(The Economist) – ON JANUARY 1st the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did something that may help to change the practice of science. It brought into force a policy, foreshadowed two years earlier, that research it supports (it is the world’s biggest source of charitable money for scientific endeavours, to the tune of some $4bn a year) must, when published, be freely available to all. On March 23rd it followed this up by announcing that it will pay the cost of putting such research in one particular repository of freely available papers.
(The Economist) – Ms Case and Mr Deaton have now updated their work on these so-called “deaths of despair”. The results, presented this week at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, are no happier. White middle-age mortality continued to rise in 2014 and 2015, contributing to a fall in life expectancy among the population as a whole. The trend transcends geography. It is found in almost every state, and in both cities and rural areas. The problem seems to be getting worse over time. Deaths from drugs, suicide and alcohol have risen in every five-year cohort of whites born since the 1940s. And in each group, ageing seems to have worse effects.
(Newsday) – If you think the government wouldn’t target you as a suspect because of who is in your family, you might soon be proven wrong. A New York forensic oversight agency wants to unilaterally expand the use of the offender DNA database to convert relatives of those on file into default suspects. This is familial searching, and the state Commission on Forensic Science wants to allow its use — though it is not clear it has the legal authority. Some states have outlawed it, some use it without legislative authority, and more have taken no action.
(NPR) – Milford is part of a group of opioid addicts whom doctors describe as the sickest of the sick: intravenous drug users, mostly people who use heroin, who get endocarditis. Some aspects of their treatment present an ethical dilemma for doctors. Cardiologists, surgeons and infectious disease doctors can fix the infection, but not the underlying problem of addiction. And when patients who are still addicted to opioids leave the hospital, many keep injecting drugs, often causing repeat infections that are more costly and more challenging to cure.
(The Guardian) – The UN children’s fund has strongly criticised the sale by a commercial company of breast milk donated by Cambodian mothers to women in the US, warning it could lead to the babies of poor and vulnerable women becoming malnourished. Unicef condemned the trade by Utah-based company Ambrosia Labs as the Cambodian government intervened. Cambodia’s customs department said the finance minister, Aun Porn Moniroth, had signed a letter blocking further exports, according to the Associated Press in Phnom Penh. Talks will be held to decide whether the business should be allowed to resume.
(Nature) – Many predatory journals hoping to cash in seem to aggressively and indiscriminately recruit academics to build legitimate-looking editorial boards. Although academic pranksters have successfully placed fictional characters on editorial boards, no one has examined the issue systematically. We did. We conceived a sting operation and submitted a fake application for an editor position to 360 journals, a mix of legitimate titles and suspected predators. Forty-eight titles accepted. Many revealed themselves to be even more mercenary than we had expected.
(Medical Xpress) – Many people do not prepare advanced directives for their end-of-life medical care, so family members must make treatment decisions on their behalf. A new study in the journal Health Communication reveals that both medical terminology and prior experience can influence how surrogates feel after determining whether to administer life-prolonging measures.
(The Atlantic) -For professional chess players, though, medicinal “neuro-enhancement” (as it’s sometimes dubiously known) could bring in somewhere between 6 and 15 percent more wins. That’s according to the first large study of “highly skilled tournament chess players” comparing their performance in states of medication and sobriety—a study that the World Chess Championship’s publication World Chess has called “landmark” and “groundbreaking.”
(Science Daily) – Since Dolly the Sheep was cloned in 1996, the question of whether human reproductive cloning should be banned or pursued has been the subject of international debate. In an attempt to address the issue, the UN formulated a Declaration on Human Cloning in 2005, but this was ambiguously worded and received ambivalent support from UN member states. Now Adèle Langlois of the University of Lincoln, UK, argues that those in pursuit of a robust global governance framework on human cloning will do well to look at recent successes in the areas of climate change and business ethics. The report is published in Springer Nature’s open access journal Palgrave Communications.
(WBUR) – This was the proposal: Deliberately infect a small group of consenting adults with the Zika virus to learn about the disease and speed up the search for a vaccine. The need is clear. Zika is an emerging global threat to public health. The disease can be devastating, especially for the babies of mothers who catch it while pregnant. What might go wrong and what might go right with such an experiment?
