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Hospital Sues over New National Liver Transplant Policy

April 23, 2019

(Medical Xpress) – Hospitals and patients have sued to block a new nationwide liver transplant policy that they say will waste viable livers, lead to fewer transplants and likely cause deaths. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the United Network for Organ Sharing hastily adopted the new policy and based it on faulty assumptions, according to the suit filed Monday in Atlanta federal court.

Former Pharmaceutical Company Execs Hit with Drug Trafficking Charges

April 23, 2019

(CNN) – Two former executives of a pharmaceutical distributor company are facing criminal drug trafficking charges on accusations of illegally distributing opioids and conspiring to defraud the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the first time distributors have been criminally charged with these crimes.

China Executes Prisoners for Organ Transplants

April 23, 2019

(Medical Daily) – A recent report revealed that China has kept a dark medical secret from the rest of the world. It was found that those who had kidney transplants in the country were receiving organs from executed prisoners. Their extractions were without consent and were said to be a response to a shortage of organ supply. It was also revealed that illegal organ trafficking is quite rampant in the country.

When a Treatment Costs $450,000 or More, It Had Better Work

April 23, 2019

(The Atlantic) – Bluebird is one of a handful of biotech firms that are trying to soften the sticker shock of new drugs and devices so that more insurance companies will agree to cover them. The premise: The insurers pay only if the drugs work. Known as value-based agreements, these deals are a departure from standard practice in American health care. They respond to a basic moral dilemma in the system: If insurers cover every possible treatment, the cost of coverage will skyrocket. But if insurers won’t pay for experimental drugs for uncommon diseases, those drugs may never be invented at all, or they’ll be available only to the richest patients.

UAE Woman Munira Abdulla Wakes Up after 27 Years in a Coma

April 23, 2019

(BBC) – A woman from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who was seriously injured in a traffic accident in 1991 has made a seemingly miraculous recovery after emerging from a 27-year-long coma. Munira Abdulla, who was aged 32 at the time of the accident, suffered a severe brain injury after the car she was travelling in collided with a bus on the way to pick up her son from school.

Older Women Exploited by IVF Clinics, Says Fertility Watchdog

April 23, 2019

(BBC) – Older women are being exploited by IVF clinics “trading on hope”, the fertility watchdog has warned. Sally Cheshire, chairwoman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), told the Daily Telegraph some private clinics were using “selective success rates” to target older women. IVF is less likely to be successful as a woman gets older.

Google Searches for Ways to Put Artificial Intelligence to Use in Health Care

April 23, 2019

(NPR) – One of the biggest corporations on the planet is taking a serious interest in the intersection of artificial intelligence and health. Google and its sister companies, parts of the holding company Alphabet, are making a huge investment in the field, with potentially big implications for everyone who interacts with Google — which is more than a billion of us. The push into AI and health is a natural evolution for a company that has developed algorithms that reach deep into our lives through the Web.

China Draws Up Tighter Rules on Human Gene and Embryo Editing

April 22, 2019

(Australian Broadcasting Co) – China’s top legislature will consider tougher rules on research involving human genes and embryos, according to Chinese state media. It is the first such move since a Chinese scientist sparked controversy last year by announcing he had made the world’s first “gene-edited” babies.

Genetic Basis of Obesity Carries Weight

April 22, 2019

(GEN) – There are, undoubtedly, many factors that go into a person’s weight. A new report from the lab of Sekar Kathiresan, MD, director of the Center for Genomic Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), documents a clear biologic basis for the predisposition of obesity. More specifically, that genetics play a role in how heavy a person gets. The study used polygenic risk scores (PRS) to stratify patients into risk categories based on their genetic mutations.

Why Do Doctors Overtreat? For Many, It’s What They’re Trained to Do

April 22, 2019

(NPR) – Medical education is built on the assumption that the more procedures or treatments doctors see and do, the more competent they’ll be when they’re independent. It can feel tempting to do more rather than less.
But excessive medical tests and treatments can have financial and personal costs. They contribute to this country’s rising health care spending and subject patients to anxiety and the risks of extraneous procedures. A group of medical educators thinks this epidemic of overtreatment, as they call it, starts with the habits that doctors develop during training — habits they’re hoping to break with new approaches to medical education.

A Pivotal Test of an Experimental Malaria Vaccine Set to Begin

April 19, 2019

(STAT News) – Researchers are preparing to launch a pivotal test of an experimental malaria vaccine this month — one that global health leaders believe could eventually lead to big reductions in the number of cases and deaths worldwide. Despite those high hopes, there are also concerns that the theoretical benefits of the vaccine, made by GSK, might not translate into the real world.

