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New Insights into How the Zika Virus Causes Microcephaly

June 2, 2017

(Science Daily) – A study published today in Science shows that the Zika virus hijacks a human protein called Musashi-1 (MSI1) to allow it to replicate in, and kill, neural stem cells. Almost all MSI1 protein in the developing embryo is produced in the neural stem cells that will eventually develop into the baby’s brain, which could explain why these cells are so vulnerable to Zika.

Experts Predict When Artificial Intelligence Will Exceed Human Performance

June 2, 2017

(MIT Technology Review) – Artificial intelligence is changing the world and doing it at breakneck speed. The promise is that intelligent machines will be able to do every task better and more cheaply than humans. Rightly or wrongly, one industry after another is falling under its spell, even though few have benefited significantly so far. And that raises an interesting question: when will artificial intelligence exceed human performance? More specifically, when will a machine do your job better than you?

Resurrected: A Controversial Trial to Bring the Dead Back to Life Plans a Restart

June 1, 2017

(STAT News) – For any given medical problem, it seems, there’s a research team trying to use stem cells to find a solution. In clinical trials to treat everything from diabetes to macular degeneration to ALS, researchers are injecting the cells in efforts to cure patients. But in one study expected to launch later this year, scientists hope to use stem cells in a new, highly controversial way — to reverse death. The idea of the trial, run by Philadelphia-based Bioquark, is to inject stem cells into the spinal cords of people who have been declared clinically brain-dead. The subjects will also receive an injected protein blend, electrical nerve stimulation, and laser therapy directed at the brain.

A 5-Sentence Letter Helped Trigger America’s Deadliest Drug Overdose Crisis Ever

June 1, 2017

(Vox) – Now a new study in the NEJM has looked at just how much of a reach the letter had. Researchers Pamela Leung, Erin Macdonald, Irfan Dhalla, and David Juurlink found that the letter was cited more than 600 times since it was published, with a sharp increase after the opioid maker Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin in the mid-1990s. The researchers concluded, “[W]e found that a five-sentence letter published in the Journal in 1980 was heavily and uncritically cited as evidence that addiction was rare with long-term opioid therapy. We believe that this citation pattern contributed to the North American opioid crisis by helping to shape a narrative that allayed prescribers’ concerns about the risk of addiction associated with long-term opioid therapy.”

The Puzzle of Housing Aging Sex Offenders

June 1, 2017

(The Atlantic) – Another blind spot is that almost no one is counting how many sex offenders require end-of-life care. Back in 2006, the U.S. Government Accountability Office counted 700 registered sex offenders living in nursing homes or intermediate care facilities. More recent numbers among the nation’s 15,600 long-term care facilities and their 1.4 million residents are hard to come by.

Almost a Quarter of Adolescents in Austria Are Currently Suffering from a Mental Health Problem

June 1, 2017

(Science Daily) – 23.93% of all adolescents in Austria are currently suffering from a mental health problem, over a third of all adolescents have had a mental health problem at some stage in their lives. That is the central finding of the first Austria-wide epidemiological study into the prevalence of mental health problems in Austria, conducted under the supervision of Andreas Karwautz and Gudrun Wagner at MedUni Vienna’s Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in collaboration with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Health Promotion Research and published in a child and adolescent psychiatry journal.

Crack in CRISPR Facade after Unanticipated In Vivo Mutations Arise

June 1, 2017

(GEN) – The CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing technique set the molecular biology field ablaze when its game-changing potential was realized only a few short years ago. In the time since this wildfire of excitement and hope, it has spread to almost every life science endeavor imaginable and shows little sign of slowing down. However, new data from a team of scientists lead by investigators at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) has uncovered that the gene-editing technology can introduce hundreds of unintended mutations into the genome—a concerning find, considering the technology is beginning to move full steam ahead into clinical trials. The findings from the new study were published recently in Nature Methods in an article entitled “Unexpected Mutations after CRISPR-Cas9 Editing In Vivo.”

