(Washington Post) – The disagreement escalated to a trial, once again looping the courts into the fiercely disputed question of when exactly life begins and what rights, if any, should be given to an artificially created embryo, a legal issue that is being debated in courtrooms across the country. A case involving “Modern Family” actress Sofia Vergara is scheduled for trial next year. The arguments in these cases, which usually come out in favor of the party who no longer wants to use the embryos, are often similar to the Missouri case.
(STAT News) – n Nov. 20, 2015, the World Health Organization warned the spread of Zika virus in Brazil might be responsible for a surge in the birth of babies born with tiny heads and underdeveloped brains. On Friday, almost a year to the day from that first warning, experts who advise the UN’s global health agency on Zika will grapple with the question of whether this most unusual of outbreaks still constitutes a crisis.
(BBC) – Couples can find out their chances of having a baby over multiple cycles of IVF treatment, using a new online calculator. University of Aberdeen researchers, who developed the tool, said it would help couples shape their expectations and plan their treatments. The online calculator is based on data from more than 113,000 women who have gone through IVF. A woman’s age is the most important factor in her chances of having a baby.
(Market Watch) – Interest has been spreading, with Watson quickly working through his latest supply of magnets. One woman recently traveled to Ice 9 Studio from Australia for a radio-frequency identification chip she uses to store personal information. Watson’s business frequently comes through his connection to Grindhouse Wetware, a Pittsburgh-area startup of “biohackers” who aim to augment the human body with technology. If successful, they’ll be at the vanguard of a movement called transhumanism that experiments with how technology can give us new, almost-superhuman, abilities.
(STAT News) – The defective proteins that are widely thought to kill brain neurons and cause, or at least indicate, Alzheimer’s disease do not always have that calamitous result, scientists reported on Monday, raising more doubts about conventional approaches to diagnosing and finding treatments for Alzheimer’s. The researchers analyzed the brains of eight people who died in their 90s and who had excellent recall until then. Three of the eight brains had the defining amyloid plaques and tau tangles of Alzheimer’s, yet somehow were “immune to [their] effects,” said neurologist Changiz Geula, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who led the study and presented the results at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego.
(The Guardian) – Blind animals have had their vision partially restored using a revolutionary DNA editing technique that scientists say could in future be applied to a range of devastating genetic diseases. The study is the first to demonstrate that a gene editing tool, called Crispr, can be used to replace faulty genes with working versions in the cells of adults – in this case adult rats. Previously, the powerful procedure, in which strands of DNA are snipped out and replaced, had been used only in dividing cells – such as those in an embryo – and scientists had struggled to apply it to non-dividing cells that make up most adult tissue, including the brain, heart, kidneys and liver.
(Medscape) – Many commentators have raised concern about very expensive cancer drugs that offer only a short survival benefit, but a new voice questions the ethics of such treatment. “Spending a six figure sum to prolong a life by a few weeks or months is already unaffordable,” but it is also “inappropriate” for the many cancer patients who “will almost inevitably die from solid tumor metastases,” says Peter Wise, a former consultant physician at Charing Cross Hospital and Imperial College School of Medicine, London, England.
(TIME) – The D.C. Council overwhelmingly approved a “Death With Dignity” bill Tuesday that allows terminally ill patients the ability to obtain medication to end their own lives. The council passed the measure 11-2 after approving the bill by the same margin in an initial vote two weeks ago. The bill will now go to Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has pledged not to veto the legislation, which would make D.C. the first jurisdiction with a predominantly African-American population to approve a so-called right to die.
(Scientific American) – An estimated 1.4 million Americans, close to 0.6 percent of the population of the United States, identify as transgender. And, today, the topic of transgender health care is more widely discussed than ever before. Despite this, lost in the shuffle between conversations about equal access to bathrooms and popular culture icons is the history of a piece of modern medicine that should no longer remain so elusive. To be willing to embrace the future of this pivotal area of healthcare, it is imperative to understand the piecemeal roots and evolution of transgender medicine.
(Chemical & Engineering News) – On Sept. 19, the Food & Drug Administration announced it had granted “accelerated approval,” a conditional stamp based on limited data, to Sarepta Therapeutics’ Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment eteplirsen. The agency’s decision closed a tumultuous chapter for a rare disease community and opened a new one about how drugs should be tested and reviewed. Eteplirsen, the first drug for a deadly disease that affects children, was one of the most closely watched treatments in the pharmaceutical industry. It had also become one of the most contentious.
