News from Bioethics.com

Researchers to Test Individualized Drug Cocktails for Kids’ Brain Tumors

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(UPI) – Using genomic technology, researchers are planning a clinical trial of individualized drug cocktails to treat children with a form of malignant brain tumor. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco plan to treat up to 44 children and young adults with high-grade glioma at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco and other sites in the 18-hospital Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium network.

Technology Is Changing the Way You See a Doctor, But Is That Good for Your Health?

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(CNN) – Among all these changes and improvements in time, accuracy and efficiency, experts are concerned that another crucial aspect of health care is being forgotten: continuity of care, an ongoing relationship with a particular doctor or health care provider who knows your history and knows you. On that front, “the trend is going in the wrong way,” said Dr. Denis Pereira Gray, a former family physician and professor emeritus at the University of Exeter in the UK. This is down to the fact that the UK, compared with other European countries, is seriously short on doctors, and continuity is not valued by policymakers, he said.

Facial Recognition Zeroes in on Genetic Disorders

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(Boston Globe) – Bodamer, a 55-year-old clinical geneticist, suspected Kabuki syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. Children with the condition have distinctive features that Japanese doctors, who first identified it in 1981, likened to the makeup worn by actors in kabuki theater. But patients also typically have a flattened nose. This boy didn’t. So Bodamer did something a growing number of specialists in genetic disorders are trying. He took a photograph of the toddler’s face on his iPad and uploaded it to a facial recognition app called Face2Gene, developed by Boston-based digital health startup FDNA.

To Heal Some Wounds, Adult Cells Turn More Fetal

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(Quanta Magazine) – But new results suggest that that plasticity may go even deeper than scientists have thought. Three research teams have observed that during tissue regeneration, the typical solutions offered by adult stem cells (and the de-differentiated cells resembling them) aren’t enough. Instead, the cells of the damaged tissue turn the clock back all the way to a more fetal state, tapping into the proliferative power that once characterized development — and a program thought to have long gone silent.

Using Novel Gene Therapy to Cure Infants Born with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency

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(News-Medical) – Out of every 60,000 births, a baby arrives to face the world without a fully functioning immune system leaving them unequipped to fight even the most common infections. Children with this rare life-threatening genetic condition, known as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), have the best chance at a healthy future if they undergo a stem cell transplant before they are 3 ½ months old. Seattle Children’s recently opened a clinical trial that is seeking a potentially safer, less aggressive and equally effective path to a cure by using a novel gene therapy to fix the faulty gene that causes the most common type of SCID.

Why Modern Medicine Is a Major Threat to Public Health

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(The Guardian) – But our healthcare system has failed to keep to this gold standard of clinical practice for the most important goal of improving patient health outcomes. The consequences have been devastating. Modern medicine, through over prescription, represents a major threat to public health. Peter Gøtzsche, co–founder of the reputed Cochrane Collaboration, estimates that prescribed medication is the third most common cause of death globally after heart disease and cancer.

UN Says 120,000 Suspected Cases of Cholera in Yemen

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(ABC News) – The United Nations says nearly 120,000 suspected cases of cholera were reported in conflict-wracked Yemen between January and mid-August and the pace has been increasing. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Thursday that although the 120,000 figure is lower than during the same period in 2017, “the increasing rate of infections over recent weeks is raising concerns of a possible third wave of the epidemic, with the current rains increasing the risk.”

Natural Cycles App: ‘Highly Accurate Contraceptive’ Claim Misled Consumers

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(The Guardian) – An advert describing a smartphone app as a “highly accurate” method of birth control has been found to be misleading by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) in the latest blow to the much-hyped Swedish company, Natural Cycles. The offending advert, which appeared on Facebook, promoted the app by saying: “Natural Cycles is a highly accurate, certified, contraceptive app that adapts to every woman’s unique menstrual cycle.” However, the ASA began investigating the advert after it received three complaints about the app. Now the ASA has banned it, saying it was misleading and exaggerated the app’s effectiveness.

