News from Bioethics.com

When Life Is a Fate Worse than Death

2 days 21 hours

(The Guardian) – Karen Ann Quinlan lived two lives. Her first life was that of a regular middle-class girl in Scranton, Pennsylvania: she swam, she skied, she dated, she attended mass with her family, she went to high school, and she worked at a local ceramics company. However, this life changed after she was laid off from her job. Soon after, she found herself moving from job to job, and increasingly found comfort in sedative pills and alcohol.

Adderall Might Improve Your Test Scores–But So Could a Placebo

3 days 19 hours

(New Scientist) – Students who take Adderall to improve their test scores may get a slight benefit, but it’s mainly a placebo effect. The drug Adderall is a combination of the stimulants amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, and is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But it’s growing in popularity as a study drug in the US, where around a third of college students are thought to try using prescription stimulants for non-medical reasons. But does it work? Rachel Fargason, a psychiatrist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, says the idea of stimulants as cognitive enhancers didn’t tally with her experience of patients who were diagnosed incorrectly.

HIV Drug Resistance Could Undermine Progress in AIDS Battle: WHO

3 days 19 hours

(Reuters) – Rising levels of resistance to HIV drugs could undermine promising progress against the global AIDS epidemic if effective action is not taken early, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.  Already in six out of 11 countries surveyed in Africa, Asia and Latin America for a WHO-led report, researchers found that more than 10 percent of HIV patients starting antiretroviral drugs had a strain resistant to the most widely-used medicines.

First Double Hand Transplant Involving a Child Declared a Success

3 days 19 hours

(The Guardian) – After almost 11 hours of surgery involving four teams of doctors, Zion Harvey had earned his place in medical history. The eight-year-old had become the first child in the world to receive two new hands in a procedure that seemed to herald a revolution in transplant medicine. Two years on, the sports-mad boy from Baltimore, Maryland, is enjoying the freedom and independence his new hands have given him. In the first medical journal report of Zion’s pioneering treatment, published on Wednesday, the experts involved declare the operation a success and say other children could benefit from the knowledge gained.

AI Could Revolutionize War as Much as Nukes

3 days 19 hours

(Wired) – In 1899, the world’s most powerful nations signed a treaty at The Hague that banned military use of aircraft, fearing the emerging technology’s destructive power. Five years later the moratorium was allowed to expire, and before long aircraft were helping to enable the slaughter of World War I. “Some technologies are so powerful as to be irresistible,” says Greg Allen, a fellow at the Center for New American Security, a non-partisan Washington DC think tank. “Militaries around the world have essentially come to the same conclusion with respect to artificial intelligence.”

At Clinicatrials.gov Untested Stem Cell Clinics Advertise for Free!

4 days 20 hours

(Wired) – Advocates of the therapy say that’s just the cost of doing cutting-edge medicine. Except, any proof they have that it is effective comes from data collected on patients who pay thousands of dollars for the treatment. Usually people pay money for medicine after there’s proof it works. In the last few years, some of these stem cell clinicians have begun posting large-scale studies on a government-run website called ClinicalTrials.gov, even though they’re often not up to medical research standards or even in compliance with federal regulations. This allows them to masquerade their pay-to-participate studies as legit science.

At a Growing Number of Schools, Sick Kids Can Take a Virtual Trip to the Doctor

4 days 20 hours

(STAT News) – School nurses offer far more than just Band-Aids these days. As the prevalence of childhood conditions like asthma and diabetes have risen, nurses treat a wide range of problems. Still, only an estimated 40 percent of U.S. schools have a full-time nurse, according to the National Association of School Nurses. But now telemedicine — virtual doctor visits over video — is increasingly helping nurses do their jobs. Telemedicine programs are making inroads in schools, where a student referred to the nurse can be plopped in front of a screen and connected with a physician. Special computer-connected otoscopes and stethoscopes allow doctors to check ears, noses, throats, and heartbeats from afar.

Stem Cell Therapy for Heart Failure Gets a Gold-Standard Trial

4 days 20 hours

(Scientific American) – A cadre of scientists and companies is now trying to prevent or reverse cardiac damage by infusing a cocktail of stem cells into weakened hearts. One company, Melbourne, Australia–based Mesoblast, is already in late-stage clinical trials, treating hundreds of chronic heart failure patients with stem cell precursors drawn from healthy donors’ hip bones. A randomized trial that includes a placebo group is scheduled to complete enrollment next year.

