News from Bioethics.com

Trial of Anti-Ageing Drugs That Rejuvenate Immune System Hailed a Success

2 months 2 weeks

(The Guardian) – Scientists have hailed the success of a clinical trial which found that experimental anti-ageing drugs may protect older people from potentially fatal respiratory infections by rejuvenating their immune systems. In a trial involving people aged 65 and over, those who received a combination therapy of two anti-ageing compounds reported nearly half the number of infections over the following year as a control group who received only placebos.

Japan Flood: At Least 179 Dead After Worst Weather in Decades

2 months 2 weeks

(BBC) – Japan is still reeling from one of its worst flooding disasters in decades, which has killed at least 179 people and left 70 missing. Torrential rains triggered landslides and floods in central and western areas. More than 8 million people have been ordered to evacuate their homes. The rain has relented but the country is still struggling to deal with the extensive damage left in its wake. This is the highest death toll caused by rainfall in Japan since 1982.

Iceland’s Ethical Debate: Should DNA Donors Be Told if They Are Predisposed to a Deadly Disease?

2 months 2 weeks

(Canadian Broadcast Co) – If you knew someone was genetically predisposed to cancer, would you tell them? Dr. Kari Stefansson would. The Icelandic neurologist is the CEO of deCODE Genetics, a company that has collected the DNA of nearly half the country’s population. Using the company’s data, he said that he can pinpoint 1,600 people at risk of deadly cancers in Iceland. The government, however, won’t let him.

Ebola Survivors Suffer Severe Mental and Neurological Problems

2 months 2 weeks

(Reuters) – People who survive the deadly Ebola virus can continue to suffer severe psychiatric and neurological problems including depression, debilitating migraines, nerve pain and stroke, according to a study published on Wednesday. Researchers who analyzed patients infected during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa found that some survivors had such severe health conditions that they were left unable to care for themselves.

Swift Gene-Editing Method May Revolutionize Treatments for Cancer and Infectious Diseases

2 months 2 weeks

(New York Times) – For the first time, scientists have found a way to efficiently and precisely remove genes from white blood cells of the immune system and to substitute beneficial replacements, all in far less time than it normally takes to edit genes. If the technique can be replicated in other labs, experts said, it may open up profound new possibilities for treating an array of diseases, including cancer, infections like H.I.V. and autoimmune conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Coming Soon to a Lab Near You? Genetically Modified Cannabis

2 months 2 weeks

(Nature) – Legal hurdles to exploring marijuana’s medicinal properties might soon fall in the wake of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) first approval of a cannabis-derived drug. On 25 June, the FDA announced its approval of Epidiolex — a treatment for epileptic seizures that is based on a cannabis compound called cannabidiol (CBD). The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has until 24 September to re-classify Epidiolex so that it’s legal for doctors across the country to prescribe it. Many researchers hope that the agency will re-classify CBD itself, instead of just Epidiolex, so that they can more easily study this non-psychedelic component of marijuana.

Teenager at Centre of Kenyan Court Case Over Botched Abortion Has Died

2 months 2 weeks

(The Guardian) – A teenager whose botched abortion was at the centre of a high court case in Kenya has died. The girl, who was raped aged 14 and then left with horrific injuries after a backstreet termination, had been the subject of a controversy over whether the Kenyan government was to blame for her death. The girl’s mother and a group of campaigners had filed a case against the government, claiming it had failed to offer the girl – known as JMM – adequate post-abortion care and are calling for the government to reinstate guidelines on safe abortions.

National Academies Panel Urges Researchers to Routinely Share Test Results with Study Participants

2 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – In a report published Tuesday, an expert committee convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that scientists and their institutions should routinely — and carefully — consider whether to return study results to participants. The report, which was sponsored by three of the leading federal health agencies, also recommends revising a federal regulation that’s caused confusion about when it’s permissible to share research findings with a participant.

The Boys Trapped in the Thailand Cave Could Face an Unusual Disease

2 months 2 weeks

(ABC News) – As the rescue efforts for the 12 boys and their coach trapped in a flooded Thailand cave have continued, the world has been hoping for the entire group’s safe return to the surface. But after surviving the weather conditions, severe body stresses and unimaginable emotional distress of being trapped for days in dark, wet caverns, the 13 have more challenges ahead. All that time inside the caverns has exposed them to a dangerous and rare infection, often called “cave disease.”

