(Medical Xpress) – Federal money left over from the largely successful fight against Ebola will now go to combating the growing threat of the Zika virus, the Obama administration announced Wednesday. Most of the $589 million would be devoted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for research on the virus and Zika-related birth defects, as well as the creation of response teams to limit its spread. The National Institutes of Health would continue research into a vaccine and the U.S. Agency for International Development would intensify efforts to fight the virus overseas.
(Associated Press) – Threats and violence directed at U.S. abortion clinics increased sharply in 2015, according to the National Abortion Federation, which attributed the surge to the release of undercover videos intended to discredit Planned Parenthood. “In my more than 20 years with NAF, I have not seen such an escalation of hate speech, threats and calls to action against abortion providers,” said Vicki Saporta, the federation’s CEO. According to the federation, death threats targeting abortion providers increased from one in 2014 to 94 in 2015, while incidents of vandalism at clinics rose from 12 to 67.
(The New Yorker) – When the abortion drug mifepristone first became legally available in the U.S., in 2000, it seemed to carry with it the potential for a ceasefire in the abortion wars. Because the pills could be administered in a variety of medical settings, and the abortion itself took place at home, the new regimen offered an alternative to the freestanding clinics that had become flashpoints for protest. So-called medical (as opposed to surgical) abortions could occur earlier in gestation, almost as soon as a woman realized that she was pregnant. Americans had fewer moral qualms about abortions performed at this stage, and women preferred to have them then. The drug seemed to unfurl a vision of the future in which abortion was less politicized, more private, and more seamlessly and matter-of-factly folded into health care.
(Reuters) – Major drug companies took hefty price increases in the U.S., in some cases more than doubling listed charges, for widely used medications over the past five years, a Reuters analysis of proprietary data found. Prices for four of the nation’s top 10 drugs increased more than 100 percent since 2011, Reuters found. Six others went up more than 50 percent. Together, the price increases on drugs for arthritis, high cholesterol, asthma and other common problems added billions in costs for consumers, employers and government health programs.
(US News & World Report) – Throughout the life cycle, people from racial and ethnic minority groups in America often get inferior care compared to white Americans. Many minorities live and work in environments that are less healthy, receive less preventive care and less chronic disease management, and experience inferior access to state-of-the-art care for major medical problems. Care toward the end of their life is no exception, but it can be. This leads me to introduce hospice.
(Medical Daily) – In the past five years, a new form of stem cell research has surfaced. Instead of focusing on creating full organs from pluripotent stem cells, it involves building organoids — complex 3D organ tissues in lab dishes that aren’t quite organs yet — which provide clearer insight into cell development and diseases. In a small lab in Dresden, Germany, a group of researchers led by Dr. Mike Karl have made a significant step forward in organoid research: They’ve found an effective way to build mini retinas, or retinal organoids, to study eye development and various eye diseases that cause blindness.
(The Guardian) – David and Nicky Beard made headlines in March after travelling to Mexico to have triplings – three babies born from one set of sperm and one egg, but carried by different surrogates – and then publicly appealing for money when they ran into financial difficulties in what was described as a “third-world” country.
(Eurekalert) – In the editorial -Nurses and Industry: Conflict or Collaboration? – set for online first publication in the April 5th edition of Annals of Internal Medicine, Connie M. Ulrich, PhD, RN, FAAN, Associate Professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing), underscores the need for evidence-based investigation to understand in what ways nurse-industry relationships affect the ethical conduct of nurses, or what is normal and necessary interaction between nurses and industry as part of delivering healthcare. Ulrich co-authored the editorial with Christine Grady, PhD, RN, FAAN, of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.
(ProPublica) – The New England Journal of Medicine is arguably the best-known and most venerated medical journal in the world. Studies featured in its pages are cited more often, on average, than those of any of its peers. And the careers of young researchers can take off if their work is deemed worthy of appearing in it.But following a series of well-publicized feuds with prominent medical researchers and former editors of the Journal, some are questioning whether the publication is slipping in relevancy and reputation. The Journal and its top editor, critics say, have resisted correcting errors and lag behind others in an industry-wide push for more openness in medical research. And dissent has been dismissed with a paternalistic arrogance, they say.
(New Scientist) – For many people in Zambia with health queries, sending a text message is the best way to get it answered. U-report, a free SMS-based service set up by UNICEF and run by volunteers, receives many thousands of questions a month, many specifically about HIV and AIDS. Also popular in Uganda, U-report has seen usage triple in the last three years, and about a thousand new users register every day. The volume of messages is growing so fast that the volunteers can’t keep up, so UNICEF is testing software that reads and responds to many of the messages automatically.
