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Angelina Jolie Shed Light on a Rare But Potentially Misleading Mutation That Ups Your Risk of Breast Cancer–and Now 23andMe Will Test You for It

April 2, 2018

(Business Insider) – The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but spit is increasingly the portal to your health.  The consumer genetics company 23andMe recently got a green light from the US Food and Drug Administration to include information on breast-cancer risk in its online customer reports, based on screening for three of the multiple genetic mutations linked to the disease. But the new test could be dangerously misleading, according to several genetics experts in the industry who spoke with Business Insider about the new test.

Pediatric Center Requests OK to Launch Embryonic Stem Cell Trial for Liver Treatment

April 2, 2018

(The Japan Times) – A medical institution has applied for permission to carry out a clinical trial that will attempt to use embryonic stem cells to treat babies with a severe liver condition, which would be a first for Japan. The National Center for Child Health and Development plans to commercialize the process around 2020 to treat babies with livers that are unable to detoxify ammonia, one of the compounds resulting from the body’s processing of protein.

Hawaii Senate Passes Medical Aid in Dying, Sending Legislation to Governor

April 2, 2018

(Honolulu Star Advisor) – A bill to legalize medically assisted death for terminally ill patients now awaits Gov. David Ige’s signature to become law after the state Senate today passed the measure. The Senate voted 23-2 to approve House Bill 2739, known as the Our Care, Our Choice Act. The bill sets out procedures for mentally competent adult residents who have been given six months or less to live to request prescriptions for lethal doses of medication to be self-administered.

NIH Moves to Punish Researchers Who Violate Confidentiality in Proposal Reviews

April 2, 2018

(Science Magazine) – When a scientist sends a grant application to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, and it goes through peer review, the entire process is supposed to be shrouded in secrecy. But late last year, NIH officials disclosed that they had discovered that someone involved in the proposal review process had violated confidentiality rules designed to protect its integrity. As a result, the agency announced in December 2017 that it would rereview dozens of applications that might have been compromised.

Nature Journal Retracts Controversial CRISPR Paper after Authors Admit Results May Be Wrong

April 2, 2018

(Retraction Watch) – Nature Methods has retracted a 2017 paper suggesting a common gene editing technique may cause widespread collateral damage to the genome. The notice has a long backstory: After the paper was published, it immediately drew an outcry from critics (including representatives from companies who sell the tool, whose stock fell after publication). Some critics argued that the authors, led by Vinit B. Mahajan at Stanford University, hadn’t employed sufficient controls, so they couldn’t be sure that the observed mutations stemmed from the tool, rather than normal background variation between mice.

Chile and Its Scientists Protest Research on Tiny Mummy

April 2, 2018

(New York Times) – In a telephone interview, two authors of the new study, Dr. Garry P. Nolan, an immunologist at Stanford University, and Atul Butte of the University of California, San Francisco, defended the ethics of their research. “We had no involvement or knowledge of how the skeleton was originally obtained nor how it was sold or exported to Spain,” Dr. Butte said. “We had no reason to suspect in this case that this sample was illegally obtained.” He noted that there were reports about the remains on Chilean television for 15 years without the government investigating the case.

Enough with the Trolley Problem

March 30, 2018

(The Atlantic) – But there’s a problem with the trolley problem. It does a remarkably bad job addressing the moral conditions of robot cars, ships, or workers, the domains to which it is most popularly applied today. Deploying it for those ends, especially as a source of answers or guidance for engineering or policy, leads to incomplete and dangerous conclusions about the ethics of machines.

CDC Director Pledges to Bring Opioid Epidemic ‘To Its Knees’

March 30, 2018

(ABC News) – The new director of the top U.S. public health agency on Thursday pledged to work to bring the nation’s opioid epidemic “to its knees” and said he believes the AIDS epidemic could be ended in three to seven years. Dr. Robert Redfield Jr. made the comments at a staff meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Redfield started the job Monday, less than a week after U.S. officials announced they were appointing him the CDC director.

Time’s Running Out: The Frail in Puerto Rico Face End of Hurricane Relief Programs

March 30, 2018

(Kaiser Health News) – Six months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and its economy — and killing by some estimates at least 1,052 people — the daily indignities are piling up, especially for people who are frail or elderly. Many are finding their current economic straits nearly as threatening as the storm. The storm also crippled the island’s power grid, and as of Sunday 86,000 utility customers still had no electricity in their homes and businesses, affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

‘Aggressive’ Advance Directive Permits Halting Food and Water in Severe Dementia

March 30, 2018

(NPR) – Treading into ethically and legally uncertain territory, a New York end-of-life agency has approved a new document that lets people stipulate in advance that they don’t want food or water if they develop severe dementia. The directive, finalized this month by the board for End Of Life Choices New York, aims to provide patients a way to hasten death in late-stage dementia, if they choose. Dementia is a terminal illness, but even in the seven U.S. jurisdictions that allow medical aid-in-dying, it’s not a condition covered by the laws.

