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Ketamine Could Be the Key to Reversing America’s Rising Suicide Rate

February 5, 2019

(Bloomberg) – But there is, finally, a serious quest for a suicide cure. Ketamine is at the center, and crucially the pharmaceutical industry now sees a path. The first ketamine-based drug, from Johnson & Johnson, could be approved for treatment-resistant depression by March and suicidal thinking within two years. Allergan Plc is not far behind in developing its own fast-acting antidepressant that could help suicidal patients. How this happened is one of the most hopeful tales of scientific research in recent memory.

Study Shows Purdue’s Switch to ‘Abuse-Deterrent’ OxyContin Helped Drive a Spike in Hepatitis C Infections

February 5, 2019

(STAT News) – When Purdue Pharma reformulated its signature pain drug OxyContin in 2010, its aim was to make the pill “abuse-deterrent.” But the change may have had an unanticipated and disastrous public health impact, according to a new study: accelerating a nationwide spike in hepatitis C infections. When the new version of OxyContin became far more difficult to crush or ingest nasally, many opioid users switched to injecting illicit heroin after 2010. That shift, researchers found, caused hepatitis C rates to spike three times faster in states with the highest non-medical OxyContin use.

Romania Investigates Man Who Posed as Plastic Surgeon

February 5, 2019

(ABC News) – Authorities in Romania are investigating an Italian citizen who allegedly posed as a plastic surgeon in clinics around Bucharest. The College of Medics said Tuesday that it hadn’t issued Matteo Politi, who used the alias Matthew Mode, with a license to practice. Romanian health authorities, who must also issue a separate permit to doctors, say he was given one in March 2018 after submitting a fake diploma claiming he’d qualified as a doctor in Kosovo.

Acid Attacks: Cambodia Victims ‘Denied Government Aid’

February 5, 2019

(BBC) – Survivors of acid attacks in Cambodia are being denied free government treatment that they are legally entitled to, Human Rights Watch says. Its report focused on 17 survivors, none of whom are said to have received government aid for their injuries. In 2012, legislation was passed in Cambodia to toughen punishments for acid attack perpetrators and provide more support for victims. The government insists treatment for victims is being provided for free.

IVF Linked to Slightly Higher Risk of Maternal Complications

February 5, 2019

(CBC) – Women who become pregnant using fertility treatments — particularly in-vitro fertilization — have a slightly higher risk of severe complications around the time of delivery compared to women who conceive naturally, research suggests. Those complications include post-partum bleeding that may require a blood transfusion, admission to an intensive care unit, infection of the reproductive system, and — in extremely rare cases — death.

NHS to Sell DNA Tests to Healthy People in Push to Find New Treatments

February 4, 2019

(The Guardian) – Healthy people in England are to be given the option of paying to have their DNA analysed by the NHS in an attempt to advance understanding and uncover new medical treatments, the health secretary has said. The announcement of the service, which will also be offered for free to people with serious conditions, comes less than two months after NHS researchers said they had reached their goal of sequencing 100,000 whole genomes during five years of work by the 100,000 Genomes project.

‘We’re Still Waiting’: As Cystic Fibrosis Drugs Deliver New Hope, Not Everyone Is Being Swept Up by Scientific Progress

February 4, 2019

(STAT News) – The catch is that cystic fibrosis is not caused by one mutation, or a handful, but more than 1,500 different rearrangements in the code for the gene known as CFTR. The cutting-edge treatments — there are three available now and a fourth, still-experimental medication expected to be approved, all from Vertex Pharmaceuticals — cover the mutations held by some 90 percent of CF patients. That leaves up to 10 percent of people whose diseases are advancing without a powerful defense to slow them down. Hillman is among them.

Transplanting Pig Kidneys in Humans, 3D Organ Printing and Other Futuristic Innovations to Solve the Organ Shortage

February 4, 2019

(CNBC) – Now researchers, doctors and policymakers are exploring new strategies to increase the supply of organs needed to meet demand. Among the promising pursuits: advancing stem cell research in an effort to heal damaged organ tissue; developing biofabrication techniques in an effort to fast-track the 3D manufacturing of human organs, and using gene-editing techniques to find safe ways to use pig organs for human transplants.

Minority Hospitals Less Likely to Give End of Life Relief, Study Says

February 4, 2019

(UPI) – Hospitals that primarily serve people of color are less likely to provide relief from the stress of a serious illness, regardless of the person’s race, a new study says. Only about 22 percent of white patients with metastatic cancer received palliative care, according to research published Friday in JAMA Network Open.

Cloning Monkeys for Research Puts Humans on a Slippery Ethical Slope

February 4, 2019

(The Conversation) – It sounds like a good idea at face value – curing human disease is something most of us consider a priority. But there are some complex ethical issues at play here. First, there’s the ongoing question of how we should decide which animals should be used for research. Second, cloning itself introduces some unique problems around commodification of research animals.

