News from Bioethics.com

If Someone Wants to Create Gene-Edited Babies, Who Would Stop Them?

2 months 3 weeks

(The Verge) – A Chinese researcher claims to have created the world’s first gene-edited babies, a move bioethicists say is the latest example of how gene-editing technology is advancing faster than regulation. If true, this experiment could have worldwide effects — and there’s no law that prevents it from happening in the US or anywhere else.

Chinese Scientist Claims World’s First Gene-Edited Babies, Amid Denial from Hospital and International Outcry

2 months 3 weeks

(CNN) – An initial investigation by the hospital said that signatures on He’s ethics review form are suspected to be forged. The hospital has never convened an ethics committee meeting on it, according to a statement on its WeChat account, and the facility will ask police to intervene and investigate it and hold related people accountable by law. The Shenzhen Health and Family Planning Commission denounced the legitimacy of the hospital ethics committee and the review process that approved the application. It confirmed that an investigation was launched Monday to “verify the authenticity of the ethical review of the research reported by media.”

Contraceptive Implant Surgically Removed from Thousands of Women

2 months 3 weeks

(The Guardian) – Thousands of women have undergone invasive surgery to remove contraceptive implants that were designed to be permanent, according to research for the implant files. The Essure implant, made by Bayer, was marketed as a “gentler” non-surgical alternative to traditional sterilisation methods, with women told the procedure could be carried out in a GP’s surgery in 15 minutes. However, a Dutch surgeon who has carried out nearly 500 Essure removals described how the implant turned into a “calcified nail” inside the body and reported cases of devices having pierced through internal tissue and migrated into the abdomen.

Genome-Edited Baby Claim Provokes International Outcry

2 months 3 weeks

(Nature) – A Chinese scientist claims that he has helped make the world’s first genome-edited babies — twin girls who were born this month. The announcement has provoked shock, and some outrage, among scientists around the world. He Jiankui, a genome-editing researcher from the Southern University of Science and Technology of China in Shenzhen, says that he implanted into a woman an embryo that had been edited to disable the genetic pathway that allows a cell to be infected with HIV.

Chinese Researcher Claims Birth of First Gene-Edited Babies–Twin Girls

2 months 3 weeks

(STAT News) – A Chinese researcher claims that he helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies — twin girls born this month whose DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life. If true, it would be a profound leap of science and ethics. A U.S. scientist said he took part in the work in China, but this kind of gene editing is banned in the United States because the DNA changes can pass to future generations and it risks harming other genes.

‘They Ordered Me to Get an Abortion’: A Chinese Woman’s Ordeal in Xinjiang

2 months 3 weeks

(NPR) – “I thought they wanted to interrogate me again,” she says. “But they took me to the hospital instead. They administered another health check, and then they told me I was pregnant.” She was six weeks along. Before she could share the news with her husband, local authorities returned to her house the next day. “They ordered me to get an abortion,” she says. The authorities warned her a third child wasn’t permitted. “They told me I couldn’t have the baby because I’ve had two others, and that a third was not allowed,” she says. “I told them my husband is a Kazakh citizen and that I’m carrying a Kazakh citizen. But they insisted that I have an abortion.”

Changing Concepts in Hematopoietic Stem Cells

2 months 3 weeks

(Science) – Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) can produce all cell lineages within the adult blood system, and they have provided a flagship model in which to study stem cell biology. Concepts developed from studying HSCs have influenced how we consider other stem cell systems. HSCs are also one of the few stem cell types with a long history of clinical application, in the form of bone marrow transplantation. Recent technical advances have brought about a major revision in our understanding of the HSC compartment. These necessitate new models and nomenclature to describe HSC heterogeneity, self-renewal, and differentiation potential, as well as having broader implications for how we consider stemness.

