News from Bioethics.com

Why a DNA Data Breach Is Much Worse Than a Credit Card Leak

2 months 1 week

(The Verge) – This week, DNA testing service MyHeritage revealed that hackers had breached 92 million of its accounts. Though the hackers only accessed encrypted emails and passwords — so they never reached the actual genetic data — there’s no question that this type of hack will happen more frequently as consumer genetic testing becomes more and more popular. So why would hackers want DNA information specifically? And what are the implications of a big DNA breach?

Artificial Intelligence Will Improve Medical Treatments

2 months 1 week

(The Economist) – FOUR years ago a woman in her early 30s was hit by a car in London. She needed emergency surgery to reduce the pressure on her brain. Her surgeon, Chris Mansi, remembers the operation going well. But she died, and Mr Mansi wanted to know why. He discovered that the problem had been a four-hour delay in getting her from the accident and emergency unit of the hospital where she was first brought, to the operating theatre in his own hospital. That, in turn, was the result of a delay in identifying, from medical scans of her head, that she had a large blood clot in her brain and was in need of immediate treatment. It is to try to avoid repetitions of this sort of delay that Mr Mansi has helped set up a firm called Viz.ai.

Suicide Increasingly Common in the U.S.

2 months 1 week

(New York Times) – Suicide rates rose steadily in nearly every state from 1999 to 2016, often by as much as 30 percent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday. In 2016, there were more than twice as many suicides as homicides in the United States. The figures come two days after the death of celebrity designer Kate Spade, which has sparked a national conversation about suicide.

Clinic Claims Success in Making Babies with 3 Parents’ DNA

2 months 1 week

(NPR) – In a clinic on a side street in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, doctors are doing something that, as far as is publicly known, is being done nowhere else in the world: using DNA from three different people to create babies for women who are infertile. “If you can help these families to achieve their own babies, why it must be forbidden?” Dr. Valery Zukin, director of the Nadiya Clinic, asks as he peers over his glasses. “It is a dream to want to have a genetic connection with a baby.”

Suspension of California’s Aid-in-Dying Law Leaves Sick Patients in Limbo

2 months 1 week

(Kaiser Health News) – Dozens of terminally ill patients in California who counted on using the state’s medical aid-in-dying law may be in limbo for a month after a court ruling that suspended the 2016 measure. A judge who ruled in May that the law was improperly enacted refused to vacate that decision at the request of advocates last week. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia set a hearing for June 29, however, to consider a separate motion by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to reverse the decision.

After Malpractice Caps, Doctors Ordered Fewer Invasive Tests to Diagnose Heart Attacks

2 months 1 week

(STAT News) – It’s a judgment call. Heart attack symptoms can be ambiguous, and there are no clear guidelines on which test to try when. But a new study published Wednesday in JAMA Cardiology has found one factor that appears to sway a doctor’s behavior when diagnosing a heart attack: whether the state where he or she is practicing has enacted a law capping malpractice damages. These laws limit payments made to compensate plaintiffs for “pain and suffering.”

For Many Lung Cancer Patients, Keytruda Is a Better Initial Treatment Than Chemotherapy, Study Finds

2 months 1 week

(Los Angeles Times) – In findings that may allow many lung cancer patients to avoid chemotherapy, a large clinical trial has shown that the immunotherapy drug Keytruda is a more effective initial treatment for two-thirds of patients with the most common type of lung cancer. Compared with advanced small-cell lung cancer patients who got chemotherapy, those treated first with Keytruda had a median survival time that was four to eight months longer.

European Mental Health Institutions Fall ‘Far Below the Standard,’ WHO Reports

2 months 1 week

(CNN) – European mental health institutions fall “far below the standard,” with no single institution meeting all of the standards for quality of care and human rights, according to a new World Health Organization report. Among the more severe transgressions documented in the report were the use of restraints to manage difficult behavior, sexual abuse of female patients, sleeping on floors, restrictions on communication and little access to “meaningful daily activities.”

Medical Workers in Congo City Finish Vaccinating Contacts of Ebola Patients

2 months 1 week

(New York Times) – Medical workers in Democratic Republic of Congo have given all the immediate contacts of Ebola patients in the city of Mbandaka an experimental vaccine as they try to thwart a disease that has killed around 25 people, the health ministry said. Ebola spreads easily through bodily fluids and the medical strategy involves vaccinating all the people a patient may have infected and then vaccinating a second “ring” of contacts around each of those potential sufferers.

