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Updated: 1 min 31 sec ago

Uighurs and Genetic Surveillance in China

1 hour 41 min ago

(NPR) – DNA data has been used to track and identify alleged criminals for decades, but what happens when China begins to use that technology to identify and detain people based on their ethnicity, especially ethnic minorities like Uighur Muslims, in the name of national security? Yves Moreau is an engineer and professor at the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium. He studies human genetics and the ethics involved in that. Mr. Moreau, thanks so much for being with us.

Surgeons Transplant a Testicle from One Brother to His Twin

1 hour 51 min ago

(New York Times) – A 36-year-old man born without testicles received one transplanted from his identical twin brother in a six-hour operation performed on Tuesday in Belgrade, Serbia, by an international team of surgeons. The surgery was intended to give the recipient more stable levels of the male hormone testosterone than injections could provide, to make his genitals more natural and more comfortable, and to enable him to father children, said Dr. Dicken Ko, a transplant surgeon and urology professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, who flew to Belgrade to help with the procedure.

Safety Problems Lead to Early End for Study of ‘Abortion Pill Reversal’

2 hours 31 min ago

(NPR) – A study designed to test the effectiveness of a controversial practice known as “abortion pill reversal” has been stopped early because of safety concerns. Researchers from the University of California, Davis, were investigating claims that the hormone progesterone can stop a medication-based abortion after a patient has completed the first part of the two-step process. 

The Hidden Crisis in Rural America

December 6, 2019

(The Atlantic) – It’s prohibitively difficult to access mental-health services in rural America. That’s because, relative to urban areas, rural counties have so few mental-health professionals. The majority of nonmetropolitan counties in the U.S. don’t have a psychiatrist, and almost half lack a psychologist. The paucity has resulted in a public-health crisis—rural Americans suffering from a psychiatric condition are more likely to encounter police than receive treatment. Each year, 2 million mentally ill Americans, most of whom aren’t violent criminals, end up in jail.

Tear Gas Is Now a Fact of Life in Hong Kong. Residents Are Wondering What It’s Doing to Their Health

December 6, 2019

(TIME) – Known also as CS gas, tear gas is not actually a gas, but fine powder used as a riot control agent. It becomes active when heated. Exposure causes streaming eyes, runny nose, shortness of breath, burning skin and sometimes vomiting and headaches. Lately, Hong Kong has been abuzz with concerns about the long term effects of tear gas exposure and any potential harm to the built environment caused by repeated tear gas contamination. Fears have been exacerbated by the police force’s switch to mainland Chinese-made tear gas. Experts say it contains aluminum and magnesium, causing it to burn at higher temperatures than the U.S.- and U.K.-made tear gas used previously.

China’s Genetic Research on Ethnic Minorities Sets Off Science Backlash

December 6, 2019

(New York Times) – China’s efforts to study the DNA of the country’s ethnic minorities have incited a growing backlash from the global scientific community, as a number of scientists warn that Beijing could use its growing knowledge to spy on and oppress its people. Two publishers of prestigious scientific journals, Springer Nature and Wiley, said this week that they would re-evaluate papers they previously published on Tibetans, Uighurs and other minority groups. The papers were written or co-written by scientists backed by the Chinese government, and the two publishers want to make sure the authors got consent from the people they studied.

Families Are Reeling after FDA Rejects Therapy for Kids Born Without a Thymus Gland

December 6, 2019

(STAT News) – All that was supposed to change on Wednesday, when the Food and Drug Administration had to decide whether it was approving a tissue implant that can dramatically increase such children’s chances of survival. Since 1993, 101 children have gotten the experimental treatment at Duke University Hospital, and 73 of them are still alive. With numbers like that, the approval seemed like a shoe-in, almost a formality. As soon as the positive decision was announced, the Luckesens were told, they’d get a call about scheduling Charlie’s surgery. On Wednesday, Katie Luckesen checked her phone again and again — while snuggling with her daughter, while helping the kids with schoolwork, while making stovetop Christmas toffee — but the good news never came. Only the next morning did she learn that regulators had rejected the application.

Experts Split Sharply Over Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug

December 5, 2019

(ABC News) – A company that claims to have the first drug to slow mental decline from Alzheimer’s disease made its case to scientists Thursday but left them sharply divided over whether there’s enough evidence of effectiveness for the medicine to warrant federal approval. Excitement and skepticism have surrounded aducanumab since its developers stopped two studies earlier this year because it didn’t seem to be working, then did a stunning about-face in October and said new results suggest it was effective at a high dose.

Inside the Cell Where a Sick 16-Year-Old Boy Died in Border Patrol Case

December 5, 2019

(ProPublica) – In a press release that day, Customs and Border Protection’s acting commissioner at the time, John Sanders, called Carlos’ death a “tragic loss.” The agency said that an agent had found Carlos “unresponsive” after checking in on him. Sanders said the Border Patrol was “committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody.” But the record shows that the Border Patrol fell far short of that standard with Carlos. ProPublica has obtained video that documents the 16-year-old’s last hours, and it shows that Border Patrol agents and health care workers at the Weslaco holding facility missed increasingly obvious signs that his condition was perilous.

