News from Bioethics.com

Officials Remove Special Rules for Gene Therapy Experiments

1 month 4 weeks

(Associated Press) – U.S. health officials are eliminating special regulations for gene therapy experiments, saying that what was once exotic science is quickly becoming an established form of medical care with no extraordinary risks. A special National Institutes of Health oversight panel will no longer review all gene therapy applications and will instead take on a broader advisory role, according to changes proposed Wednesday. The Food and Drug Administration will vet gene therapy experiments and products as it does with other treatments and drugs.

AI Can Spot the Pain from a Disease Some Doctors Still Think Is Fake

1 month 4 weeks

(Quartz) – Artificial intelligence, though, has the potential to make a diagnosis in minutes. Last year, researchers used machine learning to distinguish the brain scans of those with fibromyalgia from those without—with 93% accuracy. The implications are immense: Decoding the brain signature for fibromyalgia could hold the key to understanding the disease and which treatments work for which patients. But it’s also a definitive, objective sign that fibromyalgia really does exist.

First Human Trial of Zika Vaccine Gets Underway

1 month 4 weeks

(UPI) – The first clinical trial of a Zika vaccine in humans has begun, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced on Thursday. The vaccine for Zika, a disease mainly spread by mosquitoes, was developed by scientists at the NIAID, the agency announced. NIAIA is sponsoring the trial among 28 healthy, non-pregnant adults ages 18 to 50 at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Immunization Research in Baltimore, Md., and at the Vaccine Testing Center at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

Autism and DDT: What 1 Million Pregnancies Can–And Can’t–Reveal

1 month 4 weeks

(Scientific American) – Mothers with high levels of the pesticide DDT in their blood during pregnancy are more likely to bear children who develop autism, according to a study of blood samples from more than one million pregnant women in Finland. The World Health Organization estimates that globally, one in 160 children has autism. Any case of autism is likely due to a number of factors, including genetics and other environmental exposures. Although the authors stress that the findings do not prove that autism is caused by DDT—whose use has been banned in many countries for decades over concerns about its effects on wildlife—it is the first such association using a direct measure of exposure to the pesticide.

Fentanyl Drove Drug Overdose Deaths to a Record High in 2017–About 200 a day–CDC Estimates

1 month 4 weeks

(Los Angeles Times) – Drug overdose deaths surpassed 72,000 in 2017, according to provisional estimates recently released by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That represents an increase of more than 6,000 deaths, or 9.5%, over the estimate for the previous 12-month period. That staggering sum works out to about 200 drug overdose deaths every day, or one every eight minutes.

Financial Ties That Bind: Studies Often Fall Short on Conflict-of-Interest Disclosures

2 months 21 hours

(Kaiser Health News) – Papers in medical journals go through rigorous peer review and meticulous data analysis. Yet many of these articles are missing a key piece of information: the financial ties of the authors. Nearly two-thirds of the 100 physicians who rake in the most money from 10 device manufacturers failed to disclose a conflict of interest in their academic writing in 2016, according to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery. The omission can have real-life impact for patients when their doctors rely on such research to make medical decisions, potentially without knowing the authors’ potential conflicts of interest.

America’s Hottest Export? Sperm

2 months 21 hours

(The Guardian) – About 90% of Danish sperm goes to other EU countries, said Karlstad University’s Sebastian Mohr, who wrote a book on Danish sperm banks. One reason the US and Denmark are the heaviest hitters in the global sperm market: Laws allowing anonymity for donors, said Ayo Wahlberg, an anthropology professor at the University of Copenhagen. “The repeal of anonymity in many parts of the western world totally changed the game” in the past 10 to 15 years, Wahlberg said. While most European countries don’t allow anonymity, Denmark still does. “As soon as [anti-anonymity] legislation kicks in, numbers plummet.”

Psychologists Keep Policy on U.S. Detainees, But Issue Remains Open Wound

2 months 21 hours

(Science) – The American Psychological Association (APA) in Washington, D.C., has decided to retain a policy banning military psychologists from working with detainees at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and other national security detention facilities. But the political machinations surrounding a decisive vote this week by APA’s governing body suggest the 115,000-member organization is still far from resolving a decadelong debate over the ethical rules of conduct for psychologists in the U.S. government’s ongoing war against terrorism.