Man Who Died in Mexico Flown Home ‘Without Brain, Stomach and Heart’

February 4, 2019

(News.com.au) – The body of a Korean man who died in Mexico of “natural causes” has been flown home with missing organs, prompting his widow to speak out. The 35-year-old (known only as Mr Kim) leaves behind two children and a wife, who claims there was nothing natural about her husband’s cause of death. After Mr Kim’s body was flown back to his family in South Korea “without brain, stomach and heart”, his wife claims the father-of-two was involved in a fight before he died.

New U.S. Experiments Aim to Create Gene-Edited Human Embryos

February 4, 2019

(NPR) – A scientist in New York is conducting experiments designed to modify DNA in human embryos as a step toward someday preventing inherited diseases, NPR has learned. For now, the work is confined to a laboratory. But the research, if successful, would mark another step toward turning CRISPR, a powerful form of gene editing, into a tool for medical treatment.

Unraveling the Mystery of ‘Deadly Dreams’ Syndrome

February 1, 2019

(Undark) – The syndrome, it turns out, had bedeviled Southeast Asians for generations. In the Philippines, it was called bangungot, the Tagalog word for nightmare. In Thailand, it was called lai-tai; in Japan, pokkuri. Whatever the name, the syndrome was the same: sudden death of apparently healthy young men, often at night. Halfway around the world, similar inexplicable symptoms were encountered in 1986 by Pedro Brugada, a cardiac electrophysiologist in the Netherlands, when a Polish engineer named Andrea Wockeczek barged into his office carrying his 3-year-old son. The boy, Lech, had been experiencing frequent fainting attacks. On several occasions, Wockeczek had performed chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing to resuscitate him.

Purdue Pharma Sought Secret Plan to Become ‘End-to-End Pain Provider,’ Lawsuit Alleges

February 1, 2019

(CNN) – Pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma LP secretly pursued a plan, dubbed “Project Tango,” to become “an end-to-end pain provider” by selling both opioids and drugs to treat opioid addiction, all while owners on the board — members of one of America’s richest families — reaped more than $4 billion in opioid profits, according to a lawsuit newly unredacted on Thursday.

Polar Vortex Death Toll Rises to 21 as US Cold Snap Continues

February 1, 2019

(BBC) – At least 21 people have died in one of the worst cold snaps to hit the US Midwest in decades. Ninety million people – a third of the US – have seen temperatures of -17C (0F) or below. Some 250 million Americans overall have experienced the “polar vortex” conditions. Hospitals have been treating patients reporting frostbite as parts of the country ground to a halt. Temperatures are expected to swing to above average over the weekend.

The DIY Designer Baby Project Funded with Bitcoin

February 1, 2019

(MIT Technology Review) – For a few years now, Bishop, a 29-year-old programmer and Bitcoin investor, has been leaving a trail of comments about human “enhancement” on the web. He’s a transhumanist, which means he thinks humans can be improved in profound ways by technology. He’d long exhorted others to do something about the human condition. Now, he had decided to do it himself.

How Virtual Reality Will Transform Medicine

February 1, 2019

(Scientific American) – Even in the early days, when the user entered a laughably low-resolution world, VR showed great promise. By the mid-1990s research had shown it could distract patients from painful medical procedures and ease anxiety disorders. One initial success was SnowWorld, which immersed burn patients in a cool, frozen landscape where they could lob snowballs at cartoon penguins and snowmen, temporarily blocking out the real world where nurses were scrubbing wounds, stretching scar tissue and gingerly changing dressings.

Northwest US Measles Cases Prompt Look at Vaccine Exemptions

February 1, 2019

(ABC News) – A measles outbreak near Portland, Oregon, has revived a bitter debate over so-called “philosophical” exemptions to childhood vaccinations as public health officials across the Pacific Northwest scramble to limit the fallout. At least 43 people in Washington and Oregon have fallen ill in recent weeks with the extraordinarily contagious virus, which was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000 as a result of immunization but arrives periodically with overseas travelers.

When Is the Surgeon Too Old to Operate?

February 1, 2019

(New York Times) – The physician work force, like the rest of the population, has grown substantially grayer in recent years. Almost a quarter of practicing physicians were 65 or older in 2015, according to the American Medical Association. In 2017, more than 122,00 physicians in that age group were engaged in patient care. Health care researchers and analysts are debating what, if anything, to do about this tide of aging practitioners. “We know that human faculties decrease with age,” said Dr. Mark Katlic, the thoracic surgeon who founded Sinai Hospital’s program.

American Scientist Played More Active Role in ‘CRISPR Babies’ Project Than Previously Known

February 1, 2019

(STAT News) – An American scientist at Rice University was far more involved in the widely condemned “CRISPR babies” experiment than has previously been disclosed. Most notably, STAT has learned that Rice biophysicist Michael Deem was named as the senior author on a paper about the work that was submitted to Nature in late November. Deem’s prominent authorship indicates that a respected American researcher played an instrumental role in the controversial project, which sparked a worldwide furor. His involvement could have encouraged volunteers to join the experiment and lent credibility to He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who led the work.

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