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15 Studies Retracted Due to Fears They Used Chinese Prisoners’ Organs

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(New Scientist) – Fifteen studies about transplanted organs by researchers in China have been retracted this month due to concerns the work may have used organs from executed prisoners. Three other papers have been the subject of expressions of concern for the same reason, according to the website Retraction Watch which monitors questions raised over published research.

Do C-Section Babies Need Mum’s Microbes? Trials Tackle Controversial Idea

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(Nature) – When a baby passes through its mother’s birth canal, it is bathed in a soup of microbes. Those born by caesarean section (C-section) miss out on this bacterial baptism, and researchers are sharply split on whether that increases the risk of chronic health problems such as obesity and asthma. A wave of clinical trials now under way could help to settle the question — and feed into the debate over whether seeding babies born by C-section with their mother’s vaginal bacteria is beneficial or potentially harmful. At least four groups of researchers — in the United States, Sweden and China — have begun separate experiments, in which they are swabbing hundreds of C-section babies with their mother’s microbes, while comparing them to a control group.

New Jersey’s Medically Assisted Suicide Law Put on Hold

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(ABC News) – A New Jersey judge put a temporary hold on a new law allowing terminally ill patients to seek life-ending drugs. The order means that New Jersey’s recently enacted measure cannot be enforced by the state attorney general and comes in response to a lawsuit brought by a doctor practicing in the state.

Why Some Doctors Purposely Misdiagnose Patients

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(The Atlantic) – More than a decade later, Martinez is one of hundreds of patients who have accused Awaad of intentionally misreading their EEGs and misdiagnosing them with epilepsy in childhood, all to increase his pay. In June, Martinez’s case became the first to go to trial in Michigan. The case shines a light on the grim world of health-care fraud—specifically, the growing number of doctors who are accused of performing unnecessary procedures, sometimes for their own personal gain.

Dozens of Young People Hospitalized for Breathing and Lung Problems After Vaping

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(New York Times) – Nearly three dozen young people have been hospitalized around the country in recent weeks for severe respiratory problems after vaping either nicotine or marijuana, stumping doctors treating them. The Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin public health departments are investigating these cases and at least 20 additional emergency admissions that doctors suspect are related to vaping some substance, possibly even illegal street drugs or adulterated liquids laced with T.H.C., the ingredient that produces marijuana’s high.

Medical Abortions Can Be Safely Supervised Via Telemedicine: Study

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(Reuters) – Terminating a pregnancy with medication under virtual supervision from a clinician is just as effective and safe as doing so at a medical facility, a study across four U.S states suggests. The findings mean that telemedicine could give more U.S. patients access to safe and legal abortion, especially in states passing legislation to impose severe restrictions on a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy, the researchers said.

Scientists Discover New Cure for the Deadliest Strain of Tuberculosis

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(New York Times) – Five years later, Ms. Msimango, 25, is now tuberculosis-free. She is healthy at 103 pounds, and has a young son. The trial she joined was small — it enrolled only 109 patients — but experts are calling the preliminary results groundbreaking. The drug regimen tested on Ms. Msimango has shown a 90 percent success rate against a deadly plague, extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis.  On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration effectively endorsed the approach, approving the newest of the three drugs used in the regimen.

Vaping Linked to Marijuana Use in Young People, Research Says

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(CNN) – Young people who vape are more likely to use marijuana, according to a study published Monday. The findings, researchers say, support the theory that nicotine rewires the developing brain, changing how people respond to and crave addictive substances. “Adolescents have a brain that’s still changing and developing,” said Dr. Nicholas Chadi, the lead author on the study, who conducted the research as a fellow in pediatric addiction medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Novartis Ousted Top Scientists Over Manipulation of Data for Gene Therapy

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(STAT News) – Novartis dismissed the top two scientists at its gene therapy division shortly after CEO Vas Narasimhan learned of internal data falsification that has since snowballed into a damaging scandal, a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday. The company previously said it was “in the process of exiting” scientists who were responsible for the scandal but did not identify them.

