(UPI) – Scientists have already successfully developed pluripotent stem cells in the lab, cells which can form any type of tissue. Totipotent stem cells are the pinnacle for stem cell scientists, however. And for the first time, researchers have found a way to engineer them. Unlike pluripotent stem cells, totipotent stem cells can form tissues that provide embryonic support, or extra-embryonic tissues, like the placenta and amniotic sac. In a study published this week in the journal Cell, a team scientists from California’s Salk Institute and Peking University, in China, announced the production of totipotent stem cells from cultured mouse and human stem cells.
(The Conversation) – Blood is thicker than water, or so the saying goes, reflecting the value we put on biological relationships. But is it something the law should recognise? Singapore’s Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that asks this very question, and it gave a fascinating answer: parents have a strong interest in “genetic affinity” with their children, one that can merit compensation if subverted. Genetic affinity is an entirely new legal standard. It has no clear precedent in any jurisdiction. But the court made a compelling argument that it has a sound basis in the way we value family and heredity.
(Reuters) – Scientists are getting closer to building life from scratch and technology pioneers are taking notice, with record sums moving into a field that could deliver novel drugs, materials, chemicals and even perfumes. Despite ethical and safety concerns, investors are attracted by synthetic biology’s wide market potential and the plummeting cost of DNA synthesis, which is industrializing the writing of the genetic code that determines how organisms function.
(Slate) – As with many new fields, synthetic biology—which incorporates disparate disciplines like engineering, computer science, biotechnology, and molecular biology—is hard to pin down. But a rough working definition says that it is the application of the principles of engineering to biological systems. Instead of using engineering’s discrete modules of code, transistors, resistors, and capacitors, synthetic biology builds things from sequences of genetic material. The field has remarkable potential and has already been used to aid the production of antimalarial drugs and synthetic flavorings. One researcher used mail-order DNA and a genetic map available online for free to create a live polio virus. The implications could be enormous.
(The Oregonian) – The number of patients using the nation’s first physician-aided suicide program, Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, has continued to grow since voters first approved the law nearly two decades ago. A new study shows a 12 percent yearly increase in lethal prescriptions from 1998 to 2013, with an unexplained jump of nearly 30 percent in 2015. The research doesn’t include 2016 numbers, which haven’t been released yet.
(CNN) – Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has frustrated legislators on both sides of the aisle with his refusal to talk specifics on several major issues he could rule on if he’s confirmed. But one matter on which his past writings offer a detailed picture of his views is medical aid in dying, sometimes referred to as physician-assisted suicide. In 2006, Gorsuch wrote “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” a 311-page book in which he “builds a nuanced, novel, and powerful moral and legal argument against legalization,” the book proclaims on its back cover. Gorsuch also addressed questions on the polarizing issue during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings.
Fellowship Opportunity: Clinical Ethics Fellow in Pediatric and Adult Medicine at Children’s of Minnesota
Children’s of Minnesota is excited to announce our new Bioethics Fellowship program and are seeking our first Fellow. This is an amazing opportunity to train with the best in a fully integrated Ethics program at a leading Children’s Hospital.
Clinical ethics training involves developing the ability to effectively provide consultation on serious, sensitive, complex, and/or health-related matters effecting children and adults, while working as a contributing member of the healthcare team.
The successful candidate would be expected to become knowledgeable in pediatric and adult clinical ethics issues such as the role of ethics committees, ethics consultations, futility and moral distress, end-of-life decisions, research ethics, etc.
The training program will consist of 24 months of rotations divided between Pediatric and Adult inpatient healthcare facilities. The fellowship will consist of:
- Rounding – follow for 4 months; solo for 5 months
- Attending all ethics committees and subcommittee meetings
- Staff meeting participation
- Shadow on consultation, possible supervised consults
- Scholarly project with 2 articles submitted to professional journals; 1 each year
PhD, MD or Terminal degree in Social Work, Nursing, Public Health, Psychiatry, Bioethics, Philosophy or related area.
- Able to attain Children’s ethics credentials
- License/Certification/Registration required?No
- Education Terminal degree in a related area
- Strong background in Clinical Ethics and/or Ethics Consultations
- Effective communication with children and families/caregivers
- Effective verbal and written communication with other healthcare professionals in a primary hospital and specialty pediatric care setting.
- Appreciation of appropriate skills mix for ethics consultations in children of different ages, abilities, and social and educational needs
Please apply through the Children’s Minnesota Career site: childrensmn.taleo.net/careersection/ex/jobdetail.ftl?job=1702709M&tz=GMT-05%3A00
TO BE CONSIDERED APPLICATIONS MUST HAVE A CURRENT CV, COVER LETTER, & A WRITING SAMPLE OF PAST WORK.
Nneka O. Sederstrom, PhD, MPH, MA, FCCP, FCCM
Clinical Ethics Department
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404
(The Washington Post) – An experimental technique reduces the tics, or involuntary movements and vocal outbursts, associated with severe Tourette’s syndrome in young adults, a study published Friday found. The surgical technique, called thalamic deep brain stimulation (DBS), sends electrical impulses to a specific area of the brain that reduces the tics, according to the study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery. The finding adds to the growing body of evidence about the safety and effectiveness of deep brain stimulation, which might eventually lead the Food and Drug Administration to approve the treatment for Tourette’s syndrome, according to the researchers.
