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Controversial New Guidelines Would Allow Experiments on More Mature Human Embryos

May 26, 2021

(NPR) – For decades, scientists have been prohibited from keeping human embryos alive in their labs for more than 14 days. The prohibition was aimed at avoiding a thicket of ethical issues that would be raised by doing experiments on living human embryos as they continue to develop. But on Wednesday, an influential scientific society recommended scrapping that blanket taboo, known as the “14-day rule.” The International Society for Stem Cell Research released new guidelines that say it could be permissible to study living human embryos in the lab for longer than two weeks. This guidance will now be considered by regulatory bodies in each country that conducts this type of research to decide what research will be permitted and how. (Read Full Article)

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Contact-Tracing App Curbed the Spread of COVID in England and Wales

May 26, 2021

(Nature) – The idea behind digital contact tracing is that, when an individual tests positive for an infectious disease such as COVID-19, an app on their smartphone can send a notification to other smartphones that have been in close proximity, such as within 2 metres, for more than a certain period of time, say 15 minutes. However, such apps can be difficult for people living in a democracy to accept because of concerns about data privacy. Writing in Nature, Wymant et al. demonstrate effective implementation of a digital contact-tracing app on a large scale in a democratic society: England and Wales in the United Kingdom. (Read Full Article)

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Google Strikes Deal with Hospital Chain to Develop Healthcare Algorithms

May 26, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Alphabet Inc.’s GOOG 1.02% Google and national hospital chain HCA Healthcare Inc. HCA 0.77% have struck a deal to develop healthcare algorithms using patient records, the latest foray by a tech giant into the $3 trillion healthcare sector. HCA, which operates across about 2,000 locations in 21 states, would consolidate and store with Google data from digital health records and internet-connected medical devices under the multiyear agreement. Google and HCA engineers will work to develop algorithms to help improve operating efficiency, monitor patients and guide doctors’ decisions, according to the companies. (Read Full Article)

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Large Vessel Stroke Linked to AstraZeneca COVID Vaccine

May 26, 2021

(Medscape) – The first cases of large vessel arterial occlusion strokes linked to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine have been described in the United Kingdom.  The three cases (one of which was fatal) occurred in two women and one man in their 30s or 40s and involved blockages of the carotid and middle cerebral artery. Two of the three patients also had venous thrombosis involving the portal and cerebral venous system. All three also had extremely low platelet counts, confirmed antibodies to platelet factor 4, and raised D-dimer levels, all characteristic of the vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) reaction associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Read Full Article)

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WHO Seeks More Data on Second Chinese Covid-19 Vaccine Up for Approval

May 26, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – The World Health Organization is seeking more data on Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s CoronaVac as it weighs whether to authorize a second Chinese Covid-19 vaccine under international pressure to help distribute more shots to poor countries. In recent weeks, the WHO has asked for more details regarding the safety of the shot and requested data about Sinovac’s manufacturing process to assess whether it is compliant with WHO standards, according to people familiar with the matter. One senior WHO official now expects a decision to be delayed into June. (Read Full Article)

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Scientists: Canceling Tokyo Olympics “may be the safest option”

May 26, 2021

(Axios) – With less than two months until the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, scientists are warning that “canceling the games may be the safest option,” according to a paper published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Why it matters: As Japan anticipates 20,000 athletes and support staff from 200 different countries, the country remains in a state of emergency with nearly 70,000 active cases and only 5% of the population vaccinated, the lowest rate within OECD countries. (Read Full Article)

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The Truth About Deinstituionalization

May 25, 2021

(The Atlantic) – When a person has a mental-health crisis in America, it is almost always law enforcement—not a therapist, social worker, or psychiatrist—who responds to the 911 call. But most officers aren’t adequately trained to deal with mental-health emergencies. And while laws intended to protect civil liberties make it exceedingly difficult to hospitalize people against their will, it is remarkably easy to arrest them. As a result, policing and incarceration have effectively replaced emergency mental-health care, especially in low-income communities of color. In many jails, the percentage of people with mental illness has continued to go up even as the jail population has dropped. (Read Full Article)

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Man Blinded for 40 Years Has Sight Partially Restored Using Gene Therapy

May 25, 2021

(Gizmodo) – Researchers say their experimental gene therapy was able to partially restore a man’s eyesight 40 years after he lost most of his vision. The findings are exciting, but the authors of the new study caution that more research will be needed to confirm the effectiveness of this treatment. Gene therapy has emerged as a promising approach for largely incurable ailments that are often caused by defective genetic mutations. It can include editing the genes of cells collected from the body in the lab, then putting them back in (CAR T-cell therapy for cancer is one example of this) or editing cells inside the body directly, also known as in vivo gene therapy. (Read Full Article)

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Coronavirus Cases and Deaths in the United States Drop to Lowest Levels in Nearly a Year.

