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New Hope for Embattled STAP Cell Researchers?

April 3, 2014

(Los Angeles Times) – Just hours after Japanese investigators announced findings of fabrication and misconduct in a highly criticized “acid bath” stem cell study, scientists in Hong Kong said they had partly succeeded in reproducing the controversial experiment, but without acid.

Surrogacy Birth Bill Passed by Louisiana House: Snapshot

April 3, 2014

(The Times-Picayune) – At-a-Glance: The Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill 79-14 to establish enforceable, legal surrogacy birth contracts between married couples and the women who carry their children in Louisiana. The bill: Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, has sponsored the legislation which puts regulations in place for a couple and woman who enter into a surrogacy birth relationship. Surrogacy allows a couple to have a child that is biologically their own, but carried to term by a third party.

Toronto Hospital Seeks More Medical Tourists

April 3, 2014

(The Toronto Star) – Toronto hospitals are unapologetic about raising money through medical tourism and international consulting and, in fact, plan to do more of it in future. And Ontario’s health minister says that’s OK with her. But critics, including Canadian Doctors for Medicare and the Canadian Health Coalition, are fearful that the growing international focus could drain resources from the public health system.

Gene Therapy Improves Limb Function Following Spinal Cord Injury

April 3, 2014

(Medical Xpress) – Delivering a single injection of a scar-busting gene therapy to the spinal cord of rats following injury promotes the survival of nerve cells and improves hind limb function within weeks, according to a study published April 2 in The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings suggest that, with more confirming research in animals and humans, gene therapy may hold the potential to one day treat people with spinal cord injuries.

Smallest DNA Origami Nanorobot Yet Has a Switchable Flap

April 3, 2014

(Nanowerk) – In what is the smallest 3D DNA origami box so far, researchers in Italy have now fabricated a nanorobot with a switchable flap that, when instructed with a freely defined molecular message, can perform a specifically programmed duty. Slightly larger nanocontainers with a controllable lid have already been demonstrated by others to be suitable for the delivery of drugs or molecular signals, but this new cylindrical nanobot has an innovative opening mechanism.

Mammogram Risks Raise Doubts about Blanket Screening

April 2, 2014

(New Scientist) – The benefits of mammograms have been overblown and the harms underplayed, concludes a review of studies looking at breast cancer screening since the 1960s. Rather than blanket screening every woman every few years once they reach a certain age, the review recommends only screening those identified as being at high risk.

Cancer Treatment: The Killer Within

April 2, 2014

(Nature) – Clinical-trial successes in the past five years suggest that a new generation of approaches has potential against several forms of cancer that resist conventional treatments. Some analysts predict that in the next ten years, immunotherapies will be used for 60% of people with advanced cancer, and will comprise a US$35-billion market. “It is kind of crazy,” says Cary Pfeffer, chief executive of Jounce Therapeutics, a company specializing in cancer immunotherapy in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “This field has become so crowded. It’s frenzied.”

Push to Get Experimental Drugs with Social Media Pressure on the Rise

April 2, 2014

(ABC News) – For a growing number of gravely ill patients running out of options, social media has become their last bastion of hope. And they’re sharing their private struggles to motivate public action. A young newlywed woman smiles for a blog photo despite obvious signs of illness: a cannula in her nose, and a bald head. A group of doctors pose in their scrubs holding signs bearing hashtags to support a sick teen. A small, shirtless boy looks out at a camera with medical tape stuck to his chest and wires sticking out of his arms as his parents snap a picture.

Epigenetics Starts to Make Its Mark

April 2, 2014

(Nature) – Methylation — the addition of methyl groups — tends to suppress the activity of genes. It is important in development, when it helps to guide the differentiation of embryonic stem cells into specialized tissues by orchestrating the expression of genes. But it also occurs in response to environmental changes, and these gene modifications may be inherited. They may also contribute to conditions such as cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Robot Exoskeleton Lets Girl Lift Her Arms, Reach for the Stars

April 2, 2014

(ABC News) – The WREX uses special elastic bands to give a child’s arm a weightless feeling. “The mechanism is similar to how a luxo lamp works to make it ‘effortless’ to move and position the head of the lamp,” says Sample. It’s a life-changing device, and one that’s benefitted hugely from 3-D printing. Producing components on site by printing them layer by layer greatly reduces the time it takes to create a WREX.

