(Fox News) – For 6.7 million American women of child-bearing age, getting pregnant is not an easy task. Specialists now have a way to test the parents-to-be that may not only increase their chances of getting pregnant but also reduce the risk of them passing on certain genetic diseases. “When we do pre-implantation genetic screening, we can ensure that the embryos are chromosomally normal before transferring them back to the intended mother’s uterus, and that increases the likelihood of implantation,” Dr. Jared Robbins, an associated professor in obstetrics and gynecology-reproductive endo & infertility at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told Fox News.
(STAT News) – There’s a new, candy-flavored amphetamine on the market. Adzenys, as the chewable, fruity medication is called, packs the punch of Adderall and is geared toward children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The drug hit the market last week and is already stirring controversy: Some psychiatrists worry that Adzenys will accelerate a trend toward overmedicating kids — and could be yet another gateway into ADHD drug abuse. Presenting amphetamines in a tasty, convenient package is “a recipe for people to request it and then sell it,” said Dr. Mukund Gnanadesikan, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Napa, Calif.
(New York Times) – The Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, signed a decree on Wednesday authorizing chemical castration for convicted child sex offenders and requiring those released on parole to wear electronic monitoring devices. The new punishment comes in response to the brutal gang rape and murder in April of a 14-year-old girl on her way home on the island of Sumatra. Seven teenage boys were each sentenced to 10 years in prison for the crime, which prompted national outrage and revived previous calls for chemical castration as a punishment against child sex offenders.
(USA Today) – A fetus infected with the Zika virus during the first three months of pregnancy has about a 1% to 13% risk of developing microcephaly, an abnormally small head usually caused by incomplete brain development, according to new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC created a mathematical estimate of the microcephaly risk, based on reports from French Polynesia, which experienced a Zika outbreak from 2013 to 2013, as well as in the Brazilian state of Bahia, where Zika cases have been diagnosed since last year.
(Pro Publica) – Zofran is far from unique — almost every drug prescribed during pregnancy in the U.S. is “off label,” meaning it hasn’t gone through the clinical trials required by the Food and Drug Administration before approving a drug for a specific use in a specific population. Only eight medications are currently approved by the FDA for prenatal use; from 1995 to 2011, the agency OK’d only one pregnancy-related drug. (By contrast, 29 drugs to treat cardiovascular-related conditions have won approval just since 2010.) Pregnant women have become what researchers and ethicists call“therapeutic orphans,” reliant on drugs of uncertain risk, sometimes during the earliest and most vulnerable stages of fetal development.
(UPI) – Are health officials in the United States overreacting to the threat posed by the Zika virus this summer? Some leading insect and infectious-diseases experts think so, arguing that the mosquito-borne virus is unlikely to become a widespread hazard to pregnant women throughout the United States. “I think the risk for Zika actually setting up transmission cycles that become established in the continental U.S. is near zero,” said Chris Barker, a mosquito-borne virus researcher at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
Suicide Tourism: Traveling for the Right to Die, and the Ethical and Legal Dilemmas That Come with It
(Medical Daily) – Though Purdy’s condition deteriorated during the court proceedings and she never got to make the trip, her case was a landmark in the recent history of suicide tourism. The world’s nations, and even the American states, don’t agree on the legality of assisted suicide. As a result, those living in regions that prohibit the practice are traveling many miles to reach a place where they can die with dignity — and creating ethical and legal complications as they go.
(The Conversation) – Researchers must rely on journalists for their communication skills and the audience they reach. And journalists will play a crucial role in facilitating the ethical discussion around synthetic biology – one whose stakeholders include scientists as well as ethicists, policy makers and the broader public – and what the goals and action items of such a debate will be. Critically, a balance must be struck between the watchdog role of the press and the legitimate needs of any profession to carry out some of their discussions in private.
(New York Times) – On Tuesday, at an event sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, legal specialists and technologists explored questions about autonomous systems that would increasingly make decisions without human input in areas like warfare, transportation and health. Still, despite improvement in areas like machine vision and speech understanding, A.I. research is still far from matching the flexibility and learning capability of the human mind, researchers at the conference said.
Journal of Genetic Counseling (vol. 25, no. 3, 2016) is available online by subscription only.
- “Reproductive Decision-Making in MMR Mutation Carriers after Results Disclosure: Impact of Psychological Status in Childbearing Options” by Jacqueline Duffour, et al.
- “Survey of the Definition of Fetal Viability and the Availability, Indications, and Decision Making Processes for Post-Viability Termination of Pregnancy for Fetal Abnormalities and Health Conditions in Canada” by Danna Hull, Gregory Davies, and Christine M. Armour
- “Sex Education and Intellectual Disability: Practices and Insight from Pediatric Genetic Counselors” by Carly Murphy, et al.
The New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 374, no. 20, 2016) is available online by subscription only.
