(Scientific American) – Four years ago Indian sprinter Dutee Chand seemed headed for greatness. She became her country’s 100-meter champion for women 18 and younger, and the Sports Authority of India called her a “sure shot Olympic medalist.” Yet soon afterward, the Athletics Federation of India banned her from competition because she had an elevated level of the hormone testosterone, the result of a natural condition called hyperandrogenism.
(The Economist) – The general idea of building computers to resemble brains is called neuromorphic computing, a term coined by Carver Mead, a pioneering computer scientist, in the late 1980s. There are many attractions. Brains may be slow and error-prone, but they are also robust, adaptable and frugal. They excel at processing the sort of noisy, uncertain data that are common in the real world but which tend to give conventional electronic computers, with their prescriptive arithmetical approach, indigestion. The latest development in this area came on August 3rd, when a group of researchers led by Evangelos Eleftheriou at IBM’s research laboratory in Zurich announced, in a paper published in Nature Nanotechnology, that they had built a working, artificial version of a neuron.
(UPI) – Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital say the efforts of children, as well as researchers and funding sources, in hundreds of clinical trials are being wasted by studies that are either not finished or never published. Hundreds of clinical trials involving children are discontinued early, and even more that are completed never get published, despite legislative initiatives encouraging more pediatric studies across the country, according to a review of medical literature.
(New York times) – The National Institutes of Health announced on Thursday it is considering lifting its ban on funding some research that injects human stem cells into animal embryos. The N.I.H. announced its proposal in a blog post by Carrie Wolinetz, the associate director for science policy, and in the Federal Register. The purpose of trying to grow human tissues or organs in animals is to better understand human diseases and further progress in developing therapies to treat them.
(STAT News) – GlaxoSmithKline has developed what looks like a cure for a rare and deadly disease, and it’s going to cost $665,000 for a single dose. That sky-high price tag — more than twice the average price of a house — is likely to stir what’s already a long-simmering debate in health care: How much should curative therapies cost, and how should society pay for them? GSK’s drug, called Strimvelis, is a gene therapy for severe combined immune deficiency, an inborn illness that leaves children unable to protect themselves against infection.
(CNet) – Monitoring your heart rate and VO2 max (maximum oxygen volume) with the latest fitness tracker is nifty, but researchers are developing new, tiny tech to keep track of just about any organ, nerve or muscle in real time. If that’s not futuristic-cyborg-cool enough for you, the so-called “neural dust” could also be used to stimulate nerves and muscles, ushering in a new era of “electroceutical” treatment for things like epilepsy or inflammation.
(Australian Broadcasting Co.) – A woman who gave birth at the age of 62 after undergoing IVF has been labelled selfish by the president of the Australian Medical Association. In a tweet, Dr Michael Gannon said there were “greater priorities in women’s health”. “Anyone thought ahead to its teens? Selfish, wrong,” he said. Frances Perry Private Hospital in Melbourne’s inner north said the woman was recuperating after the baby’s birth.
(Nanowerk) – IBM scientists have developed a new lab-on-a-chip technology that can, for the first time, separate biological particles at the nanoscale and could help enable physicians to detect diseases such as cancer before symptoms appear. As reported today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology (“Nanoscale Lateral Displacement Arrays for Separation of Exosomes and Colloids Down to 20nm”), the IBM team’s results show size-based separation of bioparticles down to 20 nanometers (nm) in diameter, a scale that gives access to important particles such as DNA, viruses and exosomes.
European Journal of Human Genetics (vol. 24, no. 8, 2016) is available online by subscription only.
- “A Decision Tool to Guide the Ethics Review of a Challenging Breed of Emerging Genomic Projects” by Yann Joly, Derek So, Gladys Osien, Laura Crimi, Martin Bobrow, Don Chalmers, Susan E Wallace, Nikolajs Zeps, and Bartha Knoppers
- “Post-Mortem Testing; Germline BRCA1/2 Variant Detection Using Archival FFPE Non-Tumor Tissue. A New Paradigm in Genetic Counseling” by Yann Joly, Derek So, Gladys Osien, Laura Crimi, Martin Bobrow, Don Chalmers, Susan E Wallace, Nikolajs Zeps, and Bartha Knoppers
Journal of Medical Ethics (vol. 42, no. 8, 2016) is available online by subscription only.
- “Adolescent Autonomy Revisited: Clinicians Need Clearer Guidance” by Joe Brierley and Victor Larcher
- “Legal and Ethical Aspects of Organ Donation After Euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands” by Jan Bollen, Rankie ten Hoopen, Dirk Ysebaert, Walther van Mook, and Ernst van Heurn
- “Canada on Course to Introduce Permissive Assisted Dying Regime” by Udo Schuklenk
- “Disclosure of Incidental Constituents of Psychotherapy as a Moral Obligation for Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists” by Manuel Trachsel, Jens Gaab
- The ASBH Code of Ethics and the Limits of Professional Healthcare Ethics Consultations” by Abraham Schwab
- “Snakes and Ladders: State Interventions and the Place of Liberty in Public Health Policy” by Angus J Dawson
- “How Not to Test the Prevalence of Therapeutic Misconception” by Paul S Appelbaum
- “Faith, Hope And (No) Clarity” by Barry Lyons
- “Conflicting Messages Concerning Current Strategies Against Research Misconduct in Japan: A Call for Ethical Spontaneity” by Atsushi Asai, Taketoshi Okita, Aya Enzo
- “Appropriateness of No-Fault Compensation for Research-Related Injuries From an African Perspective: An Appeal for Action by African Countries” by Patrick Dongosolo Kamalo, Lucinda Manda-Taylor, Stuart Rennie
New Genetics and Society (Latest Articles) is available online by subscription only.