Hormone Therapy Poses Stroke Risk for Transgender Women

2 months 2 weeks

(Reuters) – Hormones given to people to align their sex with their gender pose a significant risk of serious blood clots and stroke among transgender women, one of the largest studies of transgender patients has concluded. The risk of a dangerous type of blood clot, called a venous thromboembolism, nearly doubles for people transitioning from male to female compared to both non-transgender men and women, researchers reported in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Dying Organs Restored to Life in Novel Experiments

2 months 2 weeks

(New York Times) – Doctors kept her alive with a cumbersome machine that did the work of her heart and lungs. The physicians moved her from Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was born, to Boston Children’s Hospital and decided to try an experimental procedure that had never before been attempted in a human being following a heart attack.  They would take a billion mitochondria — the energy factories found in every cell in the body — from a small plug of Georgia’s healthy muscle and infuse them into the injured muscle of her heart.

The ‘Chicken and Egg’ Reason Why Polio Outbreaks Still Happen

2 months 2 weeks

(CNN) – If polio is near extinction, why do outbreaks still pop up in places where the disease was thought to be long gone? The answer is complicated. Global efforts to destroy disease-causing polioviruses have been quite a success story. Cases caused by the wild poliovirus have dropped 99% since 1988, thanks to vaccination efforts and a public-private partnership launched that year called the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Yet some immunization efforts carry the very rare risk of causing polioviruses to circulate in areas where many people might not yet be vaccinated or areas that were poorly vaccinated — an event that could lead to new cases of disease while trying to demolish it.

The Overlooked Emotions of Sperm Donation

2 months 2 weeks

(The Atlantic) – There are two well-established ways to go about the process of sperm donation: Prospective parents can use a sperm sample from a friend, acquaintance, or family member (often called a “known” or “directed” donation) or arrange to use a (usually heavily vetted) stranger’s sample through a sperm bank or fertility clinic. Even decades after these practices have become common and their intricacies should theoretically be common knowledge, many of those who opt for sperm donation are still consistently surprised by all the ways it can shape—in some cases straining and, in others, enhancing—family dynamics.

Physicians’ Beliefs May Override Cancer Patients’ Wishes for End-of-Life Care, Study Finds

2 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – Keating, also a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, studies how to deliver high-quality care to patients with cancer. Her latest work examines the factors that contribute to large hospital-by-hospital differences in end-of-life spending for cancer patients. The new study reveals that the variation in the intensity of treatment stems more from the availability of services and physicians’ discomfort navigating end-of-life choices than from patients’ wishes.

State Departments Fail to Offer Cure to 144,000 Inmates with Deadly Hepatitis C

2 months 2 weeks

(Kaiser Health News) – State prisons across the U.S. are failing to treat at least 144,000 inmates who have hepatitis C, a curable but potentially fatal liver disease, according to a recent survey and subsequent interviews of state corrections departments. Many of the 49 states that responded to questions about inmates with hepatitis C cited high drug prices as the reason for denying treatment. The drugs can cost up to $90,000 for a course of treatment.

Seven Ways IVF Changed the World–from Louise Brown to Stem-Cell Research

2 months 2 weeks

(The Guardian) – It sounds rather perverse and archaic today to call a child born by IVF a “test-tube baby”. The technique of assisted reproduction has become so widespread and normalised, more than 6 million babies down the road, that there’s nothing so remarkable or stigmatising in having been conceived in a petri dish (“in vitro”means in glass, although test tubes were never involved). In many countries worldwide, 3-6% of all children are now conceived this way.

