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IVF Couples Could Be Able to Choose the ‘Smartest’ Embryo

May 27, 2019

(The Guardian) – Couples undergoing IVF treatment could be given the option to pick the “smartest” embryo within the next 10 years, a leading US scientist has predicted. Stephen Hsu, senior vice president for research at Michigan State University, said scientific advances mean it will soon be feasible to reliably rank embryos according to potential IQ, posing profound ethical questions for society about whether or not the technology should be adopted.

Federal Lawsuit Filed to Block Alabama’s New Abortion Ban

May 24, 2019

(ABC News) – A federal lawsuit filed Friday asks a judge to block an Alabama law that outlaws almost all abortions, the most far-reaching attempt by a conservative state to seek new restrictions on the procedure. The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed the lawsuit on behalf of abortion providers seeking to overturn the Alabama law that would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider. The only exception would be when the woman’s health is at serious risk.

Disabled Woman Who Gave Birth at Care Facility May Have Been Impregnated Before

May 24, 2019

(NPR) – An incapacitated woman who gave birth after being a patient at an Arizona health care facility for more than two decades had been raped repeatedly and may have been impregnated before, her lawyers say. In documents filed Wednesday, the 29-year-old woman’s attorneys cite a medical exam in alleging that she suffered multiple sexual assaults. The exam found that the birth of a baby boy last December was “a non-nulliparous event,” the documents say, meaning she may have been pregnant before.

Doping Soldiers So They Fight Better–Is It Ethical?

May 24, 2019

(The Conversation) – Soldiers have long taken drugs to help them fight. Amphetamines like Dexedrine were distributed widely to American, German, British and other forces during World War II and to U.S. service members in Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 1991, the Air Force chief-of-staff stopped the practice because, in his words, “Jedi knights don’t need them.” But the ban lasted only five years. DARPA, an agency that does cutting-edge research for the U.S. Department of Defense, is trying to make soldiers “kill-proof” by developing super-nutrition pills and substances to make them smarter and stronger. New drugs that reduce the need for sleep, such as modafinil, are being tested. Researchers are even looking into modifying soldiers’ genes.

Are Nutritional Supplements a Waste of Money?

May 24, 2019

(Scientific American) – According to the FDA, “Three out of every four American consumers take a dietary supplement on a regular basis. For older Americans, the rate rises to four in five. And one in three children take supplements.” All of these are currently regulated under guidelines known as DSHEA—the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. According to the regulations, manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that their products are safe and correctly labeled. However, unlike drug makers, supplement manufacturers do not have to submit proof of safety or efficacy before bringing their product to market. It’s sort of an honor system.

‘I Was a 31-Year-Old Kid in a Way:’ How a Cancer Diagnosis Changed a Health Care Reporter

May 24, 2019

(STAT News) – “Oh, yeah. Aside from just dealing with the administrative nightmare that is cancer, dealing with the ethical hula hoops is also, I think, the worst part about having it. But also kind of interesting. I think it really has opened up my mind to different avenues of reporting because just having to be a patient is such a time suck and also just such an emotional suck. And you really start to understand what that’s like. It’s case by case.”

Former NFL Players Die at a Faster Rate Than Other Professional Athletes, Study Finds

May 24, 2019

(STAT News) – A new study of more than 6,000 former professional athletes found that National Football League players died at a rate that was almost 1.3 times higher than Major League Baseball players. It’s the first to compare mortality rates between two groups of professional athletes; previous studies that compared professional athletes to the general population showed a lower risk of death for football players.

European Doctor Defies FDA Orders to Stop Sending US Women Abortion Pills by Mail

May 24, 2019

(CNN) – A European doctor who provides abortion pills by mail to the United States is defying an order from the US Food and Drug Administration to stop. “It is very important to continue … because it is the only safe abortion alternative for some of the most vulnerable people,” Dr. Rebecca Gomperts said in an emailed statement. “As a physician, I have the obligation to provide medical care to people in need.” A letter drawn up by Gomperts’ attorney was sent to the FDA late last week, offering a formal response to the federal agency, which had asked the doctor in March to “immediately cease causing the introduction of these violative drugs into U.S. Commerce.” 

Gene Therapy May Have Its First Blockbuster

May 24, 2019

(MIT Technology Review) – A newborn. A fatal diagnosis. And soon, a one-time gene replacement cure in the first weeks of life. The cost? You don’t want to know. Gene therapy is about to achieve a milestone. As soon as tomorrow, drug giant Novartis expects to win approval to launch what it says will be the first “blockbuster” gene-replacement treatment. A blockbuster is any drug with more than $1 billion in sales each year. The treatment, called Zolgensma, is able to save infants born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type 1, a degenerative disease that usually kills within two years. But its expected cost is shocking, too: between $1.5 and $2 million, which would make it the most expensive one-time medicine ever sold.

As the U.S. Targets China’s ‘Concentration Camps,’ Xinjiang’s Human Rights Crisis Is Only Getting Worse

May 24, 2019

(Newsweek) – At least 1 million people are, right this very moment, languishing in what the U.S. military has now deemed “concentration camps” in China. But recent attempts by U.S. officials and lawmakers to push for change have made little difference as a shocking human rights crisis continues to worsen.

