(STAT News) – Scientists eventually determined what the boy and the family had in common: mutations in a gene that functions like an on-off switch for agony. Now, a bevy of biotech companies, including Genentech and Biogen, are staking big money on the idea that they can develop drugs that toggle that switch to relieve pain without the risk of addiction. The gene in question is SCN9A, which is responsible for producing a pain-related protein called Nav1.7. In patients who feel nothing, SCN9A is pretty much broken. In those who feel searing random pain, the gene is cranking out far too much Nav1.7.
(Newsweek) – Regenerative dental fillings that allow teeth to heal themselves have been developed by researchers, potentially eliminating the need for root canals. The treatment, developed by scientists from the University of Nottingham and Harvard University, earned a prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry after judges described it as a “new paradigm for dental treatments.”
(The Telegraph) – More than a third of children born via IVF to single mothers have expressed either mixed or negative feelings about their lack of a father figure. Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that 39 percent of children aged four to nine felt ‘neutral’ about their lack of a prominent male figure at home, while 27 percent had ‘mixed feelings’ about the situation, and a further eight percent took a ‘negative’ view.
(The Guardian) – Intriguingly, scientists have recently found that many of these apparently healthy embryos have something in common: they have increased levels of the DNA that is found within mitochondria – the tiny energy-generating structures that sit inside cells. The discovery, scientists say, offers a new tool for genetically screening embryos with the technique, known as mitochondrial DNA quantification, recently made available in the US.
(Medical Xpress) – When Dolly the cloned sheep was born 20 years ago on July 5, many hailed mankind’s new-found mastery over DNA as a harbinger of medical miracles such as lab-grown transplant organs. Others trembled at the portent of a “Brave New World” of identical humans farmed for spare parts or as cannon fodder. As it turns out, neither came to pass. Human cloning—complicated, risky and ethically contentious—has largely been replaced as the holy grail of regenerative medicine by other technologies, say experts.
(The Guardian) – According to the foundation a wave of new cyborgs will be breaking at the end of the summer – and now you can be one, too. The foundation’s sister organization, Cyborg Nest, is currently taking orders for North Sense, an implant that detects magnetic north, which will become available in September for roughly $300. If this sounds nutty to you, perhaps it’s your age. According to Harbisson, young people are flocking to the idea of enhancing or adding to their senses through technology.
(Washington Post) – Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, the memory keeper for victims of Nazi persecution, and a Nobel laureate who used his moral authority to force attention on atrocities around the world, died July 2 at his home in New York. He was 87. His death was confirmed in a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Other details were not immediately available.
(Yahoo! News) – A poor couple from the Chitoor district of Andhra Pradesh recently approached the Tamballapalle Court asking for permission to kill their eight month old daughter. The infant, is suffering from congenital liver disease, and needs a liver transplant immediately, and, since the family does not have money for further treatment, according to the couple, only option remaining was mercy killing. The court rejected the plea and the Andhra Pradesh government has stepped in to bear all the medical expenses of the baby girl, Gnana Sai.
(ABC News) – Stem cells represent for some the promise of a cure from disease or relief from chronic pain conditions — and businesses have taken notice, opening clinics that market different stem-cell treatments directly to consumers. While the use of unapproved stem-cell therapies is commonly associated with international “stem cell tourism,” a new analysis in the journal Cell Stem Cell indicates that this marketplace may be much larger in the United States than previously thought.
(The Phnom Penh Post) – The National Assembly yesterday adopted a law banning commercial organ transplants in a bid to curb trafficking in the so-called “red market” trade, introducing heavy jail sentences for breaches. The law, which also covers human cells and tissues, stipulates that any donation of human parts must be undertaken on a humanitarian basis – commercial motives and advertising such services are forbidden and carry jail sentences of up to 20 years. The legislation’s passage comes two years after a seminal case of organ trafficking in the Kingdom in which Mot Hiriphin was convinced by a cousin that he could sell a kidney to pay off crippling family debt.
