(Genome Web) – The Broad Institute’s Eric Lander gave a low-down in Cell last week of the history of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing tool and who did what to develop this bacterial system into a powerful tool. The thing is, as many have pointed out on Twitter, PubPeer, and elsewhere, there’s a patent dispute flaring up between CRISPR developers and their institutions: the Broad Institute and the University of California.
(Sydney Morning Herald) – Thousands of older people are investigating peaceful methods to end their own lives because they want to control the nature and timing of their death, says controversial euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke. The former doctor said there was a developing trend of baby boomers and people over 70 wanting to avoid “end of life medical nightmares” in which they are seriously ill and or feel trapped in a hospital or nursing home where it can be difficult to take your own life.
(The Guardian) – Canada’s supreme court has decided to allow assisted suicide under certain conditions throughout the country while granting the federal government four more months to come up with a law governing the practice. The high court had given Parliament a year to regulate how and when physician-assisted suicide would be permitted after overturning a ban last February.
(CBC News) – A Quebec City patient has died with the assistance of a doctor, in a Canadian legal first. A spokeswoman for the authority that oversees health care in the Quebec City region confirmed to CBC News that one patient has received medical aid in dying and a second request is being considered. Annie Ouellet of the Quebec City Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre would offer no further details on the patient or the circumstances. It is the first known case since the province’s assisted dying law came into effect on Dec. 10, 2015.
(ABC News) – Ordering a Catholic hospital in California to perform a tubal ligation sterilization procedure on a woman would violate its religious freedom, a San Francisco judge ruled Thursday. “Religious-based hospitals have an enshrined place in American history and its communities, and the religious beliefs reflected in their operation are not to be interfered with by courts at this moment in history,” Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith said while finalizing his previous tentative ruling.
(CNN) – Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Thursday against the anti-abortion activists who secretly taped the group’s officials talking about the sale of fetal tissue and released the heavily edited videos last year. The videos sparked a political firestorm in Washington, with Republican lawmakers accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale and trying unsuccessfully to strip the group of federal funding.
Parents Anguished by Backlash Over Letting Their Terminally Ill 5-Year-Old Help Decide Whether to Go Back to the Hospital
(People) – The last thing Michelle Moon expected when she publicly shared the moving conversations about death she had with her terminally ill 5-year-old daughter was backlash. But backlash is exactly what she and her husband, Steve Snow, experienced after CNN.com posted a two-part story about the family in late October that included a debate between bioethicists about whether a child that age should have a say in their own end-of-life decisions or even understands what death is.
(The Washington Post) – Question is, will physicians, as a result, be motivated to initiate more of these crucial conversations? Will patients? And will this long-overdue reform ultimately improve, both clinically and economically, how well the U.S. health care system delivers end-of-life care? Nobody knows for sure. But this much is certain: Many physicians have received no training along these lines. Few are educated in how to carry on this kind of talk with patients in the first place, much less in shepherding patients compassionately toward death.
(Physorg) – Stem cells work throughout our lives as a sort of handyman, repairing damaged tissues and renewing some normal ones, like the skin we shed. Scientists have come to understand much about how stem cells function when we are adults, but less is known about where these stem cells come from to begin with, as an embryo is developing. Now, researchers at The Rockefeller University have identified a new mechanism by which cells are instructed during development to become stem cells. The results, published in Cell on January 14, help explain how communication between cells mediates this process, and may have implications for skin cancer treatments.
(Nanowerk) – Using carbon nanotubes, MIT chemical engineers have devised a new method for detecting proteins, including fibrinogen, one of the coagulation factors critical to the blood-clotting cascade. This approach, if developed into an implantable sensor, could be useful for monitoring patients who are taking blood thinners, allowing doctors to make sure the drugs aren’t interfering too much with blood clotting.
(Nanowerk) – Scientists at the University of Michigan have developed a polymer sphere that delivers a molecule to bone wounds that tells cells already at the injury site to repair the damage. Using the polymer sphere to introduce the microRNA molecule into cells elevates the job of existing cells to that of injury repair by instructing the cells’ healing and bone-building mechanisms to switch on, said Peter Ma, professor of dentistry and lead researcher on the project.
Bioethics (vol. 30, no. 1, 2016) is available online by subscription only.
- “Sridhar Venkatapuram’s Health Justice: A Collection of Critical Essays and a Response from the Author” Alena Buyx, Eszter Kollar, Sebastian Laukotter, et al.
(BBC) – Pregnant women in the UK should soon get a safer and more accurate test for Down’s syndrome on the NHS, to reduce the risk of miscarriage. The UK National Screening Committee has backed the test, saying it would reduce anxiety for expectant mothers. The move would prevent thousands of invasive procedures, in which one in every 200 women loses her baby.
(Associated Press) – One man is brain dead and three others are facing possible permanent brain damage after volunteering to take part in a botched drug test in western France, the French Health Ministry said Friday. The prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into what French Health Minister Marisol Touraine called “an accident of exceptional gravity” at the private Biotrial clinical lab in Rennes. The drug trial, which was testing a new painkiller compound, involved 90 healthy volunteers who were given the experimental drug in varying doses beginning on Jan. 7, she told reporters Friday at a news conference in Rennes.
(Medical Xpress) – At least 44 people have died from Lassa fever in Nigeria with the death toll expected to rise, underscoring the difficulty in combating deadly viruses in a region still reeling from Ebola. While health authorities assure Africa’s most populous country of more than 170 million they have the haemorrhagic virus under control, there are fears the scale of the outbreak is being downplayed.
(Medical Xpress) – Pregnant women in the United States may be warned against traveling to Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading a virus that may cause brain damage in newborns. Experts say a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning against travel to areas with the Zika virus is warranted. The agency could make a final announcement Thursday or Friday, according to a CDC spokesperson. “We can’t make these decisions in a vacuum,” Thomas Skinner told The New York Times. “We’re consulting with other experts outside.”
(Reuters) – U.S. emergency rooms are increasingly running short on medications, including many that are needed for life-threatening conditions, a recent study documents. Since 2008, the number of shortages has risen by more than 400 percent, researchers found. Half of all emergency room shortages were for life-saving drugs, and for one in 10 there were no available substitutes, they report in Academic Emergency Medicine.
(Scientific American) – When the World Health Organization declared on January 14 that the spread of Ebola had been halted in West Africa, it cautioned that cases of the virus might yet re-emerge. That is exactly what has happened in Sierra Leone, where a new death from Ebola was announced hours after the WHO’s statement. Health officials told reporters that a 22-year-old woman had died in Magburaka after falling ill in Baomoi Luma, near the border with Guinea. A positive test for Ebola was confirmed only after her death, which occurred earlier in the week, raising concerns that she may have been in contact with others while contagious.
(Reuters) – The U.N. children’s fund UNICEF on Friday confirmed cases of severe malnutrition among children in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, where local relief workers reported 32 deaths of starvation in the past month. A mobile clinic and medical team of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent was on its way to Madaya after the government approved an urgent request, and a vaccination campaign is planned next week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
(Nanowerk) – Sperm that don’t swim well rank high among the main causes of infertility. To give these cells a boost, women trying to conceive can turn to artificial insemination or other assisted reproduction techniques, but success can be elusive. In an attempt to improve these odds, scientists have developed motorized “spermbots” that can deliver poor swimmers — that are otherwise healthy — to an egg. Their report appears in ACS’ journal Nano Letters.