News from Bioethics.com

Study Shows Purdue’s Switch to ‘Abuse-Deterrent’ OxyContin Helped Drive a Spike in Hepatitis C Infections

2 weeks 1 day

(STAT News) – When Purdue Pharma reformulated its signature pain drug OxyContin in 2010, its aim was to make the pill “abuse-deterrent.” But the change may have had an unanticipated and disastrous public health impact, according to a new study: accelerating a nationwide spike in hepatitis C infections. When the new version of OxyContin became far more difficult to crush or ingest nasally, many opioid users switched to injecting illicit heroin after 2010. That shift, researchers found, caused hepatitis C rates to spike three times faster in states with the highest non-medical OxyContin use.

IVF Linked to Slightly Higher Risk of Maternal Complications

2 weeks 1 day

(CBC) – Women who become pregnant using fertility treatments — particularly in-vitro fertilization — have a slightly higher risk of severe complications around the time of delivery compared to women who conceive naturally, research suggests. Those complications include post-partum bleeding that may require a blood transfusion, admission to an intensive care unit, infection of the reproductive system, and — in extremely rare cases — death.

‘We’re Still Waiting’: As Cystic Fibrosis Drugs Deliver New Hope, Not Everyone Is Being Swept Up by Scientific Progress

2 weeks 2 days

(STAT News) – The catch is that cystic fibrosis is not caused by one mutation, or a handful, but more than 1,500 different rearrangements in the code for the gene known as CFTR. The cutting-edge treatments — there are three available now and a fourth, still-experimental medication expected to be approved, all from Vertex Pharmaceuticals — cover the mutations held by some 90 percent of CF patients. That leaves up to 10 percent of people whose diseases are advancing without a powerful defense to slow them down. Hillman is among them.

Transplanting Pig Kidneys in Humans, 3D Organ Printing and Other Futuristic Innovations to Solve the Organ Shortage

2 weeks 2 days

(CNBC) – Now researchers, doctors and policymakers are exploring new strategies to increase the supply of organs needed to meet demand. Among the promising pursuits: advancing stem cell research in an effort to heal damaged organ tissue; developing biofabrication techniques in an effort to fast-track the 3D manufacturing of human organs, and using gene-editing techniques to find safe ways to use pig organs for human transplants.

New U.S. Experiments Aim to Create Gene-Edited Human Embryos

2 weeks 2 days

(NPR) – A scientist in New York is conducting experiments designed to modify DNA in human embryos as a step toward someday preventing inherited diseases, NPR has learned. For now, the work is confined to a laboratory. But the research, if successful, would mark another step toward turning CRISPR, a powerful form of gene editing, into a tool for medical treatment.

Purdue Pharma Sought Secret Plan to Become ‘End-to-End Pain Provider,’ Lawsuit Alleges

2 weeks 5 days

(CNN) – Pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma LP secretly pursued a plan, dubbed “Project Tango,” to become “an end-to-end pain provider” by selling both opioids and drugs to treat opioid addiction, all while owners on the board — members of one of America’s richest families — reaped more than $4 billion in opioid profits, according to a lawsuit newly unredacted on Thursday.

Polar Vortex Death Toll Rises to 21 as US Cold Snap Continues

2 weeks 5 days

(BBC) – At least 21 people have died in one of the worst cold snaps to hit the US Midwest in decades. Ninety million people – a third of the US – have seen temperatures of -17C (0F) or below. Some 250 million Americans overall have experienced the “polar vortex” conditions. Hospitals have been treating patients reporting frostbite as parts of the country ground to a halt. Temperatures are expected to swing to above average over the weekend.

The DIY Designer Baby Project Funded with Bitcoin

2 weeks 5 days

(MIT Technology Review) – For a few years now, Bishop, a 29-year-old programmer and Bitcoin investor, has been leaving a trail of comments about human “enhancement” on the web. He’s a transhumanist, which means he thinks humans can be improved in profound ways by technology. He’d long exhorted others to do something about the human condition. Now, he had decided to do it himself.

When Is the Surgeon Too Old to Operate?

