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Renowned Sudanese Geneticist Behind Bars for Opposing Regime

March 13, 2019

(Science) – A leading Sudanese geneticist has been imprisoned for speaking out against the country’s repressive regime. Muntaser Ibrahim, who heads the University of Khartoum’s Institute of Endemic Diseases, was arrested on 21 February in Khartoum and has been detained ever since. His friends and family do not know his location. They say Ibrahim suffers from a heart condition that requires specialist care.

A “Robot” Doctor Told a Patient He Was Dying. It Might Not Be the Last Time.

March 13, 2019

(Vox) – The rapid influx of advanced technology is changing the practice of medicine — at times for the better, but sometimes for the worse. Nowhere is this more apparent than a story where a physician told a fatally ill man in a Fremont, California, hospital that he was dying via video chat on a screen attached to a robot. The news should serve as a wake-up call to the medical establishment on the limits of technology.

Adopt a Moratorium on Heritable Genome Editing

March 13, 2019

(Nature) – We call for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of human germline editing — that is, changing heritable DNA (in sperm, eggs or embryos) to make genetically modified children. By ‘global moratorium’, we do not mean a permanent ban. Rather, we call for the establishment of an international framework in which nations, while retaining the right to make their own decisions, voluntarily commit to not approve any use of clinical germline editing unless certain conditions are met.

Recent Developments in Hemophilia: Gene Therapy

March 13, 2019

(Med Page Today) – Gene therapy for hemophilia is starting to come of age and promises to transform the way patients with this rare blood disease are treated. “The concept of gene therapy has sort of been at the root of where we’ve been heading in the treatment of hemophilia from the very beginning,” Steven Pipe, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told MedPage Today.

Appeals Court Says Ohio May Withhold Planned Parenthood Funding

March 12, 2019

(Reuters) – A divided federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected Planned Parenthood’s constitutional challenge to an Ohio law depriving the organization of state funding because it performs abortions, handing a victory to anti-abortion advocates. In an 11-6 vote, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati overturned a ruling last year by a three-judge panel of the court that the funding ban violated the due process rights of Planned Parenthood affiliates.

2,200 Quarantined Over Mumps Outbreak at Immigration Centers

March 12, 2019

(ABC News) – Over 2,200 people exposed to the mumps virus in at least two immigration detention facilities have been quarantined, authorities said Tuesday. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say the 25-day quarantine began March 7 at facilities in Pine Prairie, Louisiana, and Aurora, Colorado.

Fake Drugs Kill More Than 250,000 Children a Year, Doctors Warn

March 12, 2019

(The Guardian) – Doctors have called for an urgent international effort to combat a “pandemic of bad drugs” that is thought to kill hundreds of thousands of people globally every year. A surge in counterfeit and poor quality medicines means that 250,000 children a year are thought to die after receiving shoddy or outright fake drugs intended to treat malaria and pneumonia alone, the doctors warned. More are thought to die from poor or counterfeit vaccines and antibiotics used to treat or prevent acute infections and diseases such as hepatitis, yellow fever and meningitis.

Gene May Explain Why Some Women on the Pill Still Get Pregnant

March 12, 2019

(Reuters) – It’s long been assumed that women who get pregnant on birth control pills somehow erred, possibly by forgetting a dose. But a new study suggests some women may inherit genes that break down contraceptive hormones more rapidly, leaving them with hormone levels that are too low to prevent pregnancy, according to a report published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

23andMe Has a New Type 2 Diabetes Risk Report. Here’s What to Know

March 12, 2019

(TIME) – Consumer genetics company 23andMe is broadening its health portfolio with a new report on consumers’ genetic risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. More than 30 million Americans have diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes, according to the most recent federal data. The vast majority of these people — up to 95% — have Type 2 diabetes, meaning their bodies do not use insulin properly.

GoFundMe Should Stop Embracing and Promoting Unproven Clinical Research

March 12, 2019

(STAT News) – Medical crowdfunding, a large and rapidly growing practice dominated by the website GoFundMe, can be a lifesaver for people who find themselves unable to access cancer treatments, surgery, or other essential medical services due to gaps in insurance coverage or the failure of public institutions to meet their needs. But it is also helping raise funds for scientifically unproven and potentially dangerous medical treatments that are often packaged as legitimate clinical research and trials. Instead of trying to put a stop to these shady practices, GoFundMe is actually promoting them.

Doctor Blamed for Death of British Assisted Suicide Companion

March 12, 2019

(Swiss Info) – A British woman who accompanied her seriously ill mother to Switzerland for an assisted suicide died herself as a result of medical negligence, a court has ruled. The Federal Supreme Court upheld an earlier verdict of involuntary manslaughter against the doctor who treated the daughter at a Dignitas location.

