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U.S. Families Provide Billions in Unpaid Care to Kids with Special Needs

December 28, 2016

(Reuters) – Millions of U.S. children with special needs receive care from family members that would cost billions of dollars if it was instead provided by home health aides receiving minimum wage, a recent study suggests. Researchers examined data from a nationally representative sample of about 42,000 parents and guardians of children with special needs surveyed from 2009 to 2010. Overall, they estimate that approximately 5.6 million children with special needs receive about 1.5 billion hours a year of unpaid care from family members.

Synthetic Stem Cells Could Offer Therapeutic Benefits, Reduced Risks

December 28, 2016

(Medical Xpress) – Researchers from North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University have developed a synthetic version of a cardiac stem cell. These synthetic stem cells offer therapeutic benefits comparable to those from natural stem cells and could reduce some of the risks associated with stem cell therapies. Additionally, these cells have better preservation stability and the technology is generalizable to other types of stem cells.

FDA Places Some Seattle Genetics Drug Trials on Hold after Four Deaths

December 27, 2016

(Reuters) – Seattle Genetics Inc said four people had died in trials testing its experimental cancer drug, prompting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to impose a clinical hold on several early-stage studies. The company’s shares fell as much as 15.7 percent to $52.18. Six patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a type of blood cancer, have been identified with liver toxicity and four have died, the company said on Tuesday. The company is working with the FDA to identify whether the drug is the cause of the toxicity.

Hospital ICUs Overused

December 27, 2016

(Science Daily) – Intensive Care Units (ICUs), which provide the most expensive and invasive forms of care in a hospital setting, are being used too often for patients who don’t need that level of care, according to a new study by LA BioMed and UCLA researchers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine today. The researchers studied 808 ICU admissions from July 1, 2015 to June 15, 2016 at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and found that more than half the patients could have been cared for in less expensive and invasive settings.

Once-Promising Diabetes ‘Breakthrough’ Comes Unglued with a Major Retraction

December 27, 2016

(STAT News) – One of the highest-profile researchers in diabetes has retracted a paper once heralded as a breakthrough, following multiple failed attempts to reproduce its headline-grabbing results. The retraction ends three years of debate over whether a discovery by Harvard University stem cell scientist Douglas Melton was indeed a major advance in the field of diabetes, with the paper’s authors now conclusively backing away from their earlier conclusions.

Dutch Medical Centre Probes Suspected IVF Sperm Mix-Up

December 27, 2016

(Medical Xpress) – A Dutch medical institution announced an investigation Tuesday after discovering that up to 26 women may have been fertilised by the wrong sperm cells at its IVF treatment laboratory.  A “procedural error” between mid-April 2015 and mid-November 2016 during the in vitro fertilisation was to blame, the University Medical Centre in Utrecht said in a statement.

U.S. Posts Rules for Addressing Cyber Bugs in Medical Devices

December 27, 2016

(Reuters) – The FDA released the 30-page guidance as the agency investigates claims from a short-selling firm and security researchers that heart devices from St. Jude Medical Inc are vulnerable to life-threatening hacks. The allegations, which surfaced in August, underscore the need for clear government rules on identifying and mitigating the impact of security vulnerabilities in medical equipment.

Early Alzheimer’s Gene Is a Curse for Families, a Gift for Science

December 27, 2016

(NPR) – Ordinarily, it’s difficult — if not impossible — to predict Alzheimer’s. But with these families, researchers know the mutation carriers will get the disease. They also know approximately when symptoms will appear. So they can get a real-time look at how the disease develops — and can measure when the brain starts changing relative to expected onset. Perhaps most important, they can design drugs to target the disease before patients lose their memory.

Rewriting the Code of Life

December 26, 2016

(The New Yorker) – Early on an unusually blustery day in June, Kevin Esvelt climbed aboard a ferry at Woods Hole, bound for Nantucket Island. Esvelt, an assistant professor of biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was on his way to present to local health officials a plan for ridding the island of one of its most persistent problems: Lyme disease. He had been up for much of the night working on his slides, and the fatigue showed. He had misaligned the buttons on his gray pin-striped shirt, and the rings around his deep-blue eyes made him look like a sandy-haired raccoon.

California Victims of Eugenics-Based Sterilization Programs Deserve Reparations, Researchers Say

December 26, 2016

(Los Angeles Times) – California should pay reparations to victims of its eugenics-based sterilization programs, which took away the reproductive abilities of about 20,000 people in the first half of the 20th century, researchers said in a new study. In particular, Mexican immigrants were disproportionately affected by those programs. And overall, an estimated 800 victims may still be alive today, according to the paper, which was released last week.

Stem Cell ‘Mini-Brain’ Very Similar to Real Brain, Study Finds

December 26, 2016

(Medical Daily) – Having a good model of the human brain enables scientists to investigate neurological disorders, find out more about brain development and function, and, perhaps in the future, even test experimental drugs before they enter the clinical trial stage. Currently, scientists typically use 2-D brain models. Latest developments in brain modeling, however, include creating functional 3-D brain-like tissue and entire “mini-brains” from human stem cells. New research investigates such a 3-D mini-brain model and examines its advantages over a 2-D brain model.

