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Cuba First to End Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, an Important Victory in Fight against AIDS

July 2, 2015

(Washington Post) – Cuba on Tuesday earned the distinction of becoming the first country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus, an achievement that global public health officials said they hoped would inspire others to invest in campaigns and policies to try to do the same.

FDA Approves Drug That Eventually Could Help Half of People with Cystic Fibrosis

July 2, 2015

(The Washington Post) – Federal regulators on Thursday approved a new drug that treats the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis and eventually might be used to help nearly half of the 30,000 patients in the United States with the fatal genetic disease. The drug, known as Orkambi, is manufactured by Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Why China Won’t Listen to Western Scientists about Genetically Modifying the Human Embryo

July 2, 2015

(Quartz) – The Chinese scientists were trying to fix the faulty genes in embryos that are known to cause the blood disorder thalassaemia. They justified their experiments by saying that they used abnormal embryos that were going to be discarded anyway. But there is a worry that not all scientists in China will stop there—and some may experiment with viable embryos.

Stem Cell Gene Therapy Holds Promise for Eliminating HIV Infection

July 2, 2015

(BioScience Technology) – Scientists at the UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research are one step closer to engineering a tool that could one day arm the body’s immune system to fight HIV — and win. The new technique harnesses the regenerative capacity of stem cells to generate an immune response to the virus. The findings were published today in the journal Molecular Therapy.

Synthetic Stem Cells Might Eventually Lead to Artificial Organs

July 2, 2015

(Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) – Scientists at the University of Washington (UW) say they have engineered yeast cells (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) that can “talk” to one another, using the plant hormone auxin. In a paper (“Cell-cell communication in yeast using auxin biosynthesis and auxin responsive CRISPR transcription factors”) published in the American Chemical Society’s ACS Synthetic Biology journal, the researchers describe a novel cell-to-cell communication system that enables one yeast cell to regulate the expression of genes and influence the behavior of an entirely separate yeast cell.

Drones to Deliver Medicine to Rural Virginia Field Hospital

July 2, 2015

(Washington Post) – The sprawling field hospital that springs up in rural southwest Virginia every summer has been called the largest health-care outreach operation of its kind. This year, the event will host another first. Unmanned aerial vehicles — drones — will deliver medicine to the Wise County Fairgrounds in part to study how the emerging technology could be used in humanitarian crises around the world.

Machine Ethics: The Robot’s Dilemma

July 2, 2015

(Nature) – Fittingly, ‘Runaround’ is set in 2015. Real-life roboticists are citing Asimov’s laws a lot these days: their creations are becoming autonomous enough to need that kind of guidance. In May, a panel talk on driverless cars at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington DC, turned into a discussion about how autonomous vehicles would behave in a crisis. What if a vehicle’s efforts to save its own passengers by, say, slamming on the brakes risked a pile-up with the vehicles behind it? Or what if an autonomous car swerved to avoid a child, but risked hitting someone else nearby?

Ex Iowa State Scientist Gets Prison for Faking HIV Research

July 2, 2015

(Yahoo! News) – A former Iowa State University scientist who altered blood samples to make it appear he had achieved a breakthrough toward a potential vaccine against HIV was sentenced Wednesday to more than 4 ½ years in prison for making false statements in research reports. Dong-Pyou Han, 58, also must pay $7.2 million to a federal government agency that funded the research. He entered a plea agreement in February admitting guilt to two counts of making false statements.

Should Babies Have Their Genomes Sequenced?

July 2, 2015

(MIT Technology Review) – The BabySeq project is the first randomized, controlled trial to measure the harms and benefits of newborn genomic sequencing. One of four NIH-funded projects granted a total of $25 million to examine genomic sequencing in newborns, BabySeq recently enrolled its first four subjects, three healthy babies and one baby from the neonatal ICU. The researchers got the first baby’s genomic sequence data last week. The central question for this project is what will come of giving genomic information to parents and their baby’s doctor. Will doctors order more tests and interventions? Will those tests and interventions make babies healthier? Or will they just waste money, or even end up doing more harm than good?