(Entrepreneur) – A fatal accident in which the driver of a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S car operating in Autopilot mode was killed in a collision with a truck has prompted an investigation by federal highway safety regulators, the U.S. government and Tesla disclosed on Thursday. The investigation of the first known fatality to involve a Model S operating on Autopilot comes as Tesla and other automakers are gearing up to offer systems that allow vehicles to pilot themselves under certain conditions across a wide range of vehicles over the next several years.
(Reuters) – If you have an advance directive that cherry-picks the interventions you want to receive if your heart suddenly stops, you might want to rethink your choices, according to physicians writing in JAMA Internal Medicine. As patients and families increasingly recognize the value of specifying their wishes regarding medical treatment in case they become unable to communicate, they need to better understand the implications of their decisions, the doctors say. People who prepare for the possibility of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by specifying selected options – “everything but intubation” or “everything but defibrillation” – don’t realize what that can mean, they warn.
(Medscape) – A new case report describes a patient who developed a glioproliferative neoplasm of the spinal cord after stem cell transplants at commercial clinics in China, Argentina, and Mexico. The 66-year-old man was seeking to ease residual deficits from ischemic stroke when he visited these clinics, where he underwent intrathecal infusions of mesenchymal, embryonic, and fetal neural stem cells, according to clinic reports. He wasn’t given any immunosuppressive drugs and subsequently developed the glioproliferative neoplasm. This case highlights the risks of “stem-cell tourism,” say the authors of a letter to the editor describing the case, published online June 22 in The New England Journal of Medicine.
(CNN) – Stem cell research can run the gamut from Nobel Prize-winning scientists to hucksters in lab coats making a buck off desperate, seriously ill people. The results of one new study may be less than hoped for, but the science is sound: The study concluded that injecting stem cells into the spinal cords of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is safe in most, though not all, cases. Unfortunately, the procedure provided no benefit to patients, though it caused substantial pain to two of the study participants.
(Managed Care Magazine) – Health records from 9.3 million patients are being sold online by a hacker who stole the data from a health insurance database, according to FierceHealthcare. The hacker, who calls himself “thedarkoverlord,” put the records up for sale on TheRealDeal market for $485,000 (750 bitcoins). Earlier, the same hacker put records for approximately 655,000 patients at three hospitals for sale online.
(Nature) – The US government’s proposed overhaul of regulations that govern research with human subjects is flawed and should be withdrawn, an independent advisory panel said today. The regulations, which are known collectively as the ‘Common Rule’, address ethical issues such as informed consent and storage of study participants’ biological specimens. In its report on 29 June, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said that the government’s proposed changes are “marred by omissions and a lack of clarity”, and would slow research while doing little to improve protections for patients enrolled in studies. Instead, the panel recommends that the government appoint an independent commission to craft new rules for such research.
(The Hastings Center) – It is too soon to know how the crisis that has been created by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union will play out. But it is worth considering that the field of bioethics has a grave stake in the outcome. Modern bioethics is to a great extent a product of the liberal international system put in place after World War II.
(BBC) – A woman who wants to use her dead daughter’s frozen eggs to give birth to her own grandchild has won a Court of Appeal battle. The 60-year-old woman was appealing against the UK regulator’s refusal to allow her to take her only child’s eggs to a US clinic. Her daughter, who died in 2011, was said to have asked her mother to carry her babies. The mother lost a High Court case last year. She was subsequently granted permission to challenge the decision at the Court of Appeal in London, before a panel of three judges.
(Scientific American) – Patients seeking stem cell therapies for achy joints or shoulder injuries no longer need to hop a plane to Mexico or China. More than 550 clinics around the U.S. offer unproved interventions for sports injuries and conditions including autism, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. In cities like Beverly Hills or New York a prospective patient may only need to drive some 20 or 30 minutes from the center of town to find such a treatment.
(Sci Dev Net) – For the medical relief charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), increasingly sophisticated ICT platforms offer more than an efficient way of communicating across the 60-plus countries where it operates. The digital transfer of specialist medical knowledge across continents and time zones helps improve MSF’s support for people affected by war and disasters, including some of those 65 million displaced people.