New AI System Can Screen for Neurological Illnesses in Seconds

2 months 22 hours

(UPI) – Researchers have developed an artificial intelligence method that can identify a range of acute neurological illnesses in CT scans within a few seconds, when time is essential in assessing the life-threatening conditions. Conditions such as stroke, hemorrhage and hydrocephalus were identified much faster with deep learning than through human diagnosis, according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine.

‘Artificial Intelligence’ Did Not Miss a Single Urgent Case

2 months 22 hours

(BBC) – Artificial intelligence can diagnose eye disease as accurately as some leading experts, research suggests. A study by Moorfields Eye Hospital in London and the Google company DeepMind found that a machine could learn to read complex eye scans and detect more than 50 eye conditions. Doctors hope artificial intelligence could soon play a major role in helping to identify patients who need urgent treatment. They hope it will also reduce delays.

Escape from the Mayo Clinic: Parents Break Teen Out of World-Famous Hospital

2 months 22 hours

(CNN) – While the details of Alyssa’s case are extraordinary — the Grandma Betty trick, the escape from the hospital with police on their heels — the core of her story is not uncommon in many ways, according to patient advocates.  Dr. Julia Hallisy, founder of the Empowered Patient Coalition, says families often tell her that a hospital won’t allow their loved one to transfer to another facility. Often, they’re afraid to say anything publicly or on social media.  “You sound like a crazy person — that your family member was held hostage in an American hospital,” she said. “People can’t believe that would happen. It’s like the stuff of a science fiction story.”

The ‘Missing Girls’ Never Born in Australia

2 months 22 hours

(Sydney Morning Herald) – A phenomenon of “missing girls” could be afflicting Australia, as a study of more than a million births suggests some parents could aborting unborn female babies or undergoing embryo selection overseas to have a son. If nature was left to take its course, it is expected that for every 100 girls born, about 105 boys will be brought into the world. But in findings researchers say indicates “systematic discrimination against females starts in the womb”, mothers within some key migrant communities are recording sons at rates of 122 and 125 for every 100 daughters in later pregnancies.

Is Assisted Suicide a Human Right or Homicide? The World Is Gradually Moving Towards a Consensus

2 months 1 day

(Scroll.in) – Death is an inevitable outcome for everyone. How one dies is a legitimate matter of concern for individuals and families, one that governments and courts should address rather than avoid. Physician-assisted suicide represents a fraction of all types of suicide, which together account for approximately 1.4% of annual deaths worldwide. Despite low incidence, the action to voluntarily end one’s life poses a dilemma – is assisted suicide a human right to be permitted or a homicide to be prohibited?

Effort to Diversify Medical Research Raises Thorny Questions of Race

2 months 1 day

(Scientific American) – In theory,All of Us could provide the deepest, most representative medical research sample to date. Studies based on this diverse pool could help pave the way for precision medicine to become the new norm in health care. But attaining such a representative group means overcoming a history of unethical research practices that have left seeds of doubt in a number of communities. It also means addressing modern-day cultural barriers that have so far stifled enrollment from certain groups, including Asian-Americans.

The Doctor Doesn’t Listen to Her. But the Media Is Starting To.

2 months 1 day

(The Atlantic) – After a while, the true-life horror stories women tell about their struggles to get reproductive health care start to bleed together. They almost always feature some variation on the same character: the doctor who waves a hand and says, “You’ll be fine,” or “That’s just in your head,” or “Take a Tylenol.” They follow an ominous three-act structure, in which a woman expresses concern about a sexual or reproductive issue to a doctor; the doctor demurs; later, after either an obstacle course of doctor visits or a nightmare scenario coming to life, a physician at last acknowledges her pain was real and present the whole time.

‘My Death Is Not My Own’: The Limits of Legal Euthanasia

2 months 2 days

(The Guardian) – Nevertheless, the euthanasia debate seems to have entered a faltering phase. A very un-Dutch thing has happened. We appear to be tongue-tied. The Netherlands – the country that, more than any other, wants to believe in every person’s right to voluntary death, the country that talks lightly about painless death as it were a money-back guarantee – is struggling with the dilemma surrounding dementia and death.

University of Minnesota Reports Breakthrough in 3-D Printing for Spinal Cord Repair

2 months 2 days

(Minnesota Star Tribune) – University of Minnesota researchers have broken new ground in the rapidly advancing field of 3-D printing: creating stem cell-infused scaffolds that could be implanted in spinal cords to repair nerve damage. The technology has existed for years to print plastic implants containing live cells. But the challenge was to do so in a way that would allow sensitive “neuronal” stem cells to survive the printing process so they can repair nerve damage after transplant.

