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The Brain, the Criminal and the Courts

September 5, 2019

(Knowable Magazine) – Despite this explosion in neuroscience knowledge, and notwithstanding Hinckley’s successful defense, “neurolaw” hasn’t had a tremendous impact on the courts — yet. But it is coming. Attorneys working civil cases introduce brain imaging ever more routinely to argue that a client has or has not been injured. Criminal attorneys, too, sometimes argue that a brain condition mitigates a client’s responsibility. Lawyers and judges are participating in continuing education programs to learn about brain anatomy and what MRIs and EEGs and all those other brain tests actually show.

The Problem with MRIs for Low Back Pain

September 5, 2019

(Undark) – It’s a symptom of a well-diagnosed problem: the overuse of medical services. Unnecessary imaging isn’t confined to just low back pain. Americans spend more than $100 billion on various types of diagnostic imaging each year, much of which is unnecessary and potentially even harmful. F. Todd Wetzel, past president of the North American Spine Society, identifies the problem as “the technological tail wagging the medical dog.” After MRI and computed tomography (CT) emerged in the 1970s, many physicians started routinely using scans to make a diagnosis for low back pain, rather than using them the way they’re intended to be used: to confirm or refute an uncertain diagnosis.

Czech Doctors Deliver Baby Girl 117 Days After Mother’s Brain-Death

September 5, 2019

(Reuters) – When a helicopter rushed an unconscious Czech woman who had suffered a severe stroke to hospital in April, her chances of survival were slim – and those of the foetus she had carried in her womb for 15 weeks little better. And yet, on Aug. 15, against all odds, a healthy baby girl was born by caesarean section – weighing 2.13 kg (4.7 lb) and measuring 42 cm (16.5 inches) – to her brain-dead mother, setting a new record in the process, Brno’s University Hospital said on Monday.

Coming Soon to a Battlefield: Robots That Can Kill

September 4, 2019

(The Atlantic) – Lethal, largely autonomous weaponry isn’t entirely new: A handful of such systems have been deployed for decades, though only in limited, defensive roles, such as shooting down missiles hurtling toward ships. But with the development of AI-infused systems, the military is now on the verge of fielding machines capable of going on the offensive, picking out targets and taking lethal action without direct human input. So far, U.S. military officials haven’t given machines full control, and they say there are no firm plans to do so.

The First and Last Resort

September 4, 2019

(Managed Care Magazine) – What the man in Room 15 and many other patients with behavioral health problems endured is called—with a whiff of euphemism—psychiatric boarding. When no treatment is available, ED patients with behavioral health needs are often tucked away in back hallways, or, like Weiner’s patient, put in a secure room under a constant, vigilant eye. Sedation, even physical restraints, are used. Boarding behavioral health patients is neither unusual—or new. In October 2008, the Lewin Group and the HHS published a paper that said that 80% of ED medical directors reported boarding behavioral health patients.

French Bioethics Bill Will Lead to the ‘Mutilation’ of Intersex Children–Claim

September 4, 2019

(RFI) – The proposed bioethics law deals with such issues as making Medically Assisted Reproduction available to lesbian couples, as well refining clauses on filiation and the anonymity of gamete donors. During the first day of deliberations, Laurène Chesnel, a member of the Inter-LGBT association, addressed a topic that is not even included in the legislation. She asked the government to “put an end to the mutilations performed on intersex infants”.

Four U.S. CRISPR Trials Editing Human DNA to Research New Treatments

September 4, 2019

(Smithsonian) – Last fall, the birth of genetically edited twin girls in China—the world’s first “designer babies”—prompted an immediate outcry in the medical science community. The change to the twins’ genomes, performed using the gene editing technology CRISPR, was intended to make the girls more resistant to H.I.V. But the edited genes may result in adverse side effects, and the International Commission on the Clinical Use of Human Germline Genome Editing is currently working on stricter and less ambiguous guidelines for editing the DNA of human embryos as a response to the rogue experiment. Human genetic engineering has also witnessed more regulated advances. In the past 12 months, four clinical trials launched in the United States to use CRISPR to treat and potentially cure patients of serious medical conditions.

When Apps Get Your Medical Data, Your Privacy May Go With It

September 3, 2019

(New York Times) – Americans may soon be able to get their medical records through smartphone apps as easily as they order takeout food from Seamless or catch a ride from Lyft. But prominent medical organizations are warning that patient data-sharing with apps could facilitate invasions of privacy — and they are fighting the change.

A Tiny, 25-Year-Old Study Still Drives Opinion on Pregnancy and Pot

September 3, 2019

(The Atlantic) – Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive molecule in cannabis, is small and fat-soluble, easily crossing the placenta into the fetal bloodstream. The blood circulates THC throughout the body, including the brain, where the molecule can interact with endocannabinoid receptors active in neurodevelopment. How that might affect a developing fetus isn’t easy to sort out, and medical groups acknowledge that the science has limitations and inconsistencies. Still, they say, there are enough studies—many more recent than Dreher’s—linking cannabis use to outcomes such as low birthweight among regular users and changes in brain development to recommend against using it during pregnancy.