May 25, 2021

(New York Times) – The United States is adding fewer than 30,000 cases a day for the first time since June of last year, and deaths are as low as they’ve been since last summer. In much of the country, the virus outlook is improving. Nearly 50 percent of Americans have received at least one vaccine shot, and though the pace has slowed, the share is still growing by about two percentage points per week. (Read Full Article)

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AHA Reassures Myocarditis Rare After COVID Vaccination, Benefits Overwhelm Risks

May 25, 2021

(Medscape) – The benefits of COVID-19 vaccination “enormously outweigh” the rare possible risk for heart-related complications, including myocarditis, the American Heart Association (AHA)/American Stroke Association (ASA) says in new statement. The message follows a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that the agency is monitoring the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) for cases of myocarditis that have been associated with the mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 from Pfizer and Moderna. (Read Full Article)

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This Brain-Controlled Robotic Arm Can Twist, Grasp–and Feel

May 25, 2021

(Wired) – A team at the University of Pittsburgh needed a volunteer to test whether a person could learn to control a robotic arm simply by thinking about it. This kind of research into brain-computer interfaces has been used to explore everything from restoring motion to people with paralysis to developing a new generation of prosthetic limbs to turning thoughts into text. Companies like Kernel and Elon Musk’s Neuralink are popularizing the idea that small electrodes implanted in the brain can read electrical activity and write data onto a computer. (No, you won’t be downloading and replaying memories anytime soon.) (Read Full Article)

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Moderna Says Its COVID-19 Shot Works in Kids as Young as 12

May 25, 2021

(Associated Press) – Moderna said Tuesday its COVID-19 vaccine strongly protects kids as young as 12, a step that could put the shot on track to become the second option for that age group in the U.S. With global vaccine supplies still tight, much of the world is struggling to vaccinate adults in the quest to end the pandemic. But earlier this month, the U.S. and Canada authorized another vaccine — the shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech — to be used starting at age 12. Moderna aims to be next in line, saying it will submit its teen data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other global regulators early next month. (Read Full Article)

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The Two-Sided Risks of Lab-Enhanced Viruses

May 24, 2021

(Axios) – The revival of the “lab leak” theory of COVID-19 — that it started with a virus that originated in a laboratory — is drawing new attention to the dangers of scientific experiments that enhance pathogens to study them. Why it matters: So-called “gain-of-function” research can be invaluable in predicting future pandemic threats, but it can also generate risks by introducing new, potentially more dangerous viruses. (Read Full Article)

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India Virus Death Toll Passes 300,000, 3rd Highest in World

May 24, 2021

(Associated Press) – India crossed another grim milestone Monday with more than 300,000 people lost to the coronavirus, while a devastating surge of infections appeared to be easing in big cities but was swamping the poorer countryside. The milestone, as recorded by India’s Health Ministry, comes as slowed vaccine deliveries have marred the country’s fight against the pandemic, forcing many to miss their shots, and a rare but fatal fungal infection affecting COVID-19 patients has worried doctors. (Read Full Article)

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Artificial Intelligence Tool Could Help Triage COVID-19 Patients in the ED

May 24, 2021

(Medscape) – A new artificial intelligence (AI) tool predicted with up to 80% accuracy which COVID-19 patients would deteriorate within 96 hours, researchers report. A preliminary version of the tool was tested in the emergency department (ED) during the first wave of the pandemic and produced accurate predictions in real-time, showing potential to assist front-line physicians in triaging these patients. (Read Full Article)

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The Unseen Covid-19 Risk for Unvaccinated People

May 24, 2021

(Washington Post) – The country’s declining covid-19 case rates present an unrealistically optimistic perspective for half of the nation — the half that is still not vaccinated. As more people receive vaccines, covid-19 cases are occurring mostly in the increasingly narrow slice of the unprotected population. So The Washington Post adjusted its case, death and hospitalization rates to account for that — and found that in some places, the virus continues to rage among those who haven’t received a shot. (Read Full Article)

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Employers Dangle Rewards for Vaccination Despite Legal Hurdles

May 24, 2021

(Axios) – Instead of mandating COVID-19 vaccination, more companies are offering employees cash, paid time off, and other financial incentives to get the shot. The big picture: Employers are favoring “carrots” over “sticks” in the push to get more people vaccinated. But those carrots could run afoul of federal law — if the rewards are too big. (Read Full Story)

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Intelligence on Sick Staff at Wuhan Lab Fuels Debate on Covid-19 Origin

May 24, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, according to a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report that could add weight to growing calls for a fuller probe of whether the Covid-19 virus may have escaped from the laboratory. The details of the reporting go beyond a State Department fact sheet, issued during the final days of the Trump administration, which said that several researchers at the lab, a center for the study of coronaviruses and other pathogens, became sick in autumn 2019 “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness.” (Read Full Story)

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Decades After a Tragic Failure, Gene Therapy Successfully Treats a Rare Liver Disease

May 21, 2021

(Science) – Twenty-two years ago, one of scientists’ first attempts at gene therapy ended in tragedy when a young man died. The story of Jesse Gelsinger, who had a rare liver disorder, became a textbook example of irresponsible medical research. For years, the case hobbled efforts to treat diseases by adding new DNA to a sick person’s cells. Now, a fresh effort to cure Gelsinger’s disease is bearing fruit, in the latest sign of the field’s resurgence. (Read Full Article)

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Ontario Resuming Use of AstraZeneca, But Only as Second Dose

May 21, 2021

(Associated Press) – Canada’s most populous province is resuming use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, but only as a second dose for those who’d received it initially, officials said Friday.  Ontario and several other provinces stopped giving out first doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca earlier this month on concerns over reported links to rare blood clots, which previously led some European countries to restrict its use. The Ontario government said that decision was also based on the increased supply of alternative vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna and a downward trend in cases. (Read Full Article)

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