2 weeks 5 days

(New York Times) – The physician work force, like the rest of the population, has grown substantially grayer in recent years. Almost a quarter of practicing physicians were 65 or older in 2015, according to the American Medical Association. In 2017, more than 122,00 physicians in that age group were engaged in patient care. Health care researchers and analysts are debating what, if anything, to do about this tide of aging practitioners. “We know that human faculties decrease with age,” said Dr. Mark Katlic, the thoracic surgeon who founded Sinai Hospital’s program.

American Scientist Played More Active Role in ‘CRISPR Babies’ Project Than Previously Known

2 weeks 5 days

(STAT News) – An American scientist at Rice University was far more involved in the widely condemned “CRISPR babies” experiment than has previously been disclosed. Most notably, STAT has learned that Rice biophysicist Michael Deem was named as the senior author on a paper about the work that was submitted to Nature in late November. Deem’s prominent authorship indicates that a respected American researcher played an instrumental role in the controversial project, which sparked a worldwide furor. His involvement could have encouraged volunteers to join the experiment and lent credibility to He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who led the work.

Report: Nobel Prize-Winning Biologist Knew About Gene-Edited Babies for Months but Kept Quiet

2 weeks 6 days

(Gizmodo) – The Associated Press reports that Nobel laureate and biologist Craig Mello was aware of a pregnancy in China involving gene-edited babies for months before the news went public. That a prominent scientist knew of this highly unethical work but chose to remain silent is a serious cause for concern, and a sign that the culture around questionable research needs to change.

Someday, a Pig’s Heart Might Save a Child’s Life

2 weeks 6 days

(U.S. News & World Report) – The supply of donor organs for infants needing a heart transplant is critically low, but researchers have taken a first step toward using pig hearts to fill the need. The concept of using animal organs to save human lives has been around for years. With donor organs in short supply, the hope is that animal organs can keep patients alive while they await a human donor.

After Ghoulish Allegations, a Brain-Preservation Company Seeks Redemption

3 weeks 9 hours

(STAT News) – Reports that his 3-year-old startup, Nectome, aims to “preserve your brain to bring you back in the future” (according to the website of its venture capital funder) or to “back up your mind,” as per a now-disappeared tease on Nectome’s website? “What we’re focused on is preserving long-term memory,” insists McIntyre, 30, sitting at a conference table in Nectome’s new, two-room headquarters within shouting distance of San Francisco’s airport, “not reading or decoding it. The field of memory preservation doesn’t exist. We’re trying to create it.” It has not been an easy year for McIntyre or Nectome, but they’re determined to claw their way out of scientific purgatory.

Japan Should Put the Brakes on Stem-Cell Sales

3 weeks 9 hours

(Nature) – Meanwhile, in Japan, a more worrisome approach is unfolding. Last month, researchers at Sapporo Medical University leapfrogged all other spinal-cord injury treatments that use stem cells — including the one being investigated by Asterias — and received market approval for injections of a type of cell called a mesenchymal stem cell. There are reasons to be sceptical, or at least to delay the sale of this procedure to patients.

A Controversial Fertility Treatment Gets Its First Big Test

3 weeks 10 hours

(Wired) – She is now 28 weeks along with a baby boy, according to a Spanish company called Embryotools, which announced the pregnancy earlier this month. The fertility tech firm is collaborating with the Institute of Life to conduct the first known human trial of the procedure, called mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), for treating infertility. Their pilot study in Greece will eventually enroll 25 women under the age of 40 who’ve failed to conceive using conventional methods of IVF. It’s the largest test yet of the controversial new method of procreation.

Stem Cells Motivate Ocular Surface Repair in Trial with Vision Loss Patients

3 weeks 10 hours

(UPI) – New stem cell research may bring renewed hope for people who suffer from vision problems. Researchers transplanted eye tissue created from stem cells into the eyes of patients with a condition that causes blindness, according to a study published Monday in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine. Just 18 months after the laser-based surgery, the patients’ sight greatly improved.

Death Toll from Fierce Cuban Tornado Climbs

3 weeks 1 day

(Miami Herald) – The death toll has climbed to four for the strongest tornado to hit Cuba since 1940. Nearly 200 people suffered injuries. During its 16-minute rampage through eastern Havana neighborhoods it carried vehicles aloft and slammed them into buildings, crumbled homes and blasted out windows. The Regla, Guanabacoa, Cerro, San Miguel del Padrón, 10 de Octubre districts and parts of East Havana were especially hard hit as the tornado tore through on Sunday night, but high winds downed trees and caused damage in other parts of the capital too.

