News from Bioethics.com

This Approach to Predictive Medicine That Is Taking Genomics Research by Storm

2 months 1 week

(Nature) – Supporters say that polygenic scores could be the next great stride in genomic medicine, but the approach has generated considerable debate. Some research presents ethical quandaries as to how the scores might be used: for example, in predicting academic performance. Critics also worry about how people will interpret the complex and sometimes equivocal information that emerges from the tests. And because leading biobanks lack ethnic and geographic diversity, the current crop of genetic screening tools might have predictive power only for the populations represented in the databases.

So Much Genetic Testing. So Few People to Explain It to You

2 months 1 week

(Wired) – What a difference 30 years makes. Today, with precision medicine going mainstream and an explosion of apps piping genetic insights to your phone from just a few teaspoons of spit, millions of Americans are having their DNA decoded every year. That deluge of data means that genetic counselors—the specialized medical professionals trained to help patients interpret genetic test results—are in higher demand than ever. With two to three job openings for every new genetic counseling graduate, the profession is facing a national workforce shortage.

As It Moves Out of the Lab, CRISPR Brings Tough Questions into the Clinic

2 months 1 week

(STAT News) – The genome editing technology CRISPR has evolved from the darling of research labs around the world — enabling new types of experiments in a much more efficient way — to the great hope for unlocking cures for inherited diseases. But as scientists ready CRISPR-based therapies for clinical trials, how can they reduce the chances that they might edit parts of the genome that weren’t targeted? And how can they get CRISPR editing complexes to the targeted cells to make the necessary fixes to treat or cure a disease?

Moms Who Use Egg Donors Lack Confidence in Parenting Ability, Study Finds

2 months 1 week

(CNN) – Mothers who give birth using donor eggs may react less sensitively to their babies and have a lower confidence in their parenting ability, a study says. Scientists at the University of Cambridge found “subtle yet meaningful differences” in the ways egg donor mothers interacted with their children, compared to mothers who had children using their own eggs. The team interviewed 85 families who’d conceived using egg donation and 65 families who had children through the mother’s own eggs.

John Hopkins Names Building to Honor Henrietta Lacks and Her ‘Immortal’ Cells

2 months 1 week

(The Washington Post) – Johns Hopkins University announced it will name a new research building on campus in honor of Henrietta Lacks, whose “immortal cells” led to the development of the polio vaccine, studies of leukemia and AIDS, chemotherapy and in vitro fertilization research as well as the effects of zero gravity in space.

We Are All Research Subjects Now

2 months 1 week

(The Chronicle of Higher Education) – This spring, with some fanfare, Facebook and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) announced that they would team up for a novel research collaboration. The unusual partnership has been greeted with equal parts praise and criticism. What seems undeniable, however, is what the project represents: the first outlines of a 21st-century social-research complex shaped more by big data than conventional data sets, and by corporate rather than public backing. Given its evident importance, those leading the effort will need to resist a reflexive retreat to old frameworks for ethical inquiry even as they venture into new territory.

IVF Is Less Successful in Black Women Even Though They Produce More Viable Eggs and Embryos–And Researchers Admit They Don’t Know Why

2 months 1 week

(Daily Mail) – African American women have lower success rates from IVF – despite yielding more eggs and embryos than white women. Most believe that the most important number to look for is how many eggs and embryos are retrieved. But new research shows that there may be other factors at play, especially for black patients, who have a 14 percent lower live birth rate than white women, according to data from a large clinic in Washington, DC.

CRISPR Cures Inherited Disorder in Mice, Paving Way for Genetic Therapy Before Birth

2 months 1 week

(STAT News) – Nearly 40 years after surgeons first operated on fetuses to cure devastating abnormalities, researchers have taken the first step toward curing genetic disease before birth via genome editing: scientists reported on Monday that they used the genome editing technique CRISPR to alter the DNA of laboratory mice in the womb, eliminating an often-fatal liver disease before the animals had even been born.