U.S. Expert Visits London Hospital to Examine Baby Charlie Gard

5 days 17 hours

(Reuters) – A U.S doctor offering experimental treatment to a critically ill British baby visited the London hospital where he is being treated on Monday as part of a last-ditch attempt to persuade a judge to keep the boy’s life support switched on.  The parents of Charlie Gard, who has a rare genetic condition causing progressive muscle weakness and brain damage, have been fighting a legal battle to send him to the United States for the neurologist’s experimental therapy.

‘We Are All Mutants Now’: the Trouble with Genetic Testing

5 days 18 hours

(The Guardian) – When scientists test for mutations in large numbers of genes with a single test, known as a gene panel, they are virtually guaranteed to find at least one [variant of unknown significance], says Colleen Caleshu, a genetic counsellor at Stanford University’s Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease. “The more genes you look at, the more variation you’ll find,” she adds. “We all have tons of variations in our genes, most of which are extremely rare and, by the very nature of rarity, uninterpretable.” In short, there isn’t enough data to know what you are seeing.

Prenatal Testing Spots Genetic Anomalies Linked to Miscarriage

5 days 18 hours

(New Scientist) – A blood test can scan a fetus’s entire genome for chromosomal abnormalities at 10 weeks of pregnancy. An extension of the non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) for Down’s syndrome, the test could identify pregnancies that should be monitored more closely as they are at a higher risk of miscarriage or complications. Chromosomal abnormalities occur in around 1 in 1000 births. The most common are Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau syndrome, which are caused by carrying an extra copy of a chromosome – chromosome 21 in the case of Down’s. These can all be detected by the form of NIPT currently offered by private clinics in the UK, US and Australia. This test is also set to be offered by the UK National Health Service from next year.

Charlie Gard Case Threatens All Parents

6 days 17 hours

(USA Today) – By virtue of the deep bonds between parents and their children, Charlie’s parents are the ones most directly responsible for him, most invested in his well-being and most profoundly affected by his fate. The primary authority of parents to make decisions on their children’s behalf is widely recognized as a matter of principle and explicitly articulated in law. The United State Supreme Court has recognized the rights of parents in cases like Meyer v. Nebraska, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, and Wisconsin v. Yoder. Likewise, the European Convention of Human Rights (Article 8) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 12) recognize the right to be free from arbitrary interference in private and family life. By contrast, one of the hallmarks of totalitarian regimes is the elimination of genuine parental decision-making authority and family privacy.

Panel Calls on FDA to Review Safety of Opoiod Painkillers

6 days 18 hours

(ABC News) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should review the safety and effectiveness of all opioids, and consider the real-world impacts the powerful painkillers have, not only on patients, but also on families, crime and the demand for heroin. That’s the conclusion of a sweeping report Thursday from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. It urges the FDA to bolster a public health approach that already has resulted in one painkiller being pulled from the market. Last week, the maker of opioid painkiller Opana ER withdrew its drug at the FDA’s request following a 2015 outbreak of HIV and hepatitis C in southern Indiana linked to sharing needles to inject the pills.

Fewer U.S. Hospitals Can Care for Children

1 week 2 days

(Reuters) – In Massachusetts, a child who winds up in an emergency room – whether for a routine or a serious problem – is likely to be transferred to a second hospital for care, a “potentially concerning” trend that’s being reported by physicians throughout the United States, researchers say. At the root, they maintain, is the disappearance of pediatric community hospital care.

Some Doctors Were Handing Out Opioids Like Candy. The Justice Department Just Shut Them Down.

1 week 2 days

(Vox) – The US Department of Justice just took what it calls its biggest action against opioid-related fraud ever. The department announced Thursday that it’s charged 120 people with opioid-related crimes. That includes doctors who were allegedly running pill mills in which they unscrupulously prescribed opioids to patients. It also includes fraudulent treatment centers, which attract customers with promises of treatment for their addiction and then offer shoddy, ineffective services — if any at all.

China’s Sperm Count Problem Has Created a Billion-Dollar Market

1 week 2 days

(Bloomberg) – A paradox has emerged in China: As the country finally relaxes its one-child policy, factors like lower sperm counts, later pregnancies and other health barriers are making it harder for many to get pregnant. As a result, businesses from China to Australia, and even California are lining up to help — and profit from — the growing market of hopeful prospective parents.

The Truth about China’s Cash-for-Publication Policy

1 week 3 days

(MIT Technology Review) – These guys have surveyed the financial incentives offered by the top 100 universities in China and mined that data for interesting trends. They say that cash-per-publication incentives are common and that scientists who publish in the top Western journals can earn in excess of $100,000 per paper. What’s more, there are already worrying signs that these financial rewards are skewing the process of science in China.

