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WHO Hopes Yemeni Cholera Outbreak Is Half Done at 218,000

13 hours 39 min

(Reuters) – A major cholera outbreak in Yemen may have reached the halfway mark at 218,798 cases as a massive emergency response has begun to curb its spread two months into the epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday. Two years into a devastating civil war between a Saudi-led coalition and Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, Yemen became a perfect breeding ground for the disease, which spreads by faeces getting into food or water and thrives in places with poor sanitation.

Human Trafficking: US Downgrades China over Record

13 hours 41 min

(BBC) – China “is not making significant efforts” to stop human trafficking, the US says, claiming that fewer people are now being prosecuted than before. The US Department of State released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report on Thursday, and downgraded China to one of the worst offenders. The reports highlights the forced labour of Uighur people in China’s restive Xinjiang province. There has been no response from China, which could now face sanctions.

Court Rules Hospital Can Withdraw Life Support for Sick Baby Charlie Gard

13 hours 52 min

(CNN) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday a hospital can discontinue life support to a baby suffering from a rare genetic disease. Born in August, Charlie Gard has a rare genetic disorder known as mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. Caused by a genetic mutation, it leads to weakened muscles and organ dysfunction, among other symptoms, with a poor prognosis for most patients. Charlie is on life support and has been in the intensive care unit at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London since October. His doctors wish to take him off life support, but his parents disagree.

STAT Forecast: Opioids Could Kill Nearly 500,000 Americans in the Next Decade

13 hours 57 min

(STAT News) – Opioids could kill nearly half a million people across America over the next decade as the crisis of addiction and overdose accelerates. Deaths from opioids have been rising sharply for years, and drug overdoses already kill more Americans under age 50 than anything else. STAT asked leading public health experts at 10 universities to forecast the arc of the epidemic over the next decade. The consensus: It will get worse before it gets better. There are now nearly 100 deaths a day from opioids, a swath of destruction that runs from tony New England suburbs to the farm country of California, from the beach towns of Florida to the Appalachian foothills.

Insurers Battle Families over Costly Drug for Fatal Diseases

14 hours 6 min

(The New York Times) – The desperation in Mrs. Hoke’s voice reflects a sobering reality for families of boys with the disease since their elation last fall over the drug’s approval. Because the Food and Drug Administration overruled its own experts — who weren’t convinced the Exondys 51 had shown sufficiently good results — and gave the drug conditional approval, many insurers are now declining to cover it or are imposing severe restrictions that render patients ineligible. The story of Exondys 51 raises complex and emotionally charged questions about what happens when the F.D.A. approves an expensive drug based on a lower bar of proof. In practice, health insurers have taken over as gatekeeper in determining who will get the drug.

Fertility Exploitation: The Couples Paying a High Price for Wanting a Baby

14 hours 18 min

(The Telegraph) – Yesterday it was revealed that some NHS hospitals were charging up to 40 per cent over the odds for private IVF treatment. And in another study researchers from Oxford University found that almost all of the additional treatments that are sold alongside IVF to boost its success have no scientific backing and the results were published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Research on Male Animals Prevents Women from Getting Best Drugs

14 hours 36 min

(New Scientist) – Women are missing out on optimum medical treatment because most pre-clinical drug research is done in male animals, a new study suggests. New drugs must be evaluated in animals before being considered for human trials. Over three-quarters of these studies use only male animals because of concerns that female hormone cycles will affect experiments. It is also widely assumed that what works for males will work for females. However, research by Natasha Karp at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge and her colleagues casts doubt on this assumption.

The Fertility Doctor Trying to Commercialize Three-Parent Babies

1 day 12 hours

(MIT Technology Review) – A U.S. fertility doctor has started a company with a provocative vision for older women: become pregnant by having their DNA shifted into a young woman’s egg. The company, Darwin Life, was quietly established last year by John Zhang, also founder of a New York City clinic called New Hope Fertility Center, to deploy a cutting-edge fertility technology called “spindle nuclear transfer.” Originally developed as a way to prevent women from passing certain rare diseases on to their children, Zhang says it can also be used to create rejuvenated eggs.

