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Making Gene Therapy Safer

April 10, 2015

(Medical Xpress) – Ex vivo gene therapy is a medical technique in which stem cells are taken from the patient, and their deficient genes are switched with healthy ones. The stem cells are grown in the lab and re-inserted into the patient. However, this method often has health risks, such as leukemia and mutations. The problem is that most stem cells cannot be grown efficiently with current technologies, and the resulting cell population in the lab can contain a mix of healthy and unhealthy cells. Scientists at EPFL have developed a selection process that can detect the cells that have taken up the healthy genes with great specificity, greatly reducing the risks of ex vivo gene therapy.

Microbes Engineered to Prevent Obesity

April 10, 2015

(MIT Technology Review) – Genetically engineered bacteria can prevent mice offered a high-fat diet from overeating. The beneficial effects of the bacteria last for about four to six weeks, suggesting that they temporarily take up residence in the gut. Researchers developed the anti-obesity therapy to test a new way of treating chronic diseases. Sean Davies, a pharmacologist at Vanderbilt University, is modifying bacteria that live in and on the body—known collectively as a person’s microbiome.

Doctors Cast Doubt on China’s Promises of Organ Transplant Reform

April 10, 2015

(The Epoch Times) – Recent promises by Chinese officials to cease the use of executed prisoners as a source for transplant organs has attracted the scrutiny of a Washington, D.C.-based organization of medical doctors and professionals. Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), the medical ethics advocacy group, has challenged the Chinese regime’s latest claims to have stopped using organs from prisoners, and have demanded that Chinese transplant officials provide proof of their claims.

Inside the Illegal Hospitals Performing Thousands of Black Market Organ Transplants Every Year for $200,000 a Time

April 10, 2015

(Daily Mail) – Vulnerable, desperate and undergoing risky surgery in filthy hospitals, these are just some of the patients being exploited by the black market organ trade. Donors regularly put their lives on the line for just ($5,000) £3,000 from unscrupulous gangs who then sell on the body parts for up to $200,000 (£130,000) a time. In India, where these pictures were taken, around 2,000 people are thought to illegally sell their kidneys each year.

Meditative ‘Ex Machina’ Is Richly Suspenseful

April 10, 2015

(U.S.A. Today) – When sci-fi hits that sweet spot, it can be endlessly thought-provoking. Such is the case with the stylish, tense and terrifically acted Ex Machina, a complex drama about artificial intelligence (*** ½ out of four; rated R; opens Friday in select cities). Alex Garland, the screenwriter of 28 Days Later and Sunshine, makes an auspicious directorial debut with this suspenseful mystery.

Mexico Closes 10 Cosmetic Surgery Clinics in Border City

April 10, 2015

(Medical Xpress) – Mexican authorities have ordered the closure of 10 cosmetic surgery clinics and offices in the northwest border city of Tijuana for failing to comply with health regulations. The action, announced on Wednesday, follows the death last month of a young Australian woman after undergoing a liposuction procedure in Mexicali, another city on the US border. Three operating rooms and an intensive care center in Mexicali were closed March 30 after her death.

30 New Ebola Cases, Lowest Weekly Figure in Nearly a Year

April 10, 2015

(Scientific American) – Thirty confirmed cases of Ebola were reported in West Africa in the past week, the smallest number in nearly a year of the worst ever outbreak of the deadly fever, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday. “This is the lowest weekly total since the third week of May 2014,” the WHO said in its latest update.

‘World First’ for Extreme Premature Baby Dialysis in Poland

April 9, 2015

(Medical Xpress) – An extremely premature Polish infant weighing just 820 grammes (1.8 pounds) has become the world’s smallest and youngest patient to escape death thanks to an artificial kidney, according to the doctor who oversaw the treatment. Born 15 weeks early, Kamil nearly died from organ failure a few days later and conventional methods used to keep preterm babies alive proved ineffective.

What Americans Think of Abortion

April 9, 2015

(Vox) – In another way, though, King’s viewpoint is common: in our poll, we found that 18 percent of Americans, like King, pick “both” when you ask them to choose between pro-life and pro-choice. Another 21 percent choose neither. Taken together, about four in 10 Americans are eschewing the labels that we typically see as defining the abortion policy debate.

What’s My Chance of Having a Baby? A Better Predictor of IVF Success

April 9, 2015

(NPR) – Now scientists in the United Kingdom say a newer prediction tool, called IVFpredict, is more accurate than an older, established one. They describe the comparison Wednesday in the online journal PLOS ONE. The widely used Templeton model was derived from data from two decades ago, when success rates for IVF were lower. IVFpredict is based on more recent data. And it reflects the use of intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI, a technique in which a technician uses a needle to insert sperm into the egg.

