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Isolated and Struggling, Many Seniors Are Turning to Suicide

July 29, 2019

(NPR) – Across the country, suicide rates have been on the rise, and that rise has struck the nation’s seniors particularly hard. Of the more than 47,000 suicides that took place in 2017, those 65 and up accounted for more than 8,500 of them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men who are 65 and older face the highest risk of suicide, while adults 85 and older, regardless of gender, are the second most likely age group to die from suicide. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 47.8 million people over the age of 65 in the U.S. as of 2015. By 2060, that number is projected to reach 98.2 million.

In a 1st, Doctors in U.S. Use CRISPR Tool to Treat Patient with Genetic Disorder

July 29, 2019

(NPR) – For the first time, doctors in the U.S. have used the powerful gene-editing technique CRISPR to try to treat a patient with a genetic disorder. “It is just amazing how far things have come,” says Victoria Gray, 34, of Forest, Miss. “It is wonderful,” she told NPR in an exclusive interview after undergoing the landmark treatment for sickle cell disease. Gray is the first patient ever to be publicly identified as being involved in a study testing the use of CRISPR for a genetic disease.

Genetic Counselors of Color Tackle Racial, Ethnic Disparities in Health Care

July 29, 2019

(NPR) – Genetic counselors work with patients to decide when genetic testing is appropriate, interpret any test results and counsel patients on the ways hereditary diseases might impact them or their families. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of genetic counselors is expected to grow by 29% between 2016 and 2026, compared with 7% average growth rate for all occupations. However, despite the field’s rapid growth, the number of African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans working as genetic counselors has remained low.

Japan Approves First Human-Animal Embryo Experiments

July 26, 2019

(Nature) – A Japanese stem-cell scientist is the first to receive government support to create animal embryos that contain human cells and transplant them into surrogate animals since a ban on the practice was overturned earlier this year. Hiromitsu Nakauchi, who leads teams at the University of Tokyo and Stanford University in California, plans to grow human cells in mouse and rat embryos and then transplant those embryos into surrogate animals. Nakauchi’s ultimate goal is to produce animals with organs made of human cells that can, eventually, be transplanted into people.

Philippines Declares National Alert After 456 Die from Dengue Fever

July 26, 2019

(CNN) – Health authorities in the Philippines have declared a “national dengue alert” after a spike in cases of the viral disease which has left more than 450 people dead since January. Around 100,000 dengue cases were reported across the Philippines in the first six months of 2019, an increase of 85% on the same period last year.  Epidemics have been declared in four regions of the country — Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, and Northern Mindanao — which between them are home to more than 20 million people, or roughly 20% of the Philippines population.

Experts Question Rationale for Stem Cell Trial for Autism

July 26, 2019

(Spectrum) – The results echo those of a 2017 study at Duke University that reported that infusions of stem cells taken from stored umbilical cord blood are safe. “When there’s more than one group reporting similar results, it tends to look more like a validation,” says Arnold Kriegstein, professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. But he cautions that the findings are about safety only, and neither study tested the treatment against a placebo. There is also no convincing explanation for how the stem cells might treat autism, he says.Other experts question the ethics of making families pay to participate in such trials.

Concerns Over NHS Gender Identity Service Investigated

July 26, 2019

(Medscape) – The UK’s Health Research Authority (HRA) is investigating concerns raised by the BBC’s Newsnight programme about the NHS Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) and early access to puberty blockers. The decision to prescribe the hormone blocking drugs is partly based on the results of a study, the design of which is now in question. Michael Biggs, associate professor of sociology at Oxford University, told the BBC he didn’t see how children and parents could have given informed consent for the drugs based on the “lack of information” provided.

First CRISPR Study Inside the Body to Start in U.S.

July 25, 2019

(STAT News) – Patients are about to be enrolled in the first study to test a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR inside the body to try to cure an inherited form of blindness. People with the disease have normal eyes but lack a gene that converts light into signals to the brain that enable sight. The experimental treatment aims to supply kids and adults with a healthy version of the gene they lack, using a tool that cuts or “edits” DNA in a specific spot. It’s intended as a onetime treatment that permanently alters the person’s native DNA.

Report: U.S. Opioid Prescribing Rates Higher Than Other Countries

July 25, 2019

(UPI) – Opioid prescription rates for American doctors may be higher than physicians in other countries, new findings show. About 79 percent of patients who felt pain during hospital visits in the United States received opioid prescriptions, according to research published Wednesday in Journal of Hospital Medicine. That’s compared to 51 percent of patients in seven other countries.

How an AI Expert Took on His Toughest Project Ever: Writing Code to Save His Son’s Life

July 25, 2019

(STAT News) – On Memorial Day weekend, Buddy became mediKanren’s first medical emergency, a test of whether its AI could help Might and his son’s doctors unlock the answers to an illness that had brought Buddy to the brink. The series of events that followed showcases AI’s power to produce dramatic results in health care. It also shows that the nature of AI’s power is not to automate care, or to replace the judgement of doctors, but to give them crucial information — and a reason to change course — when it matters most.

Scientists Doing Basic Studies of Human Brain Win Longer Reprieve from Clinical Trials Reporting Rule

July 25, 2019

(Science) – U.S. scientists who challenged a new rule that would require them to register their basic studies of the human brain and behavior in a federal database of clinical trials have won another reprieve. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, says it now understands why some of that kind of research won’t easily fit the format of ClinicalTrials.gov, and the agency has delayed the reporting requirements for another 2 years.