Scientists Take New Approach to Fighting Type I Diabetes

1 day 12 hours

(The Wall Street Journal) – In the past few years, scientists have made significant progress in their efforts to free patients from insulin therapy. Researchers have learned more about how to generate insulin-producing cells in a laboratory and place them into patients, while protecting the cells from the immune system, which would ordinarily reject them. Some are reprogramming the patient’s own cells to retrain them to fight the disease.

Bluebird Bio’s Gene Therapy for Blood Disorders Yields Some Impressive Results — But Also Raises Questions

1 day 13 hours

(STAT News) – The field of gene therapy is making significant strides towards the day when a one-time treatment ? inserting a healthy gene into patients ? could cure a host of inherited, often fatal diseases. But it’s been a rocky road. And new clinical data presented this morning by Bluebird Bio make clear that success is far from guaranteed. Bluebird is testing a gene therapy for two inherited blood disorders ? and the data managed both to impress and to leave important questions unanswered.

Protect Children from Online Cosmetic Surgery Apps, Say Campaigners

4 days 9 hours

(The Guardian) – Children as young as nine are the target of cosmetic surgery apps and makeover games that are likely to make them feel dissatisfied with their own faces and bodies, a new report warns. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is calling for social media sites to investigate the apps and take them down, warning that they have a pernicious effect on the young, who may be tempted to go under the knife. “We’ve been shocked by some of the evidence we’ve seen, including makeover apps and cosmetic surgery ‘games’ that target girls as young as nine,” said Jeanette Edwards, professor of social anthropology at the University of Manchester, who chaired the council’s inquiry.

The New War on Sepsis

4 days 9 hours

(Kaiser Health News) – Nagel is among a new breed of nurses devoted to caring for patients with sepsis, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s attempt to fight an infection causes widespread inflammation. She has a clear mission: identify and treat those patients quickly to minimize their chance of death. Nagel administers antibiotics, draws blood for testing, gives fluids and closely monitors her charges — all on a very tight timetable.

Swiss to Allow Genetic Testing of In-Vitro Embryos from September

4 days 9 hours

(The Local) – The testing of in-vitro embryos for serious hereditary conditions will finally be allowed in Switzerland from September 1st. The date was confirmed by the Swiss government on Wednesday after the Swiss public approved the move in a referendum in June 2016, becoming the last country in Europe to do so. The law on medically assisted reproduction will be changed to allow pre-implantation genetic diagnosis – the testing of embryos during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) before they are implanted in the womb.

Patients Are Experimenting with Ketamine to Treat Depression

6 days 13 hours

(Wired) – Doctors still don’t fully understand how depression works, which makes studying and developing new treatments all the more challenging. “We don’t know how any of these meds work on the brain,” says Mandel. “We know about as much about ketamine as we do about any of the others. We do know that ketamine tends to cause new growth in the brain.”

EU Court: Vaccines Can Be Blamed for Illness without Scientific Evidence

6 days 13 hours

(CNN) – The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled Wednesday that courts may consider vaccines to be the cause of an illness, even in the absence of scientific evidence confirming a link. The EU’s highest court said that if the development of a disease is timely to the person’s receiving a vaccine, if the person was previously health with a lack of history of the disease in their family and if a significant number of disease cases are reported among people receiving a certain vaccine, this may serve as enough proof.

New Concerns Raised over Value of Genome-Wide Disease Studies

6 days 13 hours

(Nature) – Compare the genomes of enough people with and without a disease, and genetic variants linked to the malady should pop out. So runs the philosophy behind genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which researchers have used for more than a decade to find genetic ties to diseases such as schizophrenia and rheumatoid arthritis. But a provocative analysis now calls the future of that strategy into question — and raises doubts about whether funders should pour more money into these experiments. GWAS are fast expanding to encompass hundreds of thousands, even millions, of patients (see ‘The genome-wide tide’). But biologists are likely to find that larger studies turn up more and more genetic variants — or ‘hits’ — that have minuscule influences on disease, says Jonathan Pritchard, a geneticist at Stanford University in California.

Syria War: Polio Paralyses 17 Children in Mayadin and Raqqa

1 week 12 hours

(BBC) – Seventeen children have been paralysed by polio following an outbreak of the disease in Syria that the World Health Organization says is “very serious”. Earlier this month, the agency reported two polio cases in the Mayadin area of Deir al-Zour province, much of which is controlled by so-called Islamic State. Fourteen new cases have now been confirmed in the same area, while another was recorded in Raqqa province. It is the first re-emergence of polio in the war-torn country since 2014.

