News from Bioethics.com

The Science of Senolytics: How a New Pill Could Spell the End of Ageing

2 weeks 2 days

(The Guardian) – It could happen, with the science of senolytics: an emerging – and highly anticipated – area of anti-ageing medicine. Many of the world’s top gerontologists have already demonstrated the possibilities in animals and are now beginning human clinical trials, with promising results. If the studies continue to be as successful as hoped, those who are currently middle-aged could become the first generation of oldies who are youthful for longer – with a little medical help.

IVF Changes Babies’ Genes But These Differences Disappear by Adulthood

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(The Conversation) – Around one in 25 Australian children are now conceived through use of assisted reproductive treatments such as IVF. These reproductive technologies appear to leave a biological “signature” on several genes that can be measured at birth. This may explain why assisted conception increases the chance of early delivery, low birth weight and congenital abnormalities – and the question has remained about why this might be so. But the good news, according to our research published today in the journal Nature Communications, is these “epigenetic” changes largely disappear by adulthood. In fact, people born via IVF are as healthy as their naturally conceived peers.

Woman Is First to Receive Cornea Made from ‘Reprogrammed’ Stem Cells

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(Nature) – A Japanese woman in her forties has become the first person in the world to have her cornea repaired using reprogrammed stem cells. At a press conference on 29 August, ophthalmologist Kohji Nishida from Osaka University, Japan, said the woman has a disease in which the stem cells that repair the cornea, a transparent layer that covers and protects the eye, are lost. The condition makes vision blurry and can lead to blindness. To treat the woman, Nishida says his team created sheets of corneal cells from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. These are made by reprogramming adult skin cells from a donor into an embryonic-like state from which they can transform into other cell types, such as corneal cells.

Firing Doctor, Christian Hospital Sets Off National Challenge to Aid-in-Dying Laws

2 weeks 3 days

(Kaiser Health News) – Centura Health Corp. this week abruptly terminated Dr. Barbara Morris, 65, a geriatrician with 40 years of experience, who had planned to help her patient, Cornelius “Neil” Mahoney, 64, end his life at his home. Mahoney, who has terminal cancer, is eligible to use the state’s law, overwhelmingly approved by Colorado voters in 2016. The growing number of state aid-in-dying provisions are increasingly coming into conflict with the precepts of faith-based hospitals, which oppose the practice on religious grounds.

The $6 Million Drug Claim

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(New York Times) – While it’s hardly a household name, Strensiq is one of the costliest drugs in the world. It is part of an unsettling trend in which ultraexpensive drugs are becoming more common, spurring a national debate over whether any drug should cost millions of dollars, and whether Americans will be priced out of lifesaving treatments as drug companies maximize their profits.

People Are Vaping TCH. Lung Injuries Being Reported Nationwide. Why Is the CDC Staying Quiet?

2 weeks 3 days

(USA Today) – Federal health officials are under fire for their unclear public warnings after one death and nearly 200 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses, which some say are related to the far riskier practice of vaping marijuana oil rather than nicotine. Some state health department and news reports suggest many of the cases of lung problems involve tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, the chemical in marijuana that causes psychological effects.

5 Facts About the Abortion Debate in America

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(Pew Research) – More than four decades after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, opponents and supporters of abortion rights are still battling over the issue in court, at the ballot box and in state legislatures. A recently enacted Alabama law has been described as the nation’s most restrictive, and several other states also have passed new restrictions on abortion with an eye toward giving the Supreme Court a chance to overturn its decision in Roe. As the debate over abortion continues, here are five key facts about Americans’ views on the topic, based on recent Pew Research Center polling.

Ebola Death Toll in East Congo Outbreak Climbs Above 2,000

2 weeks 6 days

(Reuters) – The death toll from Democratic Republic of Congo’s year-long Ebola outbreak has climbed above 2,000, government data showed on Friday, as responders battle to overcome community mistrust and widespread security problems. The death in neighboring Uganda of a 9-year-old girl who had tested positive for the virus after entering the country from Congo underscored the challenge medical teams face containing the disease in border territory with a highly mobile population.