Drug Helped Dementia Patients Curb Their Hallucinations and Delusions

December 5, 2019

(Los Angeles Times) – A drug that curbs delusions in Parkinson’s patients did the same for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in a clinical trial that was stopped early because the benefit seemed clear. If regulators agree, the drug could become the first offered specifically for treating dementia-related psychosis. It would also be the first new medicine for Alzheimer’s in nearly two decades.

Chinese Residents Worry About Rise of Facial Recognition

December 5, 2019

(BBC) – A survey by a Beijing research institute indicates growing pushback against facial recognition in China. Some 74% of respondents said they wanted the option to be able to use traditional ID methods over the tech to verify their identity. Worries about the biometric data being hacked or otherwise leaked was the main concern cited by the 6,152 respondents. Facial recognitions systems are being rolled out in stations, schools, and shopping centres across the country. 

A Clinical Trial for Huntington’s Opens the Door to Hope for Some Patients. Only So Many Can Get In

December 4, 2019

(STAT News) – There are reasons for such strict criteria, as there are with all clinical trials, which are meant to test whether the therapy in question is even effective. These are research studies that can only include so many people, after all, so investigators are looking for patients who are most likely to reveal any potential benefits of experimental treatments. But to patients with diseases like Huntington’s, trials look like the best — and really, the only — option. They know trials have to have limits; that doesn’t make it easier when they’re told there’s no spot for them.

Special Report: Powder Keg–FDA Bowed to Industry for Decades as Alarms Were Sounded Over Talc

December 4, 2019

(Reuters) – Over the past 50 years, the FDA has relied upon – and often deferred to – industry even as outside experts and consumers repeatedly raised serious health concerns about talc powders and cosmetics, a Reuters investigation found.  Again and again since at least the 1970s, the agency has downplayed the risk of asbestos contamination and declined to issue warnings or impose safety standards, according to documents produced in court proceedings and in response to public records requests.

Unpacking the Black Box in Artificial Intelligence for Medicine

December 4, 2019

(Undark) – In clinics around the world, a type of artificial intelligence called deep learning is starting to supplement or replace humans in common tasks such as analyzing medical images. Already, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, “every one of the 50,000 screening mammograms we do every year is processed through our deep learning model, and that information is provided to the radiologist,” says Constance Lehman, chief of the hospital’s breast imaging division. In deep learning, a subset of a type of artificial intelligence called machine learning, computer models essentially teach themselves to make predictions from large sets of data.

China Gene-Edited Baby Experiment ‘May Have Created Unintended Mutations’

December 4, 2019

(The Guardian) – The gene editing performed on Chinese twins to immunise them against HIV may have failed and created unintended mutations, scientists have said after the original research was made public for the first time. Excerpts from the manuscript were released by the MIT Technology Review to show how Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui ignored ethical and scientific norms in creating the twins Lula and Nana, whose birth in late 2018 sent shockwaves through the scientific world.

For HIV-Positive Babies, New Evidence Favors Starting Drug Treatment Just After Birth

December 4, 2019

(NPR) – Now, results from a clinical trial in Botswana support that hunch. In Science Translational Medicine, researchers report on 10 HIV-positive babies who were started on a drinkable three-drug cocktail of conventional antiretrovirals within their first days. After they had two years of antiretroviral drugs, the virus was almost undetectable in their bodies. By contrast, kids who started antiretroviral therapy a few months after birth had 200 times more virus in their blood.

China’s CRISPR Babies: Read Exclusive Excerpts from the Unseen Original Research

December 3, 2019

(MIT Technology Review) – Earlier this year a source sent us a copy of an unpublished manuscript describing the creation of the first gene-edited babies, born last year in China. Today, we are making excerpts of that manuscript public for the first time. Titled “Birth of Twins After Genome Editing for HIV Resistance,” and 4,699 words long, the still unpublished paper was authored by He Jiankui, the Chinese biophysicist who created the edited twin girls. A second manuscript we also received discusses laboratory research on human and animal embryos.

China Uses DNA to Map Faces, with Help from the West

December 3, 2019

(New York Times) – With a million or more ethnic Uighurs and others from predominantly Muslim minority groups swept up in detentions across Xinjiang, officials in Tumxuk have gathered blood samples from hundreds of Uighurs — part of a mass DNA collection effort dogged by questions about consent and how the data will be used. In Tumxuk, at least, there is a partial answer: Chinese scientists are trying to find a way to use a DNA sample to create an image of a person’s face.

Doctors ‘Reanimate’ Heart for First-of-Its-Kind Transplant in US

December 3, 2019

(CNN) – Doctors at Duke University Medical Center this month “reanimated” a heart for a first-of-its-kind transplant performed on an adult in the United States. Heart transplants typically come from donations after brain death, in which the still-beating heart of a person who has been declared brain dead is transplanted into a recipient. The approach used at Duke is known as a donation after circulatory death (DCD), and it relies on hearts that have stopped beating and are essentially reanimated and begin beating again.

Texas Law Under Fire After Hospital Moves to Take Fort Worth Baby Off Life Support

December 3, 2019

(Ft. Worth Star Telegram) – Tinslee Lewis has spent all 10 months of her life at Cook Children’s Hospital, where she is on life support for several critical medical conditions. Unbeknownst to her, she has been thrust into a debate over a 20-year-old law that some argue removes a family’s right to decide whether their loved ones live or die.

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