(Reuters) – A decade after giving birth, surrogate mothers don’t appear to suffer lasting mental health difficulties as a result of giving away the babies they delivered, a small study suggests. While previous research has found that depression and other psychological problems can surface in the first weeks and months after birth, less is known about the long-term impact of surrogacy. A research team surveyed 20 surrogate mothers approximately one year after birth and again 10 years later to assess how their mental health changed over time.
(New York Times) – The sudden flurry of activity has not yet produced a drug that improves hearing or silences ringing in the ears, but some companies are reporting hints of promise in early clinical trials. There is a huge need, some experts say. About 48 million Americans have a meaningful hearing loss in at least one ear; 30 million of them have it in both ears, said Dr. Frank R. Lin, an associate professor of otolaryngology and geriatric medicine at Johns Hopkins University. That figure is expected to increase as baby boomers grow older.
(Whitehouse.gov) – Up until last year, insurance companies could — and often did — charge women different premiums than men for the same coverage. As of January 1, 2014, the ACA prohibits this gender discrimination. In part because of improved options and affordability, today’s report outlines a significant 5.5 percentage point decline in the uninsured rate among women between the ages of 18 and 64 since 2013. And as more and more women take advantage of the Open Enrollment period that ends February 15, 2015, and sign up for affordable private health insurance, that number will continue to drop.
(Medical Xpress) – Why do some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while others who suffered the same ordeal do not? A new UCLA discovery may shed light on the answer. UCLA scientists have linked two gene variants to the debilitating mental disorder, suggesting that heredity influences a person’s risk of developing PTSD. Published in the February 2015 edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders, the findings could provide a biological basis for diagnosing and treating PTSD more effectively in the future.
(Science) – It’s challenging enough to sustain any scientific study for a decade. Now Eric Horvitz, managing director of the Microsoft Research lab in Redmond, Washington, is launching a project he wants to last a century. The One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence (AI100), based at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and funded by Horvitz and his wife, aims to track the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on all aspects of life, from national security to public psychology and privacy.
(Phys.org) – Nanoparticles, extremely tiny particles measured in billionths of a meter, are increasingly everywhere, and especially in biomedical products. Their toxicity has been researched in general terms, but now a team of Israeli scientists has for the first time found that exposure nanoparticles (NPs) of silicon dioxide (SiO2) can play a major role in the development of cardiovascular diseases when the NP cross tissue and cellular barriers and also find their way into the circulatory system.
NanoEthics (Volume 8, Issue 3, December 2014) is now available online by subscription only.
- “Ethical issues in cyborg technology: diversity and inclusion” by Enno Park
- ‘Human Enhancement’? It’s all about ‘body modification’! Why we should replace the term ‘human enhancement’ with ‘body modification’ by Stefanie Rembold
- “Public involvement and the narrative fallacies of nanotechnology” by Erik Thorstensen
South African Journal of Bioethics and Law (Vol. 7, No. 2, 2014) is now available online by subscription only.
- “The ebola crisis: ethical challenges in an African context” by Ames Dhai
- “Enhancing capacity of research ethics review committees in developing countries: The Kenyan example” by Gloria Omosa Manyonyi, et al.
- “Moral perspectives on covert research” by Anton Albert van Niekerk
(New Scientists) – But developing drugs is excruciatingly expensive – and increasingly so. The cost of bringing a new compound to the market is now around $2.5 billion, twice as much in real terms as it was a decade ago. One of the costliest parts is recruiting and retaining volunteers to test the drug in a clinical trial. Around three-quarters of trials are delayed by problems with this process. Most trials over-recruit by up to 50 per cent to compensate, but the drop-out rate is still so high that only 1 in 20 volunteers end up generating useful data. The result: wasted time, effort and money.
(Wired) – Ross Ulbricht is finally getting his day in court, 15 months after plainclothes FBI agents grabbed him in the science fiction section of a San Francisco library and accused him of running the billion-dollar online drug bazaar known as the Silk Road. It’s a day that anyone who cares about crime, punishment and privacy in the shadows of the internet will be watching.
(Associated Press) – The World Health Organization says the two leading Ebola vaccines appear safe and will soon be tested in healthy volunteers in West Africa. After an expert meeting this week, WHO said there is now enough information to conclude that the two most advanced Ebola vaccines – one made by GlaxoSmithKline and the other licensed by Merck and NewLink – have “an acceptable safety profile.”
(Medical Xpress) – New research at the University of Kent has identified karyomapping as a viable and cost-effective method of detecting a wide range of genetic diseases in IVF embryos. The current method, which involves the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for monogenic disorders (resulting from a single defective gene) has long been recognised as expensive, time-consuming and requires the tailoring of a specific test for each couple and/or disorder.
(Slate) – Situations like these are some of the most ethically challenging in any hospital. In the ICU, our team sensed when someone might not make it out of the hospital—and most times we were right. In these instances, our team regularly spent rounds discussing how aggressive care might hurt the patient while not improving her chance of survival. But discussing medical opinions among medical professionals is very different from recommending that a family withdraw life support for a loved one.
(New York Times) – The case argued here — along with others arising from the hundreds of abortion restrictions adopted by more than half of the states in recent years — poses issues that are likely to end up before the Supreme Court in the next year or two, many legal experts say, with the potential for significant effects on the ability of women to obtain abortions in much of the country.
(Io9) – For the first time ever, researchers in New Zealand have shown that mitochondrial DNA can move between cells in an animal tumor. It’s an extraordinary finding that could lead to an entirely new field of synthetic biology and the treatment of hundreds of diseases. The discovery could have major implications for the field of synthetic biology and the treatment of diseases caused by defective mitochondrial DNA.
(Yahoo! News) – Europe’s human rights court on Wednesday began hearing arguments on whether a man in a vegetative state should be taken off life support, in a case that has torn his family apart and ignited a fierce euthanasia debate in France.
(Medscape) – Four noted healthcare thought leaders mustered their most compelling arguments for and against physician-assisted suicide in a lively debate that was held in New York City and sponsored by Intelligence Squared US. Is physician-assisted suicide a positive development, and should the United States move more in that direction?
(New York Times) – Dr. Helen Mayberg, a professor of psychiatry at Emory University, recently published a study in JAMA Psychiatry that identified a potential biomarker in the brain that could predict whether a depressed patient would respond better to psychotherapy or antidepressant medication.
(New York Times) – An expert panel unanimously recommended on Wednesday that the Food and Drug Administration approve a cheaper copy of a special drug used in cancer therapy, paving the way for alternatives to an entire class of complex and costly drugs to enter the United States market. Most brand-name drugs eventually lose their patent protection, opening the market to lower-priced generic products. But one class of drugs, known as biologics, which includes some of the most expensive medications in the world, has been insulated from the competition of cheaper copies for years.
(Vox) – The story is a deep dive into data about what pharmaceutical companies spend on marketing their new products. What it shows is that drug makers devote the largest share of their spending doctor interactions (things like meals and visits) trying to sell doctors on prescribing “me-too” drugs: pills that essentially do the same thing as another drug already on the market.