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A New Edition of The American Journal of Bioethics Is Now Available

December 4, 2017

The American Journal of Bioethics (vol. 17, no. 9, 2017) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “A Bridge Back to the Future: Public Health Ethics, Bioethics, and Environmental Ethics” by Lisa M. Lee
  • “Now is the Time for a Postracial Medicine: Biomedical Research, the National Institutes of Health, and the Perpetuation of Scientific Racism” by Javier Perez-Rodriguez and Alejandro de la Fuente

 

AI-Controlled Brain Implants for Mood Disorders Tested in People

December 1, 2017

(Nature) – Brain implants that deliver electrical pulses tuned to a person’s feelings and behaviour are being tested in people for the first time. Two teams funded by the US military’s research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), have begun preliminary trials of ‘closed-loop’ brain implants that use algorithms to detect patterns associated with mood disorders. These devices can shock the brain back to a healthy state without input from a physician. The work, presented last week at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting in Washington DC, could eventually provide a way to treat severe mental illnesses that resist current therapies. It also raises thorny ethical concerns, not least because the technique could give researchers a degree of access to a person’s inner feelings in real time.

More States Hatch Plans to Recycle Drugs Being Wasted in Nursing Homes

December 1, 2017

(Pro Publica) – ProPublica’s story detailed how the nursing home industry dispenses medication a month at a time, but then is forced to destroy it after patients pass away, stop using it or move out. Some send the drugs to massive regional incinerators or flush them down the toilet, creating environmental concerns. In Iowa, a program called SafeNetRx retrieves the excess medication, inspects it and dispenses it for free to needy patients. Almost 80,000 Iowans have used SafeNetRx to obtain medication — from cheap antibiotics to cancer drugs worth thousands of dollars per month.

Philippines Suspends Dengue Shots after Drug Firm’s Warning

December 1, 2017

(New York Times) – The Philippines suspended its school-based dengue immunization program on Friday after the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi warned that its flagship vaccine, Dengvaxia, had been found to pose health risks in people not previously infected. The suspension came after health experts expressed worries about Sanofi’s announcement this week. The company said further clinical studies had revealed that, in those who had previously had dengue, the vaccine could prevent repeat infection. But for those who had not had dengue, and were vaccinated and later became infected, “more cases of severe disease could occur,” Sanofi said in the advisory.

Brain Organoids Get Cancer, Too, Opening a New Frontier in Personalized Medicine

December 1, 2017

(STAT News) – In the barely three years since biologists discovered how to create these “brain organoids,” the lentil-sized structures have taken neuroscience by storm. Starting with a recipe developed by scientists in Austria, researchers from Japan and China to Europe and North America are seeding lab dishes with human stem cells, adding special molecules — many labs, like chili chefs, have their own secret blends — that make the stem cells morph into a variety of brain cells. They then put the dishes into special chambers called bioreactors that keep them warm and in gentle motion reminiscent of a womb, encouraging the cells to form blobs with working neurons and many other features of a full-size human brain.

FDA Approves First-of-a-Kind Test for Cancer Gene Profiling

December 1, 2017

(Medical Xpress) – U.S. regulators have approved a first-of-a-kind test that looks for mutations in hundreds of cancer genes at once, giving a more complete picture of what’s driving a patient’s tumor and aiding efforts to match treatments to those flaws. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Foundation Medicine’s test for patients with advanced or widely spread cancers, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed covering it.

New Vaccine, Long-Acting Drug Trial Buoy Hopes in HIV Fight

December 1, 2017

(Reuters) – Researchers announced the launch of two big studies in Africa on Thursday to test a new HIV vaccine and a long-acting injectable drug, fuelling hopes for better ways to protect against the virus that causes AIDS.  The start of the three-year vaccine trial involving 2,600 women in southern Africa means that for the first time in more than a decade there are now two big HIV vaccine clinical trials taking place at the same time.

Early Embryos Kept in Check

December 1, 2017

(Nature) – Shahbazi et al. used their ex utero culture systems to study the coordination between the exit from pluripotency and the formation of the amniotic cavity. First, the authors noticed that the downregulation of pluripotency genes coincided with the appearance of the amniotic cavity in both mouse and human embryos. Next, they observed that maintaining pluripotent cells in a naive state in embryos by artificially supplying LIF prevented the cells from forming the amniotic cavity.

Unconscious Patient with ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Tattoo Causes Ethical Conundrum at Hospital

December 1, 2017

(Gizmodo) – But with the “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” tattoo glaring back at them, the ICU team was suddenly confronted with a serious dilemma. The patient arrived at the hospital without ID, the medical staff was unable to contact next of kin, and efforts to revive or communicate with the patient were futile. The medical staff had no way of knowing if the tattoo was representative of the man’s true end-of-life wishes, so they decided to play it safe and ignore it.