Hundreds of Illinois Children Languish in Psychiatric Hospitals After They’re Cleared for Release

2 months 1 week

(ProPublica) – These unnecessary hospitalizations are another failure for a state system that has frequently fallen short in its charge to care for Illinois’ most vulnerable children, who suffer from conditions such as severe depression or bipolar disorder. Though statistics to compare how states handle children in psychiatric hospitals are scarce, and other states also experience similar challenges, psychiatrists and mental health experts say circumstances in Illinois are among the most dire in the nation.

Genealogy Site MyHeritage Says 92 Million User Accounts Compromised

2 months 1 week

(STAT News) – MyHeritage, one of the nation’s most popular online genealogy sites, said a security breach had affected the email addresses and hashed passwords of 92 million users, raising concerns about the security of more sensitive data that the company collects. The website allows users to create family trees, search historical records, and look for possible relatives. It also operates MyHeritage DNA, a genetic testing service that lets users to send in their spit and have their genetic information analyzed.

The ‘Cruel Joke’ of Compassionate Use and Right to Try: Pharma Companies Don’t Have to Comply

2 months 1 week

(STAT News) – That changed a few weeks ago when my 28-month-old daughter, Radha, was diagnosed with a lysosomal storage disorder. Now I know far more about these diseases than I did in medical school. I’ve also learned a frustrating fact that no medical school teaches its students: While the FDA has a compassionate use program to allow people access to experimental drugs, it can’t compel a company to provide those drugs. The newly signed “right-to-try” law doesn’t either.

‘Remarkable’ Therapy Beats Terminal Breast Cancer

2 months 1 week

(BBC) – The technology is a “living drug” made from a patient’s own cells at one of the world’s leading centres of cancer research. Dr Steven Rosenberg, chief of surgery at the National Cancer Institute, told the BBC: “We’re talking about the most highly personalised treatment imaginable.”  It remains experimental and still requires considerably more testing before it can be used more widely, but this is how it works: it starts by getting to know the enemy.

U.S. High Court Throws Out Immigrant Teen Abortion Ruling

2 months 1 week

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court ruling that let a pregnant illegal immigrant minor held in federal immigration custody obtain an abortion last year at age 17 over the objections of President Donald Trump’s administration. The justices provided a legal victory to Trump’s administration even though the teenager already has had the abortion because it eliminated a precedent at the federal appeals court level that could have applied in similar circumstances in which other detained minors sought abortions.

As Aid Workers Move to the Heart of Congo’s Ebola Outbreak, ‘Everything Gets More Complicated’

2 months 2 weeks

(New York Times) – Aiming to squelch an Ebola outbreak that has infected 54 people, killing almost half of them, aid workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have begun giving an experimental vaccine to people in the rural region at the epicenter of the outbreak. Epidemiologists working in the remote forests have not yet identified the first case, nor many of the villagers who may have been exposed. Investigators will need to overcome extreme logistical hurdles to reconstruct how the virus was transmitted, vaccinate contacts and halt the spread.

Scientists Have 3D Printed the Most Advanced Artificial Cornea Ever Using Human Cells

2 months 2 weeks

(The Verge) – Scientists have 3D printed the thin protective film over the eye, called the cornea, using human cells — and it’s the most advanced version of an artificial cornea yet. Should the technology improve, it could help millions of people see again. It was tricky to find the right recipe for an ink that’s thin enough to squirt through a 3D printer’s nozzle, says Che Connon, a tissue engineer at Newcastle University who was one of the creators of the artificial cornea. This bio-ink didn’t just have to be thin — it also had to be stiff enough that it could hold its shape as a 3D structure.

Gallup: Most Americans Say Euthanasia Should Be Legal

2 months 2 weeks

(UPI) – Nearly three-quarters of Americans support the practice of patient euthanasia, results of a Gallup poll published Thursday indicate. According to Gallup’s results, 72 percent of Americans believe doctors should be legally allowed, at a patient’s and a family’s request, to end a terminally ill patient’s life using painless means. Young adults, men, Democrats and liberals are especially likely to favor euthanasia, Gallup said. Only among weekly churchgoers does support for euthanasia drop below a majority.

