(CNN) – A 24-year-old Dubai native has become the first woman to give birth after having her fertility restored from ovarian tissue frozen during her childhood. Moaza al Matrooshi gave birth to a healthy son, Rashid, at the Portland Hospital in London on Tuesday. She is the first person in the world to have had a successful pregnancy using ovarian tissue that was harvested before the onset of puberty and the only person to have her ovaries transplanted back after 13 years in storage.
(Reuters) – An operation to evacuate thousands of civilians and fighters from the last rebel bastion in Aleppo began on Thursday, part of a ceasefire deal that would end years of fighting for the city and mark a major victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A convoy of ambulances and buses with nearly 1,000 people aboard drove out of the devastated rebel-held area of Aleppo, which was besieged and bombarded for months by Syrian government forces, a Reuters reporter on the scene said.
(Scientific American) – Britain on Thursday became the first country to formally license an in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment designed to create babies from three people. In a long-awaited decision, Britain’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) gave the final go-ahead for the treatment known as mitochondrial transfer, which doctors say could help prevent incurable inherited diseases.
(New Scientist) – Many more three-parent babies will soon be on their way. A clinic in Mexico is planning to use the technique in 20 pregnancies in the first half of 2017, according to its medical director Alejandro Chavez-Badiola. The first baby to be born using such a technique to prevent passing on genetic disease was born this year. Test results yet to be published have revealed that the baby boy is perfectly healthy, New Scientist has been exclusively told.
(World Health Organization) – Conditions in Aleppo continue to deteriorate as thousands of people flee violence. WHO alongside UN and other partners, is working to provide care in the midst of conflict and to assist internally displaced people (IDPs). The Organization strongly urges all parties to the conflict in Syria to abide by international humanitarian law and protect civilians trapped in the conflict. In particular, WHO demands that all patients and health workers, facilities and vehicles be protected from violence during times of conflict.
(Nature) – Berkeley and its rival, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are each vying for the intellectual property underlying CRISPR–Cas9, which is adapted from a system that bacteria use to fend off viruses. During the hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, the USPTO judges challenged Berkeley’s central claim: that once its researchers demonstrated that CRISPR–Cas9 could be used to edit DNA in bacteria, any reasonably skilled person could have adapted the technique for use in more complex cells.
(Nature) – Could predictive algorithms be the key to creating a successful cancer vaccine? Two US nonprofit organizations plan to find out by pitting a range of computer programs against each other to see which can best predict a candidate for a personalized vaccine from a patient’s tumour DNA. The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in San Francisco, California, and the Cancer Research Institute of New York City announced the algorithmic battle on 1 December. It is part of a multimillion-dollar joint project to solve a major puzzle in the nascent field of cancer immunotherapy: which of a patient’s sometimes hundreds of cancer mutations could serve as a call-to-arms for their immune system to attack their tumours.
(New York Times) – It’s an idea that has long been used as an argument against abortion — that terminating a pregnancy causes women to experience emotional and psychological trauma. Some states require women seeking abortions to be counseled that they might develop mental health problems. Now a new study, considered to be the most rigorous to look at the question in the United States, undermines that claim. Researchers followed nearly 1,000 women who sought abortions nationwide for five years and found that those who had the procedure did not experience more depression, anxiety, low self-esteem or dissatisfaction with life than those who were denied it.
(Scientific American) – Moore and Mattison found that nearly 17 percent of adults in the U.S. reported filling at least one prescription for a psychiatric drug in 2013. Antidepressants were the most common type of psychiatric drug in the survey, with 12 percent of adults reporting that they filled prescriptions for these drugs, the study said. In addition, 8.3 percent of adults were prescribed drugs from a group that included sedatives, hypnotics and anti-anxiety drugs, and 1.6 percent of adults were given antipsychotics, the researchers found.
(Reuters) – U.S. researchers have found evidence of the Zika virus replicating in fetal brains for up to seven months after the mother became infected with the virus, and they showed the virus can persist even after birth, according to a study published on Tuesday. The findings confirm earlier observations from case studies suggesting that the mosquito-borne Zika virus can grow in fetal brains and women’s placentas.
(The Scientist) – After human somatic cells are reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), the resulting cells retain both genetic and epigenetic indicators of the age of the person who donated the somatic-cell progenitors, scientists have found. Ali Torkamani, Kristin Baldwin, and their colleagues at the Scripps Research Institute in California have found that iPSC genomes have methylation patterns that reflect donor age. In general, the number of mutations those pluripotent cells carry increases with donor age—until around age 90, that is, when the number of mutations decreases, the researchers found.
(Reuters) – Rebel resistance in Syria’s Aleppo ended on Tuesday after years of fighting and months of bitter siege and bombardment that culminated in a bloody collapse of their defenses this week, as insurgents agreed to withdraw in a ceasefire. Rebel officials said fighting would end on Tuesday evening and insurgents and the civilians who have been trapped in the tiny pocket of territory they hold in Aleppo would leave the city for opposition-held areas of the countryside to the west.