Stem Cells in Sports Medicine: Ready for Prime Time?

1 week 3 days

(Medscape) – That’s the environment now in which orthopedic sports medicine specialists must operate. Right now, everyone loves the phrase “stem cells.” It means hope for people who haven’t found any relief for an ailment, whether it is arthritis, spinal cord injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Crohn’s disease. Unfortunately, unscrupulous physicians are taking advantage of the hype and cashing in on these patients’ desperation.

A Stem Cell Transplant Helped Beat Back a Young Doctor’s Cancer. Now, It’s Assaulting His Body.

1 week 3 days

(Science) – Wartman’s condition is severe but not unusual. GVHD affects up to half of the more than 30,000 people worldwide each year who receive an immune system transplanted from a donor, as either bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells. The number of transplants—and cases of GVHD—are increasing, yet treatments have not kept pace. Steven Pavletic, who heads the Graft-versus-Host and Autoimmunity Section at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, says the standard treatments—corticosteroids such as prednisone—”carpet bomb” the immune system, causing a host of side effects and weakening the immune response to potentially deadly infections.

F.D.A. Panel Recommends Approval for Gene-Altering Leukemia Treatment

1 week 4 days

(New York Times) – A Food and Drug Administration panel opened a new era in medicine on Wednesday, unanimously recommending that the agency approve the first-ever treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own cells to fight leukemia, transforming them into what scientists call “a living drug” that powerfully bolsters the immune system to shut down the disease. If the F.D.A. accepts the recommendation, which is likely, the treatment will be the first gene therapy ever to reach the market.

U.N. Slams Warring Parties in Yemen for Fueling Cholera Outbreak

1 week 4 days

(Reuters) – Top United Nations officials on Wednesday slammed the warring parties in Yemen and their international allies for fueling an unprecedented deadly cholera outbreak, driving millions closer to famine and hindering humanitarian aid access. Since the end of April, the World Health Organization said there have been more than 320,000 suspected cases of cholera – a disease that causes uncontrollable diarrhea – and 1,742 deaths across more than 90 percent of the Arabian Peninsula country.

Lights, Camera, CRISPR: Biologists Use Gene Editing to Store Movies in DNA

1 week 4 days

(Nature) – Internet users have a variety of format options in which to store their movies, and biologists have now joined the party. Researchers have used the microbial immune system CRISPR–Cas to encode a movie into the genome of the bacterium Escherichia coli. The technical achievement, reported on 12 July in Nature, is a step towards creating cellular recording systems that are capable of encoding a series of events, says Seth Shipman, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. While studying brain development, Shipman became frustrated by the lack of a technique to capture how cells in the brain take on distinct identities. This inspired him to explore the possibility of making cellular recorders.

Rare Cancer Reignites Debate Over Breast Implants’ Safety

1 week 4 days

(Philadelphia Inquirer) – The lymphoma has been tied both to saline and gel implants, both for enlargement and for reconstruction after breast cancer. Nearly all patients, including Arreola, had textured rather than smooth implants. The roughness may trigger chronic inflammation. However rare the mysterious cancer, its significance is huge. For the first time since implants were introduced in the 1960s, medical authorities, including the World Health Organization, agree that the prosthetics give rise to a disease in susceptible women.

Blood from Young Animals Can Revitalize Old Ones

1 week 4 days

(The Economist) – “The technique itself is kind of gross and crude,” admits Michael Conboy, a biologist and parabiosis researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. Perhaps for that reason, research had more or less died out by the late 1970s. These days, though, it is back in the news—for a string of recent discoveries have suggested that previous generations of researchers were on to something. The blood of young animals, it seems, may indeed be able to ameliorate at least some of the effects of ageing. And the technique is promising enough to have spawned human clinical trials.

Cambodian Women Who Were Married without Consent Are Sharing Their Horror Stories in Court

1 week 5 days

(Quartz) – For years, the tribunal had overlooked the crime of forced marriages amid mass killings and other forms of human rights violations. It was only in August 2016 that the tribunal first heard cases of forced marriages. The proceedings were completed by mid-October and a provisional judgment may be delivered in late 2017. Forced marriages were used as a dominant tool by the Khmer Rouge regime to increase the next generation of workers for labor power. They were partly designed to double the population size to 20 million within a decade.

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