Washington Is Under a State of Emergency as Measles Cases Rise

3 weeks 1 day

(CNN) – As of Monday, there are 36 confirmed cases of measles in the state of Washington — an outbreak that has already prompted Gov. Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency. “Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease that can be fatal in small children,” Inslee said in his proclamation on Friday, adding that these cases create “an extreme public health risk that may quickly spread to other counties.” There were 35 cases of the measles in Clark County, which sits on the state’s southern border, just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. Officials said 31 of the cases involved people who have not had a measles immunization; the other four are not verified.

NY Enacts New Protections for Abortion Rights

3 weeks 1 day

(Associated Press) – New York state enacted one of the nation’s strongest protections for abortion rights Tuesday, a move that state leaders say was needed to safeguard those rights should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade. The Democrat-led Senate and Assembly passed the bill Tuesday, the 46th anniversary of the Roe decision. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo immediately signed it into law. At his side at a hastily arranged signing ceremony was Sarah Weddington, the Texas attorney who successfully argued Roe before the nation’s highest court.

New York City Reaches $3.3 Million Settlement with Kalief Browder’s Family

3 weeks 5 days

(NPR) – On Thursday, New York City’s Law Department announced it had reached a $3.3 million settlement with Kalief Browder’s family. The young man from the Bronx, who spent three years detained on Rikers Island without being tried or convicted, was accused of stealing a backpack. Nearly two of Browder’s three years in jail were spent in solitary confinement. He was released in 2013 after the charges were dropped. And in 2015, plagued by what he said was the mental anguish and trauma from his time in jail, he hanged himself in his mother’s home.

Ebola Death Toll Surges in DR Congo

3 weeks 5 days

(Medical Xpress) – The number of people killed in an Ebola outbreak in eastern DR Congo has risen to 443, health authorities have announced, as new President Felix Tshisekedi began his first full day in office on Friday. The rising death toll—up by more than 40 in the past ten days—emphasises the challenge of controlling the epidemic in the strife-torn east and is just one of a host of complex issues facing Tshisekedi.

After ‘CRISPR Babies,’ International Medical Leaders Aim to Tighten Genome Editing Guidelines

3 weeks 5 days

(STAT News) – Less than two years after producing an exhaustive report on human genome editing, the U.S. National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences are planning an international commission on the most controversial use of that technology — creating “CRISPR babies,” medicine academy president Dr. Victor Dzau announced on Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The recent birth in China of twin girls whose genes had been edited while they were embryos highlighted the shortcomings of the existing guidelines, he said.

Japan’s Approval of Stem-Cell Treatment for Spinal-Cord Injury Concerns Scienitsts

3 weeks 5 days

(Nature) – But independent researchers warn that the approval is premature. Ten specialists in stem-cell science or spinal-cord injuries, who were approached for comment by Nature and were not involved in the work or its commercialization, say that evidence that the treatment works is insufficient. Many of them say that the approval for the therapy, which is injected intravenously, was based on a small, poorly designed clinical trial.

Americans Heading to Mexico for Surgeries Returning with Deadly Antibiotic-Resistant Superbug, Health Officials Say

3 weeks 5 days

(Newsweek) – Americans traveling to Mexico for cheap surgeries have returned to the country with deadly antibiotic-resistant superbugs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. residents who traveled to and had gotten “an invasive medical procedure performed” in Tijuana, Mexico, were diagnosed with infections caused by antibiotic-resistant forms of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, according to federal health officials.

‘Fourth Trimester’ Problems Can Have Long-Term Effects on a Mon’s Health

3 weeks 6 days

(NPR) – Among developed countries, the United States has the highest rate of death among pregnant women and new mothers. And for every woman who dies, dozens more come close. Lynch-Kimery is biracial, and that’s another risk factor, research suggests; among Americans of color, rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. are particularly high. Many women who become pregnant already have chronic conditions like high blood pressure and obesity that can negatively impact their pregnancy and future health. Others develop health problems during pregnancy.

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