(UPI) – Researchers have modeled the development of neurons in some autism patients, offering what they say is a new understanding of the condition. Neuron precursor cells from autistic patients multiplied faster in lab experiments than cells from neurotypical people, which researchers at the Salk Institute say supports a theory that abnormal brain growth may play a role in the development of autism.
(Med Page Today) – Embryos with higher levels of mitochondrial DNA may be less likely to lead to a pregnancy during an IVF cycle, a small prospective study presented here found. Of all the embryos with normal or low levels of mitochondrial DNA, 76% implanted successfully and led to an ongoing pregnancy compared with 0% of embryos with elevated mitochondrial DNA levels (P<0.0001), reported Elpida Fragouli, PhD, of Reprogenetics in Oxford, England, and colleagues.
(STAT News) – The next great advance in fertility treatments may rest with five young monkeys in a lab outside of town. Each of the five carries genes from three parents instead of two, because they were conceived using a novel — and controversial — gene therapy. They seem to be completely ordinary. But researchers are watching them closely to make sure they age normally, can reproduce, and have healthy children. If so, the three-parent fertilization technique will likely be tried in humans, potentially helping women with certain genetic glitches give birth to healthy children. The same approach might also someday provide older women a chance to extend their fertility by freshening up their eggs with contributions from another woman.
(Nanowerk) – A new paper in Biomaterials Science and Engineering (“Graphene Foam as a 3-dimensional Platform for Myotube Growth”) focuses on a study demonstrating the suitability of graphene foam as a scaffold for growing functional muscle tissue. Graphene foam is an emerging 3D version of graphene, a layer of carbon so thin it is considered 2-dimensional. Ultimately, researchers hope that the unique properties of graphene and graphene foam can be used to regenerate 3-dimensional tissues and organs for implantation into the human body. Past studies have confirmed bone and cartilage growth on graphene foam, but this is the first known study of its compatibility with muscle growth.
(Vice) – The hand of modafinil, the drug designed to treat narcolepsy and used by fighter pilots to stay sharp, is all over university coursework these days. But it’s not just the students taking the “king of smart drugs” to get verbose essays and dissertations done. Now lecturers are using it to grade the never-ending things, too. VICE spoke to a number of university lecturers burdened with mounting workloads due to rising student numbers and extra bureaucracy who are breaking the law to import modafinil over the internet in order to plow through the paperwork.
(ABC News) – The pendant around Patrick Lawson’s neck reads “all things are possible.” That’s the hope that has kept him going since his 2-year-old daughter was placed on life support after choking on a popcorn kernel in May. Doctors at a Virginia hospital say they’re certain Mirranda Grace Lawson won’t recover, and they want to perform a test they believe will confirm she’s brain dead. The hospital and experts say the test is harmless. But Lawson and his wife have refused, saying they worry the test will harm the girl. They believe she’ll open her big blue eyes again one day.
(New York Times) – In “Ordinarily Well,” Kramer tills some of the same ground that he did in his previous book, but his approach this time is less philosophical and more argumentative. He is out to make the case, against the Marcia Angells and Irving Kirsches of the world, that, based on his interpretation of the literature and, more important, on his decades of clinical work with patients, antidepressants work more often than not and that, most of the time, prescribing an antidepressant is not about making somebody “better than well” but rather helping to relieve a patient’s acute suffering enough that she can resume a semblance of normal life.
(Wired) – The most sophisticated, widely adopted, and important tool for looking at living brain activity actually does no such thing. Called functional magnetic resonance imaging, what it really does is scan for the magnetic signatures of oxygen-rich blood. Blood indicates that the brain is doing something, but it’s not a direct measure of brain activity. Which is to say, there’s room for error. That’s why neuroscientists use special statistics to filter out noise in their fMRIs, verifying that the shaded blobs they see pulsing across their computer screens actually relate to blood flowing through the brain. If those filters don’t work, an fMRI scan is about as useful at detecting neuronal activity as your dad’s “brain sucking alien” hand trick. And a new paper suggests that might actually be the case for thousands of fMRI studies over the past 15 years.
(Reuters) – A U.S. health regulator has barred blood-testing company Theranos Inc’s founder and CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, from operating a lab for at least two years, the latest blow for a company that is under scrutiny for the accuracy and quality of its tests. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)revoked a key certificate for the company’s Newark, California lab, and terminated the facility’s approval to receive Medicare and Medicaid payments for all services, Theranos said late on Thursday.
