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Updated: 13 min 48 sec ago

China Suspected in Massive Hack against Health Insurer Anthem

February 9, 2015

(Dallas Morning News) – While medical records, such as treatment details or test results, were not compromised in what Anthem called “a very sophisticated attack,” experts say the breach underlines the worrying potential for hackers to steal private health data that is valued on the black market as tools for extortion, fraud or identity theft. Medical information could be exploited, for example, to file false insurance claims and buy prescription drugs, and attackers could extort cash from policyholders desperate to keep their private medical data under wraps.

Can Stem Cells Be Taught to Repair a Radiation-Damaged Brain?

February 9, 2015

(MSKCC) – The researchers turned stem cells into young central nervous system cells that can mature into oligodendrocytes, which support nerve cells. After exposing rats to brain radiation, they transplanted the engineered oligodendrocytes into the animals’ brains. The cells repaired some of the radiation injury and helped the animals recover a number of brain functions that had been compromised by the treatment.

New Source of Cells for Modeling Malaria

February 9, 2015

(MIT News) – A new advance by MIT engineers could aid in those efforts: The researchers have discovered a way to grow liver-like cells from induced pluripotent stem cells. These cells can be infected with several strains of the malaria parasite and respond to existing drugs the same way that mature liver cells taken from human donors do. Such cells offer a plentiful source for testing potential malaria drugs because they can be made from skin cells.

Breast Cancer: Two New Genetic Risk Factors Uncovered

February 9, 2015

(Medical News Today) – Collaboration between dozens of worldwide cancer research institutes has added to the ever-improving understanding of breast cancer genetics and personal profiling of the disease by unearthing two new genetic variants associated with a higher risk for the women carrying them. The two genetic susceptibility biomarkers identified by the huge study are specific to a type of hormone-dependent breast cancer – estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, the most common form.

A New Edition of The Journal of Bioethical Inquiry is Available

February 9, 2015

The Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (Vol. 11, No. 4, December 2014) is now available online by subscription only. Articles include:

  • “Ethical Challenges Posed by the Ebola Virus Epidemic in West Africa” by Peter F. Omonzejele
  • “Ebola Virus in West Africa: Waiting for the Owl of Minerva” by Ross E. G. Upshur
  • “The Legacy of the Cartwright Report: “Lest it Happen Again”” by Marie Bismark and Jennifer Morris
  • “Should Health Care Providers Be Forced to Apologize after Things Go Wrong?” by Stuart McLenna, Simon Walker, Leigh E. Rich


A New Edition of the Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities is Available

February 7, 2015

JARID (vol. 28, no. 1., January 2015) is now available by subscription only:

  • “Health Inequity in People with Intellectual Disabilities: From Evidence to Action Applying an Appreciative Inquiry Approach” Jenneken Naaldenberg, et al.
  • “Health and Disability: Partnerships in Health Care” by Jane Tracy and Rachael MacDonald
  • “Supporting Primary Healthcare Professionals to Care for People with Intellectual Disability: A Research Agenda” by Nicholas Lennox, Mieke L. Van Driel and Kate van Dooren

Fears over Abandoned Ebola Orphans Allayed: UNICEF

February 6, 2015

(Medical Xpress) – The United Nations children’s fund confirmed an estimate it gave last week that more than 16,000 children have lost at least one parent or main carer to the west African epidemic. But less than three percent have been placed outside family or community care, according to UNICEF, which has appealed for $500 million to help Ebola victims and prevent fresh outbreaks as the epidemic abates.

New Study Sheds Light on Cancer Stem Cell Regulation

February 6, 2015

(Medical Xpress) – Researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) have discovered a precise stem cell signaling process that can lead to intestinal tumors if disrupted. The findings add to our understanding of how stem cells give rise to tumors and identify specific stem cell molecules that may be targeted to prevent the onset, progression, and recurrence of intestinal cancers. The results of the study appear online in Cell Reports today.

Canada to Allow Doctor-Assisted Suicide

February 6, 2015

(BBC) – Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that doctors may help patients who have severe and incurable medical conditions to die, overturning a 1993 ban. In a unanimous decision, the court said that the law impinged on Canadians’ rights.

Ten Things to Know about Today’s Ruling on Doctor-Assisted Suicide

February 6, 2015

(The Globe and Mail) – On Friday, the Supreme Court will rule on whether individuals who are suffering unbearably have a constitutional right to control their own death. The ruling comes 22 years after the court narrowly rejected the claim of 42-year-old Sue Rodriguez, dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), to a right to a physician’s help in ending her life. The 5-4 ruling said the state’s purpose in banning assisted suicide was legitimate – to protect the sanctity of life. Here are 10 things to know about the current case, called Lee Carter, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, et al.