How 30 Days with an In-Home Robot Could Help Children with Autism

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(Science) – For many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), recognizing and responding to eye contact, body language, and tone of voice is a major challenge. Improving those social skills can take lots of work—putting a strain on caregivers with limited time, resources, and money for therapy. Now, a study shows that just 30 days with an in-home robot that provides social feedback can dramatically improve a child’s interactions with others.

FDA Warns More Websites Selling Unapproved Opioids

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(UPI) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered the operators of 21 websites to stop selling unapproved versions of opioid medications. On Tuesday, the FDA announced it added the websites, stemming from four networks, to an original list it announced in June. The networks are eCoinRX, MedInc.biz, PharmacyAffiliates.org and PharmaMedics.

The Patients Who Don’t Want to Be Cured

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(The Atlantic) – Jeff Johnson is 40 years old, and for all 40 of those years, he has been living with hemophilia. The genetic disorder prevents blood from properly clotting, which, if untreated, can cause uncontrollable bleeding. Yet, Johnson says, he does not want a cure. He grew up with hemophilia, went to summer camp with kids with hemophilia, and forged some of his closest relationships within the community. I was interested in speaking to Johnson because new advances in gene therapy and gene editing are making the elusive cure seem closer than ever. At least five clinical trials are currently aiming to fix the faulty genes that underlie hemophilia.

For Nursing Home Patients, Breast Cancer Surgery May Do More Harm Than Good

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(Kaiser Health News) – Surgery is a mainstay of breast cancer treatment, offering most women a good chance of cure. For frail nursing home residents, however, breast cancer surgery can harm their health and even hasten death, according to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery. The results have led some experts to question why patients who are fragile and advanced in years are screened for breast cancer, let alone given aggressive treatment.

U.S. Deaths from Self-Injury Surpass Those from Diabetes

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(Reuters) – More people in the U.S. are dying from self-inflicted harm, including suicide and drug overdose, than from diabetes, a new study suggests.  In 2016, for every 100,000 people, 29 deaths were due to self-injury and 25 were due to diabetes, researchers found when they looked at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Until 2015, diabetes was the seventh most common killer of people in the U.S., the authors note in Injury Prevention.

Building Bioethics into the Future of Life Sciences Innovation

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(Chemical & Engineering News) – In 2015, Jennifer Doudna, codeveloper of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology, convened a meeting in Napa, Calif., aimed at setting the parameters for ethical use of the groundbreaking genomic technique. Her template for the proceedings was a meeting of scientists that took place in 1975 down the coast at the Asilomar Conference Center near Monterey. There, the pioneers of biotech agreed to stop laboratory work with recombinant DNA until they could reach a consensus on how and where experiments could be pursued safely.

Critics Trying to Stop a Big Study of Sepsis Say the Research Puts Patients at Risk

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(NPR) – A consumer advocacy organization is asking federal health officials Tuesday to halt a large medical study being conducted at major universities nationwide. Public Citizen says that the study, involving treatment for sepsis, puts patients at risk and will at best produce confusing results. The CLOVERS study seeks to answer a key question about sepsis, which is a common and life-threatening response to infection. Sepsis kills more than 250,000 Americans a year, often by triggering the failure of multiple organs. As patients’ blood vessels get leaky as a result of sepsis, it becomes difficult to maintain safe fluid balance and blood pressure.

Researchers Find a Way to Mimic Clinical Trials Using Genetics

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(MIT Technology Review) – Now health researchers are wielding a new tool they hope will let them determine the true causes of chronic disease. And it comes through a surprise route: genetics. Researchers say that by employing innate genetic differences between people—an inborn susceptibility to alcohol, say, or to higher cholesterol levels in the arteries—they can now mimic, at much less effort and expense, the kinds of large trials that would be necessary to determine if an HDL-lowering medicine is really beneficial. The new technique, called Mendelian randomization, is already being used by drug companies to make billion-dollar decisions about which drugs to pursue.

