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Two-Thirds of Americans Support Gene Editing in Human Embryos to Prevent Disease or Disability

January 2, 2019

(Quartz) – With the developments in gene editing, and recent Chinese experiments on babies, the question of whether it’s ethical to genetically modify humans has left the realm of sci-fi and philosophical speculation to enter the very near future. Is it acceptable, or even desirable, to gene-edit babies out of disease, for instance? Does that amount to eugenics? It seems the debate is less heated than one might expect, in America at least: According to a survey by AP-NORC (a research initiative by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago) on attitudes toward gene-editing technology, a solid majority said they were in favor of it when it comes to preventing disease.

From Sex Selection to Surrogates, American IVF Clinics Provide Services Outlawed Elsewhere

December 31, 2018

(The Washington Post) – While many countries have moved in recent years to impose boundaries on assisted reproduction, the U.S. fertility industry remains largely unregulated and routinely offers services outlawed elsewhere. As a result, the United Stats has emerged as a popular destination for IVF patients from around the world seeking controversial services–not just sex selection, but commercial surrogacy, anonymous sperm donation and screening for physical characteristics such as eye color. This freewheeling approach has been good for business; the U.S. fertility industry is estimated to be worth as much as $5.8 billion this year.

Report: Scientists in China Are Losing Track of Gene-Editing CRISPR Patients

December 31, 2018

(Gizmodo) – Gene therapies are very much at their preliminary stages of development, so it would make sense to keep tabs on patients whose DNA has been modified via the innovative CRISPR technique. For some scientists in China, however, this is apparently not a priority. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that an undisclosed number of Chinese cancer patients who have undergone experimental gene therapies aren’t being properly tracked as would be expected.

The Year’s Don’t-Miss News in Contraception

December 31, 2018

(Medscape) – From a controversial implant recently pulled from the US market to new rules that will limit access to contraceptives previously ensured by the Affordable Care Act, 2018 brought major developments in contraception.

Scheduled Dialysis for Undocumented Immigrants Saves Money and Lives

December 28, 2018

(Reuters) – Providing scheduled dialysis for undocumented immigrants with kidney failure, rather than offering them only emergency dialysis, dramatically reduces deaths, healthcare use and costs, a study in Texas suggests.  The difference was so significant that the study authors recommend scheduled, three-times-a-week dialysis as the universal standard of care for all patients in the U.S. with end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

Number of Deaths Due to Opioids Tripled in Kids and Teens Over the Past 20 Years: Study

December 28, 2018

(ABC News) – Almost 9,000 children and young adults have died from opioid poisonings in the past 20 years, according to a study published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Researchers at Yale School of Medicine examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between the years 1999 and 2016. They determined that the majority of reported deaths due to opioids – 6,561 – involved prescription drugs and 81 percent were unintentional.

Most Americans Support Gene-Editing Embryos to Prevent Diseases, Poll Shows

December 28, 2018

(STAT News) – Most Americans say it would be OK to use gene-editing technology to create babies protected against a variety of diseases — but a new poll shows they’d draw the line at changing DNA so children are born smarter, faster or taller. A month after startling claims of the births of the world’s first gene-edited babies in China, the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds people are torn between the medical promise of a technology powerful enough to alter human heredity and concerns over whether it will be used ethically.

Are Fertility Drugs Safe? The Industry Says Yes; Critics Worry They’re Overprescribed.

December 28, 2018

(The Washington Post) – “I felt like my insides were going to bust out of my stomach,” Andreotta recalled. This was ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome — OHSS for short — a potentially fatal complication the U.S. fertility industry describes as extremely rare. But the incidence of OHSS and the broader long-term safety of hormone-boosting fertility drugs remain open to debate, even as the clinics have blossomed into a multibillion-dollar industry serving hundreds of thousands of women a year. Industry critics worry that unregulated providers are overprescribing the drugs, glossing over potential hazards and failing to properly report problems when they arise.

More Science Than You Think Is Retracted. Even More Should Be.

December 28, 2018

(The Washington Post) – We have tracked these numbers for an organization we founded in 2010 called Retraction Watch. Over the past eight years, we have compiled a database of more than 18,000 retracted papers from the scholarly literature, the oldest of which dates to 1756. And although the rate of retractions seems to be plateauing, at somewhere south of one-tenth of 1 percent of papers published, it grew dramatically between 2000 and just a few years ago. Why? And what is the significance of these misadventures in science?

Chinese Education Ministry Calls on Universities and Hospitals for ‘Low-Key’ Review of Gene-Editing Projects

December 28, 2018

(South China Morning Post) – The Ministry of Science and Technology launched an investigation and ordered He not to undertake any further research. Authorities in Shenzhen are considering drafting guidelines for the ethical review of biomedical research involving humans. According to the document obtained by the Post, the education ministry asked all the Chinese universities and institutes of higher learning to check their gene-editing research projects from 2013 until today. The focus of this inspection will be work at affiliated hospitals and projects that involve international cooperation.

