(NPR) – Whooping cough made a comeback in California last year, which researchers have linked to vaccine refusals. And with new measles outbreaks in Southern California, New York and British Columbia, the debate over vaccination is also spreading. Forty-eight states allow parents to sign a vaccine exemption form — only West Virginia and Mississippi don’t. California now requires a doctor’s signature on the school form, but parents are still able to find doctors who will sign.
(The Globe and Mail) – “My name is Cindy Cowan. I have late-stage ovarian cancer and I would like to have the choice in how I end my life.” Those words are spoken early in The Trouble with Dying (Vision TV, 10 p.m.), a terrific, thought-provoking new documentary about assisted suicide. Vision calls it “hard-hitting.” It is also fair and moving and guaranteed to make you think and rethink your impressions about the issue.
(Scientific American) – It’s okay that you don’t remember me. My name is Shara, and I’m part of the surgical team. I’m checking to see how you’re doing after your surgery. Do you know where you are right now? Actually, you’re in the hospital. You had surgery a few hours ago, for a broken hip. You used to be able to walk before you broke it, so it was important to fix it as soon as it was safe to.
(Biome) To coincide with this year’s Experimental Biology conference, BioMed Central and BMC Biologyorganised a panel discussion to explore the increasing frustration with the peer-review process from the scientific community.
(The Wall Street Journal) – Hackathons, the high-octane, all-night problem-solving sessions popularized by the software-coding community, are making their way into the more traditional world of health care. At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a recent event called Hacking Medicine’s Grand Hackfest attracted more than 450 people to work for one weekend on possible solutions to problems involving diabetes, rare diseases, global health and information technology used at hospitals.
(New York Times) – Traditionally, insurers lost money by covering people with chronic illnesses, because they often ended up hospitalized with myriad complications as their diseases progressed. Today, the routine care costs of many chronic illnesses eclipse that of acute care because new treatments that keep patients well have become a multibillion-dollar business opportunity for device and drug makers and medical providers.
(NPR) – One national survey in 2006 found that most Americans — 60 percent — believed people with schizophrenia were likely to be violent. But the vast majority of people with psychiatric disorders are not violent. In fact, another study found they are far more likely to be the victims of violence, and that 1 in 4 experience violence every year.
Teacher Died at Dignitas Because She Couldn’t Bear Modern Life: Healthy Spinster’s Despair at Fast Food, Email and Lack of Humanity
(Daily Mail) – A retired art teacher committed suicide at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland after she grew weary of the pace of modern life and how technology was changing society. The 89-year-old felt that her failing health, as well as her belief that people were becoming ‘robots’ attached to their gadgets, gave her little reason to live. The woman, who wanted to be known only as Anne, had suffered from worsening health in recent years, but was neither terminally ill nor disabled.
(Medical Xpress) – The team led by Hélène Puccio, director of research for Inserm at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology in close collaboration with Patrick Aubourg’s team has demonstrated, in the mice, the efficacy of gene therapy for treating the heart disease associated with Friedreich’s ataxia, a rare hereditary neuro-degenerative disorder. The transfer, via a viral vector, of a normal copy of the gene deficient in patients, allowed to fully and very rapidly cure the heart disease in mice. These findings are published in Nature Medicine on 6 April, 2014.
(Phys.org) – Now, Stuart Lindsay and his colleagues at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute have taken a major step in this direction, demonstrating the accurate identification of amino acids, by briefly pinning each in a narrow junction between a pair of flanking electrodes and measuring a characteristic chain of current spikes passing through successive amino acid molecules.
(The Sydney Morning Herald) – A genetic test to predict the start of menopause is likely to be available within five years, allowing women to make more informed decisions about their health and fertility, a leading expert says. Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecology at University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, Bart Fauser, said given menopause could begin at very different ages, including before 40 years for about one in 100 women, a test to more precisely predict the timing would be extremely useful, especially for women wanting children.
(The Telegraph) – A new survey of birth ratios in Britain has been ordered by the Government, amid fears that sex-selective abortions are taking place in Britain. Earl Howe, a health minister, said the Government wants to “monitor the situation” and “remain vigilant” following evidence that some doctors in the UK are carrying out selective abortions.
(Forbes) – Currently, New York State, Louisiana, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia are considering legislation that would legalize commercial surrogacy. Last week, the New York Times featured a video segment on Baby M which asks the question: Have we solved the question of surrogacy? A look into these current legislative battles and the patchwork of varied state legislation on surrogacy around the country makes it clear that we have not.
(CNN) – The painting is called “Coma.” It depicts an unconscious patient being slowly pulled into the mouth of a macabre death mask. Helpless. The death’s head resembles the opening of a CAT scan machine, a symbol of modern medical technology. It is the work of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the man who bore the notorious nickname “Dr. Death.” He was a passionate advocate for allowing certain people to choose the time and manner of their own death. He claimed to have assisted in the suicides for more than 130 patients over a period of nearly 20 years.
(Nanowerk) – Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are created by ‘reprogramming’ specialized adult cells into embryonic stem-like cells. Although a remarkable process, the procedure remains slow and inefficient, involving induced expression of four specific protein factors found at high levels in embryonic stem cells. By adding two further proteins found in unfertilized egg cells, or oocytes, to this standard recipe of reprogramming factors, a collaborative team of researchers led by Shunsuke Ishii and colleagues from the Molecular Genetics Laboratory at the RIKEN Tsukuba Institute have now discovered a way to generate iPS cells with increased speed and efficiency.
(Med Page Today) – Patients with severe ischemic heart failure had improvements in heart function following injection of mesenchymal stem cells directly into the left ventricle, a small, phase II trial showed. Within 6 months, multiple measures improved with injections of stem cells versus placebo, including end-systolic volume, left ventricular ejection fraction, stroke volume, and myocardial mass (P<0.05 for all), according to Anders Bruun Mathiasen, MD, of Rigshospitalet-Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.
(Medical Xpress) – A blood sample could one day be enough to diagnose many types of solid cancers, or to monitor the amount of cancer in a patient’s body and responses to treatment. Previous versions of the approach, which relies on monitoring levels of tumor DNA circulating in the blood, have required cumbersome and time-consuming steps to customize it to each patient or have not been sufficiently sensitive.
(Phys.org) – A long-standing challenge in synthetic biology has been to create gene circuits that behave in predictable and robust ways. Mathematical modeling experts from the University of Houston (UH) collaborated with experimental biologists at Rice University to create a synthetic genetic clock that keeps accurate time across a range of temperatures. The findings were published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
(Science) – A scientist who has been trying to reproduce STAP cells–a new type of stem cells–and regularly blogging about his progress has given up. “I don’t think STAP cells exist and it will be a waste of manpower and research funding to carry on with this experiment any further,” Kenneth Ka-Ho Lee, an embryologist and stem cell researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote on his ResearchGate page yesterday. Though he is giving up, he hopes others will continue to investigate whether the new approach – which has dogged by controversy and claims of research misconduct — can really lead to stem cells.
(CNN) – A new medical device that could save thousands of lives by preventing opioid overdoses was approved Thursday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The hand-held auto-injector is designed for family and caregivers to administer a single dose of a drug called naloxone, which rapidly reverses the effects of heroin and other opioids.