(Nature) – To administer the therapy, the researchers extract immune cells called T-cells from a healthy donor, and expose them to a type of DNA-cutting enzyme called a TALEN. The enzyme deactivates immune genes that would otherwise cause the donor cells to attack when injected into a person with leukaemia, and modifies genes to protect the new cells from anti-cancer drugs that the patient is taking. The individual then undergoes therapy to destroy his or her own immune system, which is replaced with the modified cells. The treatment is not a permanent solution for leukemia patients, says Qasim, but rather a ’bridge‘ to keep the person alive until a matched T cell donor can be found.
(Medical Xpress) – Stem-cell scientists led by Dr. John Dick have discovered a completely new view of how human blood is made, upending conventional dogma from the 1960s. The findings, published online today in the journal Science, prove “that the whole classic ‘textbook’ view we thought we knew doesn’t actually even exist,” says principal investigator John Dick, Senior Scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network (UHN), and Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto.
(The Telegraph) – The General Medical Council convened the disciplinary panel to rule on Dr Palaniappan Rajmohan’s fitness to practice after he was recorded by The Telegraph offering to arrange an abortion for a woman who said she wanted the procedure because the baby was a girl. The GMC dropped its investigation into Prabha Sivaraman, a second doctor, who was recorded telling a woman: “I don’t ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination.” The regulatory body began inquiries into both doctors after a Telegraph investigation into so-called sex selective abortion.
(Eurekalert) – The hormone kisspeptin could be a safer and more effective way for harvesting eggs during IVF treatment, according to a new study presented today at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Edinburgh. During conventional IVF treatment, doctors inject patients with the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which helps ovaries mature eggs that are later harvested to mix with sperm to make an embryo. A potential side effect during this step of IVF is ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS) – a potentially life-threatening condition.
(New Scientist) – WILL IVF work for you? A new calculator could give you the most accurate prediction yet of your chances of success. Fertility doctors tend to base a woman’s odds of IVF success on her age and ovarian reserve – the number of follicles available for fertilisation. With this information they can decide whether or not to recommend treatment – which can be expensive, as well as mentally and physically demanding.
(The Wall Street Journal) – A court in Mumbai has temporarily lifted a government prohibition on foreign couples’ using Indian surrogate mothers, clearing the way for two fertility clinics in the city to keep serving clients from abroad, two lawyers involved in the case said. Last week, the Indian Council of Medical Research, instructed clinics not to allow foreigners to employ Indian women as surrogates – part of a government effort to impose tighter limits on a growing industry that has raised concerns about exploitation of women.
(Nature) – Three years later, Silicon Valley’s big fish — technology investors with billions of dollars at their disposal — have finally ventured into synthetic biology’s small pond. Scared away from conventional biotechnology in past by the risky and expensive prospect of drug development, they are now lured by what they see as synthetic biology’s huge market potential, plummeting operating costs, improved business models and an increasing emphasis on computing.
(Science World Report) – Through 3-D printing, scientists have developed uniform ‘blocks’ of embryonic stem cells that are potentially capable of building micro-organs, according to recent findings. Researchers one day hope that the technique might be used as the basic building blocks for others in performing experiments on tissue regeneration and/or drug screening studies.
(Retraction Watch) – Waseda University has revoked the doctorate degree of the first author on the now-retracted Nature papers about a technique to create stem cells. The technique — which claimed to provide a new way to nudge young cells from mice into pluripotency — was initially described in two 2014 Nature papers, both first-authored by Haruko Obokata. However, the papers were soon mired in controversy, corrected, then retracted later that year due to “several critical errors,” some of which were categorized by a RIKEN investigation as misconduct.
(MIT Technology Review) – Editas is one of several startups, including Intellia Therapeutics and CRISPR Therapeutics, that have plans to use the technique to correct DNA disorders that affect children and adults. Bosley said that because CRISPR can “repair broken genes” it holds promise for treating several thousand inherited disorders caused by gene mistakes, most of which, like Huntington’s disease and cystic fibrosis, have no cure. Editas, which had not previously given a timeline for an initial human test of CRISPR, will try to treat one form of a rare eye disease called Leber congenital amaurosis, which affects the light-receiving cells of the retina.
Journal of the American Medical Association (vol. 314, no. 17, 2015) is available online by subscription only.
