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Embryo Experiments Take ‘Baby Steps’ Toward Growing Human Organs in Livestock

June 28, 2019

(Science) – The perpetual shortage of human organs for transplant has researchers turning to farm animals. Several biotech companies are genetically engineering pigs to make their organs more compatible with the human body. But some scientists are pursuing a different solution: growing fully human organs in pigs, sheep, or other animals, which could then be harvested for transplants. The idea is biologically daunting and ethically fraught. But a few teams are chipping away at a key roadblock: getting stem cells of one species to thrive in the embryo of another.

Five Things We Found in the FDA’s Hidden Device Database

June 27, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – After two decades of keeping the public in the dark about millions of medical device malfunctions and injuries, the Food and Drug Administration has published the once hidden database online, revealing 5.7 million incidents publicly for the first time. The newfound transparency follows a Kaiser Health News investigation that revealed device manufacturers, for the past two decades, had been sending reports of injuries or malfunctions to the little-known database, bypassing the public FDA database that’s pored over by doctors, researchers and patients. 

‘Compelling Evidence’ Shows HPV Vaccine Is Working

June 27, 2019

(Medscape) – The new meta-analysis included data from 60 million individuals and up to 8 years of postvaccination follow-up. It shows a significant reduction in HPV type 16 and 18 infections, as well as a significant reductions in diagnoses of anogenital warts in teenagers of both genders and young men and women. In addition, there was a significant 51% reduction in cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2+ (CIN2+) in girls aged 15-19 years and a 31% reduction in women aged 20-24 years.

You No Longer Own Your Face

June 27, 2019

(The Atlantic) – This notion—of a “reasonable” expectation of privacy—guides researchers hoping to observe subjects in public.  But the very idea of what’s reasonable is a complicated one. Faculty at three universities—Duke, Stanford, and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs—are currently facing backlash after creating databases built using surveillance footage of students as they walked through cafes and on college campuses. You might reasonably expect being overheard in a coffeeshop, but that’s different than suddenly becoming a research subject, part of a data set that can live forever.

Med Students Are Doing Vaginal Exams on Unconscious, Non-Consenting Patients

June 27, 2019

(Vice) – The practice of using non-consenting, unconscious patients as pelvic-exam training tools for medical students has continued to an unknown degree across the country since Silver-Isenstadt, now a pediatrician in Baltimore, first learned about it. It happens not only during gynecological surgeries, but also in the midst of unrelated procedures like stomach surgery. As a student, Silver-Isenstadt was ready to avoid doing such an exam at all costs, and his refusal became part of a movement to end the practice—an effort that would ultimately lead to statewide bans, first in California in 2003, then in Illinois, Virginia, Oregon, Hawaii, Iowa, Utah, and Maryland.  While some individual medical schools like Harvard ban it, the practice remains legal in 42 states.

Attorneys: Texas Border Facility Is Neglecting Migrant Kids

June 27, 2019

(Associated Press) – A 2-year-old boy locked in detention wants to be held all the time. A few girls, ages 10 to 15, say they’ve been doing their best to feed and soothe the clingy toddler who was handed to them by a guard days ago. Lawyers warn that kids are taking care of kids, and there’s inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at the Border Patrol station. The bleak portrait emerged Thursday after a legal team interviewed 60 children at the facility near El Paso that has become the latest place where attorneys say young migrants are describing neglect and mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. government.

Lessons Learnt from Doing Research Amid a Humanitarian Crisis

June 26, 2019

(Nature) – Although most scientists face pressures and stress in their working lives, those whose work takes place in an evolving humanitarian emergency must cope with even greater responsibility and pressure. Nature speaks to three researchers about how their work has had a direct effect on saving people’s lives, and how science is done during a crisis. Their experiences and the scope of their research are diverse, but the researchers are united by the shared goal of using science to make an impact on the world and ultimately save lives.

Louisiana Reaches ‘Netflix-Model’ Deal to Tackle Hepatitis C

June 26, 2019

(ABC News) – For years, Louisiana offered hepatitis C treatment to only the most severe cases in its Medicaid program and prisons, unable to afford broader access to the extremely high-priced medications. That will change in July, when the state begins a first-in-the-nation treatment model it says can cure tens of thousands who have the infectious, liver-damaging disease. Louisiana’s health department announced Wednesday what it called a “subscription model” deal with Gilead Sciences subsidiary Asegua Therapeutics.

UN: Opioids Cause Two-Thirds of Global Drug Deaths

June 26, 2019

(UPI) – About 217 million people worldwide abuse illicit drugs in 2017, representing a 30 percent jump from 10 years prior, according to new latest figures released Wednesday. Much of that came from an increase in opioid use, which spiked by 56 percent globally compared to previous estimates, according to a new report published by the United Nations.

China Organ Transplant Claims Raise Alarm About Research

June 25, 2019

(Nature) – A startling report concluding that prisoners in China are being killed for their organs has renewed concerns about the origins of some organs used in research. On 17 June, the China Tribunal, a panel established by the non-governmental organization the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), concluded that prisoners in China, in particular those imprisoned for their political or religious views, have been killed for their organs for years. It said that the practice — which it branded a crime against humanity — probably still continues.

