News from Bioethics.com

Stem Cell Therapies: Medical Experts Call for Strict International Rules

2 months 2 weeks

(The Guardian) – Medical and legal experts from around the world have united to call for more stringent regulation of stem cell therapies to prevent people pursuing unproven and potentially deadly treatments overseas. In a perspective piece for the US journal Science Translational Medicine, 15 experts from countries including the UK, the US, Canada, Belgium, Italy and Japan wrote that national efforts alone would not be enough to counter an industry offering unproven treatments to vulnerable patients.

The Transfer of Chromosomally ‘Abnormal’ Embryos Can Still Result in Pregnancy in IVF

2 months 2 weeks

(Medical Xpress) – This pattern of embryonic mosaicism, which is characterised by the presence of two or more genetically distinct cell lineages, typically one with a chromosome abnormality and the other with a normal chromosome composition, has become a controversial topic in recent months, with debate over their potential viability. In the light of this latest study, which was performed by the GENOMA group and European Hospital IVF Center in Rome, Dr Francesco Fiorentino from the Molecular Genetics Laboratory of GENOMA, who will present today’s study, said that its results “confirm that mosaic embryos can develop into healthy euploid [chromosomally healthy] newborns”.

New on the Streets: Gabapentin, a Drug for Nerve Pain, and a New Target of Abuse

2 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – Athens, home to Ohio University, lies in the southeastern corner of the state, which has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic. Despite experience in combating illicit drug use, law enforcement officials and drug counselors say the addition of gabapentin adds a new obstacle. As providers dole out the drug in mass quantities for conditions such as restless legs syndrome and alcoholism, it is being subverted to a drug of abuse. Gabapentin can enhance the euphoria caused by an opioid and stave off drug withdrawals. In addition, it can bypass the blocking effects of medications used for addiction treatment, enabling patients to get high while in recovery.

Indian Doctors Are Bribing Colleagues, Ambulance Drivers, and Even Yoga Teachers to Get Patients

2 months 2 weeks

(Quartz) – Doctors trying to establish their practice are given the impression that if they do not pay commissions, their practice will not survive. Moreover, corporate hospitals often set targets for doctors on how many patients they should treat and how many medical procedures they must perform in a given timeframe. If a doctor cannot achieve the targets, he could lose his affiliation with the hospital. Students of private medical colleges then pay donations that can range anywhere between Rs30 lakh and Rs1 crore, putting great pressure on them to start earning well early in their careers. This combination of factors alarms doctors into paying commissions for referrals.

Ebola Outbreak in Africa Ends–But Gaps in Public Health Leave Region Vulnerable

2 months 2 weeks

(Nature) – On 2 July, the Congolese government and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an end to the DRC outbreak — but public-health officials caution that its low death toll doesn’t prove that the world has learnt all the lessons of the West African crisis. They credit the fact that only four people died to the expertise of Congolese officials, who had dealt with seven previous Ebola outbreaks, and to the remoteness of the northern Bas Uele province where the outbreak occurred.

Charlie Gard: British Baby at the Center of Global Debate

2 months 2 weeks

(CNN) – Charlie has an extremely rare degenerative condition called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. His doctors in Britain want to take him off life support, arguing that he has no hope of surviving without assistance and that he should be allowed to die in dignity. But Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, want the hospital to release their baby into their custody so they can take him to the United States for an experimental treatment.

French Implant Maker Carmat Pins Hopes on Low Energy Heart

2 months 2 weeks

(Reuters) – Artificial heart maker Carmat is hoping a more energy-efficient implant and the appointment of a production chief can help it overcome recent failures at the French firm. Carmat won clearance from the French medicines agency to resume an implant trial in May after a suspension following the death of a fifth patient in October. Chief Executive Stephane Piat, who took over in September, told Reuters that lessons from previous failures had been learned and Carmat was tightening its clinical trials procedure.

Older Male Partners ‘Lower Chances of IVF Baby Success’

2 months 2 weeks

(BBC) – The success rate of couples going through IVF is dependent on the age of the man – not only the woman, a US study suggests. Older men were found to have a lower chance of conceiving than younger men with a female partner of the same age. Harvard researchers presented their study of nearly 19,000 IVF cycles at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. The findings contradict the idea that male fertility goes on forever.

They’re Children Are Dying. So These Families Are Racing to Raise Money for Research No One Else Will Fund

2 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – Rare diseases are increasingly attractive to biopharma companies, which can charge premium prices if they come up with a therapy. (One drug that just hit the market is priced at $750,000 for the first year of treatment.) But before they’ll invest heavily in a field, companies want to see compelling early-stage science. So families like the Sabkys are turning to the internet to raise money from friends — and from total strangers — to fund basic research at universities and hospitals.