Texas Panel Faults Lab Chemist in Bryan Case for “Overstated Findings” and Inadequate DNA Analysis

2 months 1 week

(ProPublica) – An influential state commission issued a highly critical assessment on Friday of a second key player in the murder conviction of Joe Bryan, saying a Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab chemist had “overstated findings, exceeded her expertise and engaged in speculation” when she testified in 1989. In a report issued at its quarterly meeting, the Texas Forensic Science Commission also found that the now-retired chemist, Patricia Retzlaff, failed to do thorough analysis of key DNA evidence in 2012, after a judge allowed such testing.

A Third of Unplanned Pregnancies Aborted in Australia

2 months 1 week

(The Australian) – Almost a third of unplanned pregnancies in Australia end in abortion while stillbirth is more common among migrant women with “non white” backgrounds, according to survey data released today by the Medical Journal of Australia. The data, collected by researchers from La Trobe University and the University of Western Australia, attempts to establish the prevalence of abortions and stillbirths.

More Preteens Need HPV Shots to Meet Public Health Goal

2 months 1 week

(UPI) – Current rates of human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccination among preteens are too low to achieve goals set by the American Cancer Society, according to a new study. The cancer society wants an 80 percent vaccination rate among 13-year-olds by 2026. But this new report says an additional 14 million youngsters ages 11 to 12 would have to be vaccinated in the next eight years to reach that objective.

Liver Transplant from HIV+ Living Donor to Negative Recipient: Key Ethical Issues

2 months 1 week

(The Conversation) – About a year ago we made a tough call of our own: we could save a child’s life by giving the child a liver transplant – but risked infecting the child with HIV in the process. The donor was the child’s mother, who is HIV positive and the child was HIV negative. The procedure came with a risk of transmitting HIV to the child. South Africa’s law does not forbid the transplantation of an organ from a living HIV positive donor to an HIV negative recipient, provided that a robust informed consent process is in place. But this isn’t universally accepted as best clinical practice because of the risk of HIV transmission to the recipient.

How Advanced Prosthetics Turned This Man into an ‘Emerging Cyborg’

2 months 1 week

(PC Magazine) – In Dr. Lenzi’s lab, McMorris is participating in bio-medical clinical trials of technology intended to revolutionize life for people who require artificial limbs. Usually, McMorris wears a passive prosthetic below his right knee, but in the lab, he swaps his for an advanced prosthetic with built-in AI and state-of-the-art engineering. “Our research here focuses at the intersection of robotics, design, control, and biomechanics,” said Dr. Lenzi.

Ethics of Genetic Testing for Aesthetics

2 months 1 week

(Genome Web) – Some prospective parents are looking beyond genetic testing to determine whether their children might inherit disease-causing mutations to explore their chances of inheriting aesthetic traits like eye color, leading to ethical questions, the Wall Street Journal reports. It writes that companies like Genomic Prediction now offer tests that gauge an embryo’s risk of developing complex health conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and that researchers at that company have been researching whether they can predict height, too.

In a Study of Human Remains, Lessons in Science (and Cultural Sensitivity)

2 months 1 week

(Undark Magazine) – The subject matter was obscure, but the findings were provocative: A genomic analysis of a mysterious skeleton found in Chile’s Atacama Desert revealed that the remains weren’t those of an extraterrestrial, as was wildly speculated, but a human fetus with an unusual bone disorder. The study, published in the journal Genome Research in March by Garry Nolan of the Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology at Stanford University and his colleagues, was intended to put to rest speculation that the mummified remains might prove the existence of alien life — but the controversy over the remains did not end there.

A Controversial Virus Study Reveals a Critical Flaw in How Science Is Done

2 months 1 week

(The Atlantic) – This controversy is the latest chapter in an ongoing debate around “dual-use research of concern”—research that could clearly be applied for both good and ill. More than that, it reflects a vulnerability at the heart of modern science, where small groups of researchers and reviewers can make virtually unilateral decisions about experiments that have potentially global consequences, and that everyone else only learns about after the fact. Cue an endlessly looping GIF of Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm saying, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

New Way to Write DNA Could Turbocharge Synthetic Biology and Data Storage

2 months 1 week

(Science Magazine) – Scientists can read the DNA sequence faster than ever before. But their ability to write DNA hasn’t kept pace. Those wanting made-to-order DNA for purposes such as synthetic biology make do with short strands, synthesized in a slow and expensive chemical process. That appears ready to change. Today, researchers from a French biotechnology startup announced at a synthetic biology meeting in San Francisco, California, that by using close relatives of the DNA-writing enzymes in living things, they can build DNA strands as long as 150 “letters,” or nucleotide bases. That’s up from a record of 50 nucleotides just a few months ago, and nearly on par with the standard chemical approach.