The Science of Senolytics: How a New Pill Could Spell the End of Ageing

September 3, 2019

(The Guardian) – It could happen, with the science of senolytics: an emerging – and highly anticipated – area of anti-ageing medicine. Many of the world’s top gerontologists have already demonstrated the possibilities in animals and are now beginning human clinical trials, with promising results. If the studies continue to be as successful as hoped, those who are currently middle-aged could become the first generation of oldies who are youthful for longer – with a little medical help.

IVF Changes Babies’ Genes But These Differences Disappear by Adulthood

September 3, 2019

(The Conversation) – Around one in 25 Australian children are now conceived through use of assisted reproductive treatments such as IVF. These reproductive technologies appear to leave a biological “signature” on several genes that can be measured at birth. This may explain why assisted conception increases the chance of early delivery, low birth weight and congenital abnormalities – and the question has remained about why this might be so. But the good news, according to our research published today in the journal Nature Communications, is these “epigenetic” changes largely disappear by adulthood. In fact, people born via IVF are as healthy as their naturally conceived peers.

Woman Is First to Receive Cornea Made from ‘Reprogrammed’ Stem Cells

September 3, 2019

(Nature) – A Japanese woman in her forties has become the first person in the world to have her cornea repaired using reprogrammed stem cells. At a press conference on 29 August, ophthalmologist Kohji Nishida from Osaka University, Japan, said the woman has a disease in which the stem cells that repair the cornea, a transparent layer that covers and protects the eye, are lost. The condition makes vision blurry and can lead to blindness. To treat the woman, Nishida says his team created sheets of corneal cells from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. These are made by reprogramming adult skin cells from a donor into an embryonic-like state from which they can transform into other cell types, such as corneal cells.

Firing Doctor, Christian Hospital Sets Off National Challenge to Aid-in-Dying Laws

September 2, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – Centura Health Corp. this week abruptly terminated Dr. Barbara Morris, 65, a geriatrician with 40 years of experience, who had planned to help her patient, Cornelius “Neil” Mahoney, 64, end his life at his home. Mahoney, who has terminal cancer, is eligible to use the state’s law, overwhelmingly approved by Colorado voters in 2016. The growing number of state aid-in-dying provisions are increasingly coming into conflict with the precepts of faith-based hospitals, which oppose the practice on religious grounds.

The $6 Million Drug Claim

September 2, 2019

(New York Times) – While it’s hardly a household name, Strensiq is one of the costliest drugs in the world. It is part of an unsettling trend in which ultraexpensive drugs are becoming more common, spurring a national debate over whether any drug should cost millions of dollars, and whether Americans will be priced out of lifesaving treatments as drug companies maximize their profits.

People Are Vaping TCH. Lung Injuries Being Reported Nationwide. Why Is the CDC Staying Quiet?

September 2, 2019

(USA Today) – Federal health officials are under fire for their unclear public warnings after one death and nearly 200 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses, which some say are related to the far riskier practice of vaping marijuana oil rather than nicotine. Some state health department and news reports suggest many of the cases of lung problems involve tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, the chemical in marijuana that causes psychological effects.

5 Facts About the Abortion Debate in America

September 2, 2019

(Pew Research) – More than four decades after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, opponents and supporters of abortion rights are still battling over the issue in court, at the ballot box and in state legislatures. A recently enacted Alabama law has been described as the nation’s most restrictive, and several other states also have passed new restrictions on abortion with an eye toward giving the Supreme Court a chance to overturn its decision in Roe. As the debate over abortion continues, here are five key facts about Americans’ views on the topic, based on recent Pew Research Center polling.

Ebola Death Toll in East Congo Outbreak Climbs Above 2,000

August 30, 2019

(Reuters) – The death toll from Democratic Republic of Congo’s year-long Ebola outbreak has climbed above 2,000, government data showed on Friday, as responders battle to overcome community mistrust and widespread security problems. The death in neighboring Uganda of a 9-year-old girl who had tested positive for the virus after entering the country from Congo underscored the challenge medical teams face containing the disease in border territory with a highly mobile population.

Brain-Reading Tech Is Coming. The Law Is Not Ready to Protect Us.

August 30, 2019

(Vox) – “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.” That’s from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, published in 1949. The comment is meant to highlight what a repressive surveillance state the characters live in, but looked at another way, it shows how lucky they are: At least their brains are still private. Over the past few weeks, Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink have announced that they’re building tech to read your mind — literally. 

Transplant Centers Reject Potentially Usable Kidneys as Patients Die, Study Says

August 30, 2019

(UPI) – Transplant centers are rejecting viable kidneys on behalf of patients whose lives might have been saved by the organs, a new study says. Roughly 9 percent of all people looking for a kidney died on the waitlist, according to research published Friday in Jama Open Network. Meanwhile, doctors declined 84 percent of kidneys for use on behalf of at least one patient before ultimately being transplanted to another.

After Months in a Dish, Lab-Grown Minibrains Start Making ‘Brain Waves’

August 30, 2019

(NPR) – By the time a fetus is 6 months old, it is producing electrical signals recognizable as brain waves. And clusters of lab-grown human brain cells known as organoids seem to follow a similar schedule, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell. “After these organoids are in that six-to-nine-months range, that’s when [the electrical patterns] start to look a lot like what you’d see with a preterm infant,” says Alysson Muotri, director of the stem cell program at the University of California, San Diego.

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