Where a Doctor Saw a Treatable Cancer, a Patient Saw an Evil Spirit

2 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – Thousands of Hmong emigrated from Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War, when the CIA recruited them to fight or spy on the United States’s behalf, only to face harsh repercussions after U.S. forces withdrew. Many Hmong understand physical illness in mystical terms: an evil spirit, or “dab,” can enter the body if a person is badly startled, for instance, or if a baby’s placenta is not properly buried. A dab might depart only if a person takes specific actions, like drinking an herbal remedy while also leaving a cup of the remedy for the dab to drink.

Africa’s Presidents Keep Going Abroad for Medical Treatment Rather than Fixing Healthcare at Home

2 months 3 weeks

(Quartz) – The preference for an international doctor’s appointment is steeped in irony as these leaders often make promises about improving local healthcare a central part of their campaigns while seeking office. But by looking beyond the continent for medical solutions, African leaders maintain a vicious cycle which keeps faith in public healthcare low while channeling substantial state resources to hospitals abroad rather than plug local healthcare gaps.

New Natural Selection: How Scientists Are Altering DNA to Genetically Engineer New Forms of Life

2 months 3 weeks

(Newsweek) – That is the promise of synthetic biology, a technology that is poised to change how we feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, fuel ourselves—and possibly even change our very selves. While scientists have for decades been able to practice basic genetic engineering—knocking out a gene or moving one between species—and more recently have learned to rapidly read and sequence genes, now researchers can edit genomes and even write entirely original DNA. That gives scientists incredible control over the fundamental code that drives all life on Earth, from the most basic bacterium to, well, us. “Genetic engineering was like replacing a red light bulb with a green light bulb,” says James Collins, a biological engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of synthetic biology’s early pioneers. “Synthetic biology is introducing novel circuitry that can control how the bulbs turn off and on.”

As Surrogacy Surges, New Parents Seek Legal Protections

2 months 3 weeks

(Pew Charitable Trusts) – The advent of gay marriage, advances in reproductive technology, and the fact that more people are waiting longer to start families have fueled a surge in the surrogacy industry. In 2015, 2,807 babies were born through surrogacy in the U.S., up from 738 in 2004, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Women are often paid at least $30,000 to carry a baby created from the egg and sperm of others. But in many places, once the baby arrives, outdated state laws fail to answer an important question: Who are the parents?

First ‘Haploid’ Human Stem Cell Could Change the Face of Medical Research

2 months 3 weeks

(Medical Research) – Most of the cells in our body are diploid, which means they carry two sets of chromosomes—one from each parent. Until now, scientists have only succeeded in creating haploid embryonic stem cells—which contain a single set of chromosomes—in non-human mammals such as mice, rats and monkeys. However, scientists have long sought to isolate and replicate these haploid ESCs in humans, which would allow them to work with one set of human chromosomes as opposed to a mixture from both parents. This milestone was finally reached when Ido Sagi, working as a PhD student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Azrieli Center for Stem Cells and Genetic Research, led research that yielded the first successful isolation and maintenance of haploid embryonic stem cells in humans. Unlike in mice, these haploid stem cells were able to differentiate into many other cell types, such as brain, heart and pancreas, while retaining a single set of chromosomes.

Zika Virus May Not Seem as Big a Threat as Last Summer but Don’t Let Your Guard Down

2 months 3 weeks

(Associated Press) – The Zika virus may not seem as big a threat as last summer but don’t let your guard down – especially if you’re pregnant or trying to be. While cases of the birth defect-causing virus have dropped sharply from last year’s peak in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, Zika hasn’t disappeared from the region and remains a potential threat. It’s hard to predict how much risk people face in locales with smoldering infection, or if cases might spike again. For now, pregnant women still are being urged not to travel to a country or area with even a few reported cases of Zika, because the consequences can be disastrous for a fetus’ brain.

Genomic Vaccines Fight Disease in Ways Not Possible Before

2 months 3 weeks

(Scientific American) – Standard vaccines to prevent infectious diseases consist of killed or weakened pathogens or proteins from those microorganisms. Vaccines that treat cancer also rely on proteins. In contrast, a new kind of vaccine, which is poised to make major inroads in medicine, consists of genes. Genomic vaccines promise to offer many advantages, including fast manufacture when a virus, such as Zika or Ebola, suddenly becomes more virulent or widespread. They have been decades in the making, but dozens have now entered clinical trials.

