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Sleeping Pills: A Risk of Car Crashes, Gunshot Wounds and Jason Bourne Amnesia

May 3, 2019

(Los Angeles Times) – Millions of Americans take millions of sleeping pills every year — a sign, many experts say, that human beings weren’t designed to live in a wired world of constant stimulation. All those highly addictive pills, meanwhile, have potentially serious side effects. So this week the Food and Drug Administration stepped up with a warning. “Rare but serious injuries have happened with certain common prescription insomnia medicines,” the agency said, including while people are “sleepwalking, sleep driving, and engaging in other activities while not fully awake.”

This Injectable Gel Could One Day Rebuild Muscle, Skin, and Fat

May 3, 2019

(Science) – Car crashes, battle wounds, and surgeries can leave people with gaping holes in soft tissue that are often too large for their bodies to repair. Now, researchers have developed a nanofiber-reinforced injectable gel that can rebuild missing muscle and connective tissues by serving as a scaffold and recruiting the body’s wound-healing cells. So far, the team has tested the material only in rats and rabbits. But if it performs as well in humans, it could give reconstructive surgeons a fast and easy way to help patients regenerate lost tissues without scarring or deformity.

‘Hacking Darwin’ Explores Genetic Engineering–And What It Means to Be Human

May 3, 2019

(NPR) – We all know that the world is changing. Fast. But do we know where it is going? Not exactly. That being the case, how can we control where it is going? And who is the “we” in control? In Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity, the technology futurist, geopolitical expert, past White House fellow, and, like this author, dedicated endurance athlete Jamie Metzl paints a picture that is at once wondrous and terrifying.

Death by Organ Donation: Euthanizing Patients for Their Organs Gains Frightening Traction

May 3, 2019

(USA Today) – At international medical conferences in 2018 and 2019, I listened as hundreds of transplant and critical care physicians discussed “donation after death.” This refers to the rapidly expanding scenario in Canada and some Western European countries whereby a person dies by euthanasia, with a legalized lethal injection that she or he requested, and the body is then operated on to retrieve organs for donation. At each meeting, the conversation unexpectedly shifted to an emerging question of
“death by donation” — in other words, ending a people’s lives with their informed consent by taking them to the operating room and, under general anesthesia, opening their chest and abdomen surgically while they are still alive to remove vital organs for transplantation into other people.

First U.S. Use of CRISPR to Directly Target Cancer Will Seek Go-Ahead from Regulators

May 2, 2019

(STAT News) – The Gene Editing Institute at Christiana Care Health System, a nonprofit, private community (as opposed to academic) medical system headquartered in Delaware, is preparing to seek regulatory approval for a much bolder CRISPR cancer study. If it receives the OK from the Food and Drug Administration, which it plans to request in the next few months, it would recruit six to 10 patients with late stage non-small-cell lung cancer and test whether using CRISPR to disable a particular gene would allow standard chemotherapy to work better and longer, ideally buying patients a little more time.

Amid America’s Opioid Crisis, Deaths from Stimulants Are Steadily Rising

May 2, 2019

(CNN) – Headlines about America’s drug crisis have long centered on opioids such as heroin and fentanyl. But a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paints a more complicated picture of the drug crisis. Overdose deaths involving cocaine and psychostimulants such as methamphetamines, MDMA, methylphenidate (commonly sold as Ritalin) and caffeine have also been steadily rising. In 2017, there were 23,139 overdose deaths involving these drugs, making up nearly a third of the 70,237 fatal overdoses that year, according to Thursday’s report.

Cannabis Used in US Research Differs Genetically to the Varieties People Smoke

May 2, 2019

(Nature) – The cannabis that’s used for research in the United States is genetically different to the stuff people are smoking, says a recent study. The finding suggests that research investigating the plant’s biological effects might not completely replicate the experience of people using commercially available strains ? something researchers have long suspected.

On Cyclone-Shattered Island in Mozambique, Shock and Debris

May 2, 2019

(ABC News) – Cyclone Kenneth in northern Mozambique ripped the island of Ibo apart. Nearly a week after the storm roared in, Associated Press journalists found widespread devastation. The aerial approach to the island showed communities flattened. The overwhelming majority of homes had their roofs peeled away. Contaminated wells have made safe drinking water an immediate health concern. Mozambique’s government on Thursday night reported more than a dozen cases of cholera, a disease caused by contaminated food or water, elsewhere in Cabo Delgado province.

Scientology Cruise Ship Quarantined in St. Lucia Gets Measles Vaccine

May 2, 2019

(Reuters) – Health officials for the Caribbean island of St. Lucia furnished 100 free doses of measles vaccine to a Church of Scientology cruise ship placed under quarantine in port after the highly contagious disease was diagnosed on board, the island’s chief medical officer said on Thursday.

