(PhysOrg) – Every year, several thousands of tonnes of man-made nanoparticles are produced worldwide; sooner or later, a certain part of them will end up in bodies of water or soil. But even experts find it difficult to say exactly what happens to them there. It is a complex question, not only because there are many different types of man-made (engineered) nanoparticles, but also because the particles behave differently in the environment depending on the prevailing conditions.
(Science Daily) – Salk scientists and collaborators have shed light on a long-standing question about what leads to variation in stem cells by comparing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from identical twins. Even iPSCs made from the cells of twins, they found, have important differences, suggesting that not all variation between iPSC lines is rooted in genetics, since the twins have identical genes.
(The Guardian) – I saw my first patient death a few months ago, during my first placement on a medical ward. It was a woman with dementia. I was there when the doctor made the decision to remove her oxygen mask. We drew the curtains and I rubbed her leg, just to let her know that someone was with her. I was glad to be there as she took her final breaths. I still think about her. She was unmarried and had no family. She died alone, but we were there, so I guess she wasn’t completely alone.
(Nature) – A protein found in young human blood plasma can improve brain function in old mice. The finding, published on 19 April in Nature, is the first time a human protein has been shown to have this effect. It’s also the latest evidence that infusions of ‘young blood’ can reverse symptoms of ageing, including memory loss, decrease in muscle function and metabolism, and loss of bone structure. For decades, researchers have studied the effects of young blood on ageing in mice through a technique called parabiosis, in which an old mouse is sewn together with a younger one so that they share a circulatory system.
(UPI) – Researchers have developed a cartilage-mimicking material made from 3D-printed hydrogel that may one day allow 3D-printed knee implants in humans. The hydrogel-based material developed by researchers at Duke University is the first to match human cartilage in strength and elasticity while also remaining 3D-printable and stable inside the body.
(The Guardian) – Many transhumanists such as Kurzweil contend that they are carrying on the legacy of the Enlightenment – that theirs is a philosophy grounded in reason and empiricism, even if they do lapse occasionally into metaphysical language about “transcendence” and “eternal life”. As I read more about the movement, I learned that most transhumanists are atheists who, if they engage at all with monotheistic faith, defer to the familiar antagonisms between science and religion. “The greatest threat to humanity’s continuing evolution,” writes the transhumanist Simon Young, “is theistic opposition to Superbiology in the name of a belief system based on blind faith in the absence of evidence.” Yet although few transhumanists would likely admit it, their theories about the future are a secular outgrowth of Christian eschatology.
(Entrepreneur) – Science fiction novels have long delighted readers by grappling with futuristic challenges like the possibility of artificial intelligence so difficult to distinguish from human beings that people naturally ask, “should these sophisticated computer programs be considered human? Should ‘they’ be granted human rights?” These are interesting philosophical questions, to be sure, but equally important, and more immediately pressing, is the question of what human-like artificial intelligence means for the rights of those whose humanity is not a philosophical question.
(Bloomberg) – Like most companies that sell high-priced drugs, Valeant says that no patient will ever be deprived of Syprine because of cost. And I can see why, if you’re the Wilson Disease Association, that would be the most important thing. But the societal costs are high. No matter what the patients’ out-of-pocket costs are, insurance companies and Medicare are still paying Valeant millions of dollars for a drug that just 11 years ago cost $1 a tablet. Which means that we’re all paying for Syprine, either as taxpayers or as insurance customers.
(The Scientist) – In an effort to make it easier for researchers to develop stem cell–based therapies, the UK Stem Cell Bank is offering several ready-to-go human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines derived from donated tissue that originated at in vitro fertilization clinics in the U.K. This is the first such bank of its kind. With appropriate consent and the use of clinical-grade manufacturing protocols, the lines were derived with the intent of applying them therapeutically, not just for research.
(STAT News) – The number of babies born in Puerto Rico with microcephaly and other birth defects caused by the Zika virus appears to be unexpectedly low — so low that experts are beginning to question whether the actual count is being significantly underreported by authorities on the island. As Zika surged across the Americas last year, US health authorities warned that Puerto Rico was facing a perfect storm — and braced for a large number of pregnancies affected by the virus. But, to date, Puerto Rico has reported only 16 cases of congenital defects associated with Zika, even though more than 3,300 pregnant women are known to have contracted the virus and several times that number are believed to have been infected.