A Massive New Study Lays Out the Map of Our Genetic Intelligence

June 1, 2017

(Quartz) – Decades of work on twin studies suggest that genes account for roughly half of variations in IQ seen across a population. And a meta-analysis published this week in Nature on nearly 80,000 people has identified 40 specific genes that affect intelligence. The one study more than quadrupled the number of genes scientists know of that shape intelligence, bringing the total number to 52. There’s still a long way to go. The currently known genes are thought to account for just 4.8% of variations in IQ, meaning that there are hundreds of genes that play a role in intelligence and are yet to be discovered.

A New Edition of Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics Is Now Available

June 1, 2017

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics (vol. 26, no. 3, 2017) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Enhancements: How and Why to Become Better, How and Why to Become Good” by Vojin Raki?
  • “Is It Desirable to Be Able to Do the Undesirable? Moral Bioenhancement and the Little Alex Problem” by Michael Hauskeller
  • “Moral Bioenhancement and Free Will: Continuing the Debate” by Vojin Raki?
  • “Would We Even Know Moral Bioenhancement If We Saw It?” by Harris Wiseman
  • “Imagining Moral Bioenhancement Practices: Drawing Inspiration from Moral Education, Public Health Ethics, and Forensic Psychiatry” by Jona Specker and Maartje H.N. Schermer
  • “Modeling the Social Dynamics of Moral Enhancement: Social Strategies Sold Over the Counter and the Stability of Society” by Anders Sandberg and Joao Fabiano
  • “Human Enhancement and the Story of Job” by Nicholas Agar and Johnny Mcdonald
  • “Enhancing a Person, Enhancing a Civilization: A Research Program at the Intersection of Bioethics, Future Studies, and Astrobiology” by Milan M. ?irkovi?

 

Hackers Publish Private Photos from Cosmetic Surgery Clinic

May 31, 2017

(The Guardian) – Hackers have published more than 25,000 private photos, including nude pictures, and other personal data from patients of a Lithuanian cosmetic surgery clinic, police say. The images were made public on Tuesday by a hacking group calling themselves “Tsar Team”, which broke into the servers of the Grozio Chirurgija clinic earlier this year and demanded ransoms from the clinic’s clients in more than 60 countries around the world, including the UK. Police say that following the ransom demand, a portion of the database was released in March, with the rest following on Tuesday.

Trials of Embryonic Stem Cells to Launch in China

May 31, 2017

(Nature) – In the next few months, surgeons in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou will carefully drill through the skulls of people with Parkinson’s disease and inject 4 million immature neurons derived from human embryonic stem cells into their brains. Then they will patch the patients up, send them home and wait.  This will mark the start of the first clinical trial in China using human embryonic stem (ES) cells, and the first one worldwide aimed at treating Parkinson’s disease using ES cells from fertilized embryos. In a second trial starting around the same time, a different team in Zhengzhou will use ES cells to target vision loss caused by age-related macular degeneration.

Genome Editing: That’s the Way the CRISPR Crumbles

May 31, 2017

(Nature) – The prospect of a memoir from Jennifer Doudna, a key player in the CRISPR story, quickens the pulse. And A Crack in Creation does indeed deliver a welcome perspective on the revolutionary genome-editing technique that puts the power of evolution into human hands, with many anecdotes and details that only those close to her may have known. Yet it does not provide the probing introspection, the nuanced ethical analysis, the moral counterpoint that we CRISPR junkies crave.

The Drug Rebellion Fighting Big Pharma to Save the NHS Millions

May 31, 2017

(New Scientist) – Fleming is one of a growing number of people using buyers’ clubs, which facilitate the unofficial purchase of cheap generic versions of branded drugs, often with tacit help from doctors. Hepatitis C medicines are the newest addition to these grey markets, thanks to the recent development of safe and effective therapies – and the enormous prices they command. But while buyers’ clubs may fill the gap for people like Fleming, is this any way to do medicine in the 21st century? Or is it a sign that we need to fundamentally rethink how we develop and fund new drugs?