(Medical Xpress) – Hospitals that employ more nurse assistants relative to the number of professionally qualified nurses have higher mortality rates, lower patient satisfaction, and poorer quality and safety of care, according to a new European study published today in the leading scientific journal BMJ Quality and Safety. This study highlights the risks to patient safety and quality in hospitals that employ a greater proportion of lower skilled caregivers, say the lead study authors from the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing).
(Nature) – The declining foreign aid is part of two broader trends in development: redirecting money to countries that have the highest number of sick people, and urging developing countries to fund more of their own development work. The former has reduced aid to Rwanda, a small country that has slashed the incidence of diseases such as HIV. Like many other developing nations, Rwanda doesn’t have the resources to move money from priority areas such as education into health, says Nsanzimana, citing a study by Anna Vassall, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
(Nature) – To many Americans, the name Bellevue signifies ‘psychiatric facility’ as much as Bedlam does to Britons. The psychiatric unit of the New York City public hospital gained fame from the stream of cultural icons passing through its portals. Writer Delmore Schwartz arrived in handcuffs after trying to strangle a hostile book reviewer; jazz great Charles Mingus checked in voluntarily, later composing the song Lock ‘Em Up (Hellview of Bellevue). Yet, as historian David Oshinsky shows in his sweeping, eponymous chronicle, this oldest, busiest, most storied of New York hospitals deserves equal recognition as a fount of medical discovery.
Congress’s Routine of Publicly Shaming Drug Company Executives Over High Prices Works No Better Than a Placebo
(Associated Press) – Congress’s routine of publicly shaming drug company executives over high prices works no better than a placebo: It may make some people feel better, but it doesn’t treat the problem. In the last two years, House and Senate committees issued more than a dozen subpoenas to price-hiking drugmakers, collecting hundreds of thousands of documents and berating executives for more than 16 hours of public hearings. But a review by The Associated Press of the list prices of nearly 30 brand-name medications and generic versions targeted by congressional investigators shows most haven’t budged since coming under federal scrutiny, according to figures from Truven Health Analytics.
(New York Times) – The pharmaceutical giant GSK, which has held first place in the Access to Medicine Index ever since its introduction in 2008, was ranked first again this week. The index measures how well the world’s top 20 pharma companies do at getting their drugs and vaccines — and often their scientific expertise — to the world’s poorest countries. The list was created by Wim Leerveld, a Dutch former pharmaceutical executive, and grew with early support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Dutch and British governments.
(Kaiser Health News) – They are a little-known presence in many operating rooms, offering technical expertise to surgeons installing new knees, implanting cardiac defibrillators or performing delicate spine surgery. Often called device reps — or by the more cumbersome and less transparent moniker “health-care industry representatives” — these salespeople are employed by the companies that make medical devices: Stryker, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic, to name a few. Their presence in the OR, particularly common in orthopedics and neurosurgery, is part of the equipment packages that hospitals typically buy.
(UPI) – A high-tech implant has enabled a paralyzed woman with late-stage ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) to communicate through brain signaling, researchers say. The degenerative disease robbed Hanneke De Bruijne, 58, of all voluntary muscle control — including the ability to speak — while leaving her mind intact. But an experimental implant-software program allows the “locked-in” Dutch woman to type words without assistance.
(Science Daily) – The rate of adolescents reporting a recent bout of clinical depression grew by 37 percent over the decade ending in 2014, with one in six girls reporting an episode in the past year, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research suggests. The findings, published online Nov. 14 in the journal Pediatrics, highlight a need to focus on the mental well-being of young people and match those in peril with mental health professionals.
(Nature) – Concerns about the potential harm in sequencing the genomes of healthy people come as new companies vie to provide such services for the general public. In August, researchers reported that the average person carries about 54 genetic mutations that are considered lethal, but that don’t seem to harm their health. As a result, physicians don’t know what to tell healthy people who harbour these variants.
(Nature) – A Chinese group has become the first to inject a person with cells that contain genes edited using the revolutionary CRISPR–Cas9 technique. On 28 October, a team led by oncologist Lu You at Sichuan University in Chengdu delivered the modified cells into a patient with aggressive lung cancer as part of a clinical trial at the West China Hospital, also in Chengdu.