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Why More Teen Girls Are Getting Genital Plastic Surgery

February 6, 2018

(TIME) – Between 2014 and 2015, there was an 80% increase in the number of girls 18 and younger receiving genital plastic surgery, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The numbers shot up so quickly that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued new guidelines this month for doctors who perform labial and breast surgery. Among the recommendations: physicians are now encouraged to screen girls for body dysmorphic disorder, an obsession with an imagined or slight defect in appearance.

How Cancer Immunotherapy is Getting Better

February 6, 2018

(TIME) – Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved two new immunotherapies to treat certain leukemias and lymphomas. Now, in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers detail who is most likely to benefit from the treatments, called CAR T cell therapy. CAR T cell therapy trains the body’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells in the blood; scientists take people’s own immune cells (T cells) and genetically engineer them to seek out and destroy cancer cells.

A Biohacker Injected Himself with a DIY Herpes Treatment in Front of a Live Audience

February 5, 2018

(The Verge) – A biohacker known for live experiments injected himself with a DIY herpes treatment in front of an audience at Body Hacking Con in Austin last night. Aaron Traywick, 28, who leads biotech firm Ascendance Biomedical, used an experimental herpes treatment that did not go through the typical route of clinical trials to test its safety. Instead of being developed by research scientists in laboratories, it was created by a biohacker named Andreas Stuermer, who “holds a masters degree and is a bioentrepreneur and science lover,” according to a conference bio.

‘Right to Die’ Program Goes into Effect

February 5, 2018

(The Korea Herald) – South Korea’s end-of-life program that enables individuals to abandon life-prolonging medical treatment when there is no chance of recovery went into effect Sunday, following the government’s three-month pilot program that began in October, during which 107 terminally ill patients signed the agreement.

A Search for Insomnia Gene Involving 1.3 Million People Is the Largest Genetic Study Ever

February 5, 2018

(MIT Technology Review) – In a genetic study of unprecedented size, scientists have searched for inherited causes of insomnia in the DNA 1,310,010 people. They found 956 different genes linked to the sleep disorder, drawing closer to an explanation of what causes it and, perhaps, to new ways to treat it. The study appears to be the first gene search to involve DNA collected from more than one million people.

Almost 1 Million Dengue Vaccinations and Three Children’s Deaths Later, Doctors Admit They May Have Got It Wrong

February 5, 2018

(Newsweek) – The Philippines said on Friday that the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia may be connected to three deaths in the country, according to a government-ordered inquiry, and that the drug is not ready for mass immunization. Sanofi revealed in November that Dengvaxia – the world’s first dengue vaccine – might increase the risk of severe disease in people who had never been exposed to the virus. The news prompted an uproar in the Philippines, where more than 800,000 school-age children had been vaccinated in 2016.

Fully Funding IVF Would Improve Safety for Mothers, Experts Say

February 5, 2018

(BBC) – Full government funding for IVF treatment would reduce the risk of harm to mothers and babies and save the NHS money, health experts have said. It would help lower cases of women who have more than one embryo transferred into the uterus, which can cause risky multiple pregnancies, their study says. Multiple pregnancies are the “greatest avoidable risk of IVF”, it says. The Department of Health said the NHS should be offering IVF for all patients who meet existing criteria.

Olympics Could Require Athletes’ Genetic Code to Test for Doping

February 5, 2018

(Wired) – For years, the World Anti-Doping Agency has considered requiring all Olympic athletes to submit copies of their genetic code. It would work as a check on so-called “gene doping,” the idea of changing the body’s biological machinery to make it stronger, run faster, or recover more quickly. A clean slate would reveal any nefarious performance-boosting tweaks—like, theoretically, altering the expression of fast-twitch muscle genes to engineer a perfect sprinter.

A New Edition of Perspectives in Biology and Medicine Is Now Available

February 5, 2018

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (vol. 60, no. 3, special issue, 2017) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “The Abuse of Futility” by Lawrence J. Schneiderman, Nancy S. Jecker, and Albert R. Jonsen

 

Brain Genes Hint at Why Zika Doesn’t Always Cause Microcephaly

February 2, 2018

(New Scientist) – Just one in 10 babies exposed to the Zika virus during pregnancy get the brain damage that causes microcephaly – abnormally small heads. Now there’s a first clue about what stops this from happening in the rest – their gene activity.Blood samples were taken from three pairs of non-identical twins in Brazil. In each of these pairs, one baby had brain damage and the other didn’t. Stem cells were then made from their blood cells, and matured into brain cells, allowing researchers to see how the brain cells naturally differ between the twins.