Juul Targeted Schools, Camps and Youth Programs, House Panel Claims

July 25, 2019

(The New York Times) – Juul Labs “deployed a sophisticated program to enter schools and convey its messaging directly to teenage children,” recruited thousands of online influencers to market its vaping devices to youths and targeted children as young as 8 in summer camp, according to an investigation by a panel of House Democrats.

Science Under Fire: Ebola Researchers Fight to Test Drugs and Vaccines in a War Zone

July 24, 2019

(Nature) – The race to develop treatments for Ebola has accelerated since the largest epidemic in history devastated West Africa between 2014 and 2016. Scientists responding to the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have enrolled more than 500 participants in an unprecedented study of experimental drugs, vaccinated nearly 170,000 people, and sequenced the genomes of more than 270 Ebola samples collected from the sick.

The Opioid Epidemic You Haven’t Heard About

July 24, 2019

(Mosaic) – Refugees in northern Nigeria reportedly use tramadol to deal with post-traumatic stress. In Gabon it has infiltrated schools under the name kobolo, leading to kids having seizures in class, while in Ghana the ‘tramadol dance’ is trending, basing its zombie-like moves on the way people behave when they’re high on the painkiller. Musicians from Sierra Leone, Togo and Nigeria have written songs about it. It is popular in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Among the ranks of Boko Haram and Islamic State, tramadol tablets are taken by fighters, leading them to be dubbed ‘jihadist pills’. But because it’s only about one-tenth the strength of morphine, tramadol is deemed to have a low abuse potential. It’s therefore not internationally controlled – or ‘scheduled’ – by the United Nations. Instead, each country has to set up its own rules and regulations for tramadol production, import, export, distribution and use.

Fitbit and Other Wearables May Not Accurately Track Heart Rates in People of Color

July 24, 2019

(STAT News) – An estimated 40 million people in the United States have smartwatches or fitness trackers that can monitor their heartbeats. But some people of color may be at risk of getting inaccurate readings. Nearly all of the largest manufacturers of wearable heart rate trackers rely on technology that could be less reliable for consumers who have darker skin, according to researchers, engineers, and other experts who spoke with STAT. Fitbit uses the potentially problematic technology in every heart rate tracker it offers, and it’s also in many Garmin and Samsung devices. Other popular trackers, like the Apple Watch, use it, too — but simultaneously track heart rates with another method.

Oregon Removes Assisted Suicide Wait for Certain Patients

July 24, 2019

(ABC News) – Legislation allowing certain terminally ill patients to have quicker access to life-ending medications under the state’s first-in-the-nation assisted suicide law has been signed into law, Gov. Kate Brown’s office announced Wednesday. The law allows those with 15 days left to live to bypass a 15-day waiting period required under the Death with Dignity Act, something proponents say will reduce bureaucracy and bring relief to gravely ill people.

Study: Malaria Drugs Are Failing at an ‘Alarming’ Rate in Southeast Asia

July 23, 2019

(NPR) – Malaria drugs are failing at an “alarming” rate in Southeast Asia as drug-resistant strains of the malaria parasite emerge. That’s the conclusion of researchers in two new reports — one based on a randomized trial and the other on a genetic study — that have just been released in the medical journal The Lancet. And there’s concern that this drug resistance could spread around the globe. Global health officials get nervous when new strains of drug-resistant malaria turn up in Southeast Asia, because it’s a dreaded pattern that they’ve seen before. Resistance that has hatched in this region has doomed previous malaria medications since the middle of the 20th century.

Walmart and CVS Are Among the Retailers Being Sued for Aiding the Spread of Opoids

July 23, 2019

(Vox) – Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid are among the superstores and chain drugstores named in what will be a major trial regarding corporate complicity in the opioid epidemic.  As reported by the New York Times, the lawsuit filed in federal court last Friday seeks billions of dollars in restitution from corporations that inundated the market with prescription opioids, and consists of almost 2,000 individual cases brought by cities, counties, and Native American tribes around the country where opioid addiction levied heavy death tolls. The lawsuit is expected to go to trial — the biggest civil trial in US history, per the Washington Post — in October.

Merck Unveils Early Data on HIV Drug It Says Could Be a ‘Game Changer’

July 23, 2019

(STAT News) – At an all-day meeting for investors last month in a posh Manhattan event space, executives at Merck couldn’t have been more excited about a new HIV drug, MK-8591. They mentioned it 25 times, calling it “a game changer” and talking up its “remarkable properties.” Why? If effective, it could be used in a new drug combination that might have fewer side effects, the company says. More excitingly, it might be fashioned into an implant that could be given only once a year to prevent patients at high risk from contracting HIV, a boon to public health.

FDA Warns Top Marijuana Company for Making CBD Health Claims

July 23, 2019

(ABC News) – U.S. regulators warned a leading marijuana company for making unproven health claims about CBD, the trendy ingredient that’s turning up in lotions, foods and pet treats. The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday it warned Curaleaf Inc., of Wakefield, Massachusetts, for illegally selling unapproved products. Curaleaf’s claims could lead people to delay medical care for serious conditions like cancer, the agency said.

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