African-Americans Are Disproportionately Enrolled in Studies That Don’t Require Informed Consent

2 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – African-Americans are enrolled in clinical trials that do not require patients to give individual consent at a disproportionately high level, according to a study published Monday. Scientists are allowed to conduct these experiments without obtaining consent from each individual participant because they are testing emergency medical procedures, and often the patients physically can’t respond. For example, scientists might be comparing two different methods of CPR, or examining the effect of different drug cocktails to treat a heart attack.

Japan Set to Allow Gene Editing in Human Embryos

2 months 2 weeks

(Nature) – Japan has issued draft guidelines that allow the use of gene-editing tools in human embryos. The proposal was released by an expert panel representing the country’s health and science ministries on 28 September. Although the country regulates the use of human embryos for research, there have been no specific guidelines on using tools such as CRISPR–Cas9 to make precise modifications in their DNA until now.

‘I Will Not Give Them the Baby’: The Plight of Cambodia’s Detained Surrogates

2 months 2 weeks

(The Guardian) – The new mother, Malis*, and her son are prisoners in a hospital on the outskirts of Phnom Penh with 31 other women, all surrogates hired by a company to deliver babies to Chinese clients. “I will not give them the baby. I will raise him myself,” Malis says. “When I saw him, I loved him already.” Police rounded up the 33 women in late June during a raid on an illegal surrogacy ring. A Chinese national and four Cambodian women were arrested and charged under Cambodia’s anti-trafficking law.

FDA Proposes Stiff Fines for Failing to Report Clinical Trials

2 months 2 weeks

(Nature) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing heavy fines for pharmaceutical companies that fail to report clinical-trial results online. In a 20 September draft guidance statement, the FDA said that failure to register trials or submit results to the government database ClinicalTrials[dot]gov could result in fines of up to US$10,000 per day.

Yemen Cholera Outbreak Accelerates to 10,000+ Cases per Week: WHO

2 months 2 weeks

(Reuters) – Yemen’s cholera outbreak – the worst in the world – is accelerating again, with roughly 10,000 suspected cases now reported per week, the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed on Tuesday.  That is double the average rate for the first eight months of the year, when 154,527 suspected cases of cholera – which can kill a child within hours if untreated – were recorded across the country, with 196 deaths.

Antidepressant Withdrawal ‘Hits Millions’

2 months 2 weeks

(BBC) – Millions of people get bad side-effects trying to cut down on or come off antidepressants, a large review says.  The All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence review suggests half of patients have withdrawal symptoms and for half of these the symptoms will be severe. Patients should be properly warned, it says. The guidance says symptoms are usually mild and clear up in a week.

ER Staffers Under Assault. Blame the Opioid Crisis.

2 months 2 weeks

(Medical Xpress) – Emergency departments are becoming increasingly violent places as doctors bear the brunt of fallout from the opioid epidemic, a new survey shows. Nearly half of American emergency physicians said they have been physically assaulted at work, and three in five report those assaults happened during the past year, according to a new poll commissioned by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).  Nearly seven in 10 of survey respondents said ER violence has increased over the past five years, with one-quarter reporting it has increased greatly.

Drugmakers Play the Patent Game to Lock in Princes, Block Competitors

2 months 2 weeks

(Kaiser Health News) – Yet, the patenting of a small change in how an existing drug is made or taken by patients is part of a tried-and-true pharmaceutical industry strategy of enveloping products with a series of protective patents. Drug companies typically have less than 10 years of exclusive rights once a drug hits the marketplace. They can extend their monopolies by layering in secondary patents, using tactics critics call “evergreening” or “product-hopping.”

Pages

Creative Commons License