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For Tuskegee Syphilis Study Descendants, Stigma Hasn’t Faded

May 19, 2017

(New York Times) – Decades later, it’s still hard to grasp what the federal government did to hundreds of black men in rural Alabama — even if you’re among their descendants, lighting candles in their memory. For 40 years starting in 1932, medical workers in the segregated South withheld treatment for unsuspecting men infected with a sexually transmitted disease simply so doctors could track the ravages of the horrid illness and dissect their bodies afterward. Finally exposed in 1972 , the study ended and the men sued, resulting in a $9 million settlement. Twenty years ago this May, President Bill Clinton apologized for the U.S. government. It seemed to mark the end of this ugly episode, once and for all. Except it didn’t.

Italy Passes Law Obliging Parents to Vaccinate Children

May 19, 2017

(Reuters) – Italy’s cabinet approved a law on Friday obliging parents to vaccinate their children against infectious diseases as politicians spar over a spike in measles cases. Children up to six years old will now need to be immunized to be eligible for nursery school, and parents who send their children to school after that age without vaccinating them first will be liable for fines. Vaccines against measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and meningitis, which were previously only recommended, will now become mandatory, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said.

Suicide by Insulin?

May 19, 2017

(Medical Xpress) – Insulin typically saves the lives of those with diabetes, but it can also be a way for some people to kill themselves, a new review warns. People with the blood sugar disease tend to suffer higher rates of depression, the researchers explained. And suicide or suicide attempts using insulin or other diabetes medications that lower blood sugar levels may not always be an easy-to-spot attempt at self-harm, they added.

First In Vivo Human Genome Editing to Be Tested in New Clinical Trial

May 19, 2017

(The Scientist) – Researchers have edited the human genome before, but always in cells outside the body. Now, biotech company Sangamo Therapeutics is recruiting participants for clinical trials in which patients with hemophilia B, Hurler syndrome, or Hunter syndrome will have the gene coding for one of the enzymes that is non-functional in them stitched into their genomes at double-stranded DNA breaks caused by zinc finger nucleases. “This is the first time someone could have a new gene put into their liver,” Sangamo President and CEO Sandy Macrae told The Scientist. “It’s a privilege and a responsibility to do” these trials.

This Simple Puzzle Test Sealed the Fate of Immigrants at Ellis Island

May 19, 2017

(NPR) – A wooden puzzle in the silhouette of a human head might look fun if the stakes weren’t so high. Historians at Smithsonian Magazine say this simple puzzle containing facial features broken into pieces was administered to immigrants at Ellis Island in the early 1900s. The goal was to weed out the “feeble-minded” and ensure that a “better class” of foreign-born people was ushered into U.S. citizenship. The puzzle is currently housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

In Jamaica, a Push to Market Island Getaways–with a Side of Surgery

May 19, 2017

(STAT News) – Jamaica, like other developing nations before it, is trying to boost its economy by wooing “medical tourists” to fly in for an inexpensive knee replacement or nose job. The private entrepreneurs opening the medical complex here are all in. The twist: They don’t just want to attract American patients who need surgery. They also want to persuade American doctors to fly in to do those sinus repairs and arthroscopies — while enjoying a Caribbean vacation.

100-Year-Old Fertility Technique Reduces Need for IVF

May 19, 2017

(Eurekalert) – Infertile couples have a major opportunity to achieve a successful pregnancy without the need for IVF, thanks to new research into a 100-year-old medical technique. The now lesser known technique — which involves flushing the woman’s fallopian tubes with an iodised poppy seed oil — has been proven to have significant benefits for fertility, according to the largest study undertaken by a team involving researchers in the Netherlands and Australia.

The Secret War Against Counterfeit Science

May 19, 2017

(Nature) – China is famous for knock-off DVDs, Louis Vuitton bags and Rolex watches. But counterfeit reagents aren’t on sale in busy public markets. They are sold through sophisticated websites, mixed in with legitimate supplies, and sourced and sold using a network of unwitting partners, such as the Zhongguancun shopkeeper. Even university cleaning staff have been implicated in the hidden process that creates counterfeit laboratory products, including basic chemistry reagents, serum for cell culture and standard laboratory test kits. Although it’s difficult to quantify the effects of this illegal trade, Chinese scientists and some in Europe and North America say that fake products have led them astray, wasting time and materials.

Clinical Trial Participants Should Have a Say in New Drug Pricing

May 18, 2017

(STAT News) – People who volunteer to participate in clinical trials of new drugs provide a valuable service to pharmaceutical companies and to the rest of us. In return, I think that they should have a say in how much these drugs will cost when they hit the market. Not only would that honor their service, but it would also provide a patient-centered mechanism to lower the price of new drugs.

How to Give Your Brain a Chemical Boost, and Whether You Should

May 18, 2017

(Los Angeles Times) – At some point, we could all use a bit of performance enhancement for the noggin — something to help us ace that test, command the room or nail a project under deadline. Yes, there’s a pill for that — in fact, there are several. Drugs shown to modestly boost cognitive performance include stimulants used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), medications prescribed for dementia, and a compound marketed as an alertness enhancer for shift workers and for people with narcolepsy or sleep apnea. And let’s not forget two time-tested stimulants that offer some enhancement without prescription: caffeine and nicotine.