Brain-Reading Tech Is Coming. The Law Is Not Ready to Protect Us.

2 weeks 6 days

(Vox) – “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.” That’s from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, published in 1949. The comment is meant to highlight what a repressive surveillance state the characters live in, but looked at another way, it shows how lucky they are: At least their brains are still private. Over the past few weeks, Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink have announced that they’re building tech to read your mind — literally. 

Transplant Centers Reject Potentially Usable Kidneys as Patients Die, Study Says

2 weeks 6 days

(UPI) – Transplant centers are rejecting viable kidneys on behalf of patients whose lives might have been saved by the organs, a new study says. Roughly 9 percent of all people looking for a kidney died on the waitlist, according to research published Friday in Jama Open Network. Meanwhile, doctors declined 84 percent of kidneys for use on behalf of at least one patient before ultimately being transplanted to another.

After Months in a Dish, Lab-Grown Minibrains Start Making ‘Brain Waves’

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(NPR) – By the time a fetus is 6 months old, it is producing electrical signals recognizable as brain waves. And clusters of lab-grown human brain cells known as organoids seem to follow a similar schedule, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell. “After these organoids are in that six-to-nine-months range, that’s when [the electrical patterns] start to look a lot like what you’d see with a preterm infant,” says Alysson Muotri, director of the stem cell program at the University of California, San Diego.

Researchers Issue a Statement of Principles on Gene Editing

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(Chemical & Engineering News) – The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, an advocacy group, has issued a statement endorsing gene editing in somatic cells while deeming germline gene editing inappropriate. The statement of principles, timed to coincide with a conference on gene editing standards sponsored by the World Health Organization in Geneva this week, was prepared by a task force of 13 member companies involved in gene editing.

In a First, Cerebral Organoids Produce Complex Brain Waves Similar to Newborns’, Reviving Ethical Concerns

3 weeks 6 hours

(STAT News) – The Lilliputian versions of human brains that scientists have grown in lab dishes have developed distinct structures such as the hippocampus, grown glia and other cells like those in actual brains, and produced a diverse menagerie of neurons that connect with each other and carry electrical signals. Now scientists have grown hundreds of cerebral organoids with the most complex, human-like activity yet: Though only one-fifth of an inch across, or about the size of a pea, the organoids have developed functional neural networks that generate brain waves resembling those of newborns.

Surgeon General Warns Against Marijuana Use Among Pregnant Women, Teens

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(UPI) – The surgeon general warned pregnant women and teens today that smoking marijuana can have dangerous effects on development, in the womb and during adolescence. Based on a raft of recent data suggesting that youths and young adults “widely” use marijuana, and that pregnant women are increasingly using it to counter nausea and other conditions, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a warning Thursday to reiterate the health risks of either group using the substance.

Forget Single Genes: CRISPR Now Cuts and Splices Whole Chromosomes

3 weeks 6 hours

(Science) – Imagine a word processor that allowed you to change letters or words but balked when you tried to cut or rearrange whole paragraphs. Biologists have faced such constraints for decades. They could add or disable genes in a cell or even—with the genome-editing technology CRISPR—make precise changes within genes. Those capabilities have led to recombinant DNA technology, genetically modified organisms, and gene therapies. But a long-sought goal remained out of reach: manipulating much larger chunks of chromosomes in Escherichia coli, the workhorse bacterium. Now, researchers report they’ve adapted CRISPR and combined it with other tools to cut and splice large genome fragments with ease.

The Fight for Access to a Little Girl That Went All the Way to the High Court

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(Australian Broadcasting Corp) – But the fact Susan Parsons and Robert Masson are false names, assigned by the Family Court, reflects the long and bitter legal fight that followed. The saga ended in a High Court decision that could shake up Australia’s family law system — that a sperm donor had parental rights. At the centre of the legal posturing, which saw a friendship disintegrate and cost over $1 million, was a simple question: Could a sperm donor, in the right circumstances, actually be a legal father?

