(The Atlantic) – Around this time of year, “Silent Night” typically evokes nativity scenes: a mother and child, in heavenly peace. Which made it all the more dissonant to hear the song near the end of Thursday’s mid-season finale of Scandal, as—spoilers ahead—Olivia Pope laid down on a table in a clinic to have an abortion.
(Stanford Medicine) – A team of bioethicists from across the nation has developed a standardized approach to collecting and sharing advice on conducting ethical human-subject research. At its core is a template to help bioethicists structure ethics consultations so that resulting knowledge can be shared in a centralized, privacy-protected database.
(Washington Post) – The case of Valentina Maureira, a 14-year-old Chilean girl who made a YouTube video begging her government for assisted suicide, illustrates the Werther and Papageno effects. Maureira admitted that the idea to end her life began after she heard about the case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who campaigned prominently for the right to assisted suicide before ending her life last year. But Maureira changed her mind after meeting another young person also suffering from the same disease, cystic fibrosis, who conveyed a message of hope and encouraged her to persevere in the face of adversity. With our laws, we can encourage vulnerable individuals in one of these two directions: the path of Werther or the path of Papageno.
(Eurekalert) – A report by Dr Kirsty Horsey at the University of Kent has discovered it is a myth that a high proportion of potential parents from the UK go overseas if they need to use surrogacy. Written in conjunction with Surrogacy UK and other organisations, this is the first report of its kind and provides an unprecedented insight into how surrogacy is practised in the UK, dispelling a number of pervasive myths that have informed recent debate on the issue.
(Cancer Gene Therapy) – The rapidly changing field of gene therapy promises a number of innovative treatments for cancer patients. Advances in genetic modification of cancer and immune cells and the use of oncolytic viruses and bacteria have led to numerous clinical trials for cancer therapy, with several progressing to late-stage product development. At the time of this writing, no gene therapy product has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some of the key scientific and regulatory issues include understanding of gene transfer vector biology, safety of vectors in vitro and in animal models, optimum gene transfer, long-term persistence or integration in the host, shedding of a virus and ability to maintain transgene expression in vivo for a desired period of time.
(Modern Healthcare) – Two ongoing studies meant to determine the patient impact of longer than recommended work shifts for doctors are unethical and being done without their informed consent, according to complaints sent to HHS. The studies, one of which assigns first-year medical residents from 58 internal medicine programs to potentially more than 30 consecutive hours, have “egregious ethical and regulatory violations,” said Public Citizen and the American Medical Student Association in letters sent Tuesday to HHS.
(Scientific American) – Using advanced molecular techniques, our laboratory director, Erik Puffenberger, rapidly homed in on Esther’s genetic diagnosis (recombination-activating gene 1, RAG1) and proved that her sister Mary succumbed to the same condition. Using these same molecular data, Puffenberger identified an ideal bone marrow transplant donor among Esther’s siblings that enabled her to have a lifesaving transplant at 65 days of age. The entire process—from clinical presentation to genetic diagnosis to donor identification—took less than two weeks, saved the family about $80,000 and cleared the path to a cure.
(Quartz) – The study revealed that health care standards are improving across the board in OECD countries, whether they’re “developed” countries or not. Average life expectancy has increased by 10 years since 1970, and the number of doctors in all OECD countries has increased by absolute numbers and per capita. But when it comes to spending, the US’s massive health care expenses are not reaping returns.
(Bloomberg) – The history of prosthetics is a history of compromises. Uncomfortable devices, limited movement. And while amazing advances have been made, none is more stunning than Johnny Matheny’s arm. Amputated in 2008 because of cancer, the arm has worn a host of different prosthetics to give Johnny back some of the function he lost to surgery. But now he is the beneficiary of two pioneering technologies funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) and developed at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.
(Washington Post) – The average annual retail cost of specialty drugs used to treat complex diseases such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis now exceeds the median U.S. household income, according to a report to be published Friday. The study of 115 specialty drugs found that a year’s worth of prescriptions for a single drug retailed at $53,384 per year, on average, in 2013 — more than the median U.S. household income, double the median income of Medicare beneficiaries, and more than three times as much as the average Social Security benefit in the same year.