The Women Killed on One Day Around the World

2 months 3 weeks

(BBC) – An average of 137 women across the world are killed by a partner or family member every day, according to new data released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). They say it makes “the home the most likely place for a woman to be killed”.  More than half of the 87,000 women killed in 2017 were reported as dying at the hands of those closest to them. Of that figure, approximately 30,000 women were killed by an intimate partner and another 20,000 by a relative.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Mississippi’s Controversial 15-Week Abortion Law

2 months 3 weeks

(NBC News) – A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a Mississippi abortion law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, one of the most restrictive in the United States. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled that the law “unequivocally” violates women’s constitutional rights. “The record is clear: States may not ban abortions prior to viability,” Reeves said, citing Supreme Court rulings.

Smoke-Filled Snapshot: California Wildfire Generates Dangerous Air Quality for Millions

3 months 1 day

(Kaiser Health News) – Air quality readings in several cities, including Sacramento, Modesto and Chico, spiked into “hazardous” territory. But the risks extended much farther away. Residents of San Francisco Bay Area communities couldn’t see the city’s iconic skyline because of the intense smoke. “We saw the highest readings in some of the locations that we’d ever seen before,” said Simrun Dhoot, a spokeswoman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the local government agency that monitors air quality. “It was pretty much the worst air quality that we’ve ever experienced.”

Biologists Create the Most Lifelike Artificial Cells Yet

3 months 1 day

(Science) – Yet these mock cells are cutting-edge, “the closest anyone has come to building an actual functioning synthetic eukaryotic cell,” says synthetic biologist Kate Adamala of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who was not part of the work. Like real cells, the spheres can send protein signals to their neighbors, triggering communal behavior. And as Devaraj and his team revealed in a preprint recently posted on the bioRxiv site, the “nucleus” talks to the rest of the cell, releasing RNA that sparks the synthesis of proteins. The artificial nuclei can even respond to signals from other cell mimics. “This may be the most important paper in synthetic biology this year,” Adamala says.

Playing on Fear and Fun, Hospitals Follow Pharma in Direct-to-Consumer Advertising

3 months 1 day

(Kaiser Health News) – Is this a dystopian video game? Gritty drama? Neither. It is a commercial for the living-donor liver transplant center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, an academic hospital embroiled in a high-profile battle with the region’s dominant health plan and now making a play to a national audience. Hospitals are using TV spots like this one to attract lucrative patients into their hospitals as health care costs and industry competition escalate.

Researchers Offer Perspective on Legal, Ethical Implications of Lost Eggs and Embryos

3 months 1 day

(Medical Xpress) – On March 3, 2018, a liquid nitrogen storage tank at the University Hospitals Fertility Center in Cleveland failed. Dr. Eli Adashi, a professor of medical science at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, characterized the event as a “tragic accident” in which 950 patients lost more than 4,000 frozen eggs and embryos. However, one couple’s wrongful death lawsuit following the incident, which seeks to establish that embryos should be treated as “persons” under the law, could have “a chain of profound implications for other families,” Adashi says.

A Drug Maker Boosted the Price of Its Opioid-Overdose Antidote by 600 Percent, and Taxpayers Suffered

3 months 2 days

(STAT News) – In order to capitalize on the opioid crisis, a small company that sells a version of naloxone, a decades-old drug that is widely used to reverse the effect of opioid and heroin overdoses, raised the price of its product by more than 600 percent between 2014 and 2017, which cost the federal government more than $142 million, according to a lengthy report from a Senate subcommittee.

Malaria Progress Stalls, New Report Says

3 months 2 days

(ABC News) – Progress against eradicating malaria seems to have stopped, according to a new report from the World Health Organization.  The number of malaria cases fell from 239 million in 2010 to 217 million in 2016. But then the number of cases jumped to 239 million. The disease is still clearly a danger – especially to those in African countries and in India, which account for 80 percent of the world’s malaria burden.

CDC Launches Task Force for Disease That Causes Paralysis in Kids

3 months 2 days

(UPI) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a task force on Monday to investigate the recent surge in AFM, a polio-like disease that causes paralysis in children. The Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) Task Force will pull together experts from the scientific, medical and public health fields to help solve this critical public health issue gain more insight on the mystery disease.

Human Rights Groups Call on Canada to End Coerced Sterilization of Indigenous Women

3 months 2 days

(The Guardian) – Human rights groups are calling on Canada to end the coerced sterilization of indigenous women, as a growing number of victims seek to join a class action lawsuit against government and medical professionals. At least 60 women have joined a pending class action lawsuit against doctors and health officials in the province of Saskatchewan, seeking compensation for the violation of their rights.