One in Five ‘Healthy’ Adults May Carry Disease-Related Genetic Mutations

2 months 3 weeks

(Science) – Some doctors dream of diagnosing diseases—or at least predicting disease risk—with a simple DNA scan. But others have said the practice, which could soon be the foundation of preventative medicine, isn’t worth the economic or emotional cost. Now, a new pair of studies puts numbers to the debate, and one is the first ever randomized clinical trial evaluating whole genome sequencing in healthy people. Together, they suggest that sequencing the genomes of otherwise healthy adults can for about one in five people turn up risk markers for rare diseases or genetic mutations associated with cancers.

111 People Died under California’s New Right-to-Die Law

2 months 3 weeks

(CNN) – One hundred eleven people died last year under California’s new right-to-die law, according to a report released Tuesday by the state’s Department of Public Health. The End of Life Option Act went into effect on June 9, 2016. It allows for California residents, age 18 and older, to request life-ending medication from their doctor if they are suffering from a terminal illness and want to set their own timetable for their death.

51 Percent of Opioid Prescriptions Go to People with Depression and Other Mood Disorders

2 months 3 weeks

(STAT News) – More than half of all opioid prescriptions in the United States are written for people with anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders, according to a new study that questions how pain is treated in this vulnerable population. People with mood disorders are at increased risk of abusing opioids, and yet they received many more prescriptions than the general population, according to an analysis of data from 2011 and 2013.

Wealth, Poverty Propping Up Pakistan’s Illegal Kidney Trade

2 months 3 weeks

(Yahoo! News) – When Pakistani authorities burst into a makeshift hospital in Lahore this year, doctors were caught mid-way through two illegal kidney transplants, the local donors and Omani clients still unconscious on the tables. The doctors were allowed to finish the operation then arrested, along with their assistants and the Omanis, in a raid Pakistani authorities say is a turning point in their battle against organ trafficking. Pakistan has long been an international hub for the illegal kidney trade, but medical and local authorities complain they have been unable to act against the practice, frustrated by ineffective enforcement policies and what they perceive as a lack of political will to crack down.

The Consequences of Sequencing Healthy People

2 months 3 weeks

(The Scientist) – Physicians are increasingly using patients’ genomic data to fight cancer or diagnose unexplained symptoms. But in individuals with no discernable signs of illness, it’s uncertain whether knowing their genomic blueprints is beneficial, and whether primary care physicians are up to the challenge of managing these data for their patients. In the first study of its kind to evaluate whole genome sequencing in a randomized fashion, published today (June 26) in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers report that although primary care physicians are capable of contending with genomic information, its value for healthy patients remains ambiguous.

Cancer Studies Pass Reproduciblity Test

2 months 3 weeks

(Science) – A high-profile project aiming to test reproducibility in cancer biology has released a second batch of results, and this time the news is good: Most of the experiments from two key cancer papers could be repeated. The latest replication studies, which appear today in eLife, come on top of five published in January that delivered a mixed message about whether high-impact cancer research can be reproduced. Taken together, however, results from the completed studies are “encouraging,” says Sean Morrison of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, an eLife editor. Overall, he adds, independent labs have now “reproduced substantial aspects” of the original experiments in four of five replication efforts that have produced clear results.

WHO Hopes Yemeni Cholera Outbreak Is Half Done at 218,000

2 months 3 weeks

(Reuters) – A major cholera outbreak in Yemen may have reached the halfway mark at 218,798 cases as a massive emergency response has begun to curb its spread two months into the epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday. Two years into a devastating civil war between a Saudi-led coalition and Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, Yemen became a perfect breeding ground for the disease, which spreads by faeces getting into food or water and thrives in places with poor sanitation.

Human Trafficking: US Downgrades China over Record

2 months 3 weeks

(BBC) – China “is not making significant efforts” to stop human trafficking, the US says, claiming that fewer people are now being prosecuted than before. The US Department of State released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report on Thursday, and downgraded China to one of the worst offenders. The reports highlights the forced labour of Uighur people in China’s restive Xinjiang province. There has been no response from China, which could now face sanctions.

Court Rules Hospital Can Withdraw Life Support for Sick Baby Charlie Gard

2 months 3 weeks

(CNN) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday a hospital can discontinue life support to a baby suffering from a rare genetic disease. Born in August, Charlie Gard has a rare genetic disorder known as mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. Caused by a genetic mutation, it leads to weakened muscles and organ dysfunction, among other symptoms, with a poor prognosis for most patients. Charlie is on life support and has been in the intensive care unit at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London since October. His doctors wish to take him off life support, but his parents disagree.

Pages

Creative Commons License