Scientists Take a Harder Look at Genetic Engineering of Human Embryos

2 months 2 days

(Wired) – The researcher who spearheaded that work in the US, a controversial cell biologist named Shoukhrat Mitalipov, said not only that his team had used Crispr to correct a mutation in a newly fertilized embryo, but that they’d done it via a mechanism that was, if not novel, at least unusual. The response from the scientific community was immediate and negative. They just kinda didn’t buy it. So Wednesday, in the journal Nature—where Mitalipov published the initial work—two groups of researchers published pointed, acronym- and infographic-filled critiques of Mitalipov’s 2017 paper, and Mitalipov attempted to respond. Because the ethics don’t matter—well, not yet—if the science doesn’t actually work.

The Mice with Human Tumours: Growing Pains for a Popular Cancer Model

2 months 2 days

(Nature) – PDX models are not perfect, however — and scientists are beginning to recognize their shortcomings and complexities. The tumours can diverge from the original sample, for example, and the models cannot be used to test immunotherapies. Now, biologists are scrutinizing PDX mice and looking for creative ways to cope with the challenges. “Every model is artificial in some way,” says Jeffrey Moscow, head of the investigational drug branch at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. “The real question is how predictive are these models going to turn out to be.”

Doctors with Disabilities Push for Culture Change in Medicine

2 months 6 days

(NPR) – Iezzoni graduated from medical school but didn’t end up becoming a practicing doctor. This was before the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990, and she says she just didn’t have the support.  In the decades since, court rulings and amendments have clarified rights and protections. But culture change has been slow to take hold in the profession. Doctors are often portrayed as pinnacles of health, superhumans responding to emergencies around the clock, performing miracles of all kinds. They’re seen as the fixers, not the ones ever in need of accommodations or care.

US Scientist Who Edited Human Embryos with CRISPR Responds to Crtitics

2 months 6 days

(MIT Technology Review) – Facing criticism from fellow scientists, the researcher behind the world’s largest effort to edit human embryos with CRISPR is vowing to continue his efforts to develop what he calls “IVF gene therapy.” Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, drew global headlines last August when he reported successfully repairing a genetic mutation in dozens of human embryos, which were later destroyed as part of the experiment.

Yemen War: Saudi-Led Air Strike on Bus Kills 29 Children

2 months 6 days

(BBC) – At least 29 children have been killed and 30 wounded in a Saudi-led coalition air strike in Yemen, the International Committee of the Red Cross says. The children were travelling on a bus that was hit at a market in Dahyan, in the northern province of Saada. The health ministry run by the rebel Houthi movement said put the death toll at 43, and said 61 people were wounded.

Lax Oversight Leaves Surgery Center Regulators and Patients in the Dark

2 months 6 days

(Kaiser Health News) – A Kaiser Health News and USA Today Network and investigation found that surgery centers operate under such an uneven mix of rules across U.S. states that fatalities or serious injuries can result in no warning to government officials, much less to potential patients. The gaps in oversight enable centers hit with federal regulators’ toughest sanctions to keep operating, according to interviews, a review of hundreds of pages of court filings and government records obtained under open records laws. No rule stops a doctor exiled by a hospital for misconduct from opening a surgery center down the street.

War Zone Complicates Ebola Vaccine Rollout in Latest Outbreak

2 months 1 week

(Scientific American) – Aid workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo began giving an experimental Ebola vaccine to health workers on 8 August—one week after the World Health Organization declared an outbreak of the virus. First responders and public-health staff are scrambling to contain the outbreak while planning how to roll out the vaccine to communities in the middle of a conflict zone.

The Troubled 29-Year-Old Helped to Die by Dutch Doctors

2 months 1 week

(BBC) – These criteria may be more straightforward to apply in the case of someone with a terminal diagnosis from untreatable cancer, who is in great pain. And the vast majority of the 6,585 deaths from euthanasia in Holland in 2017 were cases of people with a physical disease. But 83 people were euthanised on the grounds of psychiatric suffering. So these were people – like Aurelia – whose conditions were not necessarily terminal. Aurelia Brouwers’ wish to die came with a long history of mental illness.

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