Rural Health Clinics Struggle to Fight Skyrocketing Syphilis Cases

April 19, 2019

(CNN) – Public health officials say rural counties across the Midwest and West are becoming the new battleground. While syphilis is still concentrated in cities such as San Francisco, Atlanta and Las Vegas, its continued spread into places like Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma creates a new set of challenges. Compared with urban hubs, rural populations tend to have less access to public health resources, less experience with syphilis and less willingness to address it because of socially conservative views toward homosexuality and nonmarital sex.

Virus Identified as a Cause of Paralyzing Condition in Minnesota Children

April 19, 2019

(Star Tribune) – A virus appears to be the cause behind a rash of polio-like illnesses that struck Minnesota last fall, causing paralyzing symptoms in several children, including one girl who lost all motor function and remains hospitalized. Researchers from Minnesota and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that they found Enterovirus-D68 in the spinal fluid of one of six children who suffered acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

The Girl in the Depression Helmet

April 19, 2019

(The Atlantic) – Researchers at some academic institutions are taking the technology seriously. Yale has a Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Research Clinic, and the service is offered at Johns Hopkins. Numerous studies have suggested promising clinical uses, including one this week in the journal Neurology. But the mechanisms proposed are vague. TMS may be beneficial in treating addiction, according to a 2017 paper in Nature Neuroscience Reviews, by “influencing neural activity … throughout the brain.” According to the Mayo Clinic: “Though the biology of why TMS works isn’t completely understood, the stimulation appears to impact how the brain is working, which in turn seems to ease depression symptoms and improve mood.”

Maternal Age Has No Effect on IVF Success Conclude Researchers

April 19, 2019

(News-Medical) – Researchers have shown that maternal age may not influence the implantation potential of embryos in IVF or the likelihood of miscarriage. The study concludes that whilst older women produce fewer euploid (healthy) embryos, age does not affect implantation or live birth rates, if healthy, high-quality embryos are used. There have been several studies that suggest that age causes a decline in the reproductive potential for women. This has mainly been attributed to the decrease in the yield of oocytes (eggs) and an increase in aneuploidy (embryos that have less or more than the requisite number of chromosomes).

U.S. Researcher Says He’s Ready to Start Four Pregnancies with ‘Three-Parent’ Embryos

April 19, 2019

(STAT News) – Researchers at Columbia University in New York have created embryos containing genetic material from three people and are ready to use them to start pregnancies. But they’re at a legal impasse. At a public forum at Harvard Law School on Wednesday, Dietrich Egli, assistant professor of developmental cell biology at Columbia, said his team has used a controversial technique called mitochondrial replacement therapy to make embryos for four female patients. The women are all carriers of genetic disorders that are passed down through maternal mitochondria, the energy-generating organelles inside cells.

CRISPR Base Editors Are Often Off Base with RNA

April 19, 2019

(GEN) – “Most investigation of off-target base editing has focused on DNA, but we have found that this technology can induce large numbers of RNA alterations as well,” said Joung. “This surprising finding suggests the need to look at more than just genetic alterations when considering unintended off-target effects of base editors in cells. We also show the feasibility of reducing these effects by creating variants that selectively reduce off-target RNA editing while preserving the intended on-target DNA activity.”

Ethicists Propose Harnessing Participant Engagement to Address Trustworthiness in Medical Data Sharing

April 19, 2019

(Medical Xpress) – In order to advance and ultimately achieve precision medicine in healthcare, the National Academies has suggested that genomic and other health-related data must be shared through a medical “information commons.” Released online today in a special issue of the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, scientists and ethicists look to address and propose solutions to many of the questions that surround the development and operation of such a resource.

Experimental Gene Therapy Frees “Bubble-Boy” Babies from a Life of Isolation

April 18, 2019

(Scientific American) – An experimental gene therapy has restored functioning immune systems to seven young children with a severe disorder that would have sentenced them to a life of isolation to avoid potentially deadly infections. They are now with family at home, and an eighth child is slated to be released from hospital at the end of this week.

Don’t Count on 23andMe to Detect Most Breast Cancer Risks, Study Warns

April 18, 2019

(The New York Times) – In 2010, Dr. Pamela Munster mailed her saliva to 23andMe, a relatively new DNA testing company, and later opted in for a BRCA test. As an oncologist, she knew a mutation of this gene would put her at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. She was relieved by the negative result. Two years later, after she learned she had breast cancer, she took a more complete genetic test from a different lab. This time it was positive. A study of 100,000 people released earlier this month suggested that this experience could be widespread. Nearly 90 percent of participants who carried a BRCA mutation would have been missed by 23andMe’s test, geneticists found.

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