deadly Ebola virus can continue to suffer severe psychiatric and neurological problems including depression, debilitating migraines, nerve pain and stroke, according to a study published on Wednesday. Researchers who analyzed patients infected during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa found that some survivors had such severe health conditions that they were left unable to care for themselves.

Swift Gene-Editing Method May Revolutionize Treatments for Cancer and Infectious Diseases

6 days 16 hours

(New York Times) – For the first time, scientists have found a way to efficiently and precisely remove genes from white blood cells of the immune system and to substitute beneficial replacements, all in far less time than it normally takes to edit genes. If the technique can be replicated in other labs, experts said, it may open up profound new possibilities for treating an array of diseases, including cancer, infections like H.I.V. and autoimmune conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Coming Soon to a Lab Near You? Genetically Modified Cannabis

6 days 16 hours

(Nature) – Legal hurdles to exploring marijuana’s medicinal properties might soon fall in the wake of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) first approval of a cannabis-derived drug. On 25 June, the FDA announced its approval of Epidiolex — a treatment for epileptic seizures that is based on a cannabis compound called cannabidiol (CBD). The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has until 24 September to re-classify Epidiolex so that it’s legal for doctors across the country to prescribe it. Many researchers hope that the agency will re-classify CBD itself, instead of just Epidiolex, so that they can more easily study this non-psychedelic component of marijuana.

Teenager at Centre of Kenyan Court Case Over Botched Abortion Has Died

6 days 16 hours

(The Guardian) – A teenager whose botched abortion was at the centre of a high court case in Kenya has died. The girl, who was raped aged 14 and then left with horrific injuries after a backstreet termination, had been the subject of a controversy over whether the Kenyan government was to blame for her death. The girl’s mother and a group of campaigners had filed a case against the government, claiming it had failed to offer the girl – known as JMM – adequate post-abortion care and are calling for the government to reinstate guidelines on safe abortions.

National Academies Panel Urges Researchers to Routinely Share Test Results with Study Participants

6 days 17 hours

(STAT News) – In a report published Tuesday, an expert committee convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that scientists and their institutions should routinely — and carefully — consider whether to return study results to participants. The report, which was sponsored by three of the leading federal health agencies, also recommends revising a federal regulation that’s caused confusion about when it’s permissible to share research findings with a participant.

The Boys Trapped in the Thailand Cave Could Face an Unusual Disease

1 week 17 hours

(ABC News) – As the rescue efforts for the 12 boys and their coach trapped in a flooded Thailand cave have continued, the world has been hoping for the entire group’s safe return to the surface. But after surviving the weather conditions, severe body stresses and unimaginable emotional distress of being trapped for days in dark, wet caverns, the 13 have more challenges ahead. All that time inside the caverns has exposed them to a dangerous and rare infection, often called “cave disease.”

Hormone Therapy Poses Stroke Risk for Transgender Women

1 week 17 hours

(Reuters) – Hormones given to people to align their sex with their gender pose a significant risk of serious blood clots and stroke among transgender women, one of the largest studies of transgender patients has concluded. The risk of a dangerous type of blood clot, called a venous thromboembolism, nearly doubles for people transitioning from male to female compared to both non-transgender men and women, researchers reported in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Dying Organs Restored to Life in Novel Experiments

1 week 18 hours

(New York Times) – Doctors kept her alive with a cumbersome machine that did the work of her heart and lungs. The physicians moved her from Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was born, to Boston Children’s Hospital and decided to try an experimental procedure that had never before been attempted in a human being following a heart attack.  They would take a billion mitochondria — the energy factories found in every cell in the body — from a small plug of Georgia’s healthy muscle and infuse them into the injured muscle of her heart.

The ‘Chicken and Egg’ Reason Why Polio Outbreaks Still Happen

1 week 18 hours

(CNN) – If polio is near extinction, why do outbreaks still pop up in places where the disease was thought to be long gone? The answer is complicated. Global efforts to destroy disease-causing polioviruses have been quite a success story. Cases caused by the wild poliovirus have dropped 99% since 1988, thanks to vaccination efforts and a public-private partnership launched that year called the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Yet some immunization efforts carry the very rare risk of causing polioviruses to circulate in areas where many people might not yet be vaccinated or areas that were poorly vaccinated — an event that could lead to new cases of disease while trying to demolish it.

The Overlooked Emotions of Sperm Donation

1 week 18 hours

(The Atlantic) – There are two well-established ways to go about the process of sperm donation: Prospective parents can use a sperm sample from a friend, acquaintance, or family member (often called a “known” or “directed” donation) or arrange to use a (usually heavily vetted) stranger’s sample through a sperm bank or fertility clinic. Even decades after these practices have become common and their intricacies should theoretically be common knowledge, many of those who opt for sperm donation are still consistently surprised by all the ways it can shape—in some cases straining and, in others, enhancing—family dynamics.

Physicians’ Beliefs May Override Cancer Patients’ Wishes for End-of-Life Care, Study Finds

1 week 18 hours

(STAT News) – Keating, also a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, studies how to deliver high-quality care to patients with cancer. Her latest work examines the factors that contribute to large hospital-by-hospital differences in end-of-life spending for cancer patients. The new study reveals that the variation in the intensity of treatment stems more from the availability of services and physicians’ discomfort navigating end-of-life choices than from patients’ wishes.

State Departments Fail to Offer Cure to 144,000 Inmates with Deadly Hepatitis C

1 week 1 day

(Kaiser Health News) – State prisons across the U.S. are failing to treat at least 144,000 inmates who have hepatitis C, a curable but potentially fatal liver disease, according to a recent survey and subsequent interviews of state corrections departments. Many of the 49 states that responded to questions about inmates with hepatitis C cited high drug prices as the reason for denying treatment. The drugs can cost up to $90,000 for a course of treatment.

Seven Ways IVF Changed the World–from Louise Brown to Stem-Cell Research

1 week 1 day

(The Guardian) – It sounds rather perverse and archaic today to call a child born by IVF a “test-tube baby”. The technique of assisted reproduction has become so widespread and normalised, more than 6 million babies down the road, that there’s nothing so remarkable or stigmatising in having been conceived in a petri dish (“in vitro”means in glass, although test tubes were never involved). In many countries worldwide, 3-6% of all children are now conceived this way.

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