(ABC News) – A new Indiana mandate that women undergo an ultrasound at least 18 hours before they have an abortion is unconstitutional and will prevent some women from getting abortions, a federal lawsuit filed Thursday contends. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky argue in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis that the provision which took effect July 1 as part of a new law places “an undue burden” on women’s constitutional right to seek an abortion.
(Science Daily) – The brains of some people with autism spectrum disorder grow faster than usual early on in life, often before diagnosis. A new study co-led by Salk Institute scientists has employed a cutting-edge stem cell technique to unravel the mechanisms driving the mysterious phenomenon of excess brain growth, which affects as many as 30 percent of people with autism. The findings, published July 6, 2016 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, show that it is possible to use stem cell reprogramming technologies developed in the past decade to model the earliest stages of complex disorders and to evaluate potential therapeutic drugs.
(Eurekalert) – The United States is on course to experience a steep drop in the number of stem cell researchers in coming years as a large portion of academic scientists reach retirement age and younger scientists continue to leave academia for jobs in industry. The trend is called the “graying of the biomedical workforce,” and many suspect that a preference for older, more experienced researchers in the competitive government grant application process is driving younger scientists away from academia.
(STAT News) – Juno Therapeutics, a pioneer in the sizzling field of treating cancer by revving up the immune system, on Thursday said it had halted development of its lead treatment after three patient deaths, dealing a blow to a promising but still unproven approach to oncology. The treatment, dubbed JCAR015, is created by harvesting a patient’s own immune cells and rewiring them to home in on cancer in the blood. Three patients died after excess fluids accumulated in their brains, Juno said.
(Science News) – For a “three-parent baby,” getting disease-free mitochondrial DNA from a surrogate may do more than just avert disease: For better or for worse, a donor’s mitochondria could also affect the course of aging, new research shows. Two strains of mice – genetically identical except for the source of their mitochondria, the energy centers of cells – aged very differently, researchers report online July 6 in Nature. Even though both mouse strains had healthy mitochondrial DNA, the mice with mitochondria that did not come from the same source as the rest of their DNA fared better later in life: After two years, these mice showed fewer signs of aging and had a lower incidence of tumors.
(Los Angeles Times) – New research into the genetic underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease offers fresh evidence that the devastating brain disorder may gain a foothold years before dementia sets in, and takes a key step toward earlier detection of the disease. In a study that scoured the genes of healthy young people for the presence of variants linked to Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have found that those who carried many of the telltale gene variations had a smaller hippocampus — a brain structure that is crucial to memory-formation – than did their peers with few of the genetic variations.
(Medical Xpress) – Today, a study presented at the Annual Meeting of ESHRE provides strong evidence that freeze-all protocols are indeed associated with significantly improved IVF outcomes—especially in women over 35, a patient group rapidly becoming the largest and most challenging category of infertility patient. The results of the study were presented in Helsinki by Dr Karen Hunter Cohn from Celmatix, a US company working in fertility and women’s health.
(The Atlantic) – For about a decade, Schindler, 77, has been an exit guide—a mentor for suffering people who want to end their own lives—for the controversial right-to-die group Final Exit Network. It’s her job to ensure the people she helps die are not alone in their last moments. As more and more states consider death-with-dignity and assisted-suicide laws, exit guides have become caught between a political battle and an ethical one.
(Nanowerk) – Cancer is a very complex disease and the exact cause is not clearly understood yet. Extensive biomedical research suggests a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Treatment for cancer can be of many types and primarily depends on the type of the disease, its progression and other factors. Under normal circumstances, apoptosis is a highly regulated and controlled biochemical process that leads to cell death. In other words, this is a natural process by which cells ‘commit suicide’. Cancer cells are ‘smart’ and trick this normal cellular mechanism and evade this process leading to uncontrolled cellular growth.
(STAT News) – Institutional review boards — which review all research that involves human participants — have undergone a quiet revolution in recent years, with many drug companies strongly encouraging researchers to use commercial boards, considered by many more efficient than their nonprofit counterparts. Commercial IRBs now oversee an estimated 70 percent of US clinical trials for drugs and medical devices. The industry has also consolidated, with larger IRBs buying smaller ones, and even private equity firms coming along and buying the companies.
(The Telegraph) – A simple blood test that tells the difference between bacterial and viral infections promises a major breakthrough in the fight against antimicrobial resistance that could save millions of lives. Scientists at Stanford University in California have identified seven genes whose “signature” during an illness allows doctors to tell whether the infection can be treated with antibiotics. The technique was trialled on the blood samples of 96 critically ill children and found to be successful.