Their Bodies Shattered by War, Some Syrians Adjust to New Life with Prosthesis

April 2, 2014

(Associated Press) – Syria’s civil war, which entered its fourth year last month, has killed more than 150,000 people, but an often overlooked figure is the number of wounded: more than 500,000, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. An untold number of those – there’s no reliable estimate – suffered traumatic injuries that have left them physically handicapped.

Dementia Diagnosis Drive Raises Concern

April 2, 2014

(BBC) – Questions are being raised about the government’s drive to increase dementia diagnosis rates in England. Fewer than half of the estimated 670,000 people with dementia have a formal diagnosis, but ministers want to see this rise to two-thirds by 2015. But a GP writing in the British Medical Journal warned the push could lead to over-diagnosis. Meanwhile, the Alzheimer’s Society said it was being undermined by the lack of support after diagnosis.

Inhaled Insulin Clears Hurdle toward F.D.A. Approval

April 2, 2014

(New York Times) – A government advisory committee on Tuesday recommended approval of a form of insulin that is inhaled rather than injected. The endorsement could lead to a new option for millions of Americans with diabetes and vindication for the persistent billionaire who spent a large amount of his fortune to develop the product.

Diet’s Link to Longevity: After 2 Studies Diverge, a Search for Consensus

April 2, 2014

(New York Times) – The studies are immensely expensive because the monkeys must be followed for their lifetimes and given almost the same standard of health care as human beings. But these long-running experiments are also of great importance. In laboratory mice, reducing the calories in a normal diet increases longevity by up to 40 percent, and it does so by postponing the onset of age-related diseases. The monkey studies are the most direct way of determining whether the same would be true of people.

Leaders of Teaching Hospitals Have Close Ties to Drug Companies, Study Shows

April 2, 2014

(ProPublica) – A team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center examined the boards of the 50 largest drug companies by global sales (excluding three companies that were not publicly traded). The researchers found that 40 percent — 19 companies — had at least one board member who also held a leadership role at an academic medical center. Sixteen of the 17 companies based in the United States had at least one. Several had more than one.

US Doctors’ Group Says Patients Should Have Option Not to Know Their DNA

April 2, 2014

(Nature) – The issue of genetic sequencing raises thorny issues of ethics and patient-doctor communication. If a patient chooses to opt out of testing for that recommended list of mutations does she or he really understand what that decision means? Was the physician able to make the significance of the mutations clear in a relatively short appointment? But patients are currently afforded the opportunity to opt out of life-saving procedures, so why should opting out of information about possible genetic mutations be any different? The ACMG board, which put forth this new decision, is implicitly stating that it isn’t.

Biologist Claims Controversial Stem-Cell Method Works

April 2, 2014

(Nature) – A Hong Kong developmental biologist says he has succeeded in reproducing a method of reprogramming cells to an embryonic like state by applying mechanical stress. The surprising new development, which the author describes as a “megatwist”, took place on 1 April, the same day that the Japanese researcher who invented the method was found guilty of scientific misconduct. The new claim, however, has been greeted with scepticism.

Obamacare Health Plans May Prove Costly to Cancer Patients

April 2, 2014

(Medical Tourism Magazine) – Obamacare may be anything, but affordable to those cancer patients relieved that they can finally get coverage under the new healthcare reform legislature. In fact, doctors, administrators and state insurance regulators fear that rules implemented under the Affordable Care Act may actually cost these Americans access to some of the nation’s best cancer care hospitals.

A Growing Number of Primary-Care Doctors Are Burning Out. How Does This Affect Patients?

April 1, 2014

(Washington Post) – Physician stress has always been a fact of life. But anecdotal reports and studies suggest a significant and rising level of discontent in recent years, especially among primary-care doctors who serve at the front lines of medicine and play a critical role in coordinating patient care.

Supreme Court to Hear Appeal of Generic Drug Case

April 1, 2014

(New York Times) – As the world’s largest maker of generic drugs, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has been critical of brand-name manufacturers that try to block generic versions of their high-priced medicines. But Teva is now emulating its rivals, mounting an aggressive effort to stave off generic versions of Copaxone, its big-selling brand-name drug for multiple sclerosis, which is set to lose patent protection late in May.