News from Bioethics.com

Experts Split Sharply Over Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug

4 hours 10 min

(ABC News) – A company that claims to have the first drug to slow mental decline from Alzheimer’s disease made its case to scientists Thursday but left them sharply divided over whether there’s enough evidence of effectiveness for the medicine to warrant federal approval. Excitement and skepticism have surrounded aducanumab since its developers stopped two studies earlier this year because it didn’t seem to be working, then did a stunning about-face in October and said new results suggest it was effective at a high dose.

Inside the Cell Where a Sick 16-Year-Old Boy Died in Border Patrol Case

4 hours 32 min

(ProPublica) – In a press release that day, Customs and Border Protection’s acting commissioner at the time, John Sanders, called Carlos’ death a “tragic loss.” The agency said that an agent had found Carlos “unresponsive” after checking in on him. Sanders said the Border Patrol was “committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody.” But the record shows that the Border Patrol fell far short of that standard with Carlos. ProPublica has obtained video that documents the 16-year-old’s last hours, and it shows that Border Patrol agents and health care workers at the Weslaco holding facility missed increasingly obvious signs that his condition was perilous.

Drug Helped Dementia Patients Curb Their Hallucinations and Delusions

4 hours 35 min

(Los Angeles Times) – A drug that curbs delusions in Parkinson’s patients did the same for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in a clinical trial that was stopped early because the benefit seemed clear. If regulators agree, the drug could become the first offered specifically for treating dementia-related psychosis. It would also be the first new medicine for Alzheimer’s in nearly two decades.

Chinese Residents Worry About Rise of Facial Recognition

4 hours 40 min

(BBC) – A survey by a Beijing research institute indicates growing pushback against facial recognition in China. Some 74% of respondents said they wanted the option to be able to use traditional ID methods over the tech to verify their identity. Worries about the biometric data being hacked or otherwise leaked was the main concern cited by the 6,152 respondents. Facial recognitions systems are being rolled out in stations, schools, and shopping centres across the country. 

A Clinical Trial for Huntington’s Opens the Door to Hope for Some Patients. Only So Many Can Get In

1 day 3 hours

(STAT News) – There are reasons for such strict criteria, as there are with all clinical trials, which are meant to test whether the therapy in question is even effective. These are research studies that can only include so many people, after all, so investigators are looking for patients who are most likely to reveal any potential benefits of experimental treatments. But to patients with diseases like Huntington’s, trials look like the best — and really, the only — option. They know trials have to have limits; that doesn’t make it easier when they’re told there’s no spot for them.

Special Report: Powder Keg–FDA Bowed to Industry for Decades as Alarms Were Sounded Over Talc

1 day 3 hours

(Reuters) – Over the past 50 years, the FDA has relied upon – and often deferred to – industry even as outside experts and consumers repeatedly raised serious health concerns about talc powders and cosmetics, a Reuters investigation found.  Again and again since at least the 1970s, the agency has downplayed the risk of asbestos contamination and declined to issue warnings or impose safety standards, according to documents produced in court proceedings and in response to public records requests.

Unpacking the Black Box in Artificial Intelligence for Medicine

1 day 3 hours

(Undark) – In clinics around the world, a type of artificial intelligence called deep learning is starting to supplement or replace humans in common tasks such as analyzing medical images. Already, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, “every one of the 50,000 screening mammograms we do every year is processed through our deep learning model, and that information is provided to the radiologist,” says Constance Lehman, chief of the hospital’s breast imaging division. In deep learning, a subset of a type of artificial intelligence called machine learning, computer models essentially teach themselves to make predictions from large sets of data.

China Gene-Edited Baby Experiment ‘May Have Created Unintended Mutations’

1 day 3 hours

(The Guardian) – The gene editing performed on Chinese twins to immunise them against HIV may have failed and created unintended mutations, scientists have said after the original research was made public for the first time. Excerpts from the manuscript were released by the MIT Technology Review to show how Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui ignored ethical and scientific norms in creating the twins Lula and Nana, whose birth in late 2018 sent shockwaves through the scientific world.