Survey: Less Than 25% in Any US State Approves Total Ban on Abortion

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(Religion News Service) – In no state in the U.S. does even one-quarter of the population say abortion should be illegal in all cases, a new survey shows. The report, released Tuesday (Aug. 13) by Public Religion Research Institute, shows that in five states, at least 20% of the population believes abortion should be legal in all cases: Louisiana (23%), Mississippi (22%), Arkansas (21%), Tennessee (21%), Nebraska (21%), North Dakota (20%) and Kentucky (20%). But even in Alabama and Missouri, where laws have recently been passed to make abortion illegal with practically no exceptions, fewer than a fifth of the population says abortion should be illegal all the time.

Drinking Bleach Won’t Cure Cancer or Anything Else, F.D.A. Says

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(New York Times) – The Food and Drug Administration was dragged into the online world of medical misinformation this week, telling consumers not to drink bleach solutions that are being marketed as cures for autism, cancer, H.I.V./AIDS and other medical conditions.  It was the latest example of how health authorities must sometimes pit science against the viral power of the internet, which regularly serves as a platform for inaccurate medical advice and unproven claims of breakthroughs. 

Screen All Adult Patients for Drug Abuse, National Panel Urges

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(New York Times) – A national panel of health experts recommended on Tuesday that doctors screen all adult patients for illicit drug use, including improper use of prescription medications. But the group, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, stopped short of endorsing such screening for teenagers, a position that puts them at odds with major adolescent health groups. The panel, which is appointed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services but operates independently, said that its proposed guidelines are intended to combat alarmingly high rates of substance abuse in the United States. 

Despite Controversy, Human Studies of CRISPR Move Forward in the U.S.

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(Scientific American) – Researchers in the U.S. have begun editing the genes of adults with devastating diseases, using a tool known as CRISPR. China has already launched multiple trials of CRISPR in humans. Last year Chinese researcher He Jiankui caused a global outcry when he used the same tool to gene edit twin baby girls when they were just embryos. There is far less concern about other CRISPR trials either in the U.S. or China, in part because genetic changes in the adults treated will not be passed on to future generations. “If it’s done well and carefully, I’m not so worried, to be honest,” says Robin Lovell-Badge, a British geneticist and stem cell scientist, regarding the use of CRISPR in these new trials.

2 Ebola Patients in Congo Treated with New Drugs Have Been Cured, Says Doctors

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(TIME) – Doctors in Congo say that two Ebola patients who were treated with new anti-Ebola drugs in Goma in eastern Congo have been declared “cured.” Doctors fighting Ebola quickly used the case on Tuesday to press the message that people with Ebola can recover if they seek proper care.

Report: There’s a Growing Water Crisis in the Global South

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(NPR) – Many major cities in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America are falling dangerously behind in their efforts to provide residents with reliable and affordable access to clean water, according to a new report by the World Resources Institute. The data in the report offer a stark new account of the scale of the threat posed by unsafe and unaffordable water to public health and the economy in the Global South’s quickly-expanding urban centers. 

DNA Data Shared in Ways Patients May Find Surprising

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(The Wall Street Journal) – Deals between drugmakers and hospital systems to mine the genetic profiles of hospital patients are triggering concerns over the control of valuable genetic data. Drugmakers have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars for access to patient information because of the data’s potential to help unlock disease insights and discover new drugs. They are striking deals to sequence patients’ genetic code, including with hospital systems like Geisinger in Pennsylvania, Mount Sinai Health System in New York and Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Finally, Some Good News About Ebola: Two New Treatments Dramatically Lower the Death Rate in a Trial

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(Science) – A trial of four experimental Ebola treatments carried out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been stopped early after two of them showed strong signs of being able to save patients’ lives. The preliminary results were reported this morning by Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Bethesda, Maryland, one of the partners in the study. The two treatments will now be made widely available and could help end the yearlong outbreak in the DRC, which has already killed more than 1800 people, scientists say.