(Pro Publica) – The public could soon get a look at confidential reports about errors, mishaps and mix-ups in the nation’s hospitals that put patients’ health and safety at risk, under a groundbreaking proposal from federal health officials. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wants to require that private health care accreditors publicly detail problems they find during inspections of hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as the steps being taken to fix them. Nearly nine in 10 hospitals are directly overseen by those accreditors, not the government.
(Science Daily) – Most Americans have some form of digital technology, whether it is a smartphone, tablet or laptop, within their reach 24-7. Our dependence on these gadgets has dramatically changed how we communicate and interact, and is slowly eroding some of our core principles, said Michael Bugeja, professor and director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University. Bugeja is not advocating against technology — in fact, he relies on it for his work and personal life — but he says we need to recognize the possible ramifications before it is too late.
(Reuters) – The risk that surgery patients will become chronic opioid users may be similar after minor procedures or major operations, a U.S. study suggests. Three to six months after surgery, new chronic opioid use was about 5.9 percent with minor operations and 6.5 percent with major surgery, the study found. The rate was just 0.4 percent in people who didn’t get surgery. A history of chronic pain appeared to be a better predictor of post-operative opioid use than the type of surgery, the study found.
(The Atlantic) – The prevailing explanation for the U.S.’s limited number of IUDs is the Dalkon Shield. In the early 1970s, before the FDA regulated medical devices, this plastic, beetle-shaped IUD caused thousands of injuries including infections, infertility, and even death. Americans filed 300,000 lawsuits–the largest product liability case since asbestos–against and bankrupted the manufacturer, A.H. Robins Company. After the Dalkon Shield, market demand for IUDs died. In the 1980s, contraception innovation nearly halted, and the manufacturers of four of America’s five remaining IUDs pulled their products from the market.
(MIT Technology Review) – Let’s be clear. No one is trying to grow an astronaut in a bubbling vat somewhere. But some far-out ideas once relegated to science fiction and TED Talks have recently started to take concrete form. Experiments have begun to alter human cells in the lab. Can they be made radiation-proof? Can they be rejiggered to produce their own vitamins and amino acids? One person looking at the idea is Christopher Mason, a member of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine. In 2011, Mason came up with what he called a “500-year plan” to get humans off Earth. In it, genetic modification plays a big role.
(The Conversation) – During the epidemic, we learned that Zika can also be transmitted through sexual contact and, in exceptional cases, through bodily fluids such as tears. It is estimated that around 80% of people infected with the Zika virus experience no symptoms or suffer a very mild disease (low-grade fever, skin rash and muscle pain). But Zika became infamous when it was discovered to be associated with a dramatic increase in babies born with microcephaly (an abnormally small head) in Brazil, and in adults developing Guillain-Barré syndrome. In recent months, there has been a decline in news coverage, but here are four reasons why we shouldn’t forget about Zika.
(STAT News) – Conveying the right balance of hope and realism is largely learned through experience during medical training. Young doctors patch together a framework for navigating discussions that hinge on uncertainty, often pilfering mentors’ phrases and techniques. Most of all we learn from our own missteps, and from those of our colleagues. I know that many patients prefer to hear realistic interpretations of their illness, and that these discussions are increasingly important as providers lean toward shared decision-making, which has been linked to greater patient satisfaction. Still, it’s sometimes a challenge to truthfully discuss a serious medical issue while leaving the door open to the hope that is so vital for patients and families.
(Los Angeles Time) – Genetic testing firm 23andMe got approval from the Food and Drug Administration last week to sell reports that show customers whether they have an increased genetic risk of developing certain diseases and conditions. The go-ahead is the first time the federal agency has approved such direct-to-consumer genetic tests and comes about three years after the FDA warned Mountain View, Calif.-based 23andMe to stop marketing its health reports because they lacked agency authorization.
(New York Times) – Welcome to the fertility casino, which frequently presents the rarest of scenarios: A commercial entity offers a potentially money-losing proposition to customers in exchange for a generous supply of in vitro fertilization procedures. People pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege, and when they come out with a newborn in their arms they’re often thrilled to be on the losing end financially. So who wins? The house. Doctors (and third-party companies that help manage these programs and may take on any financial risk) keep careful track of their data. So they set prices at profitable points given the odds.
(Science) – Doctors have lots of tools for predicting a patient’s health. But—as even they will tell you—they’re no match for the complexity of the human body. Heart attacks in particular are hard to anticipate. Now, scientists have shown that computers capable of teaching themselves can perform even better than standard medical guidelines, significantly increasing prediction rates. If implemented, the new method could save thousands or even millions of lives a year.