(Science) – Congress is poised to approve a massive piece of legislation that would provide the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with $4.8 billion over the next decade for a set of research initiatives, including brain and cancer research and efforts to develop so-called precision medicine treatments that are tailored to an individual’s genetic makeup. The bill, known as 21st Century Cures, also includes a number of other provisions that could shape how federally funded researchers do their work.
(Science) – The number of schoolchildren not vaccinated against childhood diseases in Texas is growing rapidly, which means that the state may see its first measles outbreaks in the winter or spring of 2018, Hotez predicted in a recent article in PLOS Medicine. Disgraced antivaccine physician Andrew Wakefield has set up shop in the Texan capital, Austin, and a political action committee (PAC) is putting pressure on legislators facing a slew of vaccine-related bills.
(MIT Technology Review) – The deaths last month of two patients in a clinical trial testing a promising new type of cancer treatment are raising questions about the fate of therapies that use a patient’s own immune cells to fight off the disease. Juno Therapeutics, the Seattle company conducting the trial, announced it was halting its human tests of an experimental cancer therapy just before Thanksgiving after two patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia died. Earlier this year, three patients died in the same clinical trial. But other investigators developing similar products are forging on with testing the new class of therapies, which have shown incredible promise for some patients with lethal cancers.
(STAT News) – Excitement for stem cell treatments has been growing as scientists have learned more about how the cells could be coaxed into replacing damaged or dead cells throughout the body, with possible treatment applications for a wide range of injuries and diseases. But for now, the FDA officials said, the excitement is just that, echoing what many stem cell scientists have said about the field.
(The Wall Street Journal) – There are more than 120,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant and not enough donors. The dire shortage has led some researchers to consider an unusual solution: They are breeding genetically modified pigs whose organs could be compatible for human transplant. Researchers have been trying for decades to make animal-to-human transplants work, a process known as xenotransplantation. Pigs are a particularly promising source of organs. They produce big litters. Organs such as the kidney and liver are similar in size to those of humans.
(NPR) – A nonprofit research group is giving scientists a new way to study the secret lives of human cells. On Wednesday, the Allen Institute for Cell Science provided access to a collection of living stem cells that have been genetically altered to make internal structures like the nucleus and mitochondria glow. “What makes these cells special is that they are normal, healthy cells that we can spy on and see what the cell does when it’s left alone,” says Susanne Rafelski, director of assay development at the institute. Under a microscope, “they are a wonder to behold,” she says.
(The Economist) – Although the abortion rate is stable or falling in most rich countries, it is rising in Latin America and some parts of Africa and Asia (see chart 1). Former communist countries have some of the world’s highest rates. During Soviet times abortion was the only method of birth control, and in some countries the average woman would have five to eight abortions during her lifetime. By the time the Soviet Union fell apart it was spending about half of its reproductive-health budget on abortions and associated complications.
(WFAA) – The U.S. Justice Department in the Northern District of Texas Thursday unsealed indictments against 21 individuals, some of them among the highest profile doctors in the City of Dallas. Prosecutors allege a bribery and kick-back scheme involving about $40 million in payments of all kinds. Some of these doctors are high-profile, some are not. The indictment named 21 individuals in all and all were not doctors.
(The Atlantic) – Both drugs seemed effective in early tests until they were compared with a placebo control. In each case, about 30 percent of the participants in the placebo arm improved, which essentially canceled out the power of the drugs being tested. That number is not nearly as high as placebo responses seen in drug trials for pain or depression, but it is higher than expected for a condition that supposedly precludes placebo altogether. Several teams are starting to look more carefully at the placebo effect in people with autism. Their early results paint a fascinating picture of how belief affects not just people with the condition, but also their families.
(The Atlantic) – Here’s an alarming statistic: Around one in four nurses has been physically attacked at work in the last year. Patients often kick, scratch, and grab them; in rare cases even kill them. In fact, there are nearly as many violent injuries in the healthcare industry as there are in all other industries combined. Healthcare workers make up 9 percent of the workforce. There are currently no federal rules mandating that hospitals attempt to protect nurses from violence in the workplace, though some states have passed them on their own.