For HIV-Positive Babies, New Evidence Favors Starting Drug Treatment Just After Birth

1 day 3 hours

(NPR) – Now, results from a clinical trial in Botswana support that hunch. In Science Translational Medicine, researchers report on 10 HIV-positive babies who were started on a drinkable three-drug cocktail of conventional antiretrovirals within their first days. After they had two years of antiretroviral drugs, the virus was almost undetectable in their bodies. By contrast, kids who started antiretroviral therapy a few months after birth had 200 times more virus in their blood.

China’s CRISPR Babies: Read Exclusive Excerpts from the Unseen Original Research

2 days 2 hours

(MIT Technology Review) – Earlier this year a source sent us a copy of an unpublished manuscript describing the creation of the first gene-edited babies, born last year in China. Today, we are making excerpts of that manuscript public for the first time. Titled “Birth of Twins After Genome Editing for HIV Resistance,” and 4,699 words long, the still unpublished paper was authored by He Jiankui, the Chinese biophysicist who created the edited twin girls. A second manuscript we also received discusses laboratory research on human and animal embryos.

China Uses DNA to Map Faces, with Help from the West

2 days 2 hours

(New York Times) – With a million or more ethnic Uighurs and others from predominantly Muslim minority groups swept up in detentions across Xinjiang, officials in Tumxuk have gathered blood samples from hundreds of Uighurs — part of a mass DNA collection effort dogged by questions about consent and how the data will be used. In Tumxuk, at least, there is a partial answer: Chinese scientists are trying to find a way to use a DNA sample to create an image of a person’s face.

Doctors ‘Reanimate’ Heart for First-of-Its-Kind Transplant in US

2 days 2 hours

(CNN) – Doctors at Duke University Medical Center this month “reanimated” a heart for a first-of-its-kind transplant performed on an adult in the United States. Heart transplants typically come from donations after brain death, in which the still-beating heart of a person who has been declared brain dead is transplanted into a recipient. The approach used at Duke is known as a donation after circulatory death (DCD), and it relies on hearts that have stopped beating and are essentially reanimated and begin beating again.

Texas Law Under Fire After Hospital Moves to Take Fort Worth Baby Off Life Support

2 days 2 hours

(Ft. Worth Star Telegram) – Tinslee Lewis has spent all 10 months of her life at Cook Children’s Hospital, where she is on life support for several critical medical conditions. Unbeknownst to her, she has been thrust into a debate over a 20-year-old law that some argue removes a family’s right to decide whether their loved ones live or die.


Read more here: www.star-telegram.com/news/politics-government/article237834714.html#storylink=cpy

CDC: Abortion Down, Especially Among Teens

3 days 2 hours

(MedPage Today) – The number of abortions in the U.S. in 2016 fell to their lowest level in more than a decade, CDC researchers found. Compared with 2007, the total number of abortions dropped by 24%, the abortion rate declined 26%, and the abortion ratio was down 18%, with all three statistics recording the lowest levels for the analysis period in 2016, reported Tara C. Jatlaoui, MD, of the CDC, and colleagues. The biggest drop was among adolescents ages 15-19, among whom abortions fell 43% and the abortion rate dropped 56% in 2016 versus 2007, the authors wrote in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summaries.

Suicides and Overdoses Among Factors Fueling Drop in U.S. Life Expectancy

3 days 2 hours

(Los Angeles Times) – The ills claiming the lives of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 vary widely by geography, gender and ethnicity. But the authors of the new study suggest that the nation’s lifespan reversal is being driven by diseases linked to social and economic privation, a healthcare system with glaring gaps and blind spots, and profound psychological distress. The twin trends — an increased probability of death in midlife and a population-wide reversal of longevity — set the United States in stark contrast to every other affluent country in the world. Those trends are detailed in a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. (JAMA).

Two Ebola Treatments Yield ‘Substantial Decrease’ in Mortality, Landmark Trial Shows

6 days 4 hours

(STAT News) – Final data from a landmark clinical trial of four Ebola therapies conducted in the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo show two of the drugs dramatically reduced the risk of dying from the disease, especially in people who started treatment quickly after onset of their illness. Findings of the PALM trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, show that two treatments based on Ebola antibodies led to a survival rate of about 65% in treated patients, compared to 33% in the outbreak overall.

Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson’s Might Disrupt Swimming Ability

1 week 1 day

(Reuters) – A small study finds that some people lose their ability to swim when their Parkinson’s disease is treated with deep brain stimulation. Researchers identified nine cases of Parkinson’s patients who effectively forgot how to swim after having a deep brain stimulation device implanted to control disease symptoms such as tremor, rigidity and slowed movement, according to the report published in Neurology. 

Fertility Rate in U.S. Hit a Record Low in 2018

1 week 1 day

(The New York Times) – The fertility rate in the United States fell in 2018 for the fourth straight year, extending a steep decline in births that began in 2008 with the Great Recession, the federal government said on Wednesday. There were 59.1 births for every 1,000 women of childbearing age in the country last year, a record low, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The rate was down by 2 percent from the previous year, and has fallen by about 15 percent since 2007.

Google Is Secretly Collecting Health Data, and American Workers Should Be Worried

1 week 2 days

(Quartz) – People suffer when their bosses have access to wide-ranging information about their health, such as blood pressure, average heart rate, and sleep patterns. But the rising cost of health insurance makes having healthier workers an important cost-saving measure. Employers have a strong incentive to collect data to help them identify which of their workers are most likely to have health problems in the future. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides no protections against discriminating on the basis of potential disabilities or simply bad health conditions that US employees might suffer from in the future.

New CDC Report Offers a Possible Clue About Why Vaping Illness Sprang Up in 2019

1 week 2 days

(STAT News) – A new report adds to the evidence that vitamin E acetate might play a role in a spate of vaping-related illnesses that have sickened thousands. It could also offer an early clue about why the illnesses appeared seemingly suddenly this year — though experts caution it’s too soon to rule out other potential culprits. The chemical — used as an additive or thickener in some vaping products — was found in vaping products used by 11 of 12 patients sickened with vaping-related illness in Minnesota, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

A New Sickle Cell Disease Drug Holds Much Promise But Most Sufferers Won’t Be Able to Afford It

1 week 2 days

(Quartz) – The regulatory approval of a groundbreaking new Sickle cell disease drug in the United States by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) sparked off plenty of hope and optimism earlier this month and the news that it is already heading for clinical trials in some African countries was also welcomed. But that optimism has been replaced by concerns the new treatment is priced beyond the reach of the majority of sufferers on the continent.

1 Year Later, Mystery Surrounds China’s Gene-Edited Babies

1 week 2 days

(ABC News) – Chinese scientist He Jiankui shocked the world by claiming he had helped make the first gene-edited babies. One year later, mystery surrounds his fate as well as theirs. He has not been seen publicly since January, his work has not been published and nothing is known about the health of the babies. “That’s the story — it’s all cloaked in secrecy, which is not productive for the advance of understanding,” said Stanford bioethicist Dr. William Hurlbut.

Ebola Response on Lockdown as Violence Flares

1 week 2 days

(Nature) – A surge in violence and unrest has forced Ebola responders in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo city of Beni to remain indoors for the last week — hampering efforts to contain the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has temporarily evacuated one-third of its 120 staff members stationed in the city. Those who remain have largely stopped tracing the contacts of people diagnosed with Ebola, who they would normally then vaccinate and monitor for signs of infection.

U.S. Life Expectancy Declining Due to More Deaths in Middle Age

1 week 2 days

(Reuters) – After rising for decades, life expectancy in the U.S. decreased for three straight years, driven by higher rates of death among middle aged Americans, a new study suggests.  Midlife all-cause mortality rates were increasing between 2010 and 2017, driven by higher numbers of deaths due to drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicides and organ system diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, according to the report published in JAMA.

In the Fight for Money for the Opioid Crisis, Will the Youngest Victims Be Left Out?

1 week 3 days

(NPR) – Babies born to mothers who used opioids during pregnancy represent one of the most distressing legacies of an opioid epidemic that has claimed almost 400,000 lives and ravaged communities.  In fact, many of the ongoing lawsuits filed against drug companies make reference to these babies, fighting through withdrawal in hospital nurseries. The cluster of symptoms they experience, which include tremors, seizures and respiratory distress, is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome. Until recently, doctors rarely looked for the condition. Then case numbers quadrupled over a decade. Hospital care for newborns with NAS has cost Medicaid billions of dollars. Studies indicate more than 30,000 babies with the condition are born every year in the U.S. — about one every 15 minutes.

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