Thirty-Two Pregnant Cambodians Detained Suspected of China Surrogacy

2 months 2 weeks

(Reuters) – Thirty-two pregnant Cambodians were detained on Friday for their suspected involvement in an illegal surrogacy operation, carrying babies for Chinese clients, a court official said on Friday. Five other people, including a Chinese person, were arrested and charged with human trafficking following raids at two apartments in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

Iowa Surrogacy Contracts Case Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court

2 months 2 weeks

(Des Moines Register) – An Iowa woman is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider striking down surrogacy contracts as a violation of the constitutional rights of mothers and their babies. In an appeal of a February Iowa Supreme Court ruling, a Muscatine woman is asking the nation’s highest court to take the case and hear arguments and then find that a surrogate mother does not waive her constitutional rights and those of her future child when she signs an agreement to have a baby for another couple.

Ageing Japan: Robots’ Role in Future of Elder Care

2 months 3 weeks

(Reuters) – Allowing robots to help care for the elderly – a job typically seen as requiring a human touch – may be a jarring idea in the West. But many Japanese see them positively, largely because they are depicted in popular media as friendly and helpful. “These robots are wonderful,” said 84-year-old Kazuko Yamada after the exercise session with SoftBank Robotics Corp’s Pepper, which can carry on scripted dialogues. “More people live alone these days, and a robot can be a conversation partner for them. It will make life more fun.”

Hidden Conflicts? Pharma Payments to FDA Advisers After Drug Approvals Spark Ethical Concerns

2 months 3 weeks

(Science) – Brilinta fits a pattern of what might be called pay-later conflicts of interest, which have gone largely unnoticed—and entirely unpoliced. In examining compensation records from drug companies to physicians who advised FDA on whether to approve 28 psychopharmacologic, arthritis, and cardiac or renal drugs between 2008 and 2014, Science found widespread after-the-fact payments or research support to panel members. The agency’s safeguards against potential conflicts of interest are not designed to prevent such future financial ties.

Online Gene Test Finds a Dangerous Mutation. It May Well Be Wrong.

2 months 3 weeks

(San Francisco Gate) – The news was not good. Clayton got back a report with a sinister red box at the top saying he had a mutation linked to Lynch syndrome, a frightening genetic disorder that leads to potentially deadly cancers at an early age. After two weeks of panic and yet another genetic test at a company with expertise in medical diagnostics, he learned the red box result was wrong. He simply didn’t have the mutation.

U.S. Private Citizen Cites Mystery Illness Symptoms After China Visit

2 months 3 weeks

(Reuters) – A U.S. private citizen who visited China has reported symptoms like those of U.S. diplomats afflicted with a mysterious illness in Havana and Guangzhou, a U.S. State Department official said on Thursday.  The person, who was not named by the department official, is the first non-official American known to have experienced the symptoms following a trip to China. Nineteen private U.S. citizens have reported similar symptoms after traveling to Cuba.

Vulnerable Rural Hospitals Face Tough Decisions on Questionable Billing Schemes

2 months 3 weeks

(NPR) – The new management had dramatic effects on the hospital’s finances, according to a report from the Missouri state auditor. In six months, Putnam Memorial generated $92 million in revenue. By comparison, the audit reported, the hospital had generated just $7.5 million the year before. But little of that revenue was staying with the hospital, according to Missouri auditor Nicole Galloway’s August 2017 audit report. “It appears that Putnam County Memorial Hospital is being used as a shell company for questionable lab activity that’s occurring across the country,” Galloway said in an interview after releasing the audit.

As Drug Resistance Grows, Combining Antibiotics Could Turn Up New Treatments

2 months 3 weeks

(STAT News) – Combining certain antibiotics could help them pack a one-two punch against harmful bacteria, according to a new study published Wednesday in Nature. Nassos Typas and his colleagues at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany tested 3,000 different combinations of antibiotics with each other or with drugs, food additives, and other compounds on three common types of bacteria that infect humans.

A Vaccine We Don’t Even Use Anymore Is a Reason Polio Keeps Spreading–Yes, Really

2 months 3 weeks

(Vox) – The global push to immunize children against polio has been an incredible success, reducing polio cases by 99.9 percent.  But there’s a lingering obstacle to a polio-free world: A scant number of people who got one version of the vaccine before it was phased out in 2016 carry a variant of the polio virus that was in that vaccine and has since mutated. The mutated virus can now be passed around in areas where few people have been vaccinated, sickening some along the way. This is precisely what’s playing out right now, in a very small polio outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and with a handful of cases in a few other countries.

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