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Other Factors May Explain Preterm Births Associated with IVF

February 1, 2019

(Reuters) – Women are more likely to have preemies when they use reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF), but a new study comparing outcomes for these babies to siblings conceived naturally suggests that other factors may be the cause of these early arrivals.

How Machine Learning Could Keep Dangerous DNA Out of Terrorists’ Hands

January 31, 2019

(Nature) – Biologists the world over routinely pay companies to synthesize snippets of DNA for use in the laboratory or clinic. But intelligence experts and scientists alike have worried for years that bioterrorists could hijack such services to build dangerous viruses and toxins — perhaps by making small changes in a genetic sequence to evade security screening without changing the DNA’s function. Now, the US government is backing efforts that use machine learning to detect whether a DNA sequence encodes part of a dangerous pathogen.

US Customs Announces Largest Fentanyl Seizure in Its History

January 31, 2019

(CNN) – US Customs and Border Protection made the largest seizure of fentanyl in the agency’s history on Saturday at the Nogales port of entry on the US-Mexico border, Port Director Michael Humphries announced Thursday.  Officers uncovered 100 packages of fentanyl weighing nearly 254 pounds and with an estimated value of $3.5 million, Humphries said. The fentanyl was mostly in powder form, with some in pill form.

U.S., China Take the Lead in Race for Artificial Intelligence: U.N.

January 31, 2019

(Reuters) – China and the United States are ahead of the global competition to dominate artificial intelligence (AI), according to a study by the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) published on Thursday.  The study found U.S. tech giant IBM had by far the biggest AI patent portfolio, with 8,920 patents, ahead of Microsoft with 5,930 and a group of mainly Japanese tech conglomerates. China accounted for 17 of the top 20 academic institutions involved in patenting AI and was particularly strong in the fast growing area of “deep learning” – a machine-learning technique that includes speech recognition systems.

Report: Nobel Prize-Winning Biologist Knew About Gene-Edited Babies for Months but Kept Quiet

January 31, 2019

(Gizmodo) – The Associated Press reports that Nobel laureate and biologist Craig Mello was aware of a pregnancy in China involving gene-edited babies for months before the news went public. That a prominent scientist knew of this highly unethical work but chose to remain silent is a serious cause for concern, and a sign that the culture around questionable research needs to change.

Someday, a Pig’s Heart Might Save a Child’s Life

January 31, 2019

(U.S. News & World Report) – The supply of donor organs for infants needing a heart transplant is critically low, but researchers have taken a first step toward using pig hearts to fill the need. The concept of using animal organs to save human lives has been around for years. With donor organs in short supply, the hope is that animal organs can keep patients alive while they await a human donor.

Sperm Donation Is Testing What It Means to Be a Legal Parent, All the Way to the High Court

January 31, 2019

(The Conversation) – The family courts have historically treated legal parentage as a question of who has “begotten or borne” a child. But increasingly complex family situations created as a result of donor conception, surrogacy, IVF and DNA testing are sorely testing this biblical-sounding definition.  In 2019, the Australian High Court will be hearing the appeal concerning the legal parentage of a child born via sperm donation. This is a crucial opportunity for the court to reconsider the “begotten or borne” definition, and the emphasis currently placed on biology and how someone was conceived.

Wanting to Die at ‘Five to Midnight’–Before Dementia Takes Over

January 30, 2019

(BBC) – It’s not unusual for Dutch patients with dementia to request euthanasia, but in the later stages of the disease they may be incapable of reconfirming their consent – one doctor is currently facing prosecution in such a case. But fear of being refused is pushing some to ask to die earlier than they would have liked.

After Ghoulish Allegations, a Brain-Preservation Company Seeks Redemption

January 30, 2019

(STAT News) – Reports that his 3-year-old startup, Nectome, aims to “preserve your brain to bring you back in the future” (according to the website of its venture capital funder) or to “back up your mind,” as per a now-disappeared tease on Nectome’s website? “What we’re focused on is preserving long-term memory,” insists McIntyre, 30, sitting at a conference table in Nectome’s new, two-room headquarters within shouting distance of San Francisco’s airport, “not reading or decoding it. The field of memory preservation doesn’t exist. We’re trying to create it.” It has not been an easy year for McIntyre or Nectome, but they’re determined to claw their way out of scientific purgatory.

Japan Should Put the Brakes on Stem-Cell Sales

January 30, 2019

(Nature) – Meanwhile, in Japan, a more worrisome approach is unfolding. Last month, researchers at Sapporo Medical University leapfrogged all other spinal-cord injury treatments that use stem cells — including the one being investigated by Asterias — and received market approval for injections of a type of cell called a mesenchymal stem cell. There are reasons to be sceptical, or at least to delay the sale of this procedure to patients.