The Importance of Community Involvement in Tackling Ebola

May 24, 2019

(The Guardian) – Your article (Agencies plead for ceasefire as fresh Ebola epidemic spirals out of control in DRC, 15 May) brings home how essential community involvement and participation is in responding to outbreaks such as Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When such crises emerge, a trusting relationship between responders and affected community members makes a vital difference to whether the response is effective. As shown in DRC, trust is not a given, which is one of the reasons why community engagement – involving local people in the development of the response from the very start – is so important.

Snakebite: The Hidden Health Crisis That Kills 200 People a Day

May 23, 2019

(CNN) – Snakebites kill between 81,000 and 138,000 people and disable 400,000 more every year. It’s a problem that is exacerbated by a global shortage of snake anti-venom, especially in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia where appropriate health-care facilities are few and far between. According to the UK’s Wellcome Trust, a research charity, snakebites cause more death and disability than any other neglected tropical disease.

More and More Women Are Freezing Their Eggs–But Only 21% of Those Who Use Them Have Become Mothers

May 23, 2019

(The Conversation) – Over this ten-year period, 129 women – about a fifth of all the women who had frozen their eggs at the clinic – returned to use them. Of these women, just over a third (36%) had originally frozen their eggs for so-called “social” reasons (due to, for example, a concern with reproductive ageing). The remaining two-thirds (64%) had frozen their eggs for a range of clinical reasons (as part of their IVF treatment to “batch” eggs or because there was no sperm sample available on the day of their egg collection).

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Argentina-Based Online Pharmacies for Opioids

May 23, 2019

(Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday placed sanctions on Goldpharma, an Argentina-based network of online pharmacies that it said contributed to the opioid crisis by selling clandestinely produced narcotics to customers in the United States. The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also designated eight Argentine nationals and nine entities located in Argentina, Colombia, Canada, Britain and the Netherlands for their roles in Goldpharma, the agency said in a statement.

The Philippines Is Fighting One of the World’s Worst Measles Outbreaks

May 23, 2019

(NPR) – Fifteen years ago, the Philippines had nearly eliminated measles, but the virus has made a strong comeback. Since January, the Philippines has had one of the worst measles outbreaks in the world: more than 33,000 cases and 466 deaths from the vaccine-preventable disease. The outbreak has been driven by distrust of vaccines as well as by declining rates of routine childhood immunization in the sprawling island nation.

Why Anti-Vax Doctors Are Ordering 23andMe Tests

May 23, 2019

(The Atlantic) – The paper was titled “Genetic Basis for Adverse Events after Smallpox Vaccination,” and it came up in 2016 when a vaccine-skeptical doctor tried to argue that it explained her patient’s development delays. The court was not persuaded, but Reif’s co-authors began hearing of yet other doctors using DNA tests to exempt patients from vaccines. Just this month, San Francisco’s city attorney subpoenaed a doctor accused of giving illegal medical exemptions from vaccination, based on “two 30-minute visits and a 23andMe DNA test.” On anti-vaccine blogs and websites, activists have been sharing step-by-step instructions for ordering 23andMe tests, downloading the raw data, and using a third-party app to analyze a gene called MTHFR. Certain MTHFR mutations, they believe, predispose kids to bad reactions to vaccines, possibly even leading to autism—a fear unsupported by science.

Amazon Is Getting Closer to Building an Alexa Wearable That Knows When You’re Depressed

May 23, 2019

(Gizmodo) – It looks like Amazon is working on a new Alexa-powered gadget that can listen to you and decide how you feel, and make recommendations based on your human emotions. Citing internal documents and an unnamed source, Bloomberg reports that the company has designed a device that you wear like a wristwatch and beta testing is apparently underway. “Eventually the technology could be able to advise the wearer how to interact more effectively with others,” reads the report.

HIV Upsurge in China’s Students

May 23, 2019

(Science) – Thirty years ago, China experienced its first indigenous HIV/AIDS cases. Since then, HIV has spread from drug users and blood transfusion recipients to the general urban population, mainly through sexual routes. Particularly worrisome is the recent increase of HIV infection among college students, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number of newly diagnosed college students has seen an annual growth rate ranging from 30 to 50% over the past several years. A proactive approach is required to spread public awareness of this trend and to promote aggressive prevention and treatment measures.

FDA Issues Guidance for Industry Assessing Reproductive Toxicity

May 23, 2019

(Medscape) – Cancer is diagnosed relatively rarely in pregnant women. It occurs in about 1 in 1000 pregnancies. Treating cancer in pregnant women is complex. The goal is to optimize cancer treatment while minimizing harm to the fetus. This can be tricky and largely depends on the treatment options, the impact of treatments on pregnancy, and the gestational age of the fetus. To assist in evaluating reproductive toxicity and the effect on the development of the embryo-fetus, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced final guidance for industry on reproductive toxicity testing and labeling recommendations for oncologic drugs.

‘We As A Species Need to Come to Terms’ with CRISPR Technology as China Awaits Birth of Third Genetically Modified Baby

May 23, 2019

(CNBC) – After a Chinese scientist last year made history by using CRISPR technology to genetically modify two newborns, the scientific community is now struggling to grapple with the ethics of human germline editing as another woman pregnant with a gene-edited baby is soon due to give birth. “We as a species need to come to terms with this,” Dr. William Hurlbut, a senior research scholar in neurobiology at Stanford Medical School, said Tuesday at CNBC’s Healthy Returns conference in New York. “For the first time in the history of life, we can affect the future of our evolution.”

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