The Mitochondrial Minefield of Three-Parent Babies

December 26, 2016

(Undark) – But for all the accolades, the method also has some experts concerned — particularly after a landmark study published earlier this month in Nature. That analysis, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, head of the Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, suggested that in roughly 15 percent of cases, mitochondrial replacement could fail and actually allow fatal defects to return, or even increase a child’s vulnerability to new ailments. The findings confirmed the suspicions of many researchers, and the conclusions drawn by Mitalipov and his team were unequivocal: The potential for conflicts between transplanted and original mitochondrial genomes is real, and more sophisticated matching of donor and recipient eggs — pairing mothers whose mitochondria share genetic similarities, for example — is needed to avoid potential tragedies.

Senate Report Slams Drug Makers’ “Predatory” Pricing Model

December 26, 2016

(Managed Care Magazine) – In a new report, the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging examines the business model used by these companies; assesses the impacts of price hikes on patients, payers, providers, hospitals, and governments; and discusses potential policy responses. The committee discovered that each of the four companies followed a business model that enabled them to identify and acquire off-patent sole-source drugs, over which they could exercise de facto monopoly pricing power, and then impose and protect huge price increases. The business model consists of five central elements.

Medscape Ethics Report 2016: Life, Death, and Pain

December 26, 2016

(Medscape) – Every day, physicians grapple with wrenching life-and-death decisions. They often must weigh many factors (some conflicting), such as patient wishes, laws, right and wrong, one’s sense of duty… There are enough shades of gray such that the best course of action may not be obvious—and often there is no optimal course of action at all. Medscape’s Ethics Report premiered in 2010. Here, in our fourth report, more than 7500 physicians from more than 25 specialties shared their often clashing views on issues about life, death, and patient suffering, with some notable shifts in attitude over the years.

An Opioid Epidemic Is What Happens When Pain Is Treated Only with Pills

December 23, 2016

(The Washington Post) – How can a doctor know when opioids are right and when they’re wrong? The CDC issued new guidelines this year. But there are other players in this game: private insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Affairs and so on. That’s the reimbursement system, and it’s skewed toward pills.

Can a Pill Replace Pot for Treating Concussions

December 23, 2016

(The Atlantic) – The researchers recently began a five-year study aimed at creating a pill that athletes could take after a concussion to avert brain damage. They plan to develop this pill using cannabidiol and dexanabinol. Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is one of the-113 plus chemical compounds found in cannabis known as cannabinoids. Dexanabinol is a synthetic cannabinoid. Current evidence suggests these two particular cannabinoids have the capability to disrupt the series of chemical reactions that follow a concussion and lead to brain-cell death. CBD activates receptors that trigger a cellular repair mechanism in the brain, while dexanabinol prevents calcium from accumulating in the cells and draining their energy.

Nepal Failing to Protect Women? 15-Year-Old Dies in ‘Menstruation Hut’

December 23, 2016

(CNN) – As well as being isolated in tiny “menstruation huts” — small, ramshackle buildings with small doors and often no windows and poor sanitation and ventilation — women and girls are forbidden from touching other people, cattle, green vegetables and plants, and fruits, according to a 2011 United Nations report.  They are also not allowed to drink milk or eat milk products and their access to water taps and wells is limited.

2016’s Worst Clinical Trial Failures

December 23, 2016

(Managed Care Magazine) – Several costly trial failures have made 2016 a depressing year for drug makers, according to Motley Fool analyst Cory Renauer. Bristol-Myers Squibb, Juno Therapeutics, Celldex Therapeutics, and Clovis Oncology all learned how hard it is to score a touchdown in the oncology game. Eli Lilly and Biogen, too, stubbed their toes with failed neurology drugs. Renauer reviewed seven initially promising medications that ultimately delivered nothing but heartbreak to their developers.

In an Engineered World, Who Benefits from Biological Diversity?

December 23, 2016

(The Guardian) – Synthetic biology is often described as the application of engineering principles to biology. Some see it a fundamentally new approach to biology; others as the next stage of biotechnology; and others as simply an exercise in rebranding. As social scientists researching this field, we’ve seen the confusion of synthetic biologists as to why a treaty about biodiversity is attempting to govern their research.

Final Test Results Confirm an Ebola Vaccine Is Highly Effective

December 23, 2016

(STAT News) – Final test results confirm an experimental Ebola vaccine is highly effective, a major milestone that could help prevent the spread of outbreaks like the one that killed thousands in West Africa. Scientists have struggled to develop an Ebola vaccine over the years, and this is the first one proven to work. Efforts were ramped up after the infectious disease caused a major outbreak, beginning in 2013 in Guinea and spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone. About 11,300 people died.

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