(The Guardian) – Your medical data is for sale – all of it. Adam Tanner, a fellow at Harvard’s institute for quantitative social science and author of a new book on the topic, Our Bodies, Our Data, said that patients generally don’t know that their most personal information – what diseases they test positive for, what surgeries they have had – is the stuff of multibillion-dollar business. But although the data is nominally stripped of personally identifying information, data miners and brokers are working tirelessly to aggregate detailed dossiers on individual patients; the patients are merely called “24601” instead of “Jean Valjean”.
California Voters Were Promised Cures. But the State Stem Cell Agency Has Funded Just a Trickle of Clinical Trials
(STAT News) – It’s been more than a decade since California launched an unprecedented experiment in medical research by direct democracy, when voters created a $3 billion fund to kick-start the hunt for stem cell therapies. The bold plan, a response to federal funding limits for embryonic stem cell research, was sold with a simple pitch: The money would rapidly yield cures for devastating human diseases such as Parkinson’s and ALS. That hasn’t happened.
(Medical Xpress) – Scientists at the Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM) at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) are creating an induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-based research library that opens the door to invaluable sickle cell disease research and novel therapy development. The library comprises blood samples from ethnically diverse patients with sickle cell disease from around the world and represents the major genetic backgrounds on which the sickle cell mutation occurred. The library is outlined in the current online issue of the journal Stem Cell Reports.
(STAT News) – Nearly one-third of Colorado’s hospitals are refusing to offer terminally ill patients the option of physician-assisted suicide — even though voters last fall overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative legalizing the practice. And two of the state’s biggest health care systems, both faith-based, appear poised to bar their doctors from providing such services to patients at any of their facilities, under any circumstances — potentially running afoul of the new aid-in-dying law.
(CNN) – In 2015, the United Kingdom approved pronuclear transfer, but only for women suffering mitochondrial disease. The technique replaces defective mitochondria in a mother’s egg with healthy donor mitochrondria as a way of preventing mitochondrial disease from being passed on to a child. The reason this experimental method is a cause for concern — and was vigorously debated in the UK before approval — is the genetic modifications produced in a girl baby could be passed onto her children, according to Lori P. Knowles, adjunct assistant professor at the University of Alberta School of Public Health.
(Reuters) – Inside a bungalow in a plush residential area of Gurugram, on the outskirts of New Delhi, a group of women in different stages of pregnancy share the hope their babies will be delivered safely – or risk losing the chance of big money, forever. Successful pregnancies have never been more important at this surrogacy center where every bed is taken following a jump in demand as India inches towards banning commercial surrogacy. These women could be among the last in the country to rent their wombs for money if the Indian parliament passes a bill to outlaw commercial surrogacy – a 15-year-old industry estimated to be worth as much as $2.3 billion annually – in its next session starting in February.
(Reuters) – If passed the legislation in India would ban commercial surrogacy, but allow altruistic surrogacy for married Indian couples medically proven to be infertile. Singles and gay couples will not be allowed to seek the service. India banned foreign nationals from seeking surrogacy in 2015, a year after the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child said that commercial surrogacy, if not regulated, amounts to the sale of children. Here’s a look at laws in different parts of the world.
(Associated Press) – The first national estimate suggests that nearly half of U.S. men have genital infections caused by a sexually transmitted virus and that 1 in 4 has strains linked with several cancers. Most human papillomavirus infections cause no symptoms and most disappear without treatment. And most adults will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives. But high-risk HPV can cause cancer in the mouth and upper throat, cervical cancer in women and other cancers. Less harmful strains can cause genital warts. Vaccines can prevent infections but experts say vaccination rates in pre-teens and young adults are too low.
(Science Daily) – The views among physicians and the general public when it comes to deciding whether to withhold or withdraw treatment of terminally ill patients differ greatly. However, in a hypothetical case study of a clearly hopeless medical case, great unanimity among physicians’ and the public’s assessments could be seen with regards to cancelling treatment or offering relief at the final stages of life.
(Science) – An estimated 59,000 people die from rabies worldwide each year, almost all infected by dogs. Malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis take much higher tolls. But the horrible suffering caused by rabies—some patients have convulsions and become aggressive, just like rabid dogs—and the fact that many victims are children led the World Health Organization (WHO) and other groups in 2015 to announce a goal to eliminate rabies deaths worldwide by 2030. In theory, nobody should die from rabies. It’s one of the few viral diseases where administering a vaccine after exposure can still save your life.
(Science) – Growing functional human tissues and organs would provide much needed material for regeneration and repair. New technologies are taking us in that direction. In addition to their use in regenerative medicine, stem cells that grow and morph into organ-like structures known as organoids can be used in drug development and toxicology testing. The potential developments and possibilities are numerous and affect not only biomedicine but also areas of ongoing ethical debate, such as animal experimentation, research on human embryos and fetuses, ethics review, and patient consent.
(Quartz) – The world has another three-parent baby, according to The Times. A Ukrainian doctor has treated an “infertile” woman with a controversial in-vitro fertilization technique, resulting in the birth of a healthy baby girl with DNA from three adults. The announcement comes less than a year after an American doctor helped a couple use a slightly different version of the technique to give birth to a three-parent baby boy.