News from Bioethics.com

Recent Research Sheds New Light on Why Nicotine Is So Addictive

2 weeks 3 days

(Scientific American) – Although our society currently finds itself focused on the tragic epidemic of opioid overdoses, there remains no better example of the deadly power of addiction than nicotine. The measure of a drug’s addictiveness is not how much pleasure (or reward) it causes but how reinforcing it is—that is, how much it leads people to keep using it. Nicotine does not produce the kind of euphoria or impairment that many other drugs like opioids and marijuana do. People do not get high from smoking cigarettes or vaping. Yet nicotine’s powerful ability to reinforce its relatively mild rewards results in 480,000 deaths annually.

Kingdom Surrogacy Law Set to Lift Burden from ‘Victims’

2 weeks 3 days

(The Phnom Penh Post) – Hundreds of rights organisations from 18 countries campaigned for “a global ban on women’s womb rental” on Monday during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. Exhorting heads of governments to implement a ban on surrogacy and to stop funding UN agencies that advocate its legalisation, they issued a statement which read: “Surrogacy is a serious violation of the rights and dignity of women and children. It is a form of women’s reproductive exploitation and it treats newborns as commodities.”

On the Trail of a Deadly Disease That Cuts Down Farmworkers in Their Prime

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(Bloomberg) – As its name indicates, the causes of [chronic kidney disease of unknown origin] are poorly understood. What’s not in question is that it’s deadly. Symptoms—including vomiting, exhaustion, and weight loss—often don’t appear until the disease is well advanced, by which time damage to the kidneys cannot be reversed. Without access to dialysis or a kidney transplant, there’s little hope of survival. CKDu first gained international recognition for its impact on sugar cane workers in Nicaragua, where it’s killed at least 20,000 young men in the past decade, according to experts who describe it as an epidemic.

Biomarkers in Spinal Fluid Offer Method for Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

2 weeks 3 days

(UPI) – Researchers have developed a spinal fluid test that can accurately identify most patients with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a clinical study. By tapping amyloid and tau levels in cerebrospinal fluid, Columbia University neurologists may have found a reliable way to help diagnose the disease. The findings were published this week in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Instagram Has a Drug Problem. Its Algorithms Make It Worse

2 weeks 3 days

(Los Angeles Times) – Instagram is known for its celebrity posts and photos of enviable vacations. But it has also become a sizable open marketplace for advertising illegal drugs. The company has pledged a crackdown in recent weeks, but it is struggling to keep pace with its own algorithms and systems, which serve up an array of personalized drug-related content aimed directly at people who show an interest in buying substances illicitly.

Infanticide in Kenya: ‘I Was Told to Kill My Disabled Boy’

2 weeks 3 days

(BBC) – Ms Njoki and Ms Kipchumba are not alone. A new study in Kenya has found that 45% of mothers interviewed by a leading charity faced pressure to kill their babies born with disabilities. The survey found that the situation was worse in rural areas – where the figure could be as high as two in every three mothers. Most of the women interviewed by Disability Rights International said their children were considered “cursed, bewitched and possessed” and that a belief prevailed that the mothers were being punished for their sins, including being “unfaithful to their husbands”.

A Dual Origin for Blood Vessels

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(Nature) – Blood-cell lineages and the endothelial cells that line the interior of blood vessels have an intertwined biology and interrelated embryonic origins. Our current knowledge indicates that endothelial cells differentiate directly from one of the three main cell layers of the early embryo (the mesoderm), and that a subset of endothelial cells subsequently gives rise to haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), from which adult blood cells derive. In a paper in Nature, Plein et al. reveal a second origin for endothelial cells, and refine our understanding of the relationship between the endothelial and blood lineages.

Ketamine Gives Hope to Patients with Severe Depression. But Some Clinics Stray from the Science and Hype Its Benefits

2 weeks 4 days

(STAT News) – An investigation by STAT shows that Kalypso’s sweeping claims are hardly uncommon in the booming ketamine treatment business. Dozens of free-standing clinics have opened across the U.S. in recent years to provide the drug to patients who are desperate for an effective therapy and hopeful ketamine can help. But the investigation found wide-ranging inconsistencies among clinics, from the screening of patients to the dose and frequency of infusions to the coordination with patients’ mental health providers. A number of clinics stray from recommendations issued last year by the American Psychiatric Association.