Heartbreak, Anxiety, Lawsuits: The Egg-Freezing Disaster a Year Later

March 11, 2019

(NBC News) – In the year since the malfunctions, there have been some changes and improvements. Extra precautions have been established at some facilities, including new inspection safeguards, backup tanks and updated monitoring systems. But the failures did not stir a move toward greater government regulation to reassure the growing number of women freezing their eggs. In reporting this four-part series on the egg-freezing industry, NBC News has found that there is no single government agency empowered to crack down on mistakes or malfunctions by fertility centers.

Doctor Delivers End-of-Life News Via ‘Robot,’ Leaving Family Frustrated

March 11, 2019

(U.S.A. Today) – A California hospital delivered end-of-life news to a 78-year-old patient via a robotic machine this week, prompting the man’s family to go public with their frustration.  Ernest Quintana was admitted to the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center emergency department in Fremont, California, on March 3, granddaughter Annalisia Wilharm told USA TODAY in a written message Saturday. The family knew he was dying of chronic lung disease.

Does the Rhetoric of Consumer Genetics Aim to Eliminate Disability Without Mentioning It?

March 11, 2019

(Science) – In 2011, poet and writer George Estreich wrote about the impact of biotechnology on family life in his first book, The Shape of the Eye. The memoir centers on how his family’s life was changed, and enriched, by the birth of his second child, Laura, who has Down syndrome. Laura made his second book possible. In Fables and Futures, Estreich goes beyond the personal to describe the ways that genetic technologies affect society and the stories the promoters of such technologies tell about them.

Chinese Science Minister Warns Scientists Not to Overstep Ethical Bounds After He Jiankui’s Gene-Edited Babies Scandal

March 11, 2019

(South China Morning Post) – China’s science minister has warned scientists not to cross an ethical boundary in the wake of the scandal over rogue scientist He Jiankui’s gene-edited babies late last year. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress on Friday, Wang Zhigang condemned such practices and said the ministry had a “clear position” on ethical issues.

A Gulp of Genetically Modified Bacteria Might Someday Treat a Range of Illnesses

March 11, 2019

(NPR) – The bacteria Reeder is helping test are part of a new field of medical research that has emerged from two realms of biomedical science. One is the study of the human microbiome, the microbes that inhabit our bodies. The other is synthetic biology, a field that looks at genetically engineering living organisms, including bacteria in the human gut.
“It’s a new world of being able to use synthetic biology to program microbes to treat diseases, which I believe is the future,” says Pamela Silver, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

El Salvador Frees 3 Women Jailed for 10 Years for Abortion

March 11, 2019

(The Washington Post) – El Salvador’s Supreme Court on Thursday commuted the 30-year sentences of three women imprisoned for abortion convictions, lessening their punishment to time served and ordering them released immediately. The three women had spent about 10 years in prison on aggravated homicide charges for allegedly having abortions. All claimed they had miscarriages. The court found that the women were victims of social and economic circumstances and ruled that the original sentences were unreasonable.

Life and Limb

March 8, 2019

(Texas Observer) – In the Rio Grande Valley, nearly one in three people has the disease, triple the national rate. The Valley is among the poorest and least-insured regions in the country. It’s also overwhelmingly Hispanic, a population that has a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Perhaps the most visceral indication of the Valley’s diabetes crisis is the shocking number of people living with amputations. The rate of diabetic amputations in the Valley was about 50 percent higher than the state rate in 2015, according to data from the state health agency.

Family Medicine

March 8, 2019

(The New Yorker) – My father’s spirits sagged. He was a physician and a scientist, who had spent decades pursuing the secrets of blood: how it flows, pools, clots, conducts intracellular conversations with itself. Too frail for what had been a daily commute into Manhattan, he was still running his laboratory in absentia. He kept up a voluminous correspondence, which meant many hours speaking into his beloved treadle-activated Dictaphone. He wanted to find a new treatment for stroke, wanted to fly to South Africa and test out his compounds on cheerful, doomed baboons, wanted to win the Nobel Prize and wear his tuxedo to accept the check from the King of Sweden.

Pre-Diabetes Makes Patients Out of Healthy People, Say Critics

March 8, 2019

(The Guardian) – Labelling people as having pre-diabetes could do more harm than good, experts have said, as research reveals that even some of those involved in coining the term now reject it. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) introduced the term “pre-diabetes” at the turn of the millennium. It is used to describe someone at risk of developing diabetes but who does not have the disease or symptoms, and is based on a measure of average blood glucose concentration. Critics, however, say the threshold the ADA sets for such levels makes patients out of healthy people.

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