(Medical Xpress) – New rules proposed in Britain would make it the first country to allow embryos to be made from the DNA of three people in order to prevent mothers from passing on potentially fatal genetic diseases to their babies. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the department of health said it had taken “extensive advice” on the safety and efficacy of the proposed techniques from the scientific community.
(Washington Post) – Jan Scheuermann has been paralyzed from the neck down for years — but thanks to a cutting-edge robotic arm, she can move and lift things with impressive dexterity. In a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of Neural Engineering, University of Pittsburgh scientists describe their success in giving Scheuermann unprecedented control over a robotic arm.
(Scientific American) – Health workers in Sierra Leone began combing the streets of the capital Freetown for Ebola patients on Wednesday, moving house-to-house as the government launched a major operation to contain infection in West Africa’s worst-hit country. President Ernest Bai Koroma said on national television that, as part of “Operation Western Area Surge”, travel between all parts of the country would be restricted and public gatherings would be restrained in the run-up to Christmas.
(Nature) – The study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), examined 462 press releases produced by the leading 20 UK research institutions in 2011. Overall, 40% of those releases contained health advice that was more explicit than anything found in the actual article. One-third emphasized possible cause and effects when the paper merely reported correlations. And 36% of releases about studies of cells or animals over-inflated the relevance to humans.
(Nature) – While foreign assistance must continue, a nascent local strategy is a candidate for broad adoption. We call it MORE, for MObilization of REcovered individuals. The idea is simple: those who have recovered from Ebola could be engaged to reduce transmission, helping to bring the epidemic under control. Examples of the approach can be seen in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. For instance, the UN is training survivors to support children who have had contact with infected individuals and are within Ebola’s 21-day incubation window (the time it takes to develop symptoms after being infected with the virus). MSF is similarly employing survivors to work in their Ebola treatment units in Guinea and Liberia.
(Washington Post) – A co-owner of a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy and its supervising pharmacist were indicted on federal charges Wednesday in connection with the deaths of dozens of patients who died after receiving tainted steroids from the company in 2012. Barry J. Cadden, a founder and owner of New England Compounding Center (NECC), and Glenn A. Chin, who oversaw production and personnel in the firm’s “sterile clean rooms,” face 25 charges of second-degree murder in the deaths of patients in seven states, including Maryland and Virginia.
(Science) – A researcher under investigation by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston is suing the institution, claiming it has wrongfully damaged his career. The investigation into the lab of cardiac stem cell scientist Piero Anversa came to light in April, when the journal Circulation retracted a 2012 paper from the lab, and The Lancet issued an “expression of concern” about another.
(Medical Xpress) – UCLA researchers have developed a lens-free microscope that can be used to detect the presence of cancer or other cell-level abnormalities with the same accuracy as larger and more expensive optical microscopes. The invention could lead to less expensive and more portable technology for performing common examinations of tissue, blood and other biomedical specimens. It may prove especially useful in remote areas and in cases where large numbers of samples need to be examined quickly.
(The Guardian) – Last week, we learned that 43% of men and 50% of women in England are taking at least one prescription medication. Of those surveyed by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, 22% of men and 24% of women are taking at least three. In England alone, 2.7m prescription items are dispensed every day, adding up to a total cost of £15bn a year. Is this a success story – that more people are living longer is at least in part due to pharmaceuticals – or a case of too much medicine prescribed too liberally?
(Scientific American) – So imagine my surprise when this speaker gave a strong defense of the UMN’s IRB without disclosing on his slides that he was paid almost $14,000 as an expert witness for the UMN in a suit brought by Markingson’s mother, Mary Weiss. (In fact, at ACRP, his slide declared, “I have no financial relationship with respect to this educational activity.”
(CNN) – The Senate confirmed Vivek Murthy as surgeon general on Monday night as Democrats — in the final days of their majority control of the chamber — overcame stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association. The 51 to 43 vote ends more than a year of uncertainty over Murthy’s nomination. Obama had tapped the founder of the pro-Obamacare group Doctors for America for the post in November 2013.
(ABC News) – Retired UCLA pediatric neurology professor Dr. Alan Shewmon wrote an official declaration this fall that although he hadn’t personally examined Jahi, the videos and what he understands from others who examined her “leave no doubt that Jahi is conscious, and can not only hear but can even understand simple verbal requests … and make appropriate motor responses.” He said the nursing records, her MRI brain scan results and other records indicate that she is “not currently brain dead,” though he doesn’t blame the doctors last winter for misdiagnosing her as such.
(Wired) – Providers’ relationship with life science companies has been difficult, to say the least. But it has become clear that to move the needle on improving healthcare, these stakeholders will have to learn to work together. Providers guard a wealth of physiological data on patient populations within their Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
(UPI) – The federal spending bill passed last week is full of buried provisions, allocations and defunding in its more than 1,600 pages. One of the quieter add-ins was a measure that essentially ends the federal ban on medical marijuana. The provision prohibits federal law enforcement from raiding medical marijuana plants or dispensaries or otherwise interfering in matters of state law involving the growth, distribution and use of medical marijuana. This has been the de facto legal philosophy of the feds under the direction of the Obama administration, but the provision will make it written law.
(Washington Post) – Investigators poring through thousands of government labs turned up another two dozen potentially dangerous biological materials that were not properly accounted for, including the toxin ricin and a deadly form of avian flu, during a far-reaching inventory this fall, according to documents released Tuesday. The findings are part of an unprecedented accounting of federal labs that began after long-forgotten vials containing smallpox were found last summer at a Food and Drug Administration lab on the campus of the National Institutes of Health.
(Medical Xpress) – Scientists at Indiana University and colleagues at Stanford and the University of Texas have demonstrated a technique for “editing” the genome in sperm-producing adult stem cells, a result with powerful potential for basic research and for gene therapy. The researchers completed a “proof of concept” experiment in which they created a break in the DNA strands of a mutant gene in mouse cells, then repaired the DNA through a process called homologous recombination, replacing flawed segments with correct ones.
(Forbes) – Despite more comprehensive health insurance under the Affordable Care Act that includes mandatory coverage for mental health services, the noted TV newsmagazine 60 Minutes Sunday shined a light on the issue of patients denied treatment by doctors who never even saw them. CBS reporter Scott Pelley highlighted several cases where doctors working for insurance companies, including Anthem (ANTM), denied claims by mentally ill patients in need of chronic long-term mental health care.
(Medical Xpress) – “Media reports about behavioural genetics unintentionally induce unfounded beliefs, therefore going against the educational purpose of scientific reporting,” writes the University of Montreal’s Alexandre Morin-Chassé, following his study of 1,500 Americans. “Among other things, we wanted to know if the public understood (or misunderstood) popular science articles about a new research field, genopolitics, and whether this popularization indeed helped people have an informed opinion on human genetics,” Morin-Chassé explained.
(Medscape) – Stromal (mesenchymal) stem cells from patients’ own eyes may replace corneal transplants, suggests a study published in the December 10 issue of Science Translational Medicine. Sayan Basu, MD, from L. V. Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India, and colleagues have been working with mesenchymal/stromal corneal stem cells for a decade. The cells, from the limbus area, can regenerate wounded corneas in mice more deeply than can other populations of limbal stem cells that have already been through clinical trials.
(U.S.A. Today) – The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to weigh in on a controversial Arizona law that would have restricted medication abortions. Planned Parenthood Arizona and Tucson Women’s Center filed the federal lawsuit alleging the law wasn’t intended to protect women’s health, as it supporters claimed, but rather to keep them from accessing legal abortions, particularly early in pregnancy. About half of all abortions in Arizona are performed using medications.