(Digital Journal) – On February 25-26, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold a public meeting to discuss intentional genetic modification of children and their descendants. The subject of the meeting is “oocyte modification in assisted reproduction for the prevention of transmission of mitochondrial disease.” This will be the first public meeting ever held by the FDA to consider a form of human germline modification — inheritable genetic changes made to eggs, sperm or embryos.
(Forbes) – On the occasion of the CDC’s yearly release of IVF clinic success rates, I remind myself and my old colleagues that we should always strive to do better. Every baby, whether conceived by in vitro fertilization or dropped by a stork down the chimney, is a miracle. As a reproductive endocrinologist, I had a unique opportunity to make small contributions to some of these miracles. But as I constantly reminded myself and my colleagues: the miracles are the babies, not the procedures. That is still true today. Assisted reproduction as it exists in the year 2014 is still a pretty primitive set of procedures and tools.
(Nanowerk) – The power of regenerative medicine now allows scientists to transform skin cells into cells that closely resemble heart cells, pancreas cells and even neurons. However, a method to generate cells that are fully mature—a crucial prerequisite for life-saving therapies—has proven far more difficult. But now, scientists at the Gladstone Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), have made an important breakthrough: they have discovered a way to transform skin cells into mature, fully functioning liver cells that flourish on their own, even after being transplanted into laboratory animals modified to mimic liver failure.
(The Guardian) – Ray Kurzweil popularised the Teminator-like moment he called the ‘singularity’, when artificial intelligence overtakes human thinking. But now the man who hopes to be immortal is involved in the very same quest – on behalf of the tech behemoth.
(News-Medical) – Epidemiological studies demonstrate that diseases of the central nervous system such as Alzheimer, Parkinson and schizophrenia protect against cancer. The most remarkable example is Alzheimer’s disease, which can reduce the risk of suffering from cancer by up to 50%. Various theories have been put forward in an attempt to explain this relationship between diseases at a first glance seem to be so different from the pharmacological, genetic and environmental perspectives. However, the available results were not consistent enough to confirm these models.
(Scientific American) – The so-called “STEM” fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—are often grouped together in discussions of education policy or curriculum. But a group of students and faculty at Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design (R.I.S.D.) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology believe that another letter should be added: “A,” for “arts.”
(CNN) – “It’s a miracle,” she told me. “We can now have a baby that won’t have Huntington’s disease. I thought I’d never be able to have any kids — because of the disease.” Her father had died from this disorder, which results from a gene mutation. She feared that she might have the mutation, too. But she was too scared to undergo testing for it. She also worried that if she had it, she might pass it on to her children.
(Latin Post) – In the past, medical tourism was reserved only for the very rich, or for celebrities who wished to keep their under-the-knife travails secret from the prying eyes of the general public. Today, for a variety of reasons, medical tourism — especially in the Dominican Republic — has become increasingly popular, and is in fact affordable for all budgets… but is it all its cracked up to be?
Italian woman, 85, ends her life at Swiss euthanasia clinic because she was upset about losing her looks
(Daily Mail) – A healthy Italian woman paid a Swiss right-to-die clinic to take her life because she was ‘unhappy about losing her looks’. Oriella Cazzanello, 85, travelled to a clinic in Basel, Switzerland, where she paid €10,000 for an assisted suicide. The elderly woman, who was in good mental and physical health, disappeared from her home in Arzignano, near Vicenza in northern Italy, without telling her relatives where she was going.
(Io9) – In a surprising breakthrough for the world of materials science, researchers have created some of the most powerful artificial muscles we’ve ever seen. And they did it with simple fishing line. These freakishly strong and cheap muscles could revolutionize robotics, and perhaps one day our own bodies.
(Tech Times) – Researchers have taken an old mouse whose heart has thickened and enlarged with age, circulated a newly discovered protein in its blood, and saw that the heart reverted back to a more youthful state. They now believe the same effect can be achieved with elderly humans, using a new process that rejuvenates older muscle stem cell populations so they function like younger cells.
(Wired) – Using scaffolds outside of the body to generate synthetic tracheas, cell-grown blood vessels and ears (kind of) is already an established practice in bioengineering research. But what happens once those scaffolds have been implanted? A team from Duke University is working on getting them to become fuel-generating systems that continually encourage stem cells to grow inside the body, to directly rebuild cartilage on site.
(BBC) – DNA testing can predict which men face the highest risk of deadly prostate cancer, scientists say. The team at the Institute of Cancer Research, in London, say men could soon be offered genetic screening in a similar way to breast cancer in women. They have shown 14 separate mutations can greatly increase the odds of aggressive prostate cancers, which could form the basis of a test.
(BBC) – “There are several reasons one might stay in Romania,” says medical student Andreea Rosca sweetly, over a ginger beer in a Bucharest bar. “You love your country, you have family, friends. Maybe you dream about changing the system. I personally do not believe it will happen.” In the past seven years, 10,000 doctors and nurses have left Romania, according to estimates from a doctors’ organisation. Most of those who leave are young, at the start of their careers. They cannot live on the 250 euros (£205; $340) monthly starting salary, they say, and unlike older doctors are insufficiently experienced to set up a private practice, parallel to their work in state hospitals.
(Associated Press) – A dramatic rise in thyroid cancer has resulted from overdiagnosis and treatment of tumors too small to ever cause harm, according to a study that found cases nearly tripled since 1975. The study is the latest to question whether all cancers need aggressive treatment. Other research has suggested that certain cancers of the prostate, breast and lung as well as thyroid grow so slowly that they will never become deadly, and that overzealous screening leads to overtreatment.
(New Scientist) – Brain cell regeneration has been discovered in a new location in human brains. The finding raises hopes that these cells could be used to help people recover after a stroke, or to treat other brain diseases. For years it was unclear whether or not we could generate new brain cells during our lifetime, as the process – neurogenesis – had only been seen in animals. Instead, it was thought that humans, with our large and complex brains, are born with all the required neurons.
(NPR) – If you’re looking to go out for dinner, see a movie or plunk down big bucks on a new TV, chances are you’ll look online for help with the decision. Lots of people are now checking out potential doctors that way, too. Online ratings are becoming part of how many Americans shop for a physician, according to a study in the latest issue of JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.
(Kaiser Health News) – It’s called “patient dumping” – when hospitals transfer patients without insurance to public hospitals. But a new study from Stanford University has turned dumping on its head. It finds that hospitals are less likely to transfer critically injured patients to trauma centers if they have health insurance.
(New York Times) – Mr. Divinigracia could easily have been the subject of one of the 54 stories in a new book, “Support for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers: The Unsung Heroes,” by Judith L. London. Dr. London is a psychologist in San Jose, Calif., whose first book, “Connecting the Dots: Breakthroughs in Communication as Alzheimer’s Advances,” broadened her contacts with family and professional caregivers facing, and often solving, everyday problems related to dementia.
The New England Journal of Medicine (Volume 370, No. 8, February 20, 2014) is now available online by subscription only.
- “Post-Acute Care Reform — Beyond the ACA” by D.C. Ackerly and D.C. Grabowski
- “Post-Acute Care — The Next Frontier for Controlling Medicare Spending” by R. Mechanic
- “The Hospital-Dependent Patient” by D.B. Reuben and M.E. Tinetti
- “Informed Consent, Comparative Effectiveness, and Learning Health Care” by R.R. Faden, et al.
- “Informed Consent for Pragmatic Trials — The Integrated Consent Model” by S.Y.H. Kim and F.G. Miller