A New Edition of Zygon Journal of Religion and Science Is Now Available

December 1, 2017

Zygon Journal of Religion and Science (vol. 52, no. 3, 2017) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Transhumanism, Theological Anthropology, and Modern Biological Taxonomy” by Travis Dumsday
  • “A Contribution to the Debate on Science and Faith by Christian Students from Abidjan” by Klaas Bom And Benno Van Den Toren
  • “Should a Christian Adopt Methodological Naturalism?” by Andrew B. Torrance
  • “Assessing the Field of Science and Religion: Advice from the Next Generation” by Michael S. Burdett
  • “Philosophical Anthropology, Ethics, and Love: Toward a New Religion and Science Dialogue” by Christian Early
  • “Knowing Ourselves as Embodied, Embedded, and Relationally Extended” by Warren S. Brown

 

A New Edition of The New England Journal of Medicine Is Now Available

December 1, 2017

The New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 377, no. 12, 2017) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Tuberculosis Elimination in the United States — The Need for Renewed Action” by R. Bayer and K.G. Castro
  • “The Fate of FDA Postapproval Studies” by S. Woloshin, L.M. Schwartz, B. White, and T.J. Moore

 

The Mysterious Return of Scarlet Fever

November 30, 2017

(Vox) – Scarlet fever, a leading killer of children in the 19th and early 20th centuries, is suddenly making a comeback in many parts of the world, and no one knows why. The bacterial infection brings on a red, sandpapery rash all over the body, a high fever, and sore throat, and can cause serious health complications, including heart and kidney damage. The advent of antibiotics in the mid-20th century made the disease less deadly.

Come for a New Hip, Stay for Sea World? San Diego Bets on Medical Tourism

November 30, 2017

(STAT News) – It’s got sun, sand, top-flight biomedical research, and highly rated hospitals. But can San Diego really become a hub for medical tourism? City leaders sure hope so. They recently launched a marketing initiative — funded mostly by a local philanthropist — that aims to attract patients from across the country and around the world. The pitch: Get your hip replaced or your cancer treated by top specialists — and then take your family to Legoland or SeaWorld.

Scientists Train Bacteria to Build Unnatural Proteins

November 30, 2017

(NPR) – Scientists say they have created a partly man-made bacterium that can produce proteins not found in nature. This new life form, the latest development in a field called “synthetic biology,” could eventually be used to produce novel drugs. The Scripps Research Institute’s Floyd Romesberg and colleagues have been pushing toward this goal for well over a decade. Three years ago, they announced that they had added two more letters to the genetic alphabet of a bacterium: To DNA’s familiar A, T, C, and G, they added X and Y.

Australian State Allows Voluntary Euthanasia in 2019

November 30, 2017

(ABC News) – An Australian state parliament on Wednesday legalized voluntary euthanasia 20 years after the country repealed the world’s first mercy-killing law for the terminally ill. The final vote in the Victorian parliament means that doctor-assisted suicide will be allowed in Australia’s second-most populous state from mid-2019. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who became a euthanasia advocate after his father died of cancer last year, said the reform showed compassion.

Gene Therapy Shows Promise for a Growing List of Diseases

November 30, 2017

(NPR) – So far, gene therapy has only been tested on a relatively small number of patients who have been followed for relatively short periods of time. Many more patients will have to be studied for longer periods before anyone really knows how well the therapies work, how long the benefits last, and whether the therapies are safe. But doctors and families of those helped so far are elated at the progress.

Cancer Stem Cells Destroyed by Drug-Filled Nanoparticles

November 30, 2017

(Medical News Today) – A team of scientists has developed drug-carrying nanoparticles that can find and kill cancer stem cells, a tiny group of rare cells that can hide in tissue and cause cancer to return years after tumors have been treated. In a paper published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign explain how they developed nanoparticles that can seek and latch on to a protein called CD44, which is found only on the surface of cancer stem cells.

The Most Promising Cancer Treatments in a Century Have Arrived But Not for Everyone

November 30, 2017

(Wired) – Though he didn’t have the molecular tools to understand why it worked, Coley’s forced infections put the body’s immune system into overdrive, allowing it to take out cancer cells along the way. While the FDA doesn’t have a formal definition for more modern immunotherapies, in the last few years it has approved at least eight drugs that fit the bill, unleashing a flood of money to finance new clinical trials. (Patients had better come with floods of money too—prices can now routinely top six figures.) But while the drugs are dramatically improving the odds of survival for some patients, much of the basic science is still poorly understood. And a growing number of researchers worry that the sprint to the clinic offers cancer patients more hype than hope.

University Was Tipped Off to Possible Unauthorized Trials of Herpes Vaccine

November 29, 2017

(Kaiser Health News) – The university that employed a controversial herpes vaccine researcher has told the federal government it learned last summer of the possibility of his illegal experimentation on human subjects. But Southern Illinois University did not publicly disclose the tip or its findings about researcher William Halford’s misconduct for months, according to a memo obtained by Kaiser Health News. Last week, Kaiser Health News reported that Halford conducted an experiment in which he vaccinated patients in U.S. hotel rooms in 2013 without any safety oversight and in violation of U.S. laws, according to patients and emails they provided to KHN to support their allegations.

How a Missouri Doctor Exposed the Atrocities at Willowbrook in New York

November 29, 2017

(Fox News) – In 1972, America was finally getting out of Vietnam. Richard Nixon became the first American president to visit China, and a news story stunned the nation. Inside the idyllic looking Willowbrook School on New York’s Staten Island, conditions were shocking. Willowbrook was a state-run human warehouse. More than 5,000 mentally ill and physically disabled children and adults lived in dirt and filth. Often left naked due to lack of caretakers, the helpless children and adults were locked inside building after building, sleeping on cots and given no education.

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