Why Chinese Medicine Is Heading for Clinics Around the World

2 weeks 4 days

(Nature) – And next year sees the crowning moment for Choi’s committee, when the WHO’s governing body, the World Health Assembly, adopts the 11th version of the organization’s global compendium — known as the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). For the first time, the ICD will include details about traditional medicines. The global reach of the reference source is unparalleled. The document categorizes thousands of diseases and diagnoses and sets the medical agenda in more than 100 countries.

Woman Wins Bid to Access IVF without Estranged Husband’s Consent

2 weeks 4 days

(News.com.au) – A VICTORIAN woman has been told by the Federal Court she will be allowed to go through IVF, despite a law that required her to obtain her estranged husband’s permission beforehand. The landmark court case comes as the Victorian government reviews its laws around assisted reproductive treatment and could prompt a change in the current legislation. At the moment, married women who are separated from their husbands are prohibited from seeking in-vitro fertilisation treatment to attempt to conceive a child.

Growing Brains in the Lab

2 weeks 5 days

(Scientific American) – They are called brain spheroids (or three-dimensional brain cultures or cerebral organoids) and are a relatively new creation. They were first described in a splashy study published in Nature in 2013 and are one of the most technically impressive forms of tissue culture. What brain spheroids are not, however, is as important as what they are. They’re not ‘mini-brains’. They’re not generating thoughts and emotions. Without any sensory input they lack grounding in the physical world. Brain spheroids are also very small.

Syphilis Cases in Newborn Babies Reach 20-Year High, CDC Says

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(CNN) – Congenital syphilis cases — when a mother passes syphilis onto her baby during pregnancy or delivery — have more than doubled in the United States since 2013, according to an report released Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eight out of 10 pregnant women who have untreated syphilis will pass it onto their babies through the placenta and this can lead to stillbirth or death of a newborn in up to 40% of affected pregnancies, according to the CDC.

The DNA Detectives Hunting the Causes of Cancer

2 weeks 5 days

(Mosaic) – Other parts of the world have their own cancer problems: there are strangely high rates of bowel cancer in Slovakia and Denmark, although they have low rates of liver cancer. People in the Czech Republic are more likely to be stricken by kidney or pancreatic cancer than the populations of neighbouring Austria and Poland. Do these differences lie in inherited genetic variations, or is it something to do with lifestyle? Is there an unknown carcinogen lurking in the environment? Or maybe it’s a bit of all three? The wild differences in rates of cancer across the world is a mystery – but a crack team of detectives is on the case.

Mosquitoes Genetically Modified to Crash Species That Spreads Malaria

2 weeks 5 days

(NPR) – For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that a controversial new kind of genetic engineering can rapidly spread a self-destructive genetic modification through a complex species. The scientists used the revolutionary gene-editing tool known as CRISPR to engineer mosquitoes with a “gene drive,” which rapidly transmitted a sterilizing mutation through other members of the mosquito’s species. After mosquitoes carrying the mutation were released into cages filled with unmodified mosquitoes in a high-security basement laboratory in London, virtually all of the insects were wiped out, according to a report in Nature Biotechnology.

The Future of DIY Abortion Is the Internet, Not a Back-Alley Doctor

2 weeks 6 days

(The Verge) – For many people, the phrase “illegal abortion” calls to mind images of back alley clinics, medical providers with questionable credentials, and, of course, the dreaded coat hanger — an object so evocative it’s often been used as a protest symbol. But those images are outdated, belonging to a pre-Roe era. These days, the real action in abortion is now online, as a group of reproductive rights activists use the internet to spread the word about how to use abortion pills. They hope to give pregnant people living in places where abortion is nearly inaccessible, or outright illegal, access to safe and effective ways to take charge of their own fertility.

Feds Target Misuse of Database on Clinical Trials by Stem Cell Firms, Others

2 weeks 6 days

(San Francisco Chronicle) – Federal authorities unveiled plans Thursday to clamp down on misuse of a government-run database of clinical trials that for-profit clinics — many of them selling unproven stem cell therapies — use as a marketing tool to draw customers. The database, ClinicalTrials.gov, is a massive clearinghouse for research studies, most of them testing the safety or efficacy of new drugs or medical devices in human subjects. Scientists have warned in recent years that for-profit companies, especially in the rapidly growing consumer stem cell industry, are listing clinical trials that are not federally sanctioned and don’t meet basic standards for how trials should be conducted.