Suspected Cases of Ebola Rise to 18 in Democratic Republic of Congo

May 18, 2017

(New York Times) – The number of suspected cases of Ebola has risen to 18 from nine in less than a week in an isolated part of Democratic Republic of Congo, where three have died from the disease since April 22, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. The W.H.O. was criticized for responding too slowly to an outbreak in West Africa in 2014 that left more than 11,000 people dead, and Dr. Peter Salama, the executive director of the organization’s health emergencies program, said at a briefing that it was essential to “never, ever underestimate Ebola” and to “make sure we have a no-regrets approach to this outbreak.”

Cuba Says Zika Tally Rises to Nearly 1,900 Cases

May 18, 2017

(Reuters) – Cuba said on Thursday 1,847 residents had so far contracted the mosquito-borne Zika virus, warning that certain provinces on the Caribbean island still had high rates of infestation despite a series of measures to stave off the epidemic. At the start of the global Zika outbreak, Cuba managed for months to fend off the virus that can cause microcephaly in babies as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, even as neighboring territories like Puerto Rico were hard hit.

Big Pharma’s Newest Marketing Tactic: Infiltrating Soap Operas Like General Hospital

May 18, 2017

(Vox) – Last March, Vinay Prasad, a doctor in Portland, Oregon, caught wind of an episode on the long running soap opera General Hospital. One of the main characters on the show, a fellow at his hospital told him, had been diagnosed with an extremely rare bone marrow disorder, polycythemia vera. Prasad’s mind started spinning. And he felt suspicious. Of all the diseases out there, why would the writers at General Hospital feature an illness that affects only of two in 100,000 people?  So Prasad and his colleague Sham Mailankody began to search for answers. They published their jaw-dropping findings in a new paper in JAMA: Polycythemia vera got a mention on America’s oldest soap opera because a drug company, Incyte, asked it to.

Gene Therapy for Age-Related Macular Degeneration Safe in Humans

May 18, 2017

(The Scientist) – Wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when blood vessels grow and leak fluid into the macula, the central portion of the retina. If left untreated, this condition can lead to vision loss. A new gene therapy that blocks vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that plays a central role in the development of the disease, may be a safe treatment, according to a study published yesterday (May 16) in the Lancet.

There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Pure’ European–or Anyone Else

May 18, 2017

(Science) – In fact, the German people have no unique genetic heritage to protect. They—and all other Europeans—are already a mishmash, the children of repeated ancient migrations, according to scientists who study ancient human origins. New studies show that almost all indigenous Europeans descend from at least three major migrations in the past 15,000 years, including two from the Middle East. Those migrants swept across Europe, mingled with previous immigrants, and then remixed to create the peoples of today.

Indian Court Rules on Online Medical Tourism Content

May 18, 2017

(IMTJ) – The Supreme Court of India says that customers have the right to be informed about medical tourism. Google the phrase “Medical tourism in India” and you get thousands of hits. A recent judgement by the Supreme Court of India says that customers have the right to be informed about medical tourism and that no carrier such as Microsoft, Google or Yahoo has any authority to remove what some may regard as questionable or illegal content. A lawyer had claimed that among search results for “Medical tourism in India” there were websites that illegally advertise gender determination. The court agreed that this was true but that they already have law under which illegal adverts can be dealt with.

Avoid Coercion When Offering Contraception, Experts Warn

May 18, 2017

(Medscape) – “We really have to reframe the conversation,” Dr Bhardwaj stressed in her presentation on contraception and coercion. “You can’t think of teen pregnancy as a disease. If you offer a long-acting reversible contraceptive device and your patient doesn’t want it, don’t try to convince her; move on.” The coercion discussion is gaining momentum because doctors sometimes feel they need to convince adolescent patients to use contraception, even if they don’t want to. An opinion issued by the ACOG Committee on Adolescent Health Care applauds the fact that the adolescent birth rate in the United States has reached an all-time low, as detailed in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but warns that healthcare providers need to take care in “resisting potential coercion.”

Babies from Skin Cells? Prospect Is Unsettling to Some Experts

May 18, 2017

(New York Times) – Nearly 40 years after the world was jolted by the birth of the first test-tube baby, a new revolution in reproductive technology is on the horizon — and it promises to be far more controversial than in vitro fertilization ever was. Within a decade or two, researchers say, scientists will likely be able to create a baby from human skin cells that have been coaxed to grow into eggs and sperm and used to create embryos to implant in a womb. The process, in vitro gametogenesis, or I.V.G., so far has been used only in mice. But stem cell biologists say it is only a matter of time before it could be used in human reproduction — opening up mind-boggling possibilities.

Seeking Medical Abortions Online Is Safe and Effective, Study Finds

May 17, 2017

(The Guardian) – A study into women who seek abortion pills online in the face of strict laws against terminations has found that almost 95% safely ended their pregnancy without surgical intervention. Experts say the study underscores the safety of medical abortion, and highlights that women who go on to experience symptoms of possible complications do follow advice to seek medical help at clinics or hospitals.

China Cracks Down on Fake Data in Drug Trials

May 17, 2017

(Nature) – The policy shift is one of a handful of measures that China is implementing both to speed up its notoriously slow drug-approval process and to keep dangerous and ineffective drugs off the market. This move “is the strongest signal yet, to all the drug developers, clinical-trial managers and principal investigators and physicians, that China is now very serious about clinical data”, says Dan Zhang, executive chairman of Beijing-based Fountain Medical Development, which helps companies to carry out clinical trials and itself stands to be held accountable by the policy change.

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