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Facebook Data: Why Ethical Reviews Matter in Academic Research

April 5, 2018

(The Conversation) – When the Facebook data of 50m users was collected by Cambridge academic Aleksandr Kogan, his actions reportedly came to the attention of colleagues who regarded his subsequent use of the data as unethical. The university revealed that Kogan had unsuccessfully applied for ethics approval in 2015 to use data collected on behalf of GSR, a commercial enterprise he set up, for use in his academic research. He was reapplying for approval when Facebook requested that the data he had gathered be deleted. These applications are currently the focus of a freedom of information request.

The 3 Most Promising New Methods of Male Birth Control, Explained

April 5, 2018

(Vox) – While a pill for men certainly isn’t coming to the pharmacy anytime soon, unfortunately, there is reason for (muted) hope. Several promising products are quietly making their way through clinical trials. A topical gel that blocks sperm production is the furthest along in development, followed by a hormonal pill contraceptive and a nonsurgical vasectomy. But before we get into the new science of male contraception, it’s essential to understand why discoveries in this arena have been lacking for so long.

As Controversial ‘Abortion Reversal’ Laws Increase, Researcher Says New Data Shows Protocol Can Work

April 5, 2018

(The Washington Post) – Now Delgado, who opposes abortion, has data on a new, larger group of women. His paper — appearing Wednesday in Issues in Law and Medicine, a journal with ties to an antiabortion group — looks at 754 patients who called an informational hotline in the United States from 2012 to 2016 after taking mifepristone, the first drug in a medical abortion, but before taking misoprostol, the second drug.

Leading AI Researchers Threaten Korean University with Boycott over Its Work on “Killer Robots”

April 5, 2018

(The Verge) – More than 50 leading AI and robotics researchers have said they will boycott South Korea’s KAIST university over the institute’s plans to help develop AI-powered weapons. The threat was announced ahead of a UN meeting set in Geneva next week to discuss international restrictions on so-called “killer robots.” It marks an escalation in tactics from the part of the scientific community actively fighting for stronger controls on AI-controlled weaponry.

This Stem-Cell Implant Could Halt an Incredibly Common Cause of Blindness

April 5, 2018

(MIT Technology Review) – An eye implant made of a thin sheet of human embryonic stem cells might be an effective treatment for a common form of vision loss. Researchers at the University of Southern California grew stem-cell membranes in a sterile lab for a month and then inserted them into the eyes of four people with “dry” macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in developed countries. An estimated 196 million people worldwide will have some form of macular degeneration by 2020.

Medically Assisted Death Allows Couple Married Almost 73 Years to Die Together

April 5, 2018

(The Globe and Mail) – On March 27, George and Shirley died holding hands in their own bed in a Toronto retirement home. Their children, who watched from the foot of the bed, say the couple drew their last breaths at almost the same moment. They had been married for just shy of 73 years. The Brickendens are one of the few couples in Canada to receive a doctor-assisted death together, and the first to speak about it publicly.

Genetic Score Can Identify Infants at Risk for Type 1 Diabetes

April 5, 2018

(UPI) – Researchers have developed a genetics score that can identify infants at risk for type 1 diabetes, according to a new study. The scientists calculated genetic scores from more than 30 genes among 3,498 children with no family history of type 1 diabetes but with gene variants known to convey type 1 diabetes risk. Their findings were published Tuesday in PLOS Medicine.

Prescribers, Pharmacists Arrested in DEA Opioid Crackdown

April 5, 2018

(Medscape) – The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has arrested 28 prescribers and pharmacists and has revoked 147 licenses of individuals who handle controlled substances. The actions were taken as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. For 45 days in February and March, the DEA “surged its enforcement and administrative resources to identify and investigate prescribers and pharmacies that dispensed disproportionately large amounts of drugs. The ultimate goal of the surge was remediating or removing those whose actions perpetuate the controlled prescription drug crisis in America, particularly opioid drugs,” the DEA said in a statement issued April 2.

Assaulted and Shunned, India’s Women with Disabilities May Never Get Their #MeToo Moment

April 4, 2018

(Quartz) – Survivors of sexual assault in India rarely get the justice they deserve—and it is all the more difficult for women and girls with disabilities. They routinely struggle with reporting abuse and getting appropriate medical care, besides navigating the country’s courts, an April 03 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says. The report is based on investigations into 17 cases of rape and gangrape of women and children with disabilities in eight Indian states: Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal. HRW interviewed around 111 people, including survivors, family members, lawyers, the police, and activists.

Brain-Stimulation Trials Get Personal to Lift Depression

April 4, 2018

(Nature) – Before playing a guitar, musicians tune the strings to particular frequencies to get the pitch they want. Starting this week, a team of neuroscientists in Australia will apply a similar tuning process to human brains as part of a study to recalibrate abnormal neural patterns to a healthy state. The group, at Monash University in Melbourne, is conducting one of the first trials to use electrodes on people’s scalps, both to monitor their brain activity and to provide customized electrical stimulation. By tuning groups of neurons to specific frequencies, the team will attempt to alleviate people’s depression and other mood disorders.

