(BBC) – All schools in and around Niger’s capital, Niamey, have been shut until Monday because of a meningitis outbreak that has killed 85 people this year. A shortage of vaccines to treat the current strain has caused the outbreak to spread, the authorities say. A campaign to vaccinate all children between two and 15 will begin on Friday, but only half of the 1.2m doses needed are currently available.
(New Scientist) – A disease that kills around 1300 children each day in sub-Saharan Africa may shortly be on the run, thanks to promising results from what could become the world’s first vaccine against malaria – and the first against a parasitic disease. Developers of the vaccine are hopeful that in the wake of the results, it will receive official clearance for use by the end of the year. However, it could be next year or later before the vaccine clears regulatory hurdles in individual African countries.
(Science Daily) – EPFL scientists discover that certain cell structures, the centrioles, could act as information carriers throughout cell generations. The discovery raises the possibility that transmission of biological information could involve more than just genes. Centrioles are barrel-shaped structures inside cells, made up of multiple proteins. They are currently the focus of much research, since mutations in the proteins that make them up can cause a broad range of diseases, including developmental abnormalities, respiratory conditions, male sterility and cancer.
(Physorg) – A new high-tech but simple ointment applied to the skin may one day help diabetic patients heal stubborn and painful ulcers on their feet, Northwestern University researchers report. Scientist and dermatologist Amy S. Paller and chemist Chad A. Mirkin are the first to develop a topical gene regulation technology that speeds the healing of ulcers in diabetic animals. They combined spherical nucleic acids (SNAs, which are nanoscale globular forms of RNA) with a common commercial moisturizer to create a way to topically knock down a gene known to interfere with wound healing.
(ABC News) – The Senate unanimously passed legislation Wednesday to help the victims of human trafficking, ending a tortuous partisan standoff over abortion that also delayed confirmation of President Barack Obama’s attorney general nominee. The vote was 99-0 to approve the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which expands law enforcement tools to target sex traffickