News from Bioethics.com

Uber, But for Getting to the Hospital

1 month 3 weeks

(The Atlantic) – The ride-sharing company Uber is launching a new service that will allow hospitals and doctors to book rides for their patients. The new Uber Health dashboard, which has been tested by a beta group of about 100 hospitals and doctors’ offices since July, will allow medical and administrative staff to either call an Uber to the office to drive a specific patient home, or to dispatch an Uber to the patient’s house, with the option to schedule it up to 30 days in advance. The patient need not have the Uber app or even a working smartphone: The dashboard comes with a printable sheet allowing a doctor to circle the incoming Uber’s car color and write down the license plate.

First Surrogacy Guidance Published for England and Wales

1 month 3 weeks

(BBC) – Guidance on how to start a family using a surrogate has been published for England and Wales for the first time by the government. It recommends written agreements to cover how the baby is conceived and any future relationships between surrogate and child. The government also advises parents who use surrogates to help their child understand how they were born.

Researchers Find No Link Between Birth Control, Depression

1 month 3 weeks

(UPI) – A new study should put women who use birth control at ease: hormonal contraception is not linked to depression. Researchers at Ohio State University examined thousands of studies on the mental health of hormonal birth control and found depression is not a side effect, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Contraception.

Why Is Nigeria Experiencing a Record-High Outbreak of Lassa Fever?

1 month 3 weeks

(The Atlantic) – It’s hard to say exactly who has Lassa fever, because early symptoms are generic, and resemble conditions like malaria and typhoid. But according to figures from the Nigerian Center for Disease Control, laboratory tests have confirmed that in the first two months of 2018, at least 317 people have been infected, and at least 64—around 20 percent—have died. (Eight further deaths are probably linked to Lassa, but haven’t been confirmed.) By contrast, there were just 143 lab-confirmed cases in all of 2017, and just 101 in 2016.

Never Too Late to Operate? Surgery Near End of Life Is Common, Costly

1 month 3 weeks

(Kaiser Health News) – Surgery like this has become all too common among those near the end of life, experts say. Nearly 1 in 3 Medicare patients undergo an operation in the year before they die, even though the evidence shows that many are more likely to be harmed than to benefit from it. The practice is driven by financial incentives that reward doctors for doing procedures, as well as a medical culture in which patients and doctors are reluctant to talk about how surgical interventions should be prescribed more judiciously, said Dr. Rita Redberg, a cardiologist who treated Stanich when she sought care at the second hospital.

Getting to the Root of the Problem: Stem Cells Are Revealing New Secrets about Mental Illness

1 month 3 weeks

(Scientific American) – But last year San Diego–based researchers uncovered new details about how lithium may alter moods, thanks to an approach recently championed by a small number of scientists studying mental illness: The San Diego team used established lab techniques to reprogram patients’ skin cells into stem cells capable of becoming any other kind—and then chemically coaxed them into becoming brain cells. This process is now providing the first real stand-ins for brain cells from mentally ill humans, allowing for unprecedented direct experiments.

Study: 1 in 10 Children with Cancer Improve in Phase 1 Drug Trials

1 month 3 weeks

(UPI) – One in 10 children with cancer saw their condition improve in Phase 1 clinical trials, and about 1 in 50 died from complications related to the drug, according to data research. Researchers examined 170 studies with 4,604 patients meeting eligibility criteria from January 2004 to March 2015, according to a study published this month in PLOS Medicine. “Little is known about the level of risk and benefit in pediatric Phase I trials in oncology,” researchers wrote.

Researchers Use Human Neural Stem Cell Grafts to Repair Spinal Cord Injuries in Monkeys

1 month 3 weeks

(Eurekalert) – Led by researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, a diverse team of neuroscientists and surgeons successfully grafted human neural progenitor cells into rhesus monkeys with spinal cord injuries. The grafts not only survived, but grew hundreds of thousands of human axons and synapses, resulting in improved forelimb function in the monkeys.

Promising HIV Vaccines Could Stall without Coordinated Research

1 month 3 weeks

(Nature) – Several vaccines and drugs for preventing the spread of HIV are showing signs of success in clinical trials, three decades after scientists began the search. But some researchers fear that progress will stall without a coordinated strategy to ensure that the most promising therapies to prevent infection win support from policymakers and reach the people who need them.

20 Years Ago, Research Fraud Catalyzed the Anti-Vaccination Movement. Let’s Not Repeat History.

1 month 3 weeks

(Vox) – Exactly 20 years ago this month, an esteemed medical journal published a small study that has become one of the most notorious and damaging pieces of research in medicine. The study, led by the now discredited physician-researcher Andrew Wakefield, involved 12 children and suggested there’s a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine — which is administered to millions of children around the world each year — and autism. The study was subsequently thoroughly debunked. The Lancet retracted the paper and Wakefield was stripped of his medical license. Autism researchers have shown decisively again and again that the developmental disorder is not caused by vaccines.

Red Cross Reveals 21 Staff Paid for Sexual Services

1 month 3 weeks

(BBC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says 21 members of staff have left their jobs for sexual misconduct in the last three years. The ICRC’s director-general, Yves Daccord, said the individuals had paid for “sexual services” and had resigned or were dismissed from the aid agency. Mr Daccord said on Friday that it was “a difficult but important day”. The revelations come as the aid sector has been hit by numerous allegations of sex abuse and exploitation by workers.

No One’s Quite Sure Why Lassa Fever Is on the Rise

1 month 3 weeks

(NPR) – Nigeria is tough on diseases. With help from a few partners, it stopped Ebola’s spread. It wrestled guinea-worm disease into a headlock, with no new cases since 2013. And it’s nearly eradicated the transmission of polio. But now a disease that usually just lurks in the background has roared into headlines. Since the beginning of the year, there’s been a particularly large outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria’s southern provinces.

World’s First Autologous Lung Stem Cell Transplant Conducted in China

1 month 3 weeks

(China.org.cn) – This was the world’s first successful clinical trial of autologous lung stem cell transplantation. The process and results of the research were published in the science journal Protein & Cell on Jan. 17. Two non-smoking male patients with chronic lung diseases were selected for the operations, which were conducted in April 2016 by professor Zuo Wei and his research team from Tongji University’s Institute for Biomedical Engineering and Nano Science. Cells were taken from the patients’ airways and cultured outside their bodies before being transplanted into their lungs. The cells began to replace injured tissue three months after operation.

‘Mini Tumors’ Created to Battle Cancer

1 month 4 weeks

(BBC) – Scientists have been able to predict how cancer patients will respond to therapy by growing miniature versions of their tumours in the laboratory. They say the groundbreaking work could lead to “smarter, kinder and more effective treatments”. The study, in the journal Science, was 100% accurate at telling which drugs would fail and this could spare patients from unnecessary side-effects. Mini-tumours could also be a powerful way of testing new drugs.

Synergy Between Nurses and Automation Could Be Key to Finding Sepsis Early

1 month 4 weeks

(NPR) – The automated system looks for patterns in symptoms like high temperature, low temperature, low blood pressure, fast breathing and high white-blood-cell counts. No single symptom signals sepsis, but certain patterns suggest this condition could be emerging. Rosemary Grant, a registered nurse who coordinates sepsis care at Harborview, explains how it works as we stand at a nursing station in the hospital.

When Poop Becomes Medicine

1 month 4 weeks

(The Atlantic) – Falkow’s idea wasn’t new. Fecal transplants—where doctors try to cure sick people of various ills by giving them the stools of healthy donors—have been used since at least fourth-century China, according to texts that make reference to “yellow soup.” The unusual treatment has been rediscovered many times since, but it’s finally starting to enter the medical mainstream. Partly, that’s because of a surge of interest in the microbiome—the trillions of microbes that share our bodies. Partly, it’s because many well-conducted studies have shown that fecal transplants are incredibly effective at treating Clostridium difficile—a nasty, hardy bacterium that causes severe, recurring, and potentially fatal bouts of diarrhea.

Execution Stay for Cancer-Hit Alabama Inmate with Damaged Veins

1 month 4 weeks

(BBC) – The US Supreme Court has reportedly granted a temporary stay of execution to a cancer-stricken death row inmate in the state of Alabama. Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, argued his veins were too damaged from cancer and past drug use, and said the lethal injection would be unconstitutionally painful. He was convicted of fatally shooting motel clerk Patrick Cunningham in 1987 in a robbery where $410 was taken. Capital punishment in the US was reinstated in 1976.

Using Domestic Animals to Make Human Organs

2 months 9 hours

(The Economist) – TAKE the fertilised egg of a pig. From each cell in the resulting embryo cut out a gene or genes that promote the development of the animal’s heart. Inject human stem cells from a patient who needs a new heart into the embryo and then place it into the womb of a sow. Wait nine months. The result is an adult pig with a heart made of human cells. The pig can be slaughtered and the heart transplanted into the patient who provided the stem cells, for whom the organ will be a genetic match.

Second Successful Human-Animal Hybrid: Sheep Embryo with Human Cells

2 months 9 hours

(PhysOrg) – Carrying forward the results of a team that created a pig/human hybrid last year, a team led by researchers at Stanford University has created a sheep/human hybrid. The team has not published a paper on their efforts as yet, but recently gave a presentation outlining their work at this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Texas. As with the team last year, the current researchers say the purpose of creating the human-animal hybrid was to find out if it might be possible to grow human organs in animals to replace defective ones in humans.

Benzodiazepines: Our Other Prescription Drug Epidemic

2 months 9 hours

(STAT News) – Between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults who filled a benzodiazepine prescription increased by 67 percent, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million. Unlike opioid prescribing, which peaked in 2012 and has decreased nearly 20 percent since then, benzodiazepine prescribing continues to rise. The risk of overdose death goes up nearly fourfold when benzodiazepines are combined with opioids, yet rates of co-prescribing benzodiazepines and opioids nearly doubled between 2001 and 2013. Overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines increased more than sevenfold between 1999 and 2015.

Doctors in China Lead Race to Treat Cancer by Editing Genes

2 months 10 hours

(NPR) – Deng is participating in what Wu says is the most advanced study in China testing CRISPR in sick people. But at least eight other Chinese studies of CRISPR for various forms of cancer are listed on a U.S. government website that serves as a clearinghouse for biomedical research worldwide. The list includes studies of CRISPR as a treatment for cancers of the lung, bladder, cervix and prostate. In contrast, only one CRISPR cancer study has been approved in the United States, and it’s only just now starting to look for the first patient to treat.

Calls to Puerto Rico’s Suicide Hotline Have Skyrocketed Since Hurricane Maria

2 months 1 day

(Vox) – Puerto Rico is having a serious mental health crisis. The number of people on the island who have reportedly tried to kill themselves since Hurricane Maria hit the island has more than tripled. From November 2017 through January 2018, a crisis hotline run by Puerto Rico’s Department of Health received 3,050 calls from people who said they had attempted suicide. That’s an astounding 246 percent increase compared to the same time last year.

ER Reduces Opioid Use by More Than Half with Dry Needles, Laughing Gas

2 months 1 day

(NPR) – One of the places many people are first prescribed opioids is a hospital emergency room. But in one of the busiest ERs in the U.S., doctors are relying less than they used to on oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin and other opioids to ease patients’ pain. In an unusual program designed to help stem the opioid epidemic, the emergency department at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., has been exploring alternative painkillers and methods. That strategy has led to a 58 percent drop in the ER’s opioid prescriptions in the program’s first year, according to numbers provided by St. Joseph’s Healthcare System’s chair of emergency medicine, Dr. Mark Rosenberg.

Thai Court Gives Secretive Japanese Millionaire Custody of 13 Surrogate Kids

2 months 1 day

(USA Today) – A Thai court on Tuesday granted legal custody of 13 babies carried by surrogate mothers to a secretive Japanese millionaire who is their biological father, reviving a bizarre tale that captured tabloid headlines four years ago, but leaving some basic questions unanswered. Mitsutoki Shigeta’s case raised eyebrows in 2014 when police raided a Bangkok condominium and found nine babies and nine nannies living in unfurnished rooms.

With Medicine Running Out, Venezuelans with Transplants Live in Fear

2 months 2 days

(Reuters) – Some 31 Venezuelans have seen their bodies start to reject their transplanted organs in the last month due to lack of medicine, according to umbrella health group Codevida, a non-governmental organization. At least seven have died due to complications stemming from organ failure in the last three months. A further 16,000 Venezuelans, many hoping for an elusive transplant, are dependent on dialysis to clean their blood – but here too, resources and materials are sorely lacking.

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