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Stanford Clears Three Faculty Members of ‘CRISPR Babies’ Involvement

April 18, 2019

(STAT News) – Stanford University cleared three faculty members of any misconduct in their interactions with the Chinese scientist who created “CRISPR babies” last year, the school announced on Tuesday evening. A review by a faculty member and an outside investigator concluded that they “were not participants in [He Jiankui’s] research regarding genome editing of human embryos for intended implantation and birth and that they had no research, financial or organizational ties to this research.”

CRISPR Used to Build Dual-Core Computers Inside Human Cells

April 18, 2019

(New Atlas) – The CRISPR gene-editing system is usually known for helping scientists treat genetic diseases, but the technology has a whole range of possible uses in synthetic biology too. Now researchers at ETH Zurich have used CRISPR to build functional biocomputers inside human cells.

Abortion Rights Group Asks Supreme Court to Strike Louisiana Admitting Privileges Law

April 18, 2019

(ABC News) – Abortion rights advocates have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to summarily strike down a controversial Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
The court in February, by a 5-4 vote, temporarily put the law on hold – hours before it was set to take effect — pending an expected appeal from the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing a Louisiana abortion clinic and two physicians.

Oral Immunotherapy for Peanut Allergy Safe for Preschoolers

April 17, 2019

(UPI) – It turns out there may be a good treatment for kids who suffer from peanut allergies. About 90 percent of preschool children safely got to the maintenance stage of treatment about 22 weeks after being treated with oral immunotherapy, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

As Calls Mount to Ban Embryo Editing with CRISPR, Families Hit by Inherited Diseases Say, Not So Fast

April 17, 2019

(STAT News) – Watching all this have been people with a special interest in embryo editing: those who carry genetic mutations that can cause severe disease. They wonder whether experts who denounce embryo editing have any understanding of what millions of people with such inherited diseases — especially ones that have plagued their families for generations — suffer.

Part-Revived Pig Brains Raise Slew of Ethical Quandaries

April 17, 2019

(Scientific American) – The remarkable study, published in this week’s Nature, offers the promise of an animal or even human whole-brain model in which many cellular functions are intact. At present, cells from animal and human brains can be sustained in culture for weeks, but only so much can be gleaned from isolated cells. Tissue slices can provide snapshots of local structural organization, yet they are woefully inadequate for questions about function and global connectivity, because much of the 3D structure is lost during tissue preparation. The work also raises a host of ethical issues.

Dozens of Doctors in Appalachia Charged in Opioid Fraud Bust

April 17, 2019

(Reuters) – Dozens of medical professionals in Appalachia, a region hard-hit by the U.S. opioid crisis, have been charged with writing hundreds of thousands of illegal prescriptions and committing health care fraud, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday. Sixty people, including 31 doctors, were accused of illegally prescribing opioid drugs in exchange for cash and sexual favors in the rural, mountainous region stretching from Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Alabama and Louisiana.

First U.S. Patients Treated with CRISPR as Human Gene-Editing Trials Get Underway

April 17, 2019

(NPR) – The powerful gene-editing technique called CRISPR has been in the news a lot. And not all the news has been good: A Chinese scientist stunned the world last year when he announced he had used CRISPR to create genetically modified babies. But scientists have long hoped CRISPR — a technology that allows scientists to make very precise modifications to DNA — could eventually help cure many diseases. And now scientists are taking tangible first steps to make that dream a reality.

Human Gene Editing Is Controversial. Shoukhrat Mitalipov Isn’t Deterred

April 17, 2019

(Discover Magazine) – Off screen, the sperm vacuum makes a quick pit stop to grab an additional solution before appearing again, poised and ready. In a moment, the egg will be injected not only with sperm but with a dose of CRISPR-Cas9, a DNA editing system that allows scientists to cut out a gene segment and replace it with another. If all goes well, the CRISPR system will cause this single-celled human embryo to repair a disease-causing mutation in its DNA. This lab, at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland, is the only group in the U.S. to publish this kind of research in human embryos.

Pre-Treatment Mental Health Assessment of Trans People ‘Dehumanizing’ and ‘Unjustified’

April 17, 2019

(Eurekalert) – Doctors should ditch the requirement for a mental health assessment of transgender teens and adults before prescribing them hormone treatment, argues an activist and bioethicist, drawing on their own personal experience in the Journal of Medical Ethics. The practice is dehumanising, unjustified, and turns the process of transformation into the treatment of a mental illness, says Florence Ashley of McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

Pig Cells Revived After Death Show That the Brain May Be More Resilient Than We Thought

April 17, 2019

(Quartz) – However, brain-cell death as a result of oxygen depletion may not be as fast or as permanent as scientists previously thought. In a first, an international team led by scientists at Yale University showed it may be possible to reanimate brain cells after death, according to a paper published today in the Nature.