For Rules on Creating ‘CRISPR Babies’ from Edited Embryo, Scientists Call a Do-Over

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(STAT News) – The second-most shocking thing He Jiankui told the international genome editing summit in Hong Kong last November — right after announcing that twin girls had been born from embryos whose DNA he’d changed with CRISPR — was that he’d followed guidelines on embryo editing set forth by a panel of leading U.S. scientists and ethicists. That committee of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine basically said, in 2017: If society agrees this is OK, proceed with extreme caution. He claimed he had checked all the panel’s boxes, meeting a long list of criteria that include editing only genes “convincingly demonstrated” to cause the disease, conducting “credible” animal studies first, and having “reliable oversight mechanisms.”

Your New Heart Could Be Made in China

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(Bloomberg) – Recently, a Chinese startup named Qihan Biotech raised $20 million to develop replacement organs for humans. The smallish deal would hardly have rated a headline, except for the fact that the Hangzhou-based gene-editing company is aiming to grow those organs in pigs and other animals. If successful, such transplants could well transform medicine. And, thanks to a unique confluence of need, money, timing and culture, China is poised to lead the way in developing them.

Decades Ago an Ohio Couple Used IVF to Have a Baby, But a New DNA Test Showed Another Man Is the Girl’s Father

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(CNN) – An Ohio family says in a civil lawsuit that a fertility clinic used another man’s sperm more than 20 years ago when the parents used in vitro fertilization to have a child and they only found out because of the results of a recent Ancestry[dot]com test.  It is unclear who Rebecca Cartellone’s biological father is. It is not Joseph Cartellone, who with his daughter and his wife, Jennifer, is suing the Institute for Reproductive Health, Ovation Fertility Cincinnati and The Christ Hospital Health Network.

Researchers Link Dozens of Genes to Increased Autism Risk

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(UPI) – Researchers have linked 69 genes to increased risk for autism disorder, a new study says. Of the 69 genes, 16 had not previously been linked to autism, and the researchers report several hundred others may increase risk depending on proximity to those 69 genes, according to research published Thursday in the journal Cell. This newly uncovered data gives more insight on how parents may pass along autism to their children.

How Facial Recognition Became the Most Feared Technology in the US

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(Vox) – Facial recognition is having a moment. Across the US, local politicians and national lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have started introducing rules that bar law enforcement agencies from using facial recognition technology to surveil everyday citizens. In just the past few months, three cities — San Francisco, Oakland, and Somerville, Massachusetts — have passed laws to ban government use of the controversial technology, which analyzes pictures or live video of human faces in order to identify them. Cambridge, Massachusetts, is also moving toward a government ban. Congress recently held two oversight hearings on the topic and there are at least four pieces of current federal legislation to limit the technology in some way.

Medicare to Cover Breakthrough Gene Therapy for Some Cancers

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(ABC News) – Expanding access to a promising but costly treatment, Medicare said Wednesday it will cover for some blood cancers a breakthrough gene therapy that revs up a patient’s own immune cells to destroy malignancies. Officials said Medicare will cover CAR-T cell therapies for certain types of lymphoma and leukemia , uses that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The cost can run to hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient, not counting hospitalization and other expenses.

Drugmakers Master Rolling Out Their Own Generics to Stifle Competition

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(Kaiser Health News) – When PDL BioPharma’s $40 million blood-pressure medicine faced the threat of a generic rival this year, the company pulled out a little-known strategy that critics say helps keep drugs expensive and competition weak. It launched its own generic version of Tekturna, a pill taken daily by thousands. PDL’s “authorized” copycat hit the market in March, stealing momentum from the new rival and protecting sales even though Tekturna’s patent ran out last year.

China Approves Ethics Advisory Group After CRISPR-Babies Scandal

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(Nature) – China will establish a national committee to advise the government on research-ethics regulations. The decision comes less than a year after a Chinese scientist sparked an international outcry over claims that he had created the world’s first genome-edited babies. The country’s most powerful policymaking body, the Central Comprehensively Deepening Reforms Commission of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, headed by President Xi Jinping, approved at the end of last month a plan to form the committee. According to Chinese media, it will strengthen the coordination and implementation of a comprehensive and consistent system of ethics governance for science and technology.