New DNA Tool for Law Enforcement: Parabon Snapshot Puts a Face on Crime

July 1, 2015

(Market Watch) – Law enforcement now has a new DNA tool that helps nab suspects and close cases.   The service, developed by Parabon NanoLabs of Reston, Virginia, is called Snapshot™ DNA Phenotyping Service. ‘Snapshot’ predicts the physical appearance of individuals from the smallest of DNA evidence samples, creating a composite image from any DNA source.

California Mandates Vaccines for Schoolchildren

July 1, 2015

(New York Times) – California on Tuesday became the largest state in the country to require schoolchildren to receive vaccinations unless there are medical reasons not to do so, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that ended exemptions for personal or religious reasons.

Courts Let Some Charities Avoid Rules on Birth Control Coverage

July 1, 2015

(New York Times) – The Supreme Court issued an order on Monday that allows certain nonprofit religious groups to avoid compliance with federal rules concerning insurance coverage of contraceptives for women. The order bars the Obama administration from enforcing the rules against the religious groups and church officials until the court decides whether to hear an appeal they filed this year.

Lawmakers Try to Stop Embryo Editing and Three-Parent Embryos

July 1, 2015

(Newsweek) – The U.S. House of Representatives has proposed legislation that could potentially halt progress on studies to alter genetic material of embryos. The 2016 spending bill from Congress would prevent the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from conducting trials on embryo editing by eliminating funds for this type of research.

Pioneering Gene Therapy Takes Aim at Inherited Blindness

July 1, 2015

(Medical Xpress) – Canada’s first human gene therapy trial for eyes—the replacement of a faulty gene with a healthy one—is now underway at the Royal Alexandra Hospital to preserve and potentially restore vision for people with a genetic disorder that leaves them blind by middle age.

Medical Tourism: Your Hospital Away from Home

July 1, 2015

(Discovery News) – Where will you be going for your summer vacation? With schools out and businesses humming along with less than full rosters, most Americans are taking to the beach, visiting theme parks, attending destination weddings or planning trips to see relatives this summer. But for an estimated 750,000 Americans this year, the next getaway won’t be used to spend time relaxing, but rather to save money on health care, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Medical School Hopefuls Grapple with Overhauled Entrance Exam

July 1, 2015

(NPR) – The Association of American Medical Colleges, which administers the MCAT, wants to make sure the doctors of tomorrow are better prepared to care for an increasingly diverse patient population in a rapidly changing health care system. Administrators say the exam changes are necessary to bring it up to date with how medicine is practiced, and with all the scientific discoveries that have been made since the test was last revised, more than 20 years ago. Research on genetics and the social factors that affect health, in particular, have advanced significantly.

A Scientific Ethical Divide between China and the West

July 1, 2015

(New York Times) – China is spending hundreds of billions of dollars annually in an effort to become a leader in biomedical research, building scores of laboratories and training thousands of scientists. But the rush to the front ranks of science may come at a price: Some experts worry that medical researchers in China are stepping over ethical boundaries long accepted in the West.

The Anesthesia Dilemma

June 30, 2015

(Scientific American) – Despite 20 years’ worth of experiments in young rodents and monkeys, there have been few definitive answers. To date, numerous studies suggest that being put under with anesthesia early in life seems somehow related to future cognitive problems. But whether this association is causal or merely coincidence is unclear.

Researchers Pin Down Risks of Low-Dose Radiation

June 30, 2015

(Nature) – For decades, researchers have been trying to quantify the risks of very low doses of ionizing radiation — the kind that might be received from a medical scan, or from living within a few tens of kilometres of the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan. So small are the effects on health — if they exist at all — that they seem barely possible to detect. A landmark international study has now provided the strongest support yet for the idea that long-term exposure to low-dose radiation increases the risk of leukaemia, although the rise is only minuscule.

1 Dead after Ebola Reappears in Liberia

June 30, 2015

(CNN) – More than seven weeks after Liberia was declared free of Ebola, a young man was found dead of the disease on Sunday, according to the country’s deputy health minister. Now authorities are trying to determine how many people the 17-year-old boy in Nidonwin had contact with during the week he was sick and potentially infectious with Ebola.

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