(Forbes) – Saqib Shaikh is a software developer from London, England who is currently working for Microsoft on the firm’s Bing search engine. Shaikh lost his sight when he was seven years old. In the pursuit of the freedoms that sighted people all take for granted every day, Shaikh has been personally involved in the development of an application of Artificial Intelligence, cognitive computing, image recognition and mobile headset technologies. The image analysis processing, cognitive reasoning and speech intelligence in the device Shaikh uses allows him to ‘see’ the world around him in a way that was considered to be part of science fiction as recently as a decade ago.
(Japan Times) – Having yet to abandon her claim to be the creator of STAP cells, Haruko Obokata has opened a website showing how to make the cells, although their existence has already been denied by Riken, a Japanese state-backed research institute to which Obokata formerly belonged. The English-language website, STAP Hope Page, shows a protocol for generating the so-called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency cells, which were once believed to be novel stem cells with the ability to turn into any form of tissue in the body.
(The Verge) – Researchers have grown a type of complex, hairy skin tissue in the lab for the first time. The fluorescent skin was implanted in living mice, and although its use in humans is a long way off, scientists think the lab-grown tissue could one day help burn survivors and people with skin diseases. The skin, described today in the journal Science Advances, was made by Japanese researchers using reprogrammed cells taken from mature rodents — called “induced pluripotent stem cells.” Unlike previous lab-grown skin, it contains inner and outer layers, as well as hair follicles and oil-producing glands.
(The Guardian) – As a feminist campaigner against sexual abuse of women, and in particular the sex trade, I feel sick at the idea of wombs for rent. Sitting in the clinic, seeing smartly dressed women come in to access fertility services, all I could think about was how desperate a woman must be to carry a child for money. I know from other campaigners against womb trafficking that many surrogates are coerced by abusive husbands and pimps. Watching the smiling receptionist fill out forms on behalf of prospective commissioning parents, I could only wonder at the misery and pain experienced by the women who will end up being viewed as nothing but a vessel.
(National Post) – An overwhelming majority of Canadians believes psychological suffering on its own should never be grounds for granting a doctor-assisted death. While Canadians seem particularly appalled by the idea of allowing assisted suicide for “mature minors” with psychological suffering, a majority supports lethal prescriptions for terminally ill children and youth, a newly released poll suggests. The Angus Reid Institute survey of 1,517 Canadian adults, released in advance to the National Post, “goes beyond asking, should we, to, how should we, and where should the limits lie,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute.
(Bloomberg) – GlaxoSmithKline Plc won the backing of the European Union’s drug regulator for its first gene therapy, which treats a rare disease that makes newborn babies unable to fight off everyday infections. The therapy, which will be marketed as Strimvelis, was recommended for approval by the European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, the London-based drugmaker said Friday in a statement. The European Commission usually follows the committee’s advice.
(The Guardian) – The result will be easy PGD. A couple who wants children will visit a clinic – he will leave a sperm sample; she will leave a skin sample. A week or two later, the prospective parents will receive information on 100 embryos created from their cells, telling them what the embryos’ genomes predict about their future. Prospective parents will then be asked what they want to be told about each embryo – serious early onset genetic diseases, other diseases, cosmetic traits, behaviours, and, easiest but important to many: gender. Then they will select which embryos to move into the womb for possible pregnancy and birth.
(Washington Post) – Scientific integrity took another hit Thursday when an Australian researcher received a two-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to 17 fraud-related charges. The main counts against neuroscientist Bruce Murdoch were for an article heralding a breakthrough in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. And the judge’s conclusions were damning.
(IMTJ) – Hungary claims to be the European capital of dental tourism, although there are no reliable figures to back that claim. The story of how Hungary became Europe’s dental chair is a case study in medical tourism. Investigative journalist Sasha Issenberg goes on the trail of dental tourism in Hungary, with a lesser concentration on Bulgaria, and a glance at dental and medical tourism in other European countries.
(Eurekalert) – Stem cell science has progressed so that researchers can now share recipes for making human retinas–the part of the eye that is sensitive to light. The first protocols enabled the generation of retinal cells in laboratory plates and more recently as complex tissue in the form of tiny eye-like cups. Researchers in Germany now have another efficient way to make 3-D retina organoids, which mimic the organ’s tissue organization, from mouse or human stem cells. Their version of “mini-retinas,” published online on March 31 by Stem Cell Reports, offers new perspectives on retina growth, injury, and repair.