Purdue’s Oxycontin Targeted at Judge’s Opioid Summit

February 2, 2018

(Bloomberg) – Local governments pressing lawsuits to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for the opioid epidemic told a judge that taking the strongest version of Purdue Pharma Inc.’s Oxycontin painkiller off the market would have immediate results in addressing the crisis, according to people at the meeting. Purdue’s 80-milligram version of Oxycontin is snorted by thousands of abusers, so removing it would be a good first step, experts for cities and counties and state attorneys general told U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, according to three people in attendance at the Wednesday meeting.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Will Be Lonely

February 2, 2018

(Scientific American) – As a neonatologist at a large children’s hospital, I frequently walk by a baby’s room and see no one by the bedside—day or night. The tiny premature babies spend entire days inside incubators without being held. Bigger babies who are beginning to develop social skills cry anxiously, wanting attention from someone—anyone—even from the cleaning crew in passing. Aside from the heartbreak of seeing a baby alone, lack of family visits can have negative consequences to an infant’s developmental outcome.

Early Access to Palliative Care Associated with Better Quality of Life

February 2, 2018

(Medical Xpress) – Patients with advanced cancer have a significantly better quality of life in the weeks before they die if they receive early access to palliative care, according to research published today. Researchers at the University of Leeds’ Academic Unit of Palliative Care, funded by the charity Yorkshire Cancer Research, found that a longer duration of palliative care is associated with fewer emergency hospital admissions and fewer hospital deaths. Although hospital is the most appropriate place of death for some patients, care is generally rated significantly lower compared to home, a hospice or care home.

Dutch Doctors Euthanize 29-Year-Old Woman with Depression

February 2, 2018

(Catholic Herald) – Doctors in Holland have performed the euthanasia of a young woman who was suffering from mental health problems. Aurelia Brouwers, 29, who was physically fit, was given a lethal injection less than a month after winning an eight-year battle to end her life. Her bouts of depression, she argued, made her life intolerable and led her to attempt suicide, and commit self-harm and arson.

Doctors Select First Women to Have ‘Three-Person Babies’

February 2, 2018

(The Guardian) – Doctors in Newcastle have been granted permission to create Britain’s first “three-person babies” for two women who are at risk of passing on devastating and incurable genetic diseases to their children.  The green light from the fertility regulator means that doctors at the Newcastle Fertility Centre will now attempt to make healthy embryos for the women by merging fertilised eggs created through standard IVF with DNA from female donors.

The Famine Ended 70 Years Ago, but Dutch Genes Still Bear Scars

February 2, 2018

(New York Times) – The Dutch Hunger Winter has proved unique in unexpected ways. Because it started and ended so abruptly, it has served as an unplanned experiment in human health. Pregnant women, it turns out, were uniquely vulnerable, and the children they gave birth to have been influenced by famine throughout their lives. When they became adults, they ended up a few pounds heavier than average. In middle age, they had higher levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. They also experienced higher rates of such conditions as obesity, diabetes and schizophrenia.

Drug Firm Shipped 20.8M Pain Pills to WV Town with 2,900 People

February 1, 2018

(Charleston Gazette-Mail) – Over the past decade, out-of-state drug companies shipped 20.8 million prescription painkillers to two pharmacies four blocks apart in a Southern West Virginia town with 2,900 people, according to a congressional committee investigating the opioid crisis. The House Energy and Commerce Committee cited the massive shipments of hydrocodone and oxycodone — two powerful painkillers — to the town of Williamson, in Mingo County, amid the panel’s inquiry into the role of drug distributors in the opioid epidemic.

The Doctor Responsible for Gene Therapy’s Greatest Setback Is Sounding a New Alarm

February 1, 2018

(MIT Technology Review) – An influential scientist involved in gene therapy’s biggest setback, the death of a study volunteer 19 years ago, has issued a surprise warning over the dangers of the gene-replacement technique. James Wilson of the University of Pennsylvania reported this week that monkeys and pigs given super-high doses of gene therapy died or suffered disturbing behavioral changes.

New Animal Study Raises Concerns about High-Dose Gene Therapy

February 1, 2018

(Science) – A gene therapy trial that recently led to dramatic benefits for babies born with a fatal neuromuscular condition has raised hopes for using a similar approach to treat other diseases. But a new animal study suggests that the high doses of gene-carrying viruses used in such treatments may not always be as safe as the human clinical trial indicated. In the new research, the disclosure of which briefly sent the stock prices of several gene therapies plummeting yesterday, researchers injected a handful of young monkeys and pigs with many copies of adeno-associated virus 9 (AAV9), a normally harmless virus that infects neurons and is increasingly being used to ferry therapeutic genes into cells to treat neuromuscular diseases. Within days, some of the animals developed severe liver and neuron damage.

I’m a Doctor with End-Stage Cancer. I Support Medical Aid in Dying

February 1, 2018

(STAT News) – I have had discussions with patients about putting them on a ventilator and later disconnecting it to end prolonged dying processes. I helped patients decide whether or not to undergo treatment when the alternative was death. However, when a terminally ill patient with cancer asked me to help him die peacefully to end his suffering, I was afraid that I might lose my license or, worse still, end up in prison. I’m embarrassed to say that I declined to give him a lethal prescription, as I put my needs ahead of his. That is a morally compromised position.

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