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Mouse Model of Human Immune System Inadequate for Stem Cell Studies

August 22, 2017

(Medical Xpress) – A type of mouse widely used to assess how the human immune system responds to transplanted stem cells does not reflect what is likely to occur in patients, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The researchers urge further optimization of this animal model before making decisions about whether and when to begin wide-scale stem cell transplants in humans.

Dying at Home in an Opioid Crisis: Hospices Grapple with Stolen Meds

August 22, 2017

(Kaiser Health News) – Hospices have largely been exempt from the national crackdown on opioid prescriptions because dying people may need high doses of opioids. But as the nation’s opioid epidemic continues, some experts say hospices aren’t doing enough to identify families and staff who might be stealing pills. And now, amid urgent cries for action over rising overdose deaths, several states have passed laws giving hospice staff the power to destroy leftover pills after patients die.

Elon Musk Calls for Ban on Killer Robots before ‘Weapons of Terror’ Are Unleashed

August 22, 2017

(Washington Post) – Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has said that artificial intelligence is more of a risk to the world than is North Korea, offering humanity a stark warning about the perilous rise of autonomous machines. Now the tech billionaire has joined more than 100 robotics and artificial intelligence experts calling on the United Nations to ban one of the deadliest forms of such machines: autonomous weapons.

There’s an Unforeseen Benefit to California’s Physician-Assisted Death Law

August 22, 2017

(Los Angeles Times) – Some doctors in California felt uncomfortable last year when a new law began allowing terminally ill patients to request lethal medicines, saying their careers had been dedicated to saving lives, not ending them. Many healthcare systems designed protocols for screening people who say they’re interested in physician-assisted death, including some that were meant to dissuade patients from taking up the option. But physicians across the state say the conversations that health workers are having with patients are leading to patients’ fears and needs around dying being addressed better than ever before. They say the law has improved medical care for sick patients, even those who don’t take advantage of it.

Prison Healthcare So Bad It Would Be Shut Down on Outside, Say Doctors

August 22, 2017

(The Guardian) – NHS doctors working in prisons have warned that the conditions in which they operate are so unsafe that the services would be closed down had they been outside the prison system, the Guardian has learned. The warnings have been issued in emails from an internal prison doctors’ email group seen by the Guardian. The fears about failures in prison healthcare come at a time when prisons are under huge pressure as a result of violence, overcrowding, drug use and high suicide rates.

The Australian Scientists Cracking the Genetic Code of Clinical Depression

August 22, 2017

(Sydney Morning Herald) – “To date, we have failed to move effectively from the general principles of treating clinical depression, to much more personalised and targeted approaches that minimise risk to maximise benefit.” Genetics is the key to fixing this problem, Professor Martin said. The geneticist is urging more Australians living with the mental illness to enrol in the study that requires a total of 20,000 Australian study volunteers aged 18 and over.

Despite Advance Directive, Dementia Patient Denied Her Last Wish, Says Spouse

August 21, 2017

(USA Today) – The southern Oregon case underscores the complexity surrounding the use of advance directives for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Advance directives are legal documents that spell out a person’s end-of-life wishes if they are unable to make their own decisions. These directives generally allow named agents the power to withdraw artificial hydration and nutrition in the form of feeding tubes, for instance. But when that same nourishment is offered by hand, several states, including Oregon, draw a line, said Thaddeus Mason Pope, director of the Health Law Institute at Hamline University in St. Paul, and an expert on end-of-life law.

The Disturbing, Eugenics-Like Reality Unfolding in Iceland

August 21, 2017

(Quartz) – Here’s the interesting thing: Down syndrome, or Trisomy 21 as it is also called, is actually one of the less severe chromosomal conditions. Unlike many other trisomies (genetic conditions in which a person has three copies of a chromosome instead of the standard two), it’s compatible with life.

Most Hospices Fare Well in Newly Released CMS Quality Data

August 21, 2017

(Med Page Today) – For the first time, Medicare officials Wednesday posted quality scores for some 3,800 hospice providers on its new website, Hospice Compare, aimed at helping people select hospice facilities for themselves or others. In a press briefing Wednesday, Kate Goodrich of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said the effort will provide a “snapshot on the quality of care delivered by each provider” that will “help consumers make informed decisions.” Scores for the vast majority of hospices were near the top end of the quality range — so good, in fact, that some observers questioned whether consumers will find the data useful for comparison shopping.

Is a Dubious ‘Brain Health Quiz’ Stoking Alzheimer’s Anxiety to Lure Patients?

August 21, 2017

(Undark Magazine) – The American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics prohibits advertising that is “misleading” or creates “unjustified medical expectations,” and it requires claims to be “factually supportable.” The Brain Health Quiz, as I discovered, is almost guaranteed to generate a 100 percent hit rate, even for people without any of the objective risk factors. It purports to be making individualized assessments through meaningful screening, but it ends up pushing consultations for nearly everyone. After all, why take the quiz if you aren’t already concerned?

Genetic Tweaks to Tuberculosis Could Speed Up Discovery of a New Vaccine

August 21, 2017

(STAT News) – The only existing tuberculosis vaccine — known as Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) — contains a weakened bacterium that is a different cousin of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. And while the vaccine is 60 to 80 percent effective in children, it works poorly in adults. Partly for that reason, while BCG is widely administered in many parts of the world, it’s not used in the United States. Multiple other vaccine candidates are currently moving through clinical trials, with some encouraging early results. A better vaccine could save lives on a stunning scale. Annually, tuberculosis kills more people than HIV or malaria, though the number of deaths has fallen over time.