Disgraced Surgeon Ian Paterson Jailed for 15 Years

May 31, 2017

(BBC) – Breast surgeon Ian Paterson has been jailed for 15 years after carrying out unnecessary cancer operations. Paterson, 59, was convicted over operations on nine women and one man, but there were hundreds of other victims. He was found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three of unlawful wounding, after his trial. Jurors at Nottingham Crown Court heard last month Paterson had exaggerated or invented the risk of cancer.

N.Y.’s Highest Court to Hear ‘Aid in Dying’ Appeal

May 31, 2017

(Albany Times Union) – As proponents of medical aid in dying continue to push for legislation to let New York doctors prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill patients, the state’s highest court will hear arguments Tuesday in a case involving three terminally ill patients who had pursued a court order protecting their doctors if they did just that. Among the key issues in Myers v. Schneiderman is whether current laws prohibiting people from assisting others in killing themselves apply to doctors who would prescribe medications that would cause someone to die.

One Doctor’s War against Global Organ Trafficking

May 31, 2017

(PBS Newshour) – A controversy was brewing. Delmonico, a leading voice on ethical organ transplantation, had planned a February 2017 summit in Rome for representatives of more than 40 countries to discuss the ethics of transplanting organs and to sign a pledge to uphold high standards. But there was a hitch: A key invitee to the forum was Dr. Jiefu Huang, who has led reform of China’s organ donation practices. Critics, including some in the Vatican, wanted at the summit no representatives of China, which for years sold and transplanted organs from executed prisoners. Delmonico, however, saw the Chinese presence as a good thing.

Doctor’s Records in U.S. Doping Investigation Don’t Match Patients’ Copies

May 30, 2017

(ProPublica) – The notes document an experiment on Magness in which he was given a large infusion of the supplement L-carnitine to see if it would enhance his running performance. L-carnitine is a legal substance that helps the body convert fat to energy. According to the USADA report, the experiment violated World Anti-Doping Code infusion limits that apply both to athletes and support personnel. Magness said when he saw the copy of the notes in the report, he noticed significant differences from his own copy. The infusion notes are still there, but so are checkmarks indicating that Magness received a medical examination beyond the L-carnitine experiment.

Texas on Track to Become First State to Explicitly Back Stem Cell Therapies

May 30, 2017

(STAT News) – Lawmakers in Austin have approved a bill authorizing unapproved stem cell therapies, putting Texas on track to become the first state to explicitly recognize the experimental treatments. The measure now heads to Governor Greg Abbott, who has signaled his support for it. For years, clinics across the country have been offering experimental stem cell therapies for patients with chronic conditions or terminal illnesses, but no state has given them legal validation. Instead, clinics have largely operated under the radar of regulatory authorities, touting treatments for a range of injuries and diseases.

Drug Rebates Reward Industry Players–And Often Hurt Patients

May 30, 2017

(Kaiser Health News) – Medicare and its beneficiaries aren’t the winners in the behind-the-scenes rebate game played by drugmakers, health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers, according to a paper published Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine. The paper, which dives into the complex and opaque world of Medicare drug price negotiations, finds that rebates may actually drive up the amount Medicare and its beneficiaries pay for drugs — especially for increasingly common high-priced drugs — and it offers some systemic solutions.

Ebola Vaccine Approved for Use in Ongoing Outbreak

May 30, 2017

(Nature) – Regulatory and ethics review boards in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have approved the use of an experimental Ebola vaccine to combat an ongoing outbreak of the virus, officials announced on 29 May. If they decide to deploy the vaccine, called rVSV ZEBOV, workers will offer it to those at highest risk of contracting the disease. Uncertainties over the outbreak’s magnitude mean Congolese authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) must determine whether the small number of confirmed cases justifies the cost and logistical complexity that comes with deploying the vaccine, says Marie-Paule Kieny, the assistant director-general of Health Systems and Innovation at the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland.

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