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Japan Relaxes Rules on iPS Cell Research, Potentially Paving Way for Growth of Human Organs in Animals

March 6, 2019

(The Japan Times) – The green light has been given to a controversial research process that involves implanting human stem cells inside animals and could eventually lead to growing human organs for transplant inside animal hosts. The decision by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology on Friday to revise its guidelines means researchers in Japan can now apply for permits to carry out studies employing the technique, a ministry official said.

Are Mosaic Embryos the ‘Dark Horse’ of IVF?

March 6, 2019

(Medical Xpress) – For many individuals who only produce mosaic embryos, this can mean that the IVF journey may end before it begins. New research conducted by scientists at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at OHSU, in Portland, Oregon, gives new hope to those seeking infertility treatments. Their findings published in the journal Genome Research. The study, led by Shawn L. Chavez, Ph.D., is the first to confirm in a nonhuman primate model that mosaic embryos can adapt to their abnormalities and persist in development, resulting in positive IVF outcomes.

Synthetic Cells Protect DNA Circuits

March 6, 2019

(Chemical & Engineering News) – Molecular computer systems that rely on strands of DNA to process information can already solve math problems, play games like tic-tac-toe, and detect the biochemical signatures of disease. Now researchers have used artificial cells to host DNA-based circuits, allowing them to operate in messy biological environments (Nature Nanotech. 2019, DOI: 10.1038/s41565-019-0399-9). It’s a step on the way to using DNA computers as rapid diagnostic devices, or even to control systems that deliver therapeutic drugs inside patients, says Tom de Greef of the Eindhoven University of Technology, part of the team behind the work.

FDA Chief Gottlieb Resigns

March 5, 2019

(Reuters) – U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb said on Tuesday he plans to step down in a month, calling into question how the agency will handle critical issues such as e-cigarette use among teens and efforts to increase competition in prescription drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA, announced Gottlieb’s resignation on Tuesday.

Self-Driving Cars May Be Likelier to Hit Black People Than White People

March 5, 2019

(Vox) – The list of concerns about self-driving cars just got longer.  In addition to worrying about how safe they are, how they’d handle tricky moral trade-offs on the road, and how they might make traffic worse, we also need to worry about how they could harm people of color. If you’re a person with dark skin, you may be more likely than your white friends to get hit by a self-driving car, according to a new study out of the Georgia Institute of Technology. That’s because automated vehicles may be better at detecting pedestrians with lighter skin tones.

Gene Editing Is Trickier Than Expected–But Fixes Are in Sight

March 5, 2019

(Wired) – Of all the big, world-remaking bets on the genome-editing tool known as Crispr, perhaps none is more tantalizing than its potential to edit some of humanity’s worst diseases right out of the history books. Just this week, Crispr Therapeutics announced it had begun treating patients with an inherited blood disorder called beta thalassemia, in the Western drug industry’s first test of the technology for genetic disease. But despite the progress, there remain a host of unknowns standing in the way of Crispr-based medicines going mainstream, chief among them safety.

Mass Drug Administration Against Malaria Seen Effective

March 5, 2019

(SciDevNet) – Medical researchers say that mass administration of combination drugs can stop the transmission of malaria caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite and reduce its prevalence in South-East Asian countries, where resistance of the disease to artemisinin, the standard drug, has hampered elimination efforts. According to WHO, globally, there were 219 million cases of malaria in 2017, which resulted in 435,000 deaths. P. falciparum accounted for 97 per cent of the deaths in Africa, 71.9 per cent for both the Western Pacific and the Eastern Mediterranean, and 62.8 per cent in South-East Asia.

US Teen Who Defied Parents Over Vaccines Warns of Misinformation

March 5, 2019

(BBC) – A teenager who made headlines for getting vaccinated despite his family’s wishes has testified about his experience to US lawmakers. Ethan Lindenberger, from Ohio, sought immunisations aged 18 after turning to the internet for advice. Federal data suggests the proportion of US children under two not being immunised has quadrupled since 2001. Doctors at the hearing blamed online misinformation and discredited science for scaring parents away from vaccines.

Ten Years After the ‘Berlin Patient,’ Doctors Announce a Second Person Has Been Effectively ‘Cured’ of HIV

March 5, 2019

(STAT News) – For the second time, doctors appear to have put HIV into “sustained remission” with a stem cell transplant — effectively curing the recipient. Their work, which was published in Nature and will be presented at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle on Tuesday, may encourage scientists working on new gene therapies based on similar principles and give hope to those living with the infection.

Patient Advocacy Groups in Canada with Ties to Pharma Are Big Boosters for Government Coverage

March 5, 2019

(STAT News) – As the interplay between the pharmaceutical industry and patient advocacy groups undergoes stepped-up scrutiny, a new analysis finds a large majority of Canadian groups that submitted comments about pending government coverage for medicines also held conflicts with drug makers. Specifically, 87 percent of comments were made by Canadian groups that had a conflict of interest, such as industry backing.

Nearly 200 People in Texas Immigration Detention Facilities Have Contracted Mumps

March 5, 2019

(CNN) – Nearly 200 people at immigration detention facilities across Texas have contracted mumps since October, officials say. The 186 patients range from 13 to 66 years old, the Texas Department of State Health Services said Tuesday.  Most of the cases were among detainees, though five workers also contracted the virus. The state health department does not believe that it has spread into the community.

HIV Infections Down 30 Percent with New Testing Method

March 5, 2019

(UPI) – Nations throughout Africa have faced some of the worst HIV infections rates in the world, but new research could soon reverse that trend, a new study says. The HIV rate in southern African communities has fallen by 30 percent as a result of house-to-house voluntary testing and treatment, according to results from a study announced at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.

Nicotine Could Affect Human Embryonic Development at the Single-Cell Level

March 5, 2019

(News-Medical) – Nicotine induces widespread adverse effects on human embryonic development at the level of individual cells, researchers report February 28th in the journal Stem Cell Reports. Single-cell RNA sequencing of human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived embryoid bodies revealed that 3 weeks of nicotine exposure disrupts cell-to-cell communication, decreases cell survival, and alters the expression of genes that regulate critical functions such as heart muscle-cell contractions.

It’s Old News That Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism. But a Major New Study Aims to Refute Skeptics Again

March 4, 2019

(STAT News) – A massive new study from Denmark found no association between being vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella and developing autism. In science and public health circles, that issue has long since been considered settled, with multiple studies over many years discounting the findings of a small study published more than 20 years ago that has since been expunged from the medical literature.

Colombia Takes Medically Assisted Death into the Morally Murky World of Terminally Ill Children

March 4, 2019

(The Globe & Mail) – Colombia decriminalized medically assisted death in 2015, the first country in Latin America to take the step, but it went much further last May with a regulation that made the procedure available to children. It was a particularly striking decision in a socially conservative country where almost 80 per cent of people identify as religious Roman Catholics and where the population of evangelical Christians is growing rapidly; the churches, which vocally oppose euthanasia, are a powerful political force.

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