New Sci-Fi Film “Marjorie Prime” Is “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” Meets “Black Mirror”

August 21, 2017

(Quartz) – Marjorie Prime uses emerging technology as a window into our desire to self-select the past. Directed and co-written by Michael Almereyda and based on a play by Jordan Harrison, the movie’s focus is on a timeless question that has gnawed at us for generations: What does it mean to be human? Walter’s Prime may be a version of a hologram, but it acts more like a mirror, reflecting Marjorie’s life back at her.

Exclusive: Inside the Lab Where Scientists Are Editing DNA in Human Embryos

August 18, 2017

(NPR) – Human eggs are the key starting point for the groundbreaking experiments underway in this lab. It’s run by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a biologist who’s been on the cutting edge of embryonic genetic research for decades. Mitalipov and his international team electrified the world this summer when the group announced it had successfully — and seemingly safely — figured out how to efficiently edit the DNA in human embryos. For the first time, they said, they had corrected a mutation that causes a potentially fatal heart condition. The hope is this landmark step could someday help prevent thousands of genetic diseases that have plagued families for generations.

Dengue Infection Impairs Immune Defense against Zika

August 18, 2017

(The Scientist) – Previous exposure to dengue virus could dampen a patient’s immune response to Zika, and potentially even aid infection, according to recent work carried out by US researchers. In a study published today (August 18) in Science Immunology, the team found that an early memory B cell response to Zika infection in patients who had already been exposed to dengue produced weak antibodies against Zika virus in vitro.

Doctors Plan Bold Test of Gene Therapy on Boys with Muscular Dystrophy

August 18, 2017

(MIT Technology Review) – Using mini-genes inspired by the man’s genetic defect, three U.S. teams say they are ready to try to treat Duchenne with gene therapy. The first study could begin as soon as next month at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, with the backing of a biotech firm, Sarepta Therapeutics, and a charity, Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. Two other tests on children, one organized by Solid Biosciences, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the other by drug giant Pfizer, are slated to begin by year’s end and in the first half of 2018, respectively.

Accessing Drugs for Medical Aid-in-Dying

August 18, 2017

(The Scientist) – So why the rise? Just one month prior to Seconal’s price hike, California had proposed legislation that would make it the fifth state to allow medical-aid-in-dying, in which terminally ill patients given less than six months to live could choose to end their own lives with a physician’s prescription for a lethal quantity of a drug—Seconal being the drug of choice. Valeant denied ulterior motives for the decision. But some health-care practitioners called the move exploitative, whether or not the timing was deliberate. With Seconal’s climbing cost, the standard lethal-dose protocol—emptying 100 capsules into a beverage—has a price tag of $3,000 or more. “‘Shocked’ is one word you could use,” says David Grube, a family doctor in Oregon and national medical director of the nonprofit group Compassion and Choices, which advocates for better end-of-life medical care. “I had other feelings as well—all of them negative. . . . It’s pharmaceutical-company greed.”

Elderly Couple Got ‘Deepest Wish’–to Die Together–in Rare Euthanasia Case

August 18, 2017

(Washington Post) – Nic and Trees Elderhorst knew exactly how they wanted to die. They were both 91 years old and in declining health. Nic Elderhorst suffered a stroke in 2012 and more recently, his wife, Trees Elderhorst, was diagnosed with dementia, according to the Dutch newspaper, De Gelderlander. Neither wanted to live without the other, or leave this world alone. So the two, who lived in Didam, a town in the eastern part of the Netherlands, and had been together 65 years, shared a last word, and a kiss, then died last month hand-in-hand — in a double euthanasia allowed under Dutch law, according to De Gelderlander.

Initiative Aims to Use Nanotechnology to Purify Water

August 18, 2017

(Sci Dev Net) – A five-year project focusing on the use of nanotechnology for addressing environmental challenges in Africa such as water contamination has received funding. The project, which also aims to develop news systems capable of reducing the current cost of water purification methods, will be implemented through a collaboration involving Rhodes University, South Africa; University of Ottawa, Canada and United States International University -Africa (USIU-Africa) in Kenya.

NSF Reiterates Policy on Teaching Good Research Habits Despite Its Limitations

August 18, 2017

(Science) – The National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia, has decided to double down on its implementation of a congressionally mandated policy aimed at reducing research misconduct among NSF-funded scientists, despite a new report that notes problems with the agency’s approach. In 2007, Congress approved a measure, the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act, that requires every university applying for NSF funding to certify that its students are receiving “appropriate” training in the responsible conduct of research (RCR). Although NSF gave universities great leeway to decide how to provide that training, its 2010 directive also suggested that schools conduct a “risk assessment” to determine who should be trained and what training they should receive.

Chess Study Revives Debate over Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs

August 17, 2017

(JAMA) – While media attention has since waned, the underground use of CEs seemingly has not. A 2013 survey found that 19.9% of the 1105 German surgeons who responded admitted to having taken a prescription or illicit drug to enhance cognition at least once. Another study found that 61.8% of undergraduates at the University of Maryland had been offered prescription stimulants for nonmedical purposes, most of them by friends with prescriptions, and 31% had used them.

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