(The Telegraph) – Scientists at MIT have proven they can ‘hack’ living cells and programme them to carry out new tasks. In the same way that computer language tells a machine how to operate, researchers have shown it is possible to write DNA ‘code’ and insert it into bacteria to alter how they function. They hope that one day cells could be programmed so they could release cancer drugs on encountering a tumour, or allow plants to fight back with insecticide when a pest comes near.
(Medical Xpress) – The sextuplets were the culmination of a rise in multiple births recorded in Costa Rica beginning in the mid-2000s. From 1997-2005, just ten sets of quadruplets were reported, while 122 sets of quadruplets were reported from 2005-2012. The epidemic of quadruplets seems like a bizarre, counterintuitive result of the ban on IVF—especially because a spike in multiple births usually follows the use of IVF, not its absence. So what happened?
(Daily Mail) – Doctors should have the right to take organs from patients who want to die so they can be used in transplant surgery, a prominent medical researcher has suggested. Those who want to be killed should be sedated in hospital then allowed to die after the removal of their vital organs, according to the proposal published by a British-based medical ethics journal. Using organs for transplant surgery from patients who have been helped to die is allowed in Belgium and Holland, the European countries where euthanasia is legal.
(STAT News) – Drug companies are hard at work trying to speed up drug manufacturing on a large scale. But engineers in Cambridge, Mass., are going smaller and betting that it may be equally useful. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology team has developed a fridge-sized machine, called Pharmacy on Demand, that can make hundreds to thousands of doses of a medicine a day. Such a system may be useful, for instance, after a natural disaster or for orphan drugs, said MIT chemical engineer Allan Myerson, “when very little is needed but nobody wants to make it.”
(The Guardian) – When it comes to pharmaceutical companies, two accusations crop up time and again. One is that they charge too much for drugs and the other is that they focus research on diseases they can profit from. That means they concentrate on chronic diseases, rather than less profitable infectious ones. “If you make a drug for diabetes, the patient has to take that drug once a day for the rest of their lives. What you’re trying to do with an infectious disease is cure it within three to five days, so your treatment has to be short and cheap,” explains Simon Croft, professor of parasitology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
(TIME) – The first U.S. liver and kidney transplants from a donor with HIV were completed at Johns Hopkins Medicine. This marks the first ever HIV-to-HIV liver transplant, and the first kidney transplant in the United States. HIV-positive kidney transplants have been done in the past in South Africa. It’s estimated that up to 600 people who have HIV and could be donors die each year.
(Medscape) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would allow the use of an experimental test to screen donated blood for the Zika virus. The test, manufactured by Roche Holding AG, may be used for screening donated blood in areas with active mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus, the FDA said. The regulator recommended last month that blood should no longer be collected from regions in the United States where the Zika virus is circulating.
(Reuters) – A molecular map of Zika has revealed important structural differences on a key protein of the virus that may explain why the pathogen attacks nerve cells while other viruses in the same family do not, U.S. researchers said on Thursday. Variations in proteins on the outer shell, or “envelope,” of the virus may explain how Zika enters human cells and suggests new ways to fight the virus with drugs or a vaccines, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funded the study published in the journal Science.
(Nature) – A protein that helps Zika virus infect adult skin cells might also give the virus access to stem cells that make brain cells, suggests a study carried out on donated human fetal tissue. The result — published today in Cell Stem Cell — is part of a growing body of research that seeks to determine how Zika might cause birth defects, but that requires a type of tissue that is increasingly controversial for researchers in the United States. Recent advances in neuroscience and cell technology have given hints as to why some babies born to Zika-infected mothers have abnormally small heads — a condition called microcephaly — and other problems, such as eye damage. But to fully understand what is happening in the womb, some scientists say that they need to study tissue from fetuses, which can be donated by couples who terminate pregnancies.
What Makes a ‘Good Death,’ and How Patients and Family Members Think Differently about the End of Life
(Medical Daily) – Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine decided to take a more thorough approach, though, and found nearly a dozen core characteristics associated with dying well. The findings, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, combine 32 published, peer-reviewed reports of studies defining a “good death.” The researchers focused on three groups: patients, family members, and health care providers.