News from Bioethics.com

Greatest Rise in Heroin Use Was Among White People, Study Says

1 month 4 weeks

(CNN) – Now, a new study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry looks beyond the total number of overdose deaths to get a better picture of how heroin use patterns have changed since 2001. Since then, the number of people who have used heroin has increased almost five-fold, and the number of people who abuse heroin has approximately tripled. The greatest increases in use occurred among white males.

Planned Parenthood: US Anti-Abortion Filmmakers Face Charges

1 month 4 weeks

(BBC) – Two anti-abortion activists who secretly recorded conversations with Planned Parenthood have each been charged with 15 felonies in California. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt filmed undercover videos of themselves trying to buy foetal tissue, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. The pair created a fictitious bio-research firm and used fake identities for meetings with the healthcare group. Prosecutors say their actions invaded people’s privacy.

After 40-Year Odyssey, First Drug for Aggressive MS Wins FDA Approval

1 month 4 weeks

(STAT News) – On Tuesday night — after decades of false starts, struggles to persuade disbelieving colleagues, and a tortuous path through the maze of drug discovery — Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG announced that the Food and Drug Administration had approved its new drug for MS based on Hauser’s research. Researchers say the medication is a significant improvement over other treatments for the debilitating disease, which afflicts more than 400,000 Americans and by some estimates more than 2 million more patients worldwide.

Cross-Border Surrogacy: Exploiting Low Income Women as Biological Resources?

1 month 4 weeks

(The Guardian) – The neoliberal Indian economic miracle is reaching beyond the employment of local labour in call centres and factories and into the extraction of biological vitality. The issues of worker rights and safety that continue to plague outsourced production now find new manifestations in surrogacy. A place with stark socioeconomic inequality like New Delhi is perfect for such industry. Those in chauffeured cars provide investment in technology and expertise while the poor provide its biological resource. Surrogacy is one of a growing set of industries, such as some medical trials, or tissue and organ trade, that are developing around the medical sciences and that rely on lax regulation.

Pioneering Stem Cell Therapy Cures Infants with Bubble Baby Disease

1 month 4 weeks

(Medical Xpress) – In a phase 2 clinical trial led by Dr. Donald Kohn of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA, all nine babies were cured. A 10th trial participant was a teenager at the time of treatment and showed no signs of immune system recovery. Kohn’s treatment method, a stem cell gene therapy that safely restores immune systems in babies with the immunodeficiency using the child’s own cells, has cured 30 out of 30 babies during the course of several clinical trials.

Japanese Man Is First to Receive ‘Reprogrammed’ Stem Cells from Another Person

2 months 41 min

(Nature) – On 28 March, a Japanese man in his 60s became the first person to receive cells derived from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that had been donated by another person. The surgery is expected to set the path for more applications of iPS cell technology, which offers the versatility of embryonic stem cells without the latter’s ethical taint. Banks of iPS cells from diverse donors could make stem cell transplants more convenient to perform, while slashing costs.

Scientists Create Tiny Female Reproductive System in a Dish

2 months 50 min

(UPI) -Researchers at Northwestern University created a synthetic version of the female reproductive system that can be used to test drug therapies. The system is shaped like a cube and consists of a series of small tubes, each containing cells from a different part of the female reproductive system, including the uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes and liver.

This Paralyzed Man Is Using a Neuroprosthetic to Move His Arm for the First Time in Years

2 months 1 hour

(MIT Technology Review) – William Kochevar of Cleveland can slowly move his right arm and hand. No big deal—except that the 56-year-old had been paralyzed from the shoulders down since a bicycling accident ten years ago. The setup that is allowing Kochevar to move his arm again is a “neuroprosthetic” involving two tiny recording chips implanted in his motor cortex and another 36 electrodes embedded in his right arm. Now, during visits he makes to an Ohio lab each week, signals collected in his brain are being captured and sent to his arm so he can make some simple voluntary movements.

Scientists Turn Mammalian Cells into Complex Biocomputers

2 months 1 hour

(Science) – Computer hardware is getting a softer side. A research team has come up with a way of genetically engineering the DNA of mammalian cells to carry out complex computations, in effect turning the cells into biocomputers. The group hasn’t put those modified cells to work in useful ways yet, but down the road researchers hope the new programming techniques will help improve everything from cancer therapy to on-demand tissues that can replace worn-out body parts.