- “New Opportunities for Integrating Drug Safety Risk Management Programs Into the Health Care System: Bridging the Divide” by Meredith Y. Smith and Paul J. Seligman
- “The Promotion of Medical Products in the 21st Century: Off-label Marketing and First Amendment Concerns” by Joshua M. Sharfstein and Alta Charo
The New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 373, no. 18, 2015) is available online by subscription only.
- “Bringing the Common Rule into the 21st Century” by K.L. Hudson and F.S. Collins
- “Health Care Reform’s Unfinished Work—Remaining Barriers to Coverage and Access” by B.D. Sommers
- “Hospital Charity Care—Effects of New Community-Benefit Requirements” by S.S. Nikpay and J.Z. Ayanian
- “Medical-Imaging Stewardship in the Accountable Care Era” by D.J. Durand, J.S. Lewin, and S.A. Berkowitz
- “Reforming the Veterans Health Administration—Beyond Palliation of Symptoms” by B.P. Giroir and G.R. Wilensky
- “Cryopreservation of Oocytes” by G.L. Schattman
(Scientific American) – How do you get into the mind of a human being who cannot speak, does not follow instructions and rudely interrupts your experiments? That is the challenge embraced by scientists at the Babylab. The brain undergoes more change during the first two years of life than at any other time: consciousness, traits of personality, temperament and ability all become apparent, as do the first signs that development could be drifting off course. But this period is also the most difficult to explore, because many of the standard tools of human neuroscience are useless: babies will not lie awake and still in an imaging machine, and they cannot answer questions or do as they are told. Researchers have measured infants’ interest and attention mostly by tracking their gaze—but even this method has been criticized as crude.
(Nature) – There have never been more options when it comes to measuring factors relevant to health. We can sequence our entire genomes and those of our bacteria, viruses and tumours. In principle, every visit to the doctor can be tracked from electronic medical records. Information on physiology, behaviours, diets, movements and interactions with others can be extracted from wearable devices, smartphone apps and social-networking sites. And thanks to the open-access movement and a shift in data-sharing norms, more data are being made publicly available. Yet sifting through the information to find answers to questions about health is becoming increasingly difficult, even for the experts.
(Nature) – A targeted antibiotic can eliminate infections caused by microbes that are resistant to most drugs, experiments in mouse cells suggest. A team at biotechnology company Genentech in South San Francisco, California, borrowed a concept used in cancer treatment, in which an antibody — a protein designed to attach to particular cells — is connected to a cancer-fighting drug. Such ‘antibody–drug conjugates’ include Genentech’s Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine), which docks onto breast-cancer cells before deploying its cancer-killing payload.
(The Guardian) – So parents in the UK may select, rather than design a child, on medical grounds. But what about those wanting to choose a child with non-medical traits associated with sporting prowess, musical or artistic ability, general intelligence; or avoid genetic traits associated with depression or aggression; or simply select for the optimum height associated with success at a particular sport, attractiveness or higher earnings?
(Wired UK) – A new study suggests that an allele, or variant form of a gene, commonly associated with Alzheimer’s also conveys an increased risk of late-life depression. An allele is a form of a gene that can be used to predict the genetic likelihood of someone’s susceptibility — and APOE ?4 is particularly associated with dementia. Researchers at the University of Gothenberg found that the presence of the allele APOE ?4 may be a reliable predictor for late life depression.
(Science Daily) – An international study led by University of Queensland (UQ) researchers has tracked the re-emergence of a childhood disease which had largely disappeared over the past 100 years. Researchers at UQ’s Australian Infectious Diseases Centre have used genome sequencing techniques to investigate a rise in the incidence of scarlet fever-causing bacteria and an increasing resistance to antibiotics.
(Eurekalert) – Stem cells have two important capabilities: they can develop into a wide range of cell types and simultaneously renew themselves, creating fresh stem cells. Using a model of the blood forming (hematopoietic) system, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have now been able to precisely determine, which signaling pathways play an essential role in the self-renewal of blood stem cells. A particularly decisive role in this process is the interactive communication with surrounding tissue cells in the bone marrow.
(Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) – Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) say they have shown that a method they developed to improve the usefulness and precision of the most common form of the gene-editing tools, CRISPR-Cas9 RNA-guided nucleases, can be applied to Cas9 enzymes from other bacterial sources.