Big Pharma’s Drug Studies Are Getting a NASA-Style Makeover

January 30, 2019

(Bloomberg) – Discoveries of new cancer-fighting and antiviral medicines grab headlines and sometimes win Nobel Prizes. But after the breakthroughs and backslapping are over, Big Pharma’s grunt work is just beginning. Companies carry out years of costly studies to prove treatments are safe and effective: finding hospitals and clinics to participate, hunting down patients who fit precise descriptions, tracking their health in minute detail for years while ensuring they take their medications, and then combing through heaps of data that will determine whether doctors can prescribe them. It’s the unsexy side of the industry, and it’s a big reason it can take more than $2 billion and 12 years to launch a new treatment.

A Controversial Fertility Treatment Gets Its First Big Test

January 30, 2019

(Wired) – She is now 28 weeks along with a baby boy, according to a Spanish company called Embryotools, which announced the pregnancy earlier this month. The fertility tech firm is collaborating with the Institute of Life to conduct the first known human trial of the procedure, called mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), for treating infertility. Their pilot study in Greece will eventually enroll 25 women under the age of 40 who’ve failed to conceive using conventional methods of IVF. It’s the largest test yet of the controversial new method of procreation.

Is the Future of Abortion Online?

January 30, 2019

(The Conversation) – Combining the advent of medical abortion with communication technologies, telemedicine services can provide access to safe abortion worldwide. Run by medical doctors, social workers and even volunteers, such platforms not only furnish women with medical abortion pills, but they also provide counselling and assistance throughout and even after the procedure.

Stem Cells Motivate Ocular Surface Repair in Trial with Vision Loss Patients

January 30, 2019

(UPI) – New stem cell research may bring renewed hope for people who suffer from vision problems. Researchers transplanted eye tissue created from stem cells into the eyes of patients with a condition that causes blindness, according to a study published Monday in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine. Just 18 months after the laser-based surgery, the patients’ sight greatly improved.

Artificial Intelligence Could Identify You and Your Health History from Your Step Tracker

January 30, 2019

(U.S. News & World Report) – Recent revelations about how social media giants misuse our personal data for profit have elevated the issue of privacy among Americans, but what if this data also included our personal health records? Every day, millions of Americans use Fitbits and other personal activity trackers, often at the prompting of employers who provide incentives to wear the devices. But as these individuals’ data profiles are shared — with their companies, as well as with health care providers that oversee corporate wellness programs — there is significant risk that the data could later be used to identify who they are and link their identities to detailed medical profiles that can be bought by companies, researchers, or anyone else.

American Blamed for Singapore Data Leak on 14,200 HIV+ Patients

January 29, 2019

(Bloomberg) – Records of as many as 14,200 people with HIV and their 2,400 contacts have been “illegally disclosed online”, Singapore’s health ministry said in a statement, marking the second cyberattack the city-state has suffered in a year. The HIV-registry data was leaked by a U.S. citizen, Mikhy K. Farrera Brochez, who was deported from Singapore after serving jail time for fraud and drug-related offenses, the ministry said. The leaked information included names, test results and contact details of 5,400 Singaporean citizens and 8,800 foreigners.

Real-World Evidence Is Changing the Way We Study Drug Safety and Effectiveness

January 29, 2019

(STAT News) – Randomized controlled clinical trials are a great way to test the safety and effectiveness of a new drug. But when the trial is over and the drug approved, it’s used by patients and health care practitioners in settings that are quite different from the rarified clinical trial setting. Interesting, important, and sometimes surprising findings can emerge when the narrow constraints of clinical trial eligibility and intent-to-treat analyses are set aside.

A Medical Hell Recounted by Its Victims

January 29, 2019

(Nature) – In the 1840s, the Alabama physician James Marion Sims conducted infamous experimental gynaecological surgery exclusively on black women, bound to the surgical table by chattel slavery, physical force and opium. The drug did not allay their pain, and some historians think that they became addicted to it. Now, playwright Charly Evon Simpson offers a fictionalized retelling of Sims’s egregious practices in Behind the Sheet.

One Percent of US Teenagers Are Using Flakka–But It Could Be More

January 29, 2019

(CNN) – The research, which Palamar said is the first national study on flakka use, analyzed data from Monitoring the Future, an annual survey that looks at drug use in high school students, conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. The study found that of the students who said they had used flakka in the previous year, 19.2% had used it more than 40 times. Those who used it knowingly were more likely to live away from their parents and to have used other drugs.

More Pregnant Women Exposed to Opioids in Areas with Few Jobs

January 29, 2019

(UPI) – A baby born into a community with high joblessness is more likely to be addicted to opioids, a new study says. The parts of the United States with the highest rates of long-term unemployment and the lowest concentration of mental health services have the highest number of babies with prenatal exposure to opioids, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

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