Genetic Profiling Could Improve IVF Success

March 30, 2018

(Medical Xpress) – Genetic profiling could help determine whether an embryo created through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is likely to successfully transfer to the womb, increasing the success rate of the procedure. It’s part of a field of work looking at the role of genetics in fertility. “Understanding why some people do not have children, and developing treatments for them is extremely important,” said Joris Vermeesch, professor of molecular cytogenetics and genome research at KU Leuven in Belgium. “People sometimes spend years of their life trying to get pregnant, and it doesn’t work.”

Two Controversial Stem Cell Trials Could Harm Patients, Critics Say

March 30, 2018

(Science Magazine) – But is the idea underlying Macchiarini’s work—”seeding” a scaffold with a patient’s own stem cells, in hopes of regenerating a healthy, functional organ—still worth testing in patients? That’s the question facing scientists in the United Kingdom, where two trials of stem cell–based larynx (voice box) and trachea transplants are planned but on hold in the wake of the scandal.

House Joins Senate in OK’ing Bill on Embryo Use in Divorce

March 30, 2018

(U.S. News & World Report) – The Arizona House has joined the Senate in approving a bill allowing a parent to use embryos created during a marriage even after a divorce. Wednesday’s House action sends the bill pushed by Republican Sen. Nancy Barto and the social conservative group Center for Arizona Policy to GOP Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk. It came over united opposition from House Democrats who argued it interfered with legal agreements.

A Planned Parenthood Branch Demanded ‘a Disney Princess Who’s Had an Abortion.’ Then It had Second Thoughts.

March 29, 2018

(The Washington Post) – A Planned Parenthood branch ventured into the intersection between Disney princess memes and abortion politics on Tuesday — briefly — before deciding that, on second thought, those two things probably shouldn’t intersect and deleted its tweet. The tweet became infamous anyway, of course. And while Planned Parenthood Keystone has not apologized for it, the president of the eastern Pennsylvania branch has called the message inappropriate and tried to explain the thinking behind it.

Romania: Authorities Offer Money for In-Vitro Fertilization

March 29, 2018

(ABC News) – Authorities in the Romanian capital have promised financial aid for women who seek fertility treatment to get pregnant in a bid to increase falling birthrates. Bucharest Mayor Gabriela Firea adopted a project Wednesday that will provide 13,800 lei ($3,700) for women who seek in-vitro fertilization. Up to 1,000 women will be able to benefit from the aid, to be paid in three installments.

Beware: Hospitals Think ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Means You Don’t Want to Live

March 29, 2018

(New York Post) – Patients, beware. When you’re admitted to a hospital, you’re routinely asked if you want to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order. Don’t assume it’ll apply only in extreme circumstances. New research shows having those three letters — DNR — on your chart could put you on course to getting less medical and nursing care throughout your stay. Fewer MRIs and CT scans, fewer medications, even fewer bedside visits from doctors, according to the Journal of Patient Safety. A DNR could cost you your life.

Transhumanism: Advances in Technology Could Already Put Evolution into Hyperdrive–But Should They?

March 29, 2018

(The Conversation) – The central premise of transhumanism, then, is that biological evolution will eventually be overtaken by advances in genetic, wearable and implantable technologies that artificially expedite the evolutionary process. This was the kernel of More’s founding definition in 1990. Article two of the periodically updated, multi-authored “transhumanist declaration” continues to assert the point: “We favor morphological freedom – the right to modify and enhance one’s body, cognition and emotions.”

China Singer Denied Bank Account Because He’s Blind

March 29, 2018

(BBC) – A Chinese folk singer has received an apology from a bank after he was denied an account because of his disability. Zhou Yunpeng is blind, and was told he was not allowed a bank account when he visited his local Bank of China branch in southern Shenzhen. The bank said it was because he was deemed to be “a person without capacity for civil conduct”.  The incident has sparked discussion on Chinese media about whether enough is being done to help the disabled. Some 85 million people in China have a disability, 17 million of whom are visually impaired.

The Controversial Study of a Girl Who Ufologists Called ‘Alien’

March 29, 2018

(The Atlantic) – This redemptive scientific narrative took shape, only to be punctured by a sharply critical editorial in Etilmercurio, a Chilean science website. Cristina Dorador condemned the DNA analysis as unethical given the origins of the girl’s body. “If samples are obtained unethically, any resulting science is not ethical, and as such, should not be published,” she wrote. Then, the gut punch: “Would these authors be happy working on the body of a surreptitiously buried child from Boston, MA or Santa Barbara, CA? Or are the ethics of working on children from less-developed nations less complicated?” On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the Chilean National Monuments Council is investigating whether the girl’s body had been dug up and sold illegally.

Patients Who Travel Abroad for Plastic Surgery Can Bring Home Serious Complications

March 29, 2018

(Medical Xpress) -With the promise of inexpensive procedures luring patients to travel abroad for plastic surgery, medical tourism has become an expanding, multi-billion-dollar industry. But while the initial procedure may be cheap, it can place a significant burden on U.S. public health systems when patients return from abroad with complications. A new study by investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital describes the magnitude of medical complications that can result from plastic surgery abroad. Their study is published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

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