(Science) – Move over, poppies. In one of the most elaborate feats of synthetic biology to date, a research team has engineered yeast with a medley of plant, bacterial, and rodent genes to turn sugar into thebaine, the key opiate precursor to morphine and other powerful painkilling drugs that have been harvested for thousands of years from poppy plants. The team also showed that with further tweaks, the yeast could make hydrocodone, a widely used painkiller that is now made chemically from thebaine.
(The Guardian) – The anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress has released a sixth video alleging that Planned Parenthood affiliates improperly handled fetal tissue samples, part of an ongoing series of videos used as ammunition to defund the healthcare organization. But despite many hours of footage and troubling allegations, CMP has not offered proof of wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part, prompting some bioethicists to call the videos a “Trojan horse” argument – claims that reveal more political slant than wrongdoing.
(The Epoch Times) – Members of the parliament of New South Wales in Australia were ordered by a Chinese diplomat not to attend a briefing on unethical organ trafficking on Aug. 11, leading David Shoebridge, a member of the Greens party in the NSW parliament, to declare it “an extraordinary and inappropriate intervention in Australian domestic politics by the Chinese government.”
(New York Times) – In a widely expected advance that has opened a fierce debate about “home-brewed heroin,” scientists at Stanford have created strains of yeast that can produce narcotic drugs. Until now, these drugs — known as opioids — have been derived only from the opium poppy. But the Stanford lab is one of several where researchers have been trying to find yeast-based alternatives. Their work is closely followed by pharmaceutical companies and by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
(Reuters) – The U.S. government has warned states moving to defund women’s health group Planned Parenthood that they may be in conflict with federal law, officials said on Wednesday. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal agency, was in contact with officials in Louisiana and Alabama this month, said a spokesperson for the agency’s parent, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
(NPR) – If you thought that professional video game competitions would be the one sport immune to a doping scandal, you’d be wrong. While it’s not exactly the hill stage of the Tour de France, video games require alertness and stamina. And when top-level Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player Cory “Semphis” Friesen acknowledged in a recent interview that he and his team “were all on Adderall,” a stimulant normally used to treat ADHD, during a recent tournament, the (gaming) authorities took notice.
(New York Times) – Religion was never discussed in my medical training. In medical school, a priest maintained a small lounge, providing coffee and tea, where students could sometimes drop in to get coffee, but that was wholly optional, and most students never did so. Yet studies have documented the importance of religion and spirituality to many patients. Seventy percent of dying patients want their doctor to ask them about their religious beliefs.
(Pro Publica) – Bruised by criticism after a reality TV show surreptitiously recorded and aired a man’s death, New York City hospitals will no longer allow patients to be filmed without getting prior consent. The Greater New York Hospital Association, an umbrella organization that represents all of New York City’s hospitals, has asked its member institutions to put an end to filming patients for entertainment purposes without getting their permission. The move came in response to an issue raised by a ProPublica story published with The New York Times earlier this year.
(Wired) – In an era of egg freezing cocktail parties, it’s easy to forget that cryopreservation is, well, a little lacking in the science department. Women in their 30s and 40s now freezing their eggs for future in vitro fertilization are essentially part of a great, ongoing science experiment. But that’s not the message you’d get from companies like Apple and Facebook offering $20,000 for their employees to freeze their eggs and delay having children.
(Eurekalert) – Simply put, cancer is caused by mutations to genes within a cell that lead to abnormal cell growth. Finding out what causes that genetic mutation has been the holy grail of medical science for decades. Researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology believe they may have found one of the reasons why these genes mutate and it all has to do with how stem cells talk to each other.
(Medical News Today) – Using gene therapy consisting of a single injection of a modified sexual development protein stopped the growth of chemotherapy-resistant tumors in mice with ovarian cancer. This was the result of a new study by Harvard Medical School (HMS) researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, who report their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
(The Daily Signal) – The New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling on Tuesday that had created a right for doctors to help terminally ill patients die. Siding with the state’s attorney general, the appeals court ruled against physician-assisted suicide, and said, “[A]id in dying is not a fundamental liberty interest under the New Mexico Constitution.”
(The Globe and Mail) – Even when physician-assisted suicide is legal, doctors often have reservations about helping patients die, two European studies suggest. In one study, researchers reviewed euthanasia requests made to the End-of-Life Clinic, established in the Netherlands in 2012 to provide the option of physician-assisted suicide to people who met legal requirements for this possibility but couldn’t convince their regular physicians to approve it.
Journal of Medical Ethics (vol. 41, no. 7, 2015) is available online by subscription only.
- “Risk and regulation in research” by Julian Savulescu
- “Opting out: Confidentiality and availability on an ‘alibi’ for potential living kidney donors in the USA” by Carrie Thiessen, et al.
- “The ethics of molecular memory modification” by Katrina Hui and Carl E. Fischer
HEC Forum (vol. 27, no. 2, 2015) is available online by subscription only.
- “Introduction: Clinical ethics beyond the urban hospital” by Erica K. Salter and Joseph T. Norris
- “Home-based care, technology, and the maintenance of selves” by Jennifer A. Parks
- “The re-contextualization of the patient: What home health care can teach us about medical decision-making” by Erica K. Salter
Journal of Genetic Counseling (vol. 24, no. 3, 2015) is available online by subscription only.
- “Aligning policy to promote cascade genetic screening for prevention and early diagnosis of heritable diseases” by Ran George, Karen Kovak, and Summer L. Cox
- “Applying public health screening criteria: How does universal newborn screening compare to universal tumor screening for Lynch syndrome in adults with colorectal cancer?” by Deborah Cragun, Rita D. DeBate, and Tuya Pal
- “Ethical considerations in biobanks: How a public health ethics perspective sheds new light on old controversies” by Alice Hawkins Virani and Holly Longstaff
(BBC) – But his chances of getting a transplant are slim – China suffers from a huge organ shortage. For years it harvested the organs of executed prisoners to help meet demand. Following international condemnation, Beijing says it ended the practice at the start of this year – although officials admit it will be tough to ensure compliance. Now the government says it will only rely on public donations.
(Medical Xpress) – IVF success rates for women aged 43 and above could improve by retrieving eggs from their ovaries at an earlier stage of fertility treatment, according to a new study published today in the Journal of Endocrinology. US-based researchers found that the function of cells which nurse and support the development of eggs declines rapidly after 43, causing the egg to be bombarded by hormones that are normally only released after ovulation. Retrieving eggs from smaller follicles at an earlier stage in the IVF process was found to minimise this risk, resulting in a higher quality number of embryos and better clinical pregnancy rates.
(CNN) – Ever wondered how heart surgery works? Twitter can give you a lesson. A Nigerian hospital has live-tweeted an operation to repair a hole in the heart of an eight-year-old girl. Abuja’s National Hospital posted real-time updates of the girl’s surgical procedure, which lasted around three hours, on the micro-blogging site yesterday.
(Reuters) – A measles outbreak in the copper-mining Katanga province in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed 315 people and infected at least 20,000, the United Nations said on Wednesday. Hundreds more deaths have likely not been documented due to difficulties accessing remote areas, The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a draft report on the province’s worst outbreak of the disease since 2010-11.