The Ethical Quandary of Human Infection Studies

3 months 3 days

(Scientific American) – Human infection studies like this one, also referred to as human challenge studies, in which scientists expose people to an infectious disease in order to study it or to test new drugs, have long taken place in wealthy nations where results can be carefully tracked and patients easily monitored. But now there is a push to carry them out on the ground in developing countries like Kenya, Mali, and Thailand, closer to suffering populations and real-world conditions.

Genetics Start-Up Wants to Sequence People’s Genomes for Free

3 months 3 days

(Scientific American) – The quality of gene sequencing has improved so much and its price has fallen so far that a start-up now says it can offer the service for free. Nebula Genomics aims to sequence a customer’s entire genome, according to the company’s chief scientific officer Dennis Grishin. In contrast, current commercial services offer genotyping, which focuses on the differences between the person’s genome and a reference one. The new service, which was officially made available Thursday, will provide 2,000 times more data than existing services, but will still not be accurate enough to serve as a basis for medical advice, he says.

FDA Says StemGenex Marketing of Unproven Stem Cell Treatment Is Illegal

3 months 3 days

(Los Angeles Times) – The Food and Drug Administration has come down hard on StemGenex, a La Jolla clinic pitching stem cell treatments for multiple sclerosis, diabetes, Parkinson’s and other conditions. In a warning letter made public Tuesday, the FDA says that StemGenex’s marketing is illegal, and that its manufacturing procedures are “putting patients at risk.” The agency also said that there’s no evidence that StemGenex followed up or investigated “multiple complaints involving possible adverse effects” of its treatments experienced by patients.

Experts Urge Caution Over Study Linking IVF Technique to Increased Risk of Intellectual Disability

3 months 3 days

(New Atlas) – The study tracked over 200,000 live births between 1994 and 2002. A little over one percent of those births were conceived using an ART technique. Overall, the results showed only a small increase in intellectual disability relating to ART (1 in 48 for ART versus 1 in 59 for non-ART). However, a specific technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), showed a more significant increase in risk for intellectual disability (1 in 32).

Progress in Genetic Testing of Embryos Stokes Fears of Designer Babies

3 months 3 days

(Medical Xpress) – Recent announcements by two biotechnology companies have stoked fears that designer babies could soon be an option for those who can afford to pick and choose which features they want for their offspring. The companies, MyOme and Genomic Prediction, have been working on technology that they hope to sell to fertility clinics, which could someday lead to the option of terminating pregnancies if fetuses have undesirable characteristics, such as low IQ levels.

A New Test Can Predict IVF Embryos’ Risk of Having a Low IQ

3 months 6 days

(New Scientist) – THE prospect of creating intelligent designer babies has been the subject of ethical debate for decades, but we have lacked the ability to actually do it. That may now change, thanks to a new method of testing an embryo’s genes that could soon be available in some IVF clinics in the US, New Scientist can reveal. The firm Genomic Prediction says it has developed genetic screening tests that can assess complex traits, such as the risk of some diseases and low intelligence, in IVF embryos. The tests haven’t been used yet, but the firm began talks last month with several IVF clinics to provide them to customers.

China’s Crackdown on Genetics Breaches Could Deter Data Sharing

3 months 6 days

(Nature) – China’s enormous population is a genetics goldmine. But the government, wary that this data could be exploited for profit, has been cracking down on researchers and companies that violate rules on sharing its citizens’ genetic material and information. Some scientists fear that this closer attention is creating hurdles for international collaborations.

A Search for New Ways to Pay for Drugs That Cost a Mint

3 months 6 days

(NPR) – Researchers expect that three dozen new drugs will come on the market over the next few years with astronomical prices — some likely topping a million dollars per patient. The drugmaker Novartis has told investors it might be able to charge $4 million to $5 million for one of its potential products, a treatment for a rare disease called spinal muscular atrophy. Hundreds more ultra-expensive therapies are under development.

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