- “Wollshlaeger v. Governor of Florida—The First Amendment, Physician Speech, and Firearm Safety” by W.E. Parmet, J.A. Smith, and M.J. Miller
- “Aiming High—Changing the Trajectory for Cancer” by D.R. Lowry, et al.
- “Essential Medicines in the United States—Why Access Is Diminishing” by J.D. Alpern, J. Song, and W.M. Stauffer
- “History of Medicine: The Great War and Modern Health Care” by B. Linker
- “Danazol Treatment for Telomere Diseases” by D.M. Townsley, et al.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (vol. 315, no. 19, 2016) is available online by subscription only.
- “The New Era of Informed Consent: Getting to a Reasonable-Patient Standard through Shared Decision Making” by Erica S. Spatz, Harlan M. Krumholz, and Benjamin W. Moulton
- “Reducing Variation in the ‘Standard of Care’ for Cancer Screening: Recommendations from the PROSPR Consortium” by Douglas A. Corley, Jennifer S. Haas, and Sarah Kobrin
- “Communication with Family Caregivers in the Intensive Care Unit: Answers and Questions” by Elie Azoulay, Nancy Kentish-Barnes, and Judith E. Nelson
(Nature) – More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments. Those are some of the telling figures that emerged from Nature‘s survey of 1,576 researchers who took a brief online questionnaire on reproducibility in research. The data reveal sometimes-contradictory attitudes towards reproducibility. Although 52% of those surveyed agree that there is a significant ‘crisis’ of reproducibility, less than 31% think that failure to reproduce published results means that the result is probably wrong, and most say that they still trust the published literature.
(The Guardian) – The genetic engineering of humans has great potential to help those destined to inherit serious, incurable diseases, according to one of Britain’s most prominent scientists, who says the risks and benefits should be debated by society. The invention of powerful new genome editing tools means researchers can now make precise changes to genetic material, and so consider correcting faulty DNA in human sperm, eggs and embryos.
(ABC News) – Researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Cornell University and Weill Cornell Medicine followed 178 cancer patients who were determined to be terminally ill. They interviewed the patients to see if they understood the gravity of their disease and their prognosis. Patients were asked what stage cancer they had, their current health status, how long they expected to live and if they had recently had a life-expectancy discussion with their doctor. Just 5 percent of the patients accurately answered all four questions about their disease and prognosis correctly.
(Eurekalert) – The novel method, developed by WPI faculty members Raymond Page, PhD, professor of practice in biomedical engineering, and Tanja Dominko, PhD, DVM, associate professor of biology and biotechnology, is described in U.S. Patent number 9,290,740, titled “Use of basic fibroblast growth factor in the de-differentiation of animal connective tissue cells,” which was issued on March 22, 2016. The technology enables adult human connective tissue fibroblasts (cells from skin or other tissues), which were previously thought to have a very limited lifespan outside of the body, to be cultured and replicated for long periods. It further causes those cells to express genes and proteins typically associated with stem cells, thereby demonstrating that the cells are in a less differentiated state. Notably, this technology works without inserting viruses or foreign genes into the cells.
(Science) – The French government is taking measures to lower the health risks to volunteers in clinical trials in the wake of the final report about a study that killed one person and landed five others in the hospital in January. Furthermore, the contract research company that conducted the study, Rennes, France–based Biotrial, must within a month provide a “plan of action” explaining how it will avoid a repeat of its mistakes during the trial or lose its operating license, French health minister Marisol Touraine said today at a press conference on the report’s release.
(The Wall Street Journal) – Researchers are shedding new light on why cancer is often a different disease for men than it is for women. A new study suggests that for many cancers, important differences in the genetics of tumors in men as compared with women may affect the development and aggressiveness of the disease or how it responds to treatment. Researchers said the findings could eventually affect drug development and lead to strategies for preventing and treating cancer that take a patient’s sex into account.
The Journal of Medicine & Philosophy (vol. 41, no. 3, 2016) is available online by subscription only.
- “Brain Death and Human Organismal Integration: A Symposium on the Definition of Death” by Melissa Moschella
- “Determination of Death and the Dead Donor Rule: A Survey of the Current Law on Brain Death” by Nikolas T. Nikas, Dorinda C. Bordlee, and Madeline Moreira
- “Are Brain Dead Individuals Dead? Grounds for Reasonable Doubt” by E. Christian Brugger
Palliative Medicine (vol. 30, no. 6, 2016) is available online by subscription only.
- “Quantifying the Burden of Opioid Medication Errors in Adult Oncology and Palliative Care Settings: A Systematic Review” by Nicole Heneka, et al.
- “Generalist Palliative Care in Hospital—Cultural and Organisational Interactions: Results of a Mixed-Methods Study” by Heidi Bergenholtz, Lene Jarlbaek, and Bibi Holge-Hazelton
- “Hospice Assist at Home: Does the Integration of Hospice Care in Primary Healthcare Support Patients to Die in Their Preferred Location—A Retrospective Cross-Sectional Evaluation Study” by Everlien de Graaf, et al.