(UPI) – Researchers at Michigan State University have found the personal data of patients may be at risk of data breaches in U.S. hospitals. The study found nearly 1,800 incidences of large data breaches in patient information over a seven-year period from October 2009 to December 2016. Researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on data breaches at hospitals and healthcare providers.
(The Atlantic) – Opioid painkillers have an inconvenient, lesser-known side effect: terrible constipation. Perhaps then it’s no surprise that people addicted to opioids have considered the inverse. If a drug that gets you high causes constipation, could a drug that causes constipation get you high? Yes, and that drug is another opioid called loperamide, better known by its brand name Imodium as an over-the-counter treatment for diarrhea. At extremely high doses—dozens or even hundreds of pills a day—it can produce a high or ease withdrawal symptoms. And in the middle of a national opioid epidemic, overdoses of loperamide are rising, too.
(UPI) – Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health, or NIMH, have found young people have a higher death rate after experiencing a first episode of psychosis. The study analyzed data from roughly 5,000 people age 16-30 with commercial health insurance who had received a first psychosis diagnosis and tracked them for 12 months following diagnosis. Researchers found that people who were diagnosed with their first episode of psychosis had a mortality rate 24 times greater than the general population in the 12 months since diagnosis.
(Kaiser Health News) – Few patients pay a hospital’s full price for a procedure or test. But a new study shows why those charges still matter. Economists at the Federal Reserve Board and the American Enterprise Institute found that list prices, often dismissed as meaningless by the hospital industry, are a critical gauge of which hospitals ultimately receive higher payments. An additional dollar in list price was associated with an additional 15 cents in payment to a hospital for privately insured patients, according to the study, which relies heavily on data from California. It was published Monday in the journal Health Affairs.
(JSTOR) – At the same time, we are seeing an advance in methods of manipulating human DNA that, though they present many benefits, could also be used to advance eugenic goals. This combination of a dubious political agenda and the tools to implement it could take us in uncharted directions. We can find guidance in two classic works about the dangers of modifying people and labeling them as “superior” or “inferior”—the novel Brave New World (1932) and the film Gattaca (1997). Their publication anniversaries in 2017 are sharp reminders of the costs of embracing any kind of twenty-first-century eugenics.
(Nature) – No two stem cells are identical, even if they are genetic clones. This stunning diversity is revealed today in an enormous publicly available online catalogue of 3D stem cell images. The visuals were produced using deep learning analyses and cell lines altered with the gene-editing tool CRISPR. And soon the portal will allow researchers to predict variations in cell layouts that may foreshadow cancer and other diseases. The Allen Cell Explorer, produced by the Allen Institute for Cell Science in Seattle, Washington, includes a growing library of more than 6,000 pictures of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) — key components of which glow thanks to fluorescent markers that highlight specific genes.
(U.S. News & World Report) – Doctors in Maine are divided on state legislation that would allow them to prescribe medication that a patient may self-administer to hasten death. The Legislature’s health and human services committee on Wednesday held public hearings on bills sponsored by Republican Sen. Roger Katz and Democratic Rep. Jennifer Parker. Katz unsuccessfully tried to pass a similar bill two years ago. The Maine Medical Association is not taking a position on the legislation because, so far, its members are divided.
(The Conversation) – Obtaining ethics approval and conducting research in an ethical manner is vital for all research involving human participants. Research with sexual assault victim-survivors can present heightened ethical challenges. This means that research on this topic must be handled with particular skill, care and respect. Although it is important not to generalise the experiences of victim-survivors, it is fair to say that sexual assault can be a difficult and sensitive topic to discuss with a researcher.
(Reuters) – Requiring teens to get permission from their parents to participate in studies about behavioral health may make it harder to understand adolescent psychology – especially when drugs and alcohol are involved – a U.S. study suggests. That’s because teens are less likely to complete surveys if they have to seek permission to answer questions about risky or illegal behaviors, the study found. Plus, these studies may not include enough older adolescents, boys or black youth to accurately reflect what’s happening in these populations.
(STAT News) – Consumers will soon be able to mail a saliva sample to genetic testing company and get back data on their risk for developing diseases such as Parkinson’s, late-onset Alzheimer’s, and celiac disease. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday granted approval to genetic testing company 23andMe to offer such direct-to-consumer tests for 10 conditions.
(Eurekalert) – Public attitudes in UK and USA reveal support both for life-sustaining interventions and for measures to enable peaceful death in progressive neurological illness such as dementia, according to a survey carried out by researchers at the University of Cambridge. The study found that one in six people believes that measures must be taken to sustain life at any cost even when a patient is in the final stages of an illness such as dementia. However, more than twice as many people would request measures to enable them to die peacefully at this stage. The researchers say this highlights the challenges faced by those providing care and by legislators.
(Quartz) – For about half a decade, it’s been something of an open secret in baseball that players—pitchers especially—regularly undergo stem-cell therapy to stave off surgeries and lost playing time. It’s a cutting-edge medical procedure, done by everyone from high-school standouts to major-league all-stars. It’s rarely discussed by players, or by their coaches, parents, doctors, or employers.