Breast Implants Tied to Rare Cancer to Remain on US Market

May 2, 2019

(Medical Xpress) – U.S. health authorities will allow a type of breast implant linked to a rare form of cancer to stay on the market, saying its risks do not warrant a national ban. But the Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it is weighing bold warnings for the implants and requiring stricter reporting of problems by manufacturers. The announcement is the latest in the government’s decades-long effort to manage implant risks and complications that can include scarring, pain, swelling and rupture.

‘The World Has Never Seen Anything Like This’: WHO Chief on Battling Ebola in a War Zone

May 2, 2019

(Nature) – The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is distraught. The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to worsen, and his front-line responders are under attack. On 4 May, Ghebreyesus will attend the funeral of a 41-year old epidemiologist, Richard Mouzoko, who was shot dead in the city of Butembo on 19 April by men who reportedly shouted, “Ebola doesn’t exist!” Dozens of other Ebola responders have been assaulted in recent months in the northeastern DRC — a region that has been wracked by conflict for decades.

Fentanyl Executive John Kapoor’s Conviction Is Good News for Holding Corporations Accountable

May 2, 2019

(STAT News) – The feds brought down their fentanyl billionaire — make that former billionaire. John Kapoor, the founder, former chairman, and former chief executive of Insys Therapeutics, has been convicted of a racketeering conspiracy that involved bribing doctors and lying to insurance companies to boost sales of Subsys, Insys’ powerful opioid drug. Four other Insys executives were also convicted. The conviction is important because all too often when powerful executives orchestrate marketing maneuvers that put patients at risk, they go unpunished even as their companies pay fines or their lieutenants are prosecuted.

Alabama Lawmakers Move to Outlaw Abortion in Challenge to Roe v. Wade

May 2, 2019

(NPR) – In what would likely become the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, the Alabama House Tuesday passed a bill that would make it a crime for doctors to perform abortions at any stage of a pregnancy, unless a woman’s life is threatened. The legislation is part of a broader anti-abortion strategy to prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the right to abortion.

Ethical and Biosafety Oversight of New Car T-Cell Products

May 2, 2019

(GEN) – The rapidly developing field of synthetic biology—including the subfield of synthetic immunology—is putting a plethora of new tools into the hands of basic and translational scientists and enabling new technologies that are transforming molecular biology and medicine. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell technology is a shining example of the promise of using synthetic immunology to enhance human health.

What Caster Semenya IAAF Discrimination Case Means for Women and Sports

May 1, 2019

(BBC) – South African athlete Caster Semenya has lost her discrimination case against the International Association of Athletics Federation, which has found that forcing athletes with high levels testosterone to lower them is “discriminatory but necessary”. The 28-year-old Olympian had challenged the IAAF over its decision to restrict testosterone levels in female runners for distances between 400m and a mile. Semenya, who has won the last 29 of her 800m races, was born with intersex traits – meaning her body produces atypically high levels of testosterone.

Ebola Outbreak in Congo Hits Record for Confirmed Cases in Single Day

May 1, 2019

(CNN) – The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has reached a grim milestone, with 27 new cases confirmed in a single day — a record for the current outbreak. The outbreak, which is the second deadliest in history, has proved difficult to bring under control because of community mistrust and violent attacks on health care workers. The World Health Organization said 27 new confirmed cases had been reported Sunday, the most in a single day since the outbreak started in August.

New York City to Pay $3.5M Settlement in Rikers Inmate Death

May 1, 2019

(ABC News) – New York City has reached a $3.5 million settlement in a lawsuit filed over the 2014 death of a Rikers Island inmate who records show was deprived of seizure medication. The Daily News reported Wednesday that the city agreed last week to pay the money to Rolando Perez’s girlfriend, who is the mother of his now-18-year-old son.

Experimental Treatment Could Be ‘Game-Changing’ for Genetic ALS, Experts Say

May 1, 2019

(CNN) – An experimental treatment for the rapidly progressive disease ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, has been called potentially “game-changing.” The treatment, called tofersen, was found to slow the decline of muscular function associated with a genetic form of ALS in a study to be presented next weekat the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

Will Gene-Editing of Human Embryos Ever Be Justifiable?

May 1, 2019

(News-Medical) – World-leading medical ethicist Professor Arthur Caplan has published a series of recommendations with the aim of addressing worldwide concerns over gene editing of human embryos. The article, which was recently published in the journal PLoS Biology, was fuelled by the acts of He Jiankui, who announced last year that he had created the world’s first genetically edited babies. The fact that the babies had been created without ethical debate or the benefit of scientific review caused vociferous condemnation and worldwide disdain.

As Artificial Intelligence Moves Into Medicine, the Human Touch Could Be a Casualty

May 1, 2019

(NPR) – Automation like this is starting to infiltrate medical care. Depending on how it’s deployed, it could help reduce medical errors and potentially reduce the cost of care. It could also create a gulf between health caregivers and people of more modest means. “My fear is we will end up with what I’ve been calling a ‘health care apartheid,’ ” says Sonoo Thadaney Israni, at the Stanford University medical school.

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