- “The Collection of “Quality” Umbilical Cord Blood for Stem Cell Treatments: Conflicts, Compromises, and Clinical Pragmatism” by Laura L. Machin
Clinical Trials (vol. 13, no. 3, 2016) is available online by subscription only.
- “Cluster-Randomized Trials: A Closer Look” by Andrew D McRae, Monica Taljaard, and Charles Weijer
- “Research Involving Pediatric Stem Cell Donors: A Way Forward” by David Wendler, Nirali N Shah, Michael A Pulsipher, Terry Fry, and Christine Grady
The Journal of Medicine & Philosophy (vol. 41, no. 4, 2016) is available online by subscription only.
- “Keeping it Ethically Real” by Dien Ho
- “Clinical Ethics Consultants are not “Ethics” Experts—But They do Have Expertise” by Lisa M. Rasmussen
- “Moral Expertise in the Clinic: Lessons Learned from Medicine and Science” by Leah McClimans and Anne Slowther
- “Expertise, Ethics Expertise, and Clinical Ethics Consultation: Achieving Terminological Clarity” by Ana S. Iltis and Mark Sheehan
(MIT Technology Review) – The latest advancement in anti-aging therapies hardly sounds like modern medicine at all. Ambrosia, a startup based in Monterey, California, is launching a clinical trial to inject the blood of young people into just about anyone aged 35 and up—if they’re willing to pay $8,000. Young-to-old blood transfusions hit the limelight in 2014 when Harvard Stem Cell Institute researcher Amy Wagers discovered that the blood of young mice improved muscle, heart, and brain function in older mice. Scientists sewed the skin of two mice together, allowing their circulatory systems to merge. The surgery, called parabiosis, was first performed in the 1860s but has seen a resurgence of interest following Wagers’s study.
(The Atlantic) – Medical-device companies—unlike drug conglomerates—are predominantly small businesses, and the process of bringing their inventions to market can be prohibitively expensive. After a device is finally cleared, its design may become obsolete within a couple of years. For drug licensing, part of the time burden comes from the FDA’s dueling mandates of safety and efficacy, each of which requires different kinds of tests and controls. Each stage of research emphasizes the two factors to different extents, and these priorities are reflected in the experimental design. The weighting of safety and efficacy priorities remains a subject of debate.
(New York Times) – “I think there is a placebo effect not only on patients but on doctors,” Dr. Kallmes adds. “The successful patient is burned into their memories and the not-so-successful patient is not. Doctors can have a selective memory that leads them to conclude that, ‘Darn it, it works pretty well.’ ” The latest controversy — and the operation that arguably has been studied the most in randomized clinical trials — is surgery for a torn meniscus, a sliver of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber in the knee.
(UPI) – Hospitals with less experience dealing with heart attack and heart failure patients send more of them to the intensive care unit, where they receive fewer tests and treatments known to be effective for the conditions, new research shows. Patients with either heart attack or heart failure flare-ups are more likely to see their conditions worsen, or die, at hospitals that are more likely to treat either condition in the ICU, researchers at the University of Michigan found in a review of hospital data.
(Nature) – Around the world, nearly 80 research groups in 25 countries are honing their technologies for the €5-million (US$5.5-million) event. They range from small, ad hoc teams to the world’s largest manufacturers of advanced prostheses, and comprise about 300 scientists, engineers, support staff and competitors: disabled people who will each compete in one of six events that will challenge their ability to tackle the chores of daily life. A race for prosthetic-arm users will be won by the first cyborg to complete tasks including preparing a meal and hanging clothes on a line. A powered-wheelchair race will test how well participants can navigate everyday obstacles such as bumps and stairs.
(STAT News) – When the Olympics kick off Friday, ailing athletes will go to a sparkling new clinic built just for the games. Sick tourists, meanwhile, will be sent to a public hospital whose cramped communal quarters may come as a surprise. Municipal Hospital Souza Aguiar, housed in a gloomy 1960s building in downtown Rio de Janeiro, is one of five public hospitals officially designated to accept Olympic tourists. Spectators who attend the opening and closing ceremonies — as well as other sports in the Maracanã Olympic Zone, including soccer, track and field, and archery — will be directed to Souza Aguiar.
(UPI) – A potential vaccine for the Zika virus has entered early clinical trials to assess its safety in humans, U.S. health officials announced Wednesday. The DNA-based vaccine contains genetic pieces of the Zika virus. It is intended to promote an immune response that would protect against the mosquito-borne virus that can cause devastating birth defects, according to a statement from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).