(Reuters) -A new case of Ebola emerged in Liberia on Friday in a setback for the country declared free of the disease on Sept. 3 and for the region, which is struggling to end an epidemic that has killed around 11,300 people.The patient is a 10-year-old boy who lived with his parents and three siblings in Paynesville, a suburb east of the capital Monrovia, said Minister of Health Minister Bernice Dahn.
(The Conversation) – In the last 30 years, almost every country in the European Union has implemented new organ donor laws that are either explicit consent or presumed consent. Studies have shown that countries with presumed consent have the highest deceased donation rates. Those studies, however, tend to compare the broad legal requirement: informed versus presumed consent. But each presumed consent law is unique. The key differences are described as ‘strong/hard’ to ‘weak/soft’, referring to what extent the deceased’s families are consulted by doctors.
(Bloomberg BNA) – PODs are medical device businesses in which a physician is both an investor and a distributor. The arrangement is most common with implantable spinal devices. The arrangements have been investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services OIG because they may represent a conflict of interest that can lead physicians to choose implants or facilities based on profit rather than their patients’ best interests. The Affordable Care Act’s Open Payments Program (commonly known as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act) has made it a requirement for PODs to disclose their ownership interests, but POD critics, and the senators, say that hasn’t been happening.
(Nature) – Sequencing tumours is faster, cheaper and easier than ever. With many researchers collecting sequence data and uploading these to public databases such as the The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), opportunities to describe the many different cancers that arise in breast tissue are upon us. “The challenge used to be generating the data,” says Nicholas Navin, a geneticist at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “Those issues have been resolved. Now the challenge is data processing and data analysing — interpreting the mutations and communicating those to oncologists.”
(U.S. News & World Report) – Embryos with a mix of normal and abnormal chromosomes implanted during in vitro fertilization (IVF) can develop into healthy newborns, a small new study suggests. Researchers in Italy transferred so-called “mosaic embryos” — characterized by irregular numbers or arrangements of chromosomes in some cells — into 18 women during IVF procedures. All six full-term pregnancies that followed resulted in chromosomally normal infants, the researchers reported.
(Eurekalert) – As the recipe book for turning stem cells into other types of cells keeps growing larger, the search for the perfect, therapeutically relevant blend of differentiation factors is revealing some interesting biology. A study published November 19 in Chemistry & Biology, for example, found that a protein in E. coli bacteria combined with small molecules can act synergistically to push pluripotent cells into functional neurons.
(Yahoo! News) – Will men be able to give birth sooner than, well, never? That’s the question provoked by last week’s announcement that the Cleveland Clinic is performing uterus transplant surgery on women who were born without a womb or whose uterus is diseased or malfunctioning. Hearing the news, we, and some of you, wondered: If science can transplant a uterus into a woman, can it transplant one into a man?
(Michigan Radio) – He became known to the world as “Dr. Death.” His first so-called “medicide” happened in the Detroit area in 1990. From that point, Michigan pathologist Dr. Jack Kevorkian became the best-known face of the right-to-die movement. He assisted in the suicides of over 100 terminally ill people between 1990 and 1998. He died in 2011 at age 83. Now, Kevorkian’s papers are open to the public at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library.
(Los Angeles Times) – Stimulant medications used to treat attention deficit problems and keep service members alert during long stretches of combat might increase vulnerability to post-traumatic stress disorder, a new study suggests. Defense Department researchers analyzing data from nearly 26,000 service members found that those with prescriptions for the stimulants were five times more likely to have PTSD.
(Science Daily) – Scientists have succeeded in growing functional vocal cord tissue in the laboratory, a major step toward restoring a voice to people who have lost their vocal cords to cancer surgery or other injuries. Experts from several disciplines were able to bioengineer vocal cord tissue able to transmit sound. About 20 million Americans suffer from voice impairments, and many have damage to the vocal cord mucosae, the specialized tissues that vibrate as air moves over them, giving rise to voice.