(Reuters) – Several abortion providers sued Texas in federal court on Monday to halt a new regulation that requires them to dispose of aborted fetal tissue either through burial or cremation, saying the rule is designed to limit abortions in the state. The regulation, to take effect on Dec. 19, would also require hospitals and other medical facilities to bury or cremate miscarried fetuses. It is seen by women’s health providers as part of a nationwide agenda to place new restrictions on abortions.
(Science) – As the 21st Century Cures Act cleared the U.S. Senate last week, many attendees of the annual World Stem Cell Summit (WSCS) here took a victory lap. The meeting assembled some of the lawyers, analysts, and activists who have long pushed for reform of how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) handles regenerative medicine. And the behemoth biomedical bill predicted to get a presidential signature this week could allow some stem cell products a faster and more flexible premarket approval process.
(Reuters) – Israeli biotech company Bonus Biogroup’s lab-grown, semi-liquid bone graft was successfully injected into the jaws of 11 people to repair bone loss in an early stage clinical trial, it said on Monday. The material, grown in a lab from each patient’s own fat cells, was injected into and filled the voids of the problematic bones. Over a few months it hardened and merged with the existing bone to complete the jaw, it said. The announcement was made in a statement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and Bonus Biogroup is presenting its results at the International Conference on Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Spain on Monday.
(The Guardian) – Poor design, conduct and reporting of animal research is a global issue – and the costs are significant. It’s estimated that $28bn (£22bn) a year is spent on pre-clinical research that cannot be replicated; this wastes funding, damages science, causes avoidable animal suffering, and fails patients waiting for the development of new treatments.
(STAT News) – It took nearly three years for Congress to pass the 21st Century Cures Act. The next question is: How long will it take the Food and Drug Administration to implement it? The legislation, designed to accelerate the introduction of new medical treatments by speeding up some FDA approval processes and boosting federal funding, passed the Senate Wednesday by a 94 to 5 vote on Wednesday. The House passed it last week, and President Obama is expected to sign it into law. But the Cures Act, nearly 1,000 pages long, does not lay out many deadlines.
(STAT News) – More than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, the most ever. The disastrous tally has been pushed to new heights by soaring abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, a class of drugs known as opioids. Heroin deaths rose 23 percent in one year, to 12,989, slightly higher than the number of gun homicides, according to government data released Thursday.
(STAT News) – Official reports on the impact of Zika virus in Colombia appear to dramatically underestimate the number of infants born there with associated birth defects, a new study suggests. The actual number may be at least two times higher than the official estimate and perhaps even higher still, according to the study. The study was published Friday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, a journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was conducted by scientists from the CDC and its Colombian equivalent, the National Institute of Health.
(BBC) – As some of the most vulnerable people in Aleppo were moved from a former old-people’s home near the city’s front line on Wednesday, a Red Cross doctor involved in their evacuation sent the BBC this letter: Working as a doctor for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), I have seen many things in Syria during the past five years. But nothing like this. We’d tried to reach the centre the previous day, but couldn’t get the necessary security guarantees. The fighting had been too intense. Three people at the centre died during that time.
(NPR) – An anti-doping report has found that more than 1,000 Russian athletes were involved in state-sponsored doping, and that the “institutional conspiracy” extended far beyond previous evidence of cheating at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. The findings, published Friday, were accompanied by more than 1,000 individual documents released to the public as evidence (with athletes’ names redacted). The report is part of an investigation carried out by Canadian professor Richard McLaren on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
(New York Times) – In recent years, few major bills have commanded as much support as the 21st Century Cures Act, which sailed to passage by votes of 392 to 26 in the House on Nov. 30, and 94 to 5 in the Senate a week later. Once it is signed by President Obama on Tuesday, as the White House has said it will be, the law will allow for money to be pumped into biomedical research and speed the approval of new drugs and medical devices. It also includes provisions to improve mental health care and combat opioid abuse.
(NPR) – Most notably, the overall death rate for Americans increased because mortality from heart disease and stroke increased after declining for years. Deaths were also up from Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory disease, kidney disease and diabetes. More Americans also died from unintentional injuries and suicide. In all, the decline was driven by increases in deaths from eight of the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S.
(The Washington Post) – The organ trade typically takes place in developing countries whose hospitals are advanced enough to offer transplant services. It originated in India in the 1980s; in the following years, Pakistan, the Philippines, Egypt and China (where the organs were alleged to have come from executed prisoners) became hubs of commercial transplants. Such illegal transplants are also known to have been done in Turkey, Kosovo, South Africa and other sites. The patients typically come from the rich countries of East Asia (e.g., Japan and Taiwan), the rich countries of the Middle East (e.g., Saudi Arabia and Israel), as well as the United States and Western Europe.