As Mexican State Limits Surrogacy, Global System Is Further Strained

2 months 1 day

(New York Times) – Mr. Theologos and his son are among a dozen foreign families who have been tangled up in a legal battle over how to apply new surrogacy restrictions in Tabasco, which for years was the only state in Mexico that allowed foreigners to hire surrogates. Dozens of other families whose babies are yet unborn will face the same quandary, officials and lawyers said. The imbroglio highlights the legal complexities of commercial surrogacy and the hazards of outsourcing it to freewheeling frontier markets, experts said.

Space Wombs for Stem Cells: Satellites Could Help Accelerate the Discovery of Disease Cures

2 months 1 day

(Salon) – This week a very special delivery was made from space that will help further research that could eventually lead to a mind-blowing, futuristic way to cure diseases: shooting unmanned satellite wombs into orbit and then retrieving from them batches of stem cells that can be used to treat patients. Regardless of the outcome, the scientific experiment will still advance our knowledge of these unique cells. On Thursday Dr. Abba Zubair at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, received frozen stem cells grown at the International Space Station. The package was part of the 5,400 pounds of scientific samples and equipment that splashed down on Sunday off the coast of California inside a SpaceX Dragon-10 capsule completing a historic round-trip mission.

Silicon Valley Would Rather Cure Death Than Make Life Worth Living

2 months 1 day

(Wired) – As surgeon and author Atul Gawande explains in Being Mortal, funding improvements in palliative care—making people in extreme pain or at the end of their life more comfortable—would much more meaningfully address the problem of death. You make death less terrible and inevitable by making life less painful. Silicon Valley’s simplistic life extension arithmetic—you improve life by adding more years—glosses over the complicated social forces eroding or hampering the quality of life for so many people.

Should a Human-Pig Chimera Be Treated as a Person?

2 months 4 days

(Quartz) – How should we respond to chimeras when we are uncertain of their moral status? At present, chimeras created in laboratories are destroyed as embryos. But in order to harvest organs, full gestation would be needed. When that happens, do the human-animal chimeras have a moral right to continued existence? If there is any doubt about the cognitive abilities of this new life form, we should check the chimera for its functionality. We should not assume it has the cognitive function of a normal pig. We should rear it humanely with social contact, and assess its function and abilities as it develops.

Researchers Just Uncovered a Simple Way to Help Combat the Opioid Epidemic

2 months 4 days

(Vox) – There’s another type of prescription drugs, besides opioid painkillers, that’s involved in thousands of drug overdose deaths in the US every year. The drugs are benzodiazepines, which are widely known by their brand names Xanax and Valium and commonly prescribed to help treat anxiety. These drugs were involved in nearly 9,000 overdose deaths in 2015, according to federal data. But there’s a catch: Such overdoses seem to be very closely tied to the opioid epidemic, with the majority of benzodiazepine overdose deaths involving both benzodiazepines and opioids.

Doctor Turns Up Possible Treatment for Deadly Sepsis

2 months 4 days

(NPR) – It’s hard not to get excited about news of a potentially effective treatment for sepsis, a condition that leads to multiple organ failure and kills more people in the hospital than any other disease. But there have been so many false promises about this condition over the years, it’s also wise to treat announcements — like one published online by the journal, Chest — with caution. The study, from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va., reported some remarkable success in treating patients who were at high risk of sudden death.

Debate Reignites Over the Contributions of ‘Bad Luck’ Mutations to Cancer

2 months 4 days

(Science) – How much of cancer is due to random “bad luck”? More than 2 years ago, a pair of researchers brought that question to prominence when they tried to sort out environmental versus inherited causes of cancer. They examined the extent to which stem cell divisions in healthy cells—and the random mutations, or “bad luck” that accumulate—drive cancer in different tissues. Their effort, which implied that cancer was harder to prevent than hoped and that early detection was underappreciated, sparked controversy and confusion. Now, the researchers are back with a sequel: a new paper that aims to parse “bad luck” risks by cancer type, and that brings in cancer data from other countries.

Tests Show 3D Bioprinted Human Cartilage Cells Can Be Safely Implanted

2 months 4 days

(UPI) – Scientists in Sweden successfully implanted 3D bioprinted human cartilage cells in an animal model. Researchers hope the breakthrough paves the way for the technology’s use in human patients. “This is the first time anyone has printed human-derived cartilage cells, implanted them in an animal model and induced them to grow,” Paul Gatenholm, professor of biopolymer technology at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, said in a news release.