Cancer Drugs, Even at These Prices, May Be Worth It

April 9, 2015

(Managed Care Magazine) – This morning I woke up to front-page story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the University of Pennsylvania and Novartis settling a patent dispute that had cast a legal cloud over their immunotherapeutic treatments, which rev up a person’s own immune system to take on the cancer and its runaway growth instead of relying on toxic chemicals. But is the price of this progress just way too steep?

Breast Cancer Research Uncovers the Fountain of Youth

April 9, 2015

(Medical Xpress) – The Fountain of Youth has been discovered and it’s not in Florida as Ponce de Leon claimed. Instead, it was found in the mammary glands of genetically modified mice. A research team led by Professor Rama Khokha has found that when two factors that control tissue development are removed, you can avoid the impact of aging.

Study Showing How Stem Cells Slow Aging May Lead to New Heart Failure Treatments

April 9, 2015

(PR Newswire) – A new study published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine demonstrates how mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) not only protect the heart from further damage after a cardiac incident but can actually slow down its aging process, too. These findings, in a rat model of the aging heart, could help propel stem cells to the forefront as a potential solution for more effective ways to treat heart conditions.

What’s in It for Me?

April 9, 2015

(Slate) – Genetic researchers at the University of Michigan recently launched the Genes for Good program, an innovative study that’s using Facebook and an appeal to the common good to encourage citizens to donate their genetic samples. This initiative follows on President Obama’s State of the Union address launching the Precision Medicine Initiative, which seeks to collect genetic and other data from more than 1 million volunteers to power the transition to precision medicine.

‘Rational Suicide’ Talk Increasing among ‘Healthy’ Elderly

April 9, 2015

(Medscape) – The incidence of healthy elderly patients raising the issue of “rational suicide” is on the rise, and clinicians need to be prepared to address it. Here at the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP) 2015 Annual Meeting, a session dedicated to the issue aimed to provide guidance to clinicians who may be faced with elderly patients expressing a desire to die by suicide while they are still relatively healthy and cognitively intact.

Baby Genes to Be Mapped at Birth in Medical First

April 8, 2015

(New Scientist) – IF YOU could gaze into a crystal ball and discover whether your newborn baby might have health problems, would you want to know? This month, doctors in Boston will begin sequencing the genomes of healthy babies for the first time to explore the benefits and risks of sequencing at birth.

What Can Brain-Controlled Prosthetics Tell Us about the Brain?

April 8, 2015

(Medical Xpress) – Karen Moxon, PhD, a professor in Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering Science and Health Systems, was a postdoctoral researcher in Drexel’s medical school when she participated in the first study ever to examine how the brain could be connected to operate a prosthetic limb. More than 15 years after that neuroscience benchmark, Moxon’s lab is showing that it’s now possible to glean new insight about how the brain stores and accesses information, and into the causes of pathologies like epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

Ebola Vaccine Effective in a Single Dose

April 8, 2015

(Science Daily) – Medical researchers have developed a quick-acting vaccine that is both safe and effective with a single dose against the Ebola strain that killed thousands of people in West Africa last year. During 2014, the outbreak of the West African Makona strain of Ebola Zaire virus killed nearly 10,000 and caused worldwide concern. With increasing population growth in West Africa, the frequency of contact between humans and natural Ebola virus hosts such as bats will likely rise, potentially leading to more catastrophic outbreaks.

Antibody Shows Promise as Treatment for HIV

April 8, 2015

(Nature) – Treating HIV with an antibody can reduce the levels of the virus in people’s bodies — at least temporarily, scientists report on 8 April in Nature. The approach, called passive immunization, involves infusing antibodies into a person’s blood. Several trials are under way in humans, and researchers hope that the approach could help to prevent, treat or even cure HIV. The work is a milestone towards those goals, says Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland. “This is an early study, but it’s a study with some impressive results,” he says.

New Nanofiber 3-D Designs for Neural Tissue Engineering

April 8, 2015

(Nanowerk) – It is well known that neurological diseases and injuries pose some of the greatest challenges in modern medicine, with few if any options for effectively treating such diagnoses, but recent work suggests a unique approach for reconstructing damaged neural tissue. In an article published in the journal Neural Regeneration Research, several new designs for 3D tissue constructs are described for using stem cells grown on nanofiber scaffolding within a supportive hydrogel.

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