(New York Times) – Venezuela’s economic collapse has already decimated its health system, leaving hospitals without antibiotics, surgeons without gloves and patients dying on emergency room tables. Now, thousands of mental health patients — many of whom had been living relatively normal lives under medication — are drifting into despair and psychosis because the country has run out of the vast majority of psychiatric medicines, leaving families and doctors powerless to help them, medical experts say. Mental institutions have released thousands of patients because they can no longer treat them, according to physicians.
(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson is telling patients that it has learned of a security vulnerability in one of its insulin pumps that a hacker could exploit to overdose diabetic patients with insulin, though it describes the risk as low. Medical device experts said they believe it was the first time a manufacturer had issued such a warning to patients about a cyber vulnerability, a hot topic in the industry following revelations last month about possible bugs in pacemakers and defibrillators.
(MIT Technology Review) – During the most recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, health-care workers treated some sick patients by injecting them with plasma—the translucent part of the blood—taken from individuals who had survived the disease. In the absence of an approved drug to treat patients, the hope was that protective proteins in the donor plasma would help recipients fight the disease and recover. A biotech company wants to use this same approach to treat a variety of infectious diseases, with one key difference: cows, not humans, will be the plasma donors.
(The Washington Post) – Complications can be lethal; one clinical trial was briefly halted in July after three young adults died of brain swelling. It’s also far from clear that such a personalized approach — possibly costing hundreds of thousands of dollars — is economically viable on a large scale or will produce the lasting remissions that everyone hopes to see. U.S. researchers running CAR T-cell trials for children and adults with leukemia and lymphoma have reported remission rates up to 90 percent in some cases. That’s a major achievement in a group whose cancer is emboldened by every treatment failure. But rates in other trials are considerably lower, and many patients eventually relapse.
(Reuters) – Oklahoma’s highest court on Tuesday struck down a law imposing restrictions on abortion providers, including a requirement that they take samples of fetal tissue from patients younger than 14 and preserve them for state investigators. The law also set new criminal penalties for providers found to have violated abortion-related statutes as well as for anyone found to have helped a minor evade the requirement to obtain parental consent. In addition, the bill created a new, stricter inspection and licensing system for abortion clinics.
(STAT News) – Twelve years ago, a dotcom millionaire stood at a patient advocacy group’s board meeting and made an offer. I’ll give you $1 million, he said. But only if you commit to getting an artificial pancreas on the market. That challenge set JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, on a costly, and risky, campaign to enlist academic researchers, global companies, members of Congress, and even federal regulators to embrace the concept of a device that could take over much of the process of regulating blood sugar in patients with diabetes.
(Medical News Today) – Last year, a controversial study suggested the majority of cancer cases are down to “bad luck” – that is, random DNA mutations in adult stem cells that are not caused by lifestyle factors. A new study contradicts this claim; while bad luck does play a role cancer development, researchers find it is unlikely to be the primary contributor.
(The Washington Post) – Women all over Poland went on strike Monday to protest the government’s plans for a ban on abortions. It was unclear how many women participated nationally, but organizers estimated that up to 6 million women joined in the protest, according to news reports. Some protesters wore black clothes as they marched through the streets on “Black Monday.” There were counter-demonstrations, as well, with antiabortion protesters marching in white clothes to distinguish themselves from their ideological opponents.
Postdoctoral/Post Baccalaureate Fellowship Opportunity: Bioethics Fellowship at the National Institutes of Health
The Department of Bioethics is pleased to offer a limited number of two-year post-doctoral and pre-doctoral (post-baccalaureate) fellowships. Fellows participate in the activities and the intellectual life of our interdisciplinary department and study ethical issues related to the conduct of research, clinical practice, genetics, and health policy. They conduct mentored theoretical and empirical research on a range of bioethical fields of interest. For a typical fellow, this research yields multiple first-authored publications in premier academic journals. In addition to research and writing, fellows participate in weekly bioethics seminars, case conferences, ethics consultations, and IRB deliberations, and have access to multiple educational opportunities at NIH. No prior bioethics experience is required or expected.
Fellowships begin in September 2017. Students planning to pursue MD, JD, PhD or other graduate degrees, or those who have achieved these degrees, are encouraged to apply. Salary is commensurate with Federal guidelines. Non US citizens are welcome to apply but must have a doctoral degree. Applicants for the postdoctoral fellowship must have earned their degree no more than 5 years prior to the start date of the fellowship and applicants for the post baccalaureate fellowship must have earned their degree no more than 3 years prior to the start date of the fellowship.