(ABC News) – Texas health officials have adopted a new rule that would require burials after many abortions conducted in the state — a decision that could have a profound effect on providers there. The rule, which was submitted to the Texas secretary of state by the Texas Department of Health Services last Monday, changes the manner in which fetal tissue can be disposed of following an abortion at a clinic, hospital or other medical setting.
(New York Times) – Most cyborgs are disabled people who interface with technology. We depend on a computer for some major bodily function. The tryborg — a word I invented — is a nondisabled person who has no fundamental interface. The tryborg is a counterfeit cyborg. The tryborg tries to integrate with technology through the latest product or innovation. Tryborgs were the first to wear Google Glass. Today they wait in line for Snapchat Spectacles. The tryborg adopts the pose of a cyborg. But no matter how hard they try, the tryborg remains a pretender.
(The Washington Post) – The technique used in swapping the genetic material was not immaculate: Some mutant DNA remained in the fertilized eggs and the ensuing replicating stem cell lines. In some of those stem cell lines the mitochondria reverted to the mother’s disease-carrying genetic code. That happened in about 10 to 15 percent of the stem cells, which was a surprise, because that hadn’t been seen in experiments with animal models. They concluded that, going forward, the donors of healthy mitochondrial DNA need to be carefully screened for compatibility with the mother’s mitochondrial DNA.
(Australia Broadcasting Co) – There is significant support in Australia for commercial surrogacy to be legalised and professional guidelines drawn up to regulate the industry, a study has found. Currently all states, except the Northern Territory, only allow altruistic surrogacy, where the surrogate is reimbursed costs of the pregnancy. The study, being published in the December issue of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found almost 60 per cent of people who had a view found the current ban unjustified.
(Kaiser Health News) – Now hospitals, which consider the heater-cooler machines crucial in open-heart surgery, are scrambling for ways to protect patients. And authorities have urged hospitals from New Jersey to California to notify hundreds of people who underwent surgery in recent years that they might be harboring a dangerous infection. Patients have sued, claiming they were infected in Pennsylvania, Iowa, South Carolina and Quebec. Experts and patient advocates say these cases are only the latest to expose holes in the nation’s approach to spotting and responding to dangerous deficiencies in medical devices.
(STAT News) – New data released by federal health officials Tuesday further demonstrated the value of needle exchanges, suggesting they had contributed to a major reduction in new HIV infections among people who inject drugs. But the report also included some warnings. There aren’t enough needle exchanges or clean needles being supplied, and few drug users use only sterile syringes, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. Plus, changes in the demography and geography of drug users suggest problems to come.
(Reuters) – A three-parent IVF technique designed to reduce the risk of mothers passing hereditary diseases to their babies is safe enough to be offered to patients in special circumstances, a British expert review panel said on Wednesday. Britain’s parliament last year voted to change the law to allow the three-parent in-vitro-fertilisation (IVF) technique known as mitochondrial transfer, which doctors say could help prevent incurable inherited diseases.
(The Wall Street Journal) – Every year on average we identify one new pathogen. And every day on average, we at CDC start a new investigation that could detect a new pathogen. But frankly, pandemic influenza is what worries us most. Bill Gates has said there are really only two things that could kill 10 million people around the world. Nuclear war and a biological event, either intentional or natural.
(The Telegraph) – Scientists’ fear of being labelled sexist is putting women’s health at risk because researchers have ignored crucial gender differences in the brain, it has been claimed. Male and female brains react differently to drugs when it comes to some conditions, such as strokes, but research predominantly concentrates on men, the guest editor of this month’s Journal of Neuroscience Research said. The research is then generalised and widened out for women, despite there being evidence gender “matters fundamentally, powerfully and pervasively”.
(Sacramento Bee) – For long-suffering patients such as Green, stem cells offer tantalizing hope. In the last few years, more than 570 stem cell clinics have popped up nationwide, advertising treatment for a range of maladies, from autism and Alzheimer’s to neuropathy and Parkinson’s disease, according to a recent UC Davis study. About 113 of those are operating in California. But do they really work? According to most stem cell experts and the federal government, there’s no way to know yet.