From Weapons to Works of Art: The Year in Artificial Intelligence

December 28, 2018

(New Atlas) – 2018 was a fascinating year for AI. We experienced a variety of milestone moments, such as the first auction of AI art, and a large assortment of exciting developments that perfectly encapsulate Hawking’s prophetic lack of certainty regarding humanity’s future relationship with artificial intelligence. In 2018 we paved the way for a future where AI could heal us, harm us, or even teach us.

What Defines a Stem Cell?

December 27, 2018

(Nautilus) – That conclusion, which confirms a long-standing suspicion among some in the field, cuts to the heart of a deeper question—about what it means to be a stem cell. As more sophisticated technology has revealed just how plastic and heterogeneous cell populations can be, some researchers have transitioned from viewing “stemness” as the defining trait of a cell category to viewing it as a function many types of cells can perform or contribute to.

Common Breast Cancer Treatment May Cause Hot Flashes, Memory Loss

December 27, 2018

(UPI) – A therapy currently used to treat people with breast cancer has some dangerous side effects, new research says. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst say that aromatase inhibitors used to stop recurring estrogen-positive breast cancer in men and women also bring on anxiety, depression, hot flashes and memory lapses.

The Surgical Singularity Is Approaching

December 27, 2018

(Scientific American) – Those keeping abreast of the latest medical developments may be aware of the buzz surrounding applications of artificial intelligence (AI) to medical tasks. To date, these have mainly involved application of computer algorithms to clinical data such as x-rays, images or text-based medical records, to diagnose disease. The sensationalism has largely arisen due to the fact that in some instances, these algorithms have met or exceeded capabilities of a specialist physician for particular diagnostic tasks. With these early accomplishments, a question arises as to how the introduction of clinically viable AI may affect the role of human physicians in the future.

Top Chinese Doctors Admit to Harvesting Organs from Falun Gong Practitioners

December 27, 2018

(The Epoch Times) – A new round of chilling phone calls reveals that live organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners continues in China at a variety of leading transplant centers in different regions of the country. The conversations, with doctors from 12 transplant hospitals in China, also show that this “business” has become “normal” at these facilities: None of the doctors—all leading figures in organ transplantation in China—showed surprise, dismay, or anger when asked “whether the organs are harvested from Falun Gong practitioners.”

Women’s Rights Activists Condemn Police for Investigating 26 Women on Abortions

December 27, 2018

(Korean Herald) – Women’s rights groups in the Gyeongsang provinces on Tuesday condemned a provincial police agency for investigating 26 women on whether they had abortions. Members of the women’s rights groups, including the Gyeongnam Women’s United Association, said they held a meeting with officials at the South Gyeongsang Province Police Agency on Monday and delivered a letter of complaint.

NIH Hospital’s Pipes Harbored Uncommon Bacteria That Infected Patients

December 26, 2018

(STAT News) – Patients were infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria living in the plumbing of the National Institute of Health’s hospital in Bethesda, Md., contributing to at least three deaths in 2016. A study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found that, from 2006 to 2016, at least 12 patients at the NIH Clinical Center, which provides experimental therapies and hosts research trials, were infected with Sphingomonas koreensis, an uncommon bacteria. The paper, written by NIH researchers, suggests that the infections came from contaminated water pipes, where the bacteria may have been living since as early as 2004, soon after construction of a new clinical center building.

Kenya Lifts Abortion Ban on Global Charity Marie Stopes

December 26, 2018

(Reuters) – Kenya has lifted a ban on Marie Stopes carrying out abortions in the country after a review found it had not actively encouraged women and girls to have them, a move that will prevent many unsafe terminations.  Kenyan authorities had directed Marie Stopes to suspend abortions and post-abortion care on Nov. 14 after complaints a media campaign run by the charity promoted terminations – a charge it denied.

2018 Was the Year That Tech Put Limits on AI

December 26, 2018

(Wired) – For the past several years, giant tech companies have rapidly ramped up investments in artificial intelligence and machine learning. They’ve competed intensely to hire more AI researchers and used that talent to rush out smarter virtual assistants and more powerful facial recognition. In 2018, some of those companies moved to put some guardrails around AI technology. The most prominent example is Google, which announced constraints on its use of AI after two projects triggered public pushback and an employee revolt.

Uncertain, Costly, but Filled with Hope: Gene Therapy About to Go Mainstream in Canada

December 26, 2018

(The Globe and Mail) – Although it may have seemed like a sci-fi-tinged long shot at the time, the experimental treatment that Jordan received 18 months ago – along with other bespoke drugs like it – is about to go mainstream in Canada. Known as gene therapy, the approach is a promising leap forward in the fight against cancer and other intractable ailments. It offers the tantalizing possibility of effectively curing some lethal diseases with a single shot of a drug custom-engineered for one patient. But gene therapies also come with uncertain long-term outcomes and gargantuan prices that Canadian officials are now wrestling with behind closed doors.

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