One in Three Older Patients Die Following Emergency Department Intubation

April 4, 2018

(Medical Xpress) – Intubation in the emergency department is common and can prevent a patient from dying from a reversible condition. While the benefits of such intubation for young and otherwise healthy patients are clear, it is less obvious whether the benefits of intubation outweigh the risks in older patients. A new study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital investigated the outcomes for patients aged 65 and older after emergency department intubation across a variety of conditions and disease. Their results are published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Monkey Study Suggests Zika Infection in Infancy Could Cause Brain Damage

April 4, 2018

(STAT News) – A new study in primates raises the possibility that children infected with the Zika virus during infancy could be at risk of experiencing brain damage. Zika is known to destroy developing brain tissue when it infects a fetus in the womb. Scientists know less — next to nothing, essentially — about how the virus might affect the brain of an infant infected after birth. In the new study, scientists infected rhesus macaques with Zika virus at the age of about one month — which corresponds to about three months of age in a child. The macaques showed troubling brain and behavioral changes.

Gene Mutation Finding May Lead to Treatment for Sickle Cell, Other Blood Disorders

April 4, 2018

(UPI) – Researchers in Australia have found a way to introduce natural mutations into blood cells that could lead to new therapies for sickle cell anemia and other blood disorders. University of New South Wales scientists used gene editing to introduce the mutations into blood cells as a way to boost fetal hemoglobin production. The mutations that cause the disorders are naturally carried by a small percentage of people, but the highly individualized method could help treat some of them.

Hong Kong Beauty Salon Blunders Spark Move to Regulate Stem Cell Treatment and Therapies

April 4, 2018

(South China Morning Post) – The Hong Kong government on Tuesday moved a step closer to regulating stem cell treatment and other “advanced therapy” products in the city as it launched a two-month consultation following recent cases of serious blunders in beauty salon procedures. In a statement, authorities proposed classifying the services – including gene therapy, somatic cell therapy and tissue engineering – under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, which would require amending the law. Stem cells, in particular, are used in a variety of treatments, such as anti-ageing therapies and immune system enhancement.

MIT Severs Ties to Company Promoting Fatal Brain Uploading

April 4, 2018

(MIT Technology Review) – The MIT Media Lab will sever ties with a brain-embalming company that promoted euthanasia to people hoping for digital immortality through “brain uploads.” The startup, called Nectome, had raised more than $200,000 in deposits from people hoping to have their brains stored in an end-of-life procedure similar to physician-assisted suicide. MIT’s connection to the company came into question after MIT Technology Review detailed Nectome’s promotion of its “100 percent fatal” technology.

You’re a Surgeon. A Patient Wants to Look Like a Lizard. What Do You Do?

April 4, 2018

(The Guardian) – Imagine that you are a cosmetic surgeon and a patient asks you to make them look like a lizard. Would you have ethical qualms? Or perhaps you are a neurosurgeon approached by someone wanting a brain implant – not to cure a disability but to make them smarter via cognitive enhancement. Would this go against your code of professional ethics? With the rapid advance of medical technology, problems of conscience threaten to become commonplace. Perhaps explicit legal protection for conscientious objection in healthcare is the solution.

A Woman Says an Ancestry[dot]com DNA test Revealed Her Father–Her Parents’ Fertility Doctor

April 4, 2018

(The Washington Post) – When Kelli Rowlette received the results from a DNA sample she had sent to a popular genealogy website, she assumed there had been a mistake. The test showed that her DNA matched a sample from a doctor more than 500 miles away — and, though she had never heard of him, Ancestry.com predicted a parent-child relationship between the two. At the time, Rowlette was not aware that more than 36 years ago, her parents had struggled to conceive.

The Limits of Big Data in Medical Research

April 3, 2018

(Scientific American) – The National Institutes of Health this spring will start recruiting one million people in the United States to have their genomes sequenced, but also to provide their medical records and regular blood samples, and to submit to monitoring diet, physical activity, heart rate and blood pressure. The $1.455 billion, 10-year All of Us Research Program will create the largest and most diverse dataset of its kind, and could provide new insights into diseases. But such big data projects tend to overpromise, while dedicating so much of the NIH budget to large institutional controls and players makes it harder for smaller labs with original hypotheses to win grant money and compete in science.

Mini Brains Just Got Creepier–They’re Growing Their Own Veins

April 3, 2018

(Wired) – Neural organoids don’t yet, even remotely, resemble adult brains; developmentally, they’re just pushing second trimester tissue organization. But the way Ben Waldau sees it, brain balls might be the best chance his stroke patients have at making a full recovery—and a homegrown blood supply is a big step toward that far-off goal. A blood supply carries oxygen and nutrients, allowing brain balls to grow bigger, complex networks of tissues, those that a doctor could someday use to shore up malfunctioning neurons.

The Code: A Three-Part Video Series Investigating the Roots of Today’s Most Promising Genetic Technologies

April 3, 2018

(STAT News) – Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. And those who do not remember the sometimes irrational exuberance around past advances in biomedicine may be doomed to buy into the hype around today’s. From curing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to eliminating cancer deaths, no goal has been too ambitious for the best minds in medicine to claim is within reach thanks to the latest scientific discovery. Here is your genetic gut check.

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