(The Washington Post) – You might not think that you should be excited about pig hearts being stitched into baboon circulatory systems, but boy are you wrong. Scientists have announced a new record for the survival of these Frankenhearts, and their work could have major implications for human health. Every day, an average of 22 people die in the United States waiting for organ transplants. One possible solution? Get donor organs from other species. But that’s not as easy as taking a trip to your local pig farm: Humans and pigs have enough anatomical similarity that we could, in theory, use their hearts to replace our own, but the human body would immediately reject the foreign organ.
(Nature) – Public-health experts have applauded drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for unveiling new patent policies that could make it easier for people in the world’s poorest countries to access drugs. But they say that other companies will need to follow suit if patients are to see significant improvements in access to medicines — particularly for much-needed cancer drugs. After GSK’s announcement last week, media attention focused on the London-based company’s plan to stop filing for patents in 50 least developed and low-income countries (LDCs and LICs), such as Afghanistan and Zambia.
Regenerating Body Parts: How We Can Transform Fat Cells into Stem Cells to Repair Spinal Disc Injuries
(The Conversation) – We often hear about the next big thing in stem cell therapy, though few of these promises eventuate or are backed up by evidence. Well, we think we’re close to a genuine breakthrough in stem cell therapy, based on new research published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. We have developed a stem cell technique capable of regenerating any human tissue damaged by injury, disease or ageing. The new technique, which reprograms bone and fat cells into induced multipotent stem cells (iMS), has successfully repaired bones and muscles in mice. Human trials are set to begin next year.
(Eurekalert) – A new stem cell therapy significantly improved long-term health outcomes in patients with severe and end-stage heart failure in a study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 65th Annual Scientific Session. Among 109 patients randomized to receive the cell therapy or a placebo, those receiving the cell therapy, which involved extracting stem cells from a patient’s own bone marrow, showed a 37 percent lower rate of the trial’s primary endpoint, a composite of deaths, cardiovascular hospitalizations and clinic visits for sudden worsening of heart failure symptoms, over a 12-month period.
(The Conversation) – This decision will influence whose name will go down in the history books, and perhaps also who will receive a Nobel Prize. And it will determine which institution will make millions by licensing use of the patented invention to researchers at other universities and companies. But amid all the breathless anticipation, we’ve been ignoring two important lessons from the CRISPR/Cas9 patent dispute: patent systems no longer fit the realities of how science works, and patents give their owners significant control over the fate and shape of technologies.
(Reuters) – Women who use in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other reproductive technologies may be more likely to have children with certain birth defects than their peers who conceive the old-fashioned way, a U.S. study suggests. The authors caution that the findings are too preliminary to deter women from trying to conceive this way. They say the increased risk of complications may be at least partly due to older maternal age and other health factors that lead women to try assisted reproductive technology (ART) in the first place.
(New York Magazine) – About one in ten couples have trouble conceiving, according to most estimates, and now, thousands of them are leaving the United States to get pregnant on trips known as “IVF holidays.” The Czech Republic is an especially popular destination, and the main reason people go is money: It is way, way cheaper to do in vitro fertilization outside the U.S.
(ABC News) – Right-to-die advocates in Washington state have created a cheaper alternative mixture of medications to help terminally ill patients legally end their lives after a drug company abruptly hiked the price of a drug commonly used for the purpose. Doctors with the End of Life Washington advocacy group concocted the alternative for about $500, after Valeant Pharmaceuticals International of Quebec acquired the drug and jacked up the price to about $3,000, The Seattle Times reported.
(Nanowerk) – A new hybrid molecule developed in the lab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering shows promise for treating breast cancer by serving as a “shipping container” for cytotoxic — or cell-destroying — chemotherapeutic agents. The protein/polymer-gold nanoparticle (P-GNP) composite can load up with these drugs, carry them to malignant cells, and unload them where they can do the most damage with the least amount of harm to the patient.
(Forbes) – Saqib Shaikh is a software developer from London, England who is currently working for Microsoft on the firm’s Bing search engine. Shaikh lost his sight when he was seven years old. In the pursuit of the freedoms that sighted people all take for granted every day, Shaikh has been personally involved in the development of an application of Artificial Intelligence, cognitive computing, image recognition and mobile headset technologies. The image analysis processing, cognitive reasoning and speech intelligence in the device Shaikh uses allows him to ‘see’ the world around him in a way that was considered to be part of science fiction as recently as a decade ago.