The Reality Behind Cannabidiol’s Medical Hype

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(Nature) – Cannabidiol (CBD) is an illegal drug with no redeeming value. It is also a useful prescription medicine for epilepsy, with considerable potential for treating numerous other conditions. And it is a natural dietary supplement or ‘nutraceutical’ with countless evangelists in the health and wellness community. Although contradictory, all three statements are true from different perspectives, and clinical researchers are frustrated.

Is Setting a Deadline for Eradicating Malaria a Good Idea? Scientists Are Divided

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(Science) – Last week, WHO dropped a minor bombshell of its own when it released the summary of a report that says malaria eradication isn’t feasible in the foreseeable future. And it argues that setting any deadline will undermine disease control efforts, as it did when WHO set a similar goal 64 years ago. “We must not set the world up for another failed malaria eradication effort that could derail attempts to achieve our vision for decades,” says the report from WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme).

US Agency: Hospital Forced Nurse to Participate in Abortion

3 weeks 1 day

(ABC News) – Vermont’s largest hospital forced a nurse to participate in an abortion procedure over her moral objections in violation of federal law, a government civil rights agency said Wednesday. The University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington could lose some federal funding if the two parties cannot agree within 30 days on the hospital’s policies on employee participation in abortions, the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced.

Dutch Doctor Faces Trial in Landmark Euthanasia Case

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(BBC) – A Dutch doctor has appeared in court after performing euthanasia on a patient suffering with severe dementia. Prosecutors say the doctor did not do enough to verify consent. It is the first such case since the Netherlands legalised euthanasia in 2002. The 74-year-old patient was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease when she died in 2016. The doctor allegedly sedated the woman and asked her family to hold her down as she administered a lethal drug.

A New Japanese Stem Cell Treatment Raises Hopes–And Ethical Questions

3 weeks 2 days

(Undark) – The Japanese health ministry approved Stemirac last December, and the treatment is now available to the Japanese public, with most of the $140,000 cost covered by the country’s universal National Health Insurance. It’s arguably the world’s most ambitious approved stem cell treatment and should have been a cause for celebration: a long-awaited breakthrough for the field of regenerative medicine — using modern biological tools to repair the body — and a harbinger of more impressive medicines.  Instead, the therapy has been met with a heated debate. On one side, many experts have slammed Stemirac’s approval in uncommonly direct terms, saying there isn’t enough evidence to show it is effective or even safe.

STAT Wins Long Legal Fight as Kentucky Supreme Court Clears Way for Release of Purdue OxyContin Files

3 weeks 2 days

(STAT News) – After a 3 1/2 year legal battle, secret records about Purdue Pharma’s marketing of its potent opioid painkiller OxyContin will finally be made public. The Kentucky Supreme Court denied a request from Purdue to review lower courts’ decisions to release the documents, according to a one-page order received Monday by the lawyers in the case.

Judge Rules Against Johnson & Johnson in Landmark Opioid Case in Oklahoma

3 weeks 3 days

(CNBC) – An Oklahoma judge on Monday ruled against Johnson & Johnson in the Oklahoma opioid trial, forcing the company to pay the state $572 million in the first trial in the U.S. seeking to hold a drugmaker accountable for helping fuel the epidemic.

They Rallied Around ‘Our Boys’ as They Pushed for a Duschenne Cure. Where Did That Leave the Girls?

3 weeks 3 days

(STAT News) – For generations, a Duchenne diagnosis was a final verdict. There were no meaningful treatments. But now multiple companies are developing gene therapies that, if they are shown to be effective, could help patients make a form of the protein they’re lacking, fundamentally altering their lives. For maybe the first time ever, there is genuine excitement in the Duchenne field. Families of girls affected by the disease, however, fear the advances might pass them by.

Pakistani Refugee Sets Himself Alight on Nauru

3 weeks 3 days

(The Guardian) – A 36-year-old Pakistani refugee has been hospitalised after he set himself alight on Nauru on Friday. This comes amid warnings the government’s attempts to repeal the medevac laws could have fatal consequences, and accusations by Medecins Sans Frontieres that Nauru has breached medical ethics. There are also concerns that more than 50 men were sent to Papua New Guinea’s immigration detention centre without access to phones in a bid to block applications for medevac.

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