County Jails Struggle to Treat Mentally Ill Inmates

3 weeks 3 days

(NPR) – According to federal data from 2011 to 2012, more than 40 percent of jail inmates reported having been told by a mental health professional that they had a mental health disorder. And while about 1 in 4 jail inmates met the threshold for having serious psychological distress at the time of the survey, only about a third of those were receiving treatment for it.

Parents Are Leery of Schools Requiring ‘Mental Health’ Disclosures by Students

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(NPR) – Children registering for school in Florida this year were asked to reveal some history about their mental health. The new requirement is part of a law rushed through the state legislature after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The state’s school districts now must ask whether a child has ever been referred for mental health services on registration forms for new students.

Tiny Human Esophagus Grown in the Lab–Here’s Why

3 weeks 3 days

(National Geographic) – Here’s something to digest: Scientists in Cincinnati have grown miniature versions of an esophagus, the organ responsible for guiding your food to your stomach. And in a first, they did it entirely using human stem cells. Called organoids, these tiny balls of lab-grown tissue resemble a real human esophagus, the researchers report today in the journal Cell Stem Cell. Previously, scientists succeeded in growing all sorts of organoids—stomachs, kidneys, brains, and even an esophagus made using mature patient tissue as the starting material.

Scientists Create Immature Human Eggs from Stem Cells

3 weeks 3 days

(NPR) – Scientists say they have taken a potentially important — and possibly controversial — step toward creating human eggs in a lab dish. A team of Japanese scientists turned human blood cells into stem cells, which they then transformed into very immature human eggs. The eggs are far too immature to be fertilized or make a baby. And much more research would be needed to create eggs that could be useful — and safe — for human reproduction. But the work, reported Thursday in the journal Science, is seen by other scientists as an important development.

Do IVF And Other Infertility Tech Lead to Health Risks for the Baby? Maybe

3 weeks 3 days

(NPR) – Quinn, an infertility specialist and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles, now has a new hazard to consider. According to research published this month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, children conceived through certain infertility treatments may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Parents shouldn’t panic, the study’s authors say: The findings are preliminary, and the study cohort was fairly small. Still, they say, it means that families who used infertility treatments should be particularly vigilant about screening for high blood pressure in their children and help them avoid other cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

Human Skeletal Stem Cells Found

3 weeks 3 days

(The Scientist) – Three years after its discovery of skeletal stem cells in mice, the same research team has identified the human version of this precursor to bone, cartilage, and stroma, the bone marrow’s support cells. In a study published today (September 20) in Cellthe authors show that these skeletal stem cells are both self-renewing and multipotent.

Far More Indians Kill Themselves Than Previously Assumed

3 weeks 3 days

(The Economist) – Police say the deaths were a mass suicide, most likely prompted by occult beliefs. Yet, strange though the incident appeared, the Chundawats’ death was only one of numerous collective suicides across India this summer. In July in the state of Jharkhand alone, two families killed themselves, driven by the more prosaic motive of despair over debt. Suicide is often seen as a rich-world problem, but is all too common in India.

Why Some Hurricanes Are Most Deadly after the Storm

3 weeks 3 days

(Quartz) – Thousands of people were killed by Hurricane Maria, which blasted Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017 with devastating results. But the Puerto Rican government has only publicly identified 64 victims. In the weeks and months after the hurricane, reporters from Quartz, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Associated Press set out to find the victims left out of the official death toll. We found 487—the most extensive record yet of who died and why because of Maria. Here is how our count compares to the government’s

Changing Dynamics of the Drug Overdose Epidemic in the United States from 1979 through 2016

3 weeks 3 days

(Science) – Better understanding of the dynamics of the current U.S. overdose epidemic may aid in the development of more effective prevention and control strategies. We analyzed records of 599,255 deaths from 1979 through 2016 from the National Vital Statistics System in which accidental drug poisoning was identified as the main cause of death. By examining all available data on accidental poisoning deaths back to 1979 and showing that the overall 38-year curve is exponential, we provide evidence that the current wave of opioid overdose deaths (due to prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl) may just be the latest manifestation of a more fundamental longer-term process.

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