Vaccines and Abortion? The Links Are Cloudy and Complicated

February 6, 2015

(Washington Post) – The Internet rumors that claim vaccinations mean having tiny pieces of aborted fetuses injected into your body are flat-out wrong, yet there is a grain of truth in the assertion that vaccinations and abortions are linked. Many of the most common vaccines, for rubella and chicken pox for example, are grown in and then removed from cells descended from the cells of aborted fetuses. Pregnant women aborted them about 40 years ago by choice, and not with the intent of aiding vaccine production.

Beyond the Sequence

February 6, 2015

(Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) – Many of today’s challenges to increasing the precision of cancer treatment are directly related to both the complexity of data generated by genetic sequencing and the sheer volume of biomedical information contained in the published literature detailing new discoveries in the root causes of cancer and the drugs and therapies that most effectively treat it.

Oh, Baby

February 6, 2015

(The Economist) – PLAYING God” is what medicine is for. Every Caesarean section and cancer treatment is an attempt to interfere with the natural course of events for the benefit of the patient. Not every procedure should be allowed, but a general sense of what is “unnatural” is a poor guide to what to ban. Transplants and transfusions were once considered unnatural, but now save many lives. That insight is why MPs were right to agree, on February 3rd, that Britain should become the first country to allow the creation of children with genetic material from three people instead of the usual two.

New Nanoparticle Gene Therapy Strategy Effectively Treats Deadly Brain Cancer in Rats

February 6, 2015

(Nanotechnology Now) – Despite improvements in the past few decades with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, a predictably curative treatment for glioma does not yet exist. New insights into specific gene mutations that arise in this often deadly form of brain cancer have pointed to the potential of gene therapy, but it’s very difficult to effectively deliver toxic or missing genes to cancer cells in the brain. Now, Johns Hopkins researchers report they have used nanoparticles to successfully deliver a new therapy to glioma cells in the brains of rats, prolonging their lives. A draft of the study appeared this week on the website of the journal ACS Nano.

An End to the Medicine Dropper for Eye Injuries?

February 6, 2015

(Nanotechnology Now) – For years, treating scratches and burns to the eyes has usually involved dropping medicine onto the eyes several times a day, sometimes for weeks — a treatment that lends itself to missed doses and other side effects. But scientists are now reporting in the journal ACS Nano a novel, drug-releasing wafer that patients can put directly on their affected eyes just once a day. The team says the device works better than drops and could help patients recover faster.

Tiny Robotic ‘Hands’ Could Improve Cancer Diagnosis, Drug Delivery

February 6, 2015

(Nanotechnology Now) – Many people imagine robots today as clunky, metal versions of humans, but scientists are forging new territory in the field of ‘soft robotics.’ One of the latest advances is a flexible, microscopic hand-like gripper. The development could help doctors perform remotely guided surgical procedures or perform biopsies. The materials also could someday deliver therapeutic drugs to hard-to-reach places. The report appears in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Smartphone and Finger Prick Deliver HIV Diagnosis in 15 Minutes

February 5, 2015

(UPI) – Need to get tested for STDs? There’s app for that — sort of. A new, low-cost smartphone accessory allows healthcare professionals to return HIV and syphilis diagnoses in less than 15 minutes, and it could be programmed to detect other sexually transmitted diseases.

Margaret Hamburg, F.D.A. Commissioner, Stepping Down

February 5, 2015

(New York Times) – Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, who led the agency for nearly six years through a period of rapid change in medical science, announced Thursday that she is stepping down.

A New Edition of The European Journal of Public Health is Available

February 5, 2015

The European Journal of Public Health (Vol. 25, No. 1, February 2015) is now available online by subscription only. Articles include:

  • “European-Added Value for Public Health” by Natasha Azzopardi-Muscat
  • “Should a Medical Journal Ever Publish a Political Paper ” by Martin McKee, Johan P. Mackenbach, and Peter Allebeck

Technology Driving Rise in Abortions of Girls in India

February 5, 2015

(New Scientist) – Using careful statistical analysis of the country’s census data, Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto calculates that up to 4 million girls were aborted between 1991 and 2001, and a further 6 million by 2011. Most are aborted at five months – ultrasound at four months can detect the fetus’s sex. This could become easier with the next generation of prenatal testing, which requires only a blood test.