In Secret, Seniors Discuss ‘Rational Suicide’

June 25, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – A Kaiser Health News investigation in April found that older Americans — a few hundred per year, at least — are killing themselves while living in or transitioning to long-term care. Many cases KHN reviewed involved depression or mental illness. What’s not clear is how many of these suicides involve clear-minded people exercising what Davis would call a rational choice. Suicide prevention experts contend that while it’s normal to think about death as we age, suicidal ideation is a sign that people need help. They argue that all suicides should be avoided by addressing mental health and helping seniors live a rich and fulfilling life. But to Lois, the 86-year-old woman who organized the meeting outside Philadelphia, suicides by older Americans are not all tragedies.

Consumer Genetic Testing Companies Team Up to Lobby on Privacy Policy

June 25, 2019

(STAT News) – Anticipating more federal scrutiny of genetic privacy policies, three leading consumer genetic companies have formed an advocacy group to defend their efforts to safeguard information about their customers’ DNA and separate themselves from perceived bad actors. The Coalition for Genetic Data Protection — launched by Ancestry, 23andMe, and Helix — will provide the companies a “collective voice” in talking to lawmakers, said its executive director, Steve Haro, a principal at Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas. The group is advocating for a comprehensive genetic data privacy bill that aligns with the policies the companies follow and have espoused, he said.

Unproven Stem Cell Therapies Often Peddled by Doctors Without Training

June 25, 2019

(Reuters) – At U.S. clinics advertising unproven stem cell treatments, roughly two-thirds of the clinicians may be physicians, but a new study suggests these doctors are often trained in specialties unrelated to the services they provide. “About half of the companies we examined offer unproven stem cell treatments for conditions (for) which they do not have a physician with the appropriate residency and fellowship training,” said senior study author Zubin Master, of the Biomedical Ethics Research Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Patent Office Reopens Major CRISPR Battle Between Broad Institute and Univ. of California

June 25, 2019

(STAT News) – The U.S. patent office has declared an interference between a dozen key patents awarded to the Broad Institute on the genome-editing technology CRISPR and 10 CRISPR patent applications submitted by the University of California and its partners, according to documents posted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The declaration of an interference means that the patent office has determined that one or more patent applications describe inventions that are substantially the same as those for which patents have already been issued.

Freezing Embryos Doesn’t Boost IVF Success Rate Despite Common Use

June 25, 2019

(New Scientist) – A commonly used fertility medicine technique of freezing embryos and waiting several weeks before using them is ineffective at boosting pregnancy rates, a trial has shown. The approach is growing in popularity, and in the US about a quarter of IVF cycles now use this “freeze-all” strategy, although this includes women who need it for health reasons. During standard IVF, women take medicines to encourage their ovaries to produce several eggs, which are then collected and fertilised with sperm in a dish. Any embryos are allowed to grow for a few days before one or two are transferred into the uterus in the hope one will implant and lead to pregnancy. Any spare embryos are frozen for future attempts.

CDC: U.S. Measles Cases Climb to 1,077

June 24, 2019

(UPI) – Measles cases continue to pile up in the United States, as the nation has now reached 1,077 cases, which are spread through 28 states. The number is an increase of 33 from the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new record represents the highest number of measles cases since 1992. The disease had been declared eliminated in 2000.

Three Euthanasia Cases Face Investigation in Netherlands

June 24, 2019

(The Guardian) – Three euthanasia cases involving women with psychiatric conditions and dementia are under investigation in the Netherlands, the Observer can reveal. Prosecutors confirmed that the deaths, in 2017 and 2018, were being investigated for potentially breaching strict conditions in the 2002 law that allows people in the Netherlands to ask a doctor to help them die.

British Judge Orders Disabled 22-Week Pregnant Woman to Have Abortion

June 24, 2019

(Fox News) – A British judge ordered Friday that an abortion be performed on a mentally disabled woman who is 22 weeks pregnant, despite objections from the woman and her mother. Justice Nathalie Lieven admits in the ruling of the “heartbreaking” case that it’s an “immense intrusion” to order the abortion against the woman’s will, but argued that it’s in the best interest of the woman.

Leaps and Boundaries: The Rise of China as a Science Superpower

June 24, 2019

(The Sydney Morning Herald) – That push to science superstardom is yielding dividends. Last year China overtook the US as the world’s largest producer of scientific papers. And it is propelled, says Nie, by a number of key traits in Chinese culture. Scientism, a veneration of science as key to social progress, is widespread. Anti-traditionalism, celebrated annually in the May 4 movement, elevates science and even democracy over traditional Confucian values such as “filial piety” – respect for parents and ancestors. And there is another popular attitude in China which has a disturbing resonance in the West. “He Jiankui’s experiment is part of the eugenics discourse,” says Nie.

People of Color Are Less Likely to Receive Organ Transplants

June 21, 2019

(Undark) – Patients who experience organ failure need a transplant to improve their odds of survival and to achieve a better quality of life.  However, getting an organ transplant is often accompanied by several challenges, many of which can be attributed to factors like the state of an individual’s living circumstances, their economic status, and where they were born. As a result, many racial and ethnic minorities, such as African Americans, Latinx individuals, and Native Americans, must unjustly wait longer for a much-needed new organ — or never receive one at all because of these barriers to care.

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