News from Bioethics.com

‘A Cruel Harvest of the Poor’: Israeli Allegedly Behind Human Organ Black Market Arrested in Cyprus

3 months 1 week

(Washington Post) – Despite the investigation, the main players behind the Medicus operation have continued to slip from justice — until last week. On Friday, authorities in Pristina announced Moshe Harel, an Israeli national, had been arrested in Cyprus, Reuters reported. Accused of being the fixer who found donors, Harel has been wanted by Interpol since 2010 on charges of human trafficking and intentional infliction of grave injuries. He is also wanted on a warrant for the same crimes in Russia.

Accused Colorado Abortion Clinic Gunman Can Be Forcibly Medicated

3 months 2 weeks

(Reuters) – A man accused of fatally shooting three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, who was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial, can be forcibly medicated in an effort to restore him to competency, an appeals court ruled on Thursday. The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that the state can administer anti-psychotic drugs to Robert Lewis Dear, 59, over his lawyer’s objections.

CRISPR Hits a Snag: Our Immune Systems May Attack the Treatment

3 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – A new paper points to a previously unknown hurdle for scientists racing to develop therapies using the revolutionary genome-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9: the human immune system. In a study posted Friday on the preprint site bioRxiv, researchers reported that many people have existing immune proteins and cells primed to target the Cas9 proteins included in CRISPR complexes. That means those patients might be immune to CRISPR-based therapies or vulnerable to dangerous side effects — the latter being especially concerning as CRISPR treatments move closer to clinical trials.

Obscure Vomiting Illness Linked to Long-Term Pot Use

3 months 2 weeks

(Scientific American) – Doctors say it’s difficult to treat the condition. There is no cure other than to quit using marijuana, and many patients are skeptical that cannabis is making them sick, so they keep using it and their vomiting episodes continue. Doctors can do little to relieve the symptoms, since traditional anti-nausea medications often don’t work and there are no pills to prevent the onset of an episode. Patients may need intravenous hydration and hospital stays until the symptoms subside.

Stem Cell Transplant Shows Promise for Immune Disorder Scleroderma

3 months 2 weeks

(U.S. News & World Report) – Stem cell transplants could offer new hope for people with a severe form of scleroderma — a debilitating and deadly condition that affects the immune system, a new study suggests. “Scleroderma hardens the skin and connective tissues and, in its severe form, leads to fatal organ failure, most often the lungs,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Keith Sullivan. He is a professor of medicine and cellular therapy at Duke University Medical Center.

Biohacking – Genetic Engineering from Your Garage

3 months 2 weeks

(Deutsche Welle) – “Hacking” means to release something from its original context and to give it new form. Biohackers aren’t interested in cracking computer networks or sucking information out of foreign computers. They’re amateur scientists, biologists, technicians, physicists, artists – or simply interested people who want to deal creatively and in an interdisciplinary manner with biology. They also want to conduct research independent of big companies or politics.

‘Twice as Many Die’ in Africa after Surgery

3 months 2 weeks

(BBC) – Patients undergoing surgery in Africa are more than twice as likely to die following an operation than the global average, researchers say. But they say the most worrying revelation was just how few Africans have access to elective surgery – surgery that is scheduled in advance. The number of these operations is 20 times lower than the demand, the study in the Lancet medical journal says. They call the deficit a “silent killer”.

Maternal Death Are Increasing in Texas, But Probably Not as Much as We Thought

3 months 2 weeks

(ProPublica) – A startling spike in recent years in the number of Texas women dying as a consequence of pregnancy or childbirth has spurred a furious debate over whether deep funding cuts to reproductive health services are to blame. A peer-reviewed study published today in the quarterly journal Birth could add a new dimension to the argument. It attributes part, though not all, of the increase in Texas’ maternal mortality rate — which is among the highest of any state — to a statistical mirage caused by misreporting on death certificates.

New Drug Approvals Hit 21-Year High in 2017

3 months 2 weeks

(Reuters) – U.S. drug approvals hit a 21-year high in 2017, with 46 novel medicines winning a green light — more than double the previous year — while the figure also rose in the European Union. The EU recommended 92 new drugs including generics, up from 81, and China laid out plans to speed up approvals in what is now the world’s second biggest market behind the United States. Yet the world’s biggest drugmakers saw average returns on their research and development spending fall, reflecting more competitive pressures and the growing share of new products now coming from younger biotech companies.

Majority of French Now Favor Allowing Surrogate Motherhood: Poll

3 months 2 weeks

(Reuters) – A majority of French people would favor allowing surrogate motherhood, though primarily only for medical reasons, a poll showed on Wednesday, highlighting a shift in attitudes as France prepares to review laws relating to assisted reproduction. All forms of surrogacy, where a woman gives birth to a child on behalf of someone else, are banned in France, as in several other European countries such as Germany. Some countries like the United Kingdom allow for altruistic surrogacies, not commercial ones.

Immune Boosting Virus Could Be Used to Treat Brain Tumors

3 months 2 weeks

(Reuters) – A trial of a potential new brain cancer treatment has shown that a virus injected directly into the bloodstream can reach tumors deep inside the brain and switch on the body’s own defense system to attack them. The trial involved just nine patients, but scientists said that if the results could be replicated in larger studies, the naturally occurring ‘reovirus’ could be developed into an effective immunotherapy for people with aggressive brain tumors.

Cost of Treating Rare Genetic Blindness: $425,000 per Eye

3 months 2 weeks

(UPI) – Treatment of a rare, inherited form of blindness will cost $425,000 per eye, or $850,000 per pair, the company bringing the therapy to market announced on Wednesday. Spark Therapeutics, a small, Philadelphia-based biotechnology company, received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December for Luxturna.

Wombs-for-Rent: China’s Underground Surrogacy Market Is Booming

3 months 2 weeks

(International Business Times) – China’s illegal surrogacy market is booming with vast numbers of women earning money through offering their wombs for service. Women in rural villages are being lured away from their factory jobs to carry others’ fertilised eggs to birth according to a two-month investigation by a state-run news site, The Paper, The Times reported. Couples pay anywhere between £40,000 to £114,000 for surrogacy, and are even told they can guarantee the baby’s gender.

Scientists a Step Closer to Mimicking Way Human Body Creates Sperm

3 months 2 weeks

(The Guardian) – Scientists have come a step closer to mimicking the natural process by which the body creates sperm from stem cells in work that could ultimately provide new treatments for infertility. Speaking at the Progress Educational Trust annual conference in London this month, Azim Surani, director of germline and epigenetics research at the University of Cambridge’s Gurdon Institute, said he and colleagues had passed a significant milestone on the path to producing sperm in the laboratory. The team is thought to be the first to have reached the halfway point on the developmental path from human stem cells to immature sperm.

The Present and Future Asymmetry of Consumer Genetic Testing

3 months 2 weeks

(Undark Magazine) – The question looming over this exploding marketplace, of course, is whether consumer protections can keep up — and more pointedly, what fair, effective protections would even look like. There’s a basic asymmetry at work in genetic testing: it takes just a few minutes to put some spit into a vial, sign a few disclosure forms, and pop your saliva in the mail. But that little bit of spit can yield volumes of deeply intimate data about your body. As Undark has reported in the past, that information can last for decades. It can be subpoenaed in court. It can be stolen. And it can be bundled and sold as a commodity.

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