Promising Malaria Vaccine to Be Tested in First Large Field Trial

April 16, 2019

(Nature) – A malaria vaccine that can provide up to 100% protection against the disease will be tested in a large clinical trial for the first time, to study its efficacy under real-world conditions. The trial will begin in early 2020 on Bioko, an island off the coast of Equatorial Guinea, and will involve 2,100 people aged 2–50 years. The trial is intended to provide the efficacy and safety data needed for regulatory approval, says malaria researcher Steve Hoffman, who is leading the study and is chief executive of Sanaria, the company in Rockville, Maryland, that developed the vaccine. Equatorial Guinea’s government and private energy companies are sponsoring the trial.

Sex-Selective Abortions May Have Stopped the Birth of 23 Million Girls

April 16, 2019

(New Scientist) – A huge analysis of worldwide population data suggests sex-selective abortions have led to at least 23 million fewer girls being born. The majority of these “missing” girls are in China and India. Many societies value sons over daughters. As people around the world increasingly have fewer children, there has been a rise in families choosing to abort female fetuses in an effort to have at least one son. Normally, 103 to 107 boys are born for every 100 girls. But an analysis has found evidence of an unnatural excess of boys in 12 countries since the 1970s, when sex-selective abortions started becoming available.

Scientists Say They Just Created the World’s First 3D-Printed Heart

April 16, 2019

(Quartz) – The new experimental organ is tiny—about the size of a rabbit’s heart, or half the size of your thumb, say. It doesn’t yet beat, which means it can’t pump blood, and that of course is an extremely important function. Nonetheless, this development is remarkable. The researchers made their organic ink for 3D printing using human fatty tissue. They separated the tissue’s cellular and non-cellular components, creating stem cells which they then directed to grow into either cardio or endothelial cells. The non-cellular components and “programmed” cells together formed the basis for a “hydrogel,” or “bio-ink,” used in the printing process.

US Health Officials Seek to Stem Measles Outbreak Traced to Israel, Ukraine

April 16, 2019

(Medical Xpress) – The origins of the measles outbreak in the United States are not a mystery. Persons infected with the virus brought it to the United States from Israel and Ukraine and passed it on to members of their tight-knit communities, many of whom had not been vaccinated. The challenge for US health authorities is stopping the outbreak from spreading further.

George Church Wants to Make Genetic Matchmaking a Reality

April 16, 2019

(Discover Magazine) – Church imagines a variation of this program for couples everywhere. Existing social media and online dating sites could be modified to implement this kind of genetic matchmaking at a population scale — for all diseases. In Church’s vision, these kinds of services would add in a genetic screener. If a match might lead to offspring with a fatal disease, you wouldn’t be shown that person. To ensure the privacy of those screened out, a few people would be randomly removed as well.

Patient Advocates and Scientists Launch Push to Lift Ban on ‘Three-Parent IVF’

April 16, 2019

(STAT News) – In the U.S., the procedure is effectively banned because of a congressional amendment passed in 2015 that’s been renewed every year since. But now, a group of scientists, patient advocates, and bioethicists want to see the prohibition lifted. The technique, they say, could help certain women who are carriers of serious genetic diseases have healthy, biologically related children. In the first of a series of meetings meant to draft policy recommendations to Congress, stakeholders will meet Wednesday at Harvard Law School to discuss how to move forward in the U.S.

Chinese Mainland’s 1st Test-Tube Baby Becomes Mother

April 16, 2019

(China[dot]org) – Thirty-one years after her birth via external fertilization and embryo transplantation, Zheng Mengzhu, China’s first test-tube baby, gave birth on Monday in a Beijing hospital. At 8:34 a.m., Zheng gave birth to a boy through caesarean section, said Zhao Yangyu, head of obstetrics at Peking University Third Hospital who performed the surgery. The boy weighs 3.85 kg, which is similar to his mother’s birth-weight.

Don’t Cave: Physician-Assisted Suicide Unethical

April 16, 2019

(Med Page Today) – However, the latter half of the 20th century has seen a resurgence of this debate, with a number of countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, and Luxemburg, having legalized euthanasia, with a push to normalize PAS-E worldwide. This month, the World Medical Association (WMA), the international organization representing physicians to ensure their independence and work towards the highest standard of ethical behavior and care, will hold its 212th Council Session, where it has called for written opinions re-examining the PAS-E statement in the WMA code of ethics.

How Can We Be Sure Artificial Intelligence Is Safe for Medical Use?

April 15, 2019

(NPR) – At her next visit, in February of this year, artificial intelligence software made the call. The clinic had just installed a system that’s designed to identify patients who need follow-up attention.
The Food and Drug Administration cleared the system — called IDx-DR — for use in 2018. The agency said it was the first time it had authorized the marketing of a device that makes a screening decision without a clinician having to get involved in the interpretation.

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