(Medscape) – Over 4.4 million in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments were performed worldwide from 2008 to 2010, and over 1.1 million children were born as result, according to the latest International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies report. In those cycles, the overall pregnancy rate was low, around 25%, with delivery rates just below 20% per retrieval. Not surprisingly, there has been a constant search for “add-on” treatments to improve outcomes. These interventions are often introduced without adequate supportive data as both patients and providers feel that they have no time to wait for the results of properly designed trials. This opinion paper evaluated the evidence behind some of these technologies.
(New York Times) – As biological research races forward, ethical quandaries are piling up. In a report published Tuesday in the journal eLife, researchers at Harvard Medical School said it was time to ponder a startling new prospect: synthetic embryos. In recent years, scientists have moved beyond in vitro fertilization. They are starting to assemble stem cells that can organize themselves into embryolike structures.
(MIT Technology Review) – Frase is very likely the reason why the same treatment is now about to be tested in humans. In recent years, gene therapies have become safer and better at hitting their intended targets in the body, leading to a handful of remarkable cures in clinical trials. Advocates for rare-disease patients—especially determined parents like Frase—are increasingly seeking to start gene-therapy programs. They are establishing patient advocacy organizations, raising money for research, and even founding their own biotechnology startups to find treatments where few or none currently exist.
(The Atlantic) – The plastic surgeon offers free tattoo removals for sex-trafficking survivors. Picoway, the company that makes his tattoo-removal lasers, arranges their transportation. Leon was undergoing a second round of treatment to obliterate a mark made on her by one of her pimps. The tattoo reads “Smitty,” the street name of a former trafficker, and a sign to other pimps that she was his property. Nearly all of the women Leon worked with had them. Like her, many survivors are seeking out an array of charitable tattoo cover-up and removal services.
(STAT News) – Six-year-old Aya al-Souqi, a Syrian refugee, held the camera phone up to her gaze and listened to hear her mother. “I hear you!” she exclaimed. It was only the second time she’d spoken to her mother in Beeskow, Germany since getting fitted with a hearing aid by a Chicago-based charity to treat an invisible wound of the Syrian war. Aya, timid and diminutive, was a little over a year old in 2012 when a rocket struck her family’s house in the Eastern Ghouta countryside, outside the Syrian capital, Damascus.
(Quartz) – For decades, India’s holy rivers have been massively polluted with sewage, industry chemicals, and pilgrims’ mass bathing as religious rituals. But they may get a new lease on life: In a landmark ruling on Monday (March 20), the high court in the northern state of Uttarakhand established two of India’s sacred rivers—the Ganga and the Yamuna—as “living entities,” the Hindustan Times reports. The new order makes polluting or damaging the rivers legally comparable to hurting a person.
(BBC) – Mum Denise told Newsbeat about how proud she was to see her daughter get up in a room full of important UN policy makers, but it’s scary some people still choose to abort because they are having a Down’s baby. She said: “I feel rather mixed emotions right now; on the one hand I’m incredibly proud of Kathleen’s achievement. “But on the other hand I feel like I have to show off her every achievement just to show and remind society that her life is worth living.”
(The Telegraph) – Anew genetic test which calculates the age that a person is likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, has been developed by scientists. The technique involves checking for mutations in 26 genes which were found in tens of thousands of dementia patients and which can be used to calculate an individual ‘hazard score.’
(National Post) – Doctors have already harvested organs from dozens of Canadians who underwent medically assisted death, a practice supporters say expands the pool of desperately needed organs, but ethicists worry could make it harder for euthanasia patients to voice a last-minute change of heart. In Ontario, 26 people who died by lethal injection have donated tissue or organs since the federal law decriminalizing medical assistance in dying, or MAID, came into effect last June, according to information obtained by the Post. A total of 338 have died by medical assistance in the province.
(News-Medical) – A multicenter trial looking at whether a single dose of millions of adult, bone-marrow-derived stem cells can aid stroke recovery indicates it’s safe and well-tolerated by patients but may not significantly improve their recovery within the first three months, researchers report. However, the trial does provide evidence that giving the therapy early – within the first 36 hours after stroke symptoms surface – may enhance physical recovery by reducing destructive inflammation as well as the risk for serious infections and that these benefits might continue to surface many months down the road, they report in the journal Lancet Neurology.