Many Cyberattacks in Health Care Never Publicly Disclosed

1 week 12 hours

(Managed Care Magazine) – The federal government says that hospitals and other organizations that process or store patient health care information must report cyber breaches to HHS. But the rules are murky, and some of the worst cyberattacks have not been brought to light, the Wall Street Journal reports. The newspaper focuses on attacks by hackers using ransomware, which keeps the data under lock until the victim organizations pay up. So, technically, no patient medical information is released in such circumstances, which means health care organizations can avoid the embarrassment—as well as the competitive and financial fallout—that making such an attack public knowledge would generate.

Wombs for Rent: Indian Surrogacy Clinic Confines Women in “Terrible Conditions”, Say Police

1 week 12 hours

(Thomas Reuters Foundation) – Police raided an illegal fertility clinic in southern Indian at the weekend and discovered 47 surrogate mothers – who had been lured to rent their wombs for money – living in “terrible conditions”, they said. Following a tip-off, Telangana state police raided the fertility clinic in the city of Hyderabad on Saturday and discovered the women, nearly all from northeastern India. “The women were all huddled in one large room and had access to just one bathroom,” investigating officer B. Limba Reddy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.

Michelle Carter Found Guilty in Texting Suicide Case

1 week 1 day

(Boston Globe) – Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter Friday by a judge who ruled that the young woman recklessly goaded her boyfriend into suicide with a series of phone calls and texts, and then failed to help him. Carter was 17 when she urged 18-year-old Conrad Roy III to kill himself in July 2014 even after he told her he was too scared to go through with the act.

State Attorneys General Probe Opioid Drug Companies

1 week 1 day

(Reuters) – A bipartisan group of state attorneys general announced on Thursday that they are jointly investigating the marketing and sales practices of drug companies that manufacture opioid painkillers at the center of a national addiction epidemic. Attorneys general from states including Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania announced the investigation two weeks after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine sued five drug manufacturers for misrepresenting the risks of opioids.

What If (almost) Every Gene Affects (almost) Everything?

1 week 4 days

(The Atlantic) – The Stanford trio call this the “omnigenic model.” In the simplest terms, they’re saying that most genes matter for most things. More specifically, it means that all the genes that are switched on in a particular type of cell—say, a neuron or a heart muscle cell—are probably involved in almost every complex trait that involves those cells. So, for example, nearly every gene that’s switched on in neurons would play some role in defining a person’s intelligence, or risk of dementia, or propensity to learn. Some of these roles may be starring parts. Others might be mere cameos. But few genes would be left out of the production altogether.

To Improve IVF, These Scientists Are Looking at Adding Some Womb Fluids

1 week 4 days

(STAT News) – Data have shown that infants conceived via IVF are at a slightly higher risk for some birth defects and genetic disorders, and are more likely to be born at low birth weight. One possible cause for these differences is epigenetics — that is, the markers that turn genes on and off. Scientists have noticed that IVF embryos have subtly different epigenetic patterns than naturally conceived embryos. And one of the prime differences between the process of IVF and natural conception is the early embryonic environment. So, researchers trying to improve IVF have begun looking at how to make the Petri dish environment more like that of the fallopian tubes.

Texas Has Sanctioned Unapproved Stem Cell Therapies. Will It Change Anything?

1 week 4 days

(Science) – Texas Governor Greg Abbott yesterday signed a bill allowing clinics and companies in the state to offer people unproven stem cell interventions without the testing and approval required under federal law. Like the “right to try” laws that have sprung up in more than 30 states, the measure is meant to give desperately ill patients access to experimental treatments without oversight from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Cell Therapies Getting Second Chance in Parkinson’s

1 week 4 days

(MedPage Today) – Two clinical trials using cell therapies to treat Parkinson’s disease, one using fetal tissue and one using cells derived from embryonic stem cells (ESCs), seek to learn from the mixed results of earlier work using fetal tissue to prove cells can deliver dopamine to Parkinson patients with fewer side effects and less “off” time than current therapy, researchers reported on a panel here.


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