FDA Halts One of the First Human CRISPR Studies Before It Begins

2 months 2 weeks

(MIT Technology Review) – A trial planning to use the gene-editing tool CRISPR on sickle-cell patients has been put on hold because of unspecified questions from US regulators. CRISPR Therapeutics, which is developing the therapy, sought approval from the US Food and Drug Administration in April to begin the study. The therapy involves extracting stem cells from a patient’s bone marrow and editing them with CRISPR in the lab. The idea is that the edited cells, once infused back into the patient, would give rise to healthy red blood cells.

Another Antibiotic Crisis: Fragile Supply Leads to Shortages

2 months 2 weeks

(Reuters) – Shortages of some life-saving antibiotics are putting growing numbers of patients at risk and fuelling the evolution of “superbugs” that do not respond to modern medicines, according to a new report on Thursday.  The non-profit Access to Medicine Foundation (AMF) said there was an emerging crisis in the global anti-infectives market as fragile drug supply chains – reliant on just a few big suppliers – come close to collapse.

Who Gets Credit for CRISPR? Prestigious Award Singles Out Three, and Leaves Out a Notable Scientist

2 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – One of the world’s richest science awards, given only in alternate years, will go to three discoverers of the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing tool, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced on Thursday. Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, and Virginijus Šikšnys of Vilnius University will each receive a gold medal and share the $1 million that comes with the Kavli Prize in nanoscience (there are also Kavli prizes for astrophysics and neuroscience).

Gene Therapy Is Saving Children’s Lives–But Screening to Discover Who Needs It Is Lagging Behind

2 months 2 weeks

(MIT Technology Review) – Newborn screening tests in the US cover a minimum of 34 disorders, and many states have opted to add more. Yet most don’t look for spinal muscular atrophy (commonly abbreviated as SMA), even though it’s the leading genetic cause of infant death. About 400 babies in the US are born with it every year. AveXis’s therapy is for the most common form, type 1. For parents of children with SMA, like Krystal Davis, newborn screening means giving those with the condition as close to a normal life as possible.

In Utero Transplant in First Clinical Trial Successful

2 months 2 weeks

(The Scientist) – Pediatric surgeons at the University of California, San Francisco, have treated a second-trimester fetus with stem cells taken from her mother’s bone marrow. The baby, born in February, was the first patient enrolled in the world’s first clinical trial using stem cells transplanted prior to birth. She is “apparently healthy,” despite living with a deadly genetic disease called alpha thalassemia, according to a statement from the university.

Pioneering Surgery Makes a Prosthetic Foot Feel Like the Real Thing

2 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – The key to making the bionic like the biological was combining a surgical advance with a technological one, the researchers say. Ewing — who mangled his left foot when he fell about 50 feet from a cliff he was scaling in the Cayman Islands — was the first person to undergo an entirely new kind of amputation, pioneered by Carty and MIT professor Hugh Herr. The engineers, meanwhile, developed a prosthetic foot that would enable two-way communication, with signals traveling from Ewing’s brain to his residual lower leg and into the bionic limb, and then back again.

Study Puts Puerto Rico Death Toll from Hurricane Maria Near 5,000

2 months 2 weeks

(NPR) – Perhaps 5,000 people died in Puerto Rico in 2017 for reasons related to September’s Hurricane Maria, according to a study that dismisses the official death toll of 64 as “a substantial underestimate.” A research team led by scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health didn’t simply attempt to count dead bodies in the wake of the powerful storm. Instead, they surveyed randomly chosen households and asked the occupants about their experiences.

Supreme Court Leaves in Place Law that Effectively Bans Abortion By Pill–For Now

2 months 2 weeks

(NPR) – The U.S. Supreme Court refused on Tuesday to hear a challenge to an Arkansas abortion law that, in practice, bars abortions by pill instead of by surgical procedure. The result is that Arkansas is now the only state in the country that essentially bans abortion by pill, a method certified by the federal Food and Drug Administration as at least as safe as surgical abortions. The Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene in the case at this point, however, is not final.

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