With Patients Demanding Experimental Drugs, ‘Right to Try’ Is Becoming the Law of the Land

2 months 5 days

(STAT News) – Some physicians, ethicists, and regulatory officials say the laws could harm more patients than they help — but many are reluctant to publicly oppose the laws for fear of being seen as opposing any one patient’s quest to save his or her life. Lawmakers, critics say, can stand on high moral ground as champions of the dying, while opponents struggle to demonstrate potential harms to faceless patients.

Economic Shocks Are More Likely to Be Lethal in America

2 months 5 days

(The Economist) – Ms Case and Mr Deaton have now updated their work on these so-called “deaths of despair”. The results, presented this week at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, are no happier. White middle-age mortality continued to rise in 2014 and 2015, contributing to a fall in life expectancy among the population as a whole. The trend transcends geography. It is found in almost every state, and in both cities and rural areas. The problem seems to be getting worse over time. Deaths from drugs, suicide and alcohol have risen in every five-year cohort of whites born since the 1940s. And in each group, ageing seems to have worse effects.

Doctors Consider Ethics of Costly Heart Surgery for People Addicted to Opioids

2 months 6 days

(NPR) – Milford is part of a group of opioid addicts whom doctors describe as the sickest of the sick: intravenous drug users, mostly people who use heroin, who get endocarditis. Some aspects of their treatment present an ethical dilemma for doctors. Cardiologists, surgeons and infectious disease doctors can fix the infection, but not the underlying problem of addiction. And when patients who are still addicted to opioids leave the hospital, many keep injecting drugs, often causing repeat infections that are more costly and more challenging to cure.

Sale of Cambodian Breast Milk to Mothers in US Criticized by UN

2 months 6 days

(The Guardian) – The UN children’s fund has strongly criticised the sale by a commercial company of breast milk donated by Cambodian mothers to women in the US, warning it could lead to the babies of poor and vulnerable women becoming malnourished. Unicef condemned the trade by Utah-based company Ambrosia Labs as the Cambodian government intervened. Cambodia’s customs department said the finance minister, Aun Porn Moniroth, had signed a letter blocking further exports, according to the Associated Press in Phnom Penh. Talks will be held to decide whether the business should be allowed to resume.

On Cognitive Doping in Chess (and Life)

2 months 6 days

(The Atlantic) -For professional chess players, though, medicinal “neuro-enhancement” (as it’s sometimes dubiously known) could bring in somewhere between 6 and 15 percent more wins. That’s according to the first large study of “highly skilled tournament chess players” comparing their performance in states of medication and sobriety—a study that the World Chess Championship’s publication World Chess has called “landmark” and “groundbreaking.”

A New Form of Stem Cell Engineering Raises Ethical Questions

2 months 6 days

(New York Times) – As biological research races forward, ethical quandaries are piling up. In a report published Tuesday in the journal eLife, researchers at Harvard Medical School said it was time to ponder a startling new prospect: synthetic embryos. In recent years, scientists have moved beyond in vitro fertilization. They are starting to assemble stem cells that can organize themselves into embryolike structures.

Determined Parents Are Moving the Needle on Gene Therapy

2 months 1 week

(MIT Technology Review) – Frase is very likely the reason why the same treatment is now about to be tested in humans. In recent years, gene therapies have become safer and better at hitting their intended targets in the body, leading to a handful of remarkable cures in clinical trials. Advocates for rare-disease patients—especially determined parents like Frase—are increasingly seeking to start gene-therapy programs. They are establishing patient advocacy organizations, raising money for research, and even founding their own biotechnology startups to find treatments where few or none currently exist.

Erasing the ‘Ownership’ Tattoos on Sex-Trafficking Victims

2 months 1 week

(The Atlantic) – The plastic surgeon offers free tattoo removals for sex-trafficking survivors. Picoway, the company that makes his tattoo-removal lasers, arranges their transportation. Leon was undergoing a second round of treatment to obliterate a mark made on her by one of her pimps. The tattoo reads “Smitty,” the street name of a former trafficker, and a sign to other pimps that she was his property. Nearly all of the women Leon worked with had them. Like her, many survivors are seeking out an array of charitable tattoo cover-up and removal services.

Pages

Creative Commons License