Applications consist of: resume/CV, undergraduate and graduate transcripts, one to three writing samples (not to exceed total of 30 pages double-spaced), that demonstrate analytical or critical thinking ability three letters of recommendation (preferably from individuals familiar with your academic work), and a statement of interest explaining how the fellowship fits into your career goals and potential bioethics topics you would like to investigate (up to 1000 words). You may also choose to discuss how you can lend a unique perspective to the department or contribute to the department’s diversity. The NIH is dedicated to building a diverse community in its training and employment programs.
Apply on-line at bioethics.nih.gov/education/index.shtml. All attachments should be pdf format.
Employer Name: Clinical Center Department of Bioethics
Department of Bioethics
National Institutes of Health
10 Center Drive, Room 1C118
Bethesda, MD 20892-1156
Postdoc Application Deadline: Midnight December 31, 2016
Predoc Application Deadline: Midnight January 15, 2017
(The Washington Post) – Japanese biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for discovering and elucidating a key mechanism in our body’s defense system that involves degrading and recycling parts of cells. Known as autophagy, this process plays an important role in cancer, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, birth defects from Zika virus and numerous other devastating diseases.
(The Guardian) – UK scientists and clinicians working on a groundbreaking trial to test a possible cure for HIV infection say they have made remarkable progress after a test patient showed no sign of the virus following treatment. The research, being carried out by five of Britain’s top universities with NHS support, is combining standard antiretroviral drugs with a drug that reactivates dormant HIV and a vaccine that induces the immune system to destroy the infected cells.
(The Guardian) – Scientists are finalising plans to use gene therapy to treat one of the world’s most widespread inherited diseases – sickle cell anaemia. The technique could begin trials next year, say researchers. About 300,000 babies are born globally with sickle cell disease. The condition causes red blood cells to deform, triggering anaemia, pain, organ failure, tissue damage, strokes and heart attacks. In the west, patients now live to their 40s thanks to the availability of blood transfusions and other treatments. But in Africa most still die in childhood.
(NPR) – For the first time in almost 25 years, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will pay for In Vitro Fertilization for wounded veterans. As NPR’s Quil Lawrence explains, Congress has reversed a law passed in 1992 that “prohibited the Department of Veterans Affairs from paying for IVF for veterans and their families.” Quil tells our Newscast unit that “inside the stopgap spending bill passed this week is a provision to allow fertility treatments including IVF through VA health care.”
(The Globe and Mail) – The federal government plans to tighten and clarify the regulations dealing with assisted reproduction. Health Canada is outlining a number of proposed changes to the rules that are part of the 2004 Assisted Human Reproduction Act. The act was the subject of a 2010 Supreme Court of Canada ruling, which found some parts fell under provincial jurisdiction, while leaving a number of sections intact.
(CBS News) – At 35 weeks, their children arrived. As it turns out, embryos with DNA from both dads, respectively, were implanted and thrived. So, the twins have Justin’s DNA. Their son has Adam’s. It is believed they are the first gay couple in the world with this surrogacy outcome. “They’re genetically half-siblings. They’re going to look alike. I think it will be good for them,” Justin says.
(Kaiser Health News) – As controversy about the pricing of EpiPens reverberates from Capitol Hill to school districts across the country, one recurring complaint from consumers is that the high cost is magnified because the drug expires quickly, forcing users to regularly bear the cost of replacing the medicine that saves lives in the event of a severe allergic reaction. So what exactly determines its longevity? It turns out storage and distribution can play as important a role in the drug’s shelf life as the chemical compounds.
(The Scientist) – In the mid-1980s, Oliver Smithies, then at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah independently used homologous recombination—a molecular process to repair broken DNA—to change specific regions of the genome in cultured mouse cells (Nature, 317:230-34, 1985; Cell, 44:419-28, 1986). The technique involved sandwiching an altered copy of a gene between two regions of code identical to those flanking the endogenous gene, which would be swapped out for its engineered counterpart.
(The Guardian) – The simplicity and low cost of tools to edit the genetic code means “garage scientists” – or amateurs with some skill – can now perform their own experiments, posing a potential risk from the release of GM bugs, a new report suggests. In a report published on Friday, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics said that the rise in precision “gene editing” tools had revolutionised biomedical research over the past ten years and could potentially have a dramatic impact on human society.
(BBC) – Thai health officials have confirmed two cases of microcephaly, a severe birth defect linked to the Zika virus. It is the first time in South East Asia that the disease has been linked to the condition, which causes abnormally small brains and heads. Several countries in the region have reported Zika cases. The virus is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito which also spreads dengue and chikungunya. The current outbreak of the disease was first detected in Brazil last year. Cases have recently been reported across South East Asia.