As Teens Turn to Cosmetic Surgery, Study Outlines New Age-Appropriate Guidelines

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(Good Morning America) – In an age of social media, when teens are frequently comparing themselves to others and receiving instant comment on their appearance, a greater number of teens than ever are seeking — and having — cosmetic surgery procedures. But, many of these procedures have not been tested on teens. The safety is uncertain and other questions about whether they are appropriate for teens remain.  In a new study published Tuesday in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the authors compiled data on the outcomes of most common cosmetic procedures performed on teenagers.

Pediatricians Put It Bluntly: Motherhood and Marijuana Don’t Mix

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(ABC News) – More and more people consider smoking marijuana harmless or even beneficial, but mounting research suggests women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid it altogether. That’s according to new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which cites growing evidence of marijuana’s potential harm to children’s long-term development.

Should Fatal Opioid-Related Drug Overdoses Be Classified as Suicides?

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(Scientific American) – Suicide rates have been steadily climbing, Rockett said, but their numbers are likely even higher. He said too often opioid-related drug overdoses aren’t classified as suicides, and he thinks they should be. These deaths are often deemed by medical examiners as “accidental injury deaths” unless a suicide note is found. This classification doesn’t take into account that suicide and drug overdoses both arise from “purposeful” behaviors.

Report: Nearly 3,000 Deaths in Puerto Rico Linked to Maria

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(ABC News) – Hurricane Maria killed nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico in the desperate, sweltering months after the storm — almost double the previous government estimate — with the elderly and impoverished most affected, according to an independent study ordered by the U.S. territory.

In US, Sexually Transmitted Infections Hit New Highs

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(Medical Xpress) – Sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis soared to new record highs in the United States last year, public health officials said Tuesday. The reasons for the rise were not immediately clear, but the CDC pointed to prior research that has shown factors like poverty, stigma, discrimination and drug use can boost STD rates. Nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were diagnosed in the United States in 2017, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Australian Parents Flock to US Clinics to Choose Baby’s Gender

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(The Sydney Morning Herald) – Hundreds of Australian parents are travelling overseas every year to secretly choose the gender of their baby. They are spending tens of thousands of dollars to undergo selective IVF, fulfilling their burning desire to “complete” their family with a child of a certain gender, though social stigma around the procedure means most don’t even tell their closest family and friends.

When Frozen Embryos Are Destroyed, the Losses–And Legal Repercussions–Prove Hard to Measure

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(Chicago Tribune) – As the number of stored eggs and embryos rises in the United States, people desperate to become parents are bonding with potential future children at the earliest stages, when they are still just a few dozen cells. The freezer malfunction has highlighted that bond — and sparked a debate over what, exactly, was lost. That debate is taking place in dozens of lawsuits filed since the Ohio accident and a similar one at Pacific Fertility in California in March. The most explosive suit seeks to declare embryos people, potentially opening up the Cleveland center to charges of wrongful death.

John McCain Has Died. For Brain Cancers Like His, ‘Research Is Our Only Hope’

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(STAT News) – About 14,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most common form of adult brain cancer, every year. It will kill all but 15 percent within five years. Barely half live 18 months. Of two dozen experimental drugs tested in clinical trials for newly diagnosed glioblastoma in the last decade, zero improved survival. The last drug to do so, by an average of about two months, was temozolomide, approved in 2005. The newest treatment, based on electrical fields, bought patients an average of five more months.

Heart Disease Risk Is Hidden in Your Genes. Scientists Are Getting Better at Finding It.

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(Vox) – Last week, in the journal Nature Genetics, researchers at Harvard University and the Broad Institute published evidence that they can check out 6 million spots in a person’s genome to assess their risk for developing coronary artery disease, when the main blood vessel supplying the heart with oxygen gets clogged with plaque. It’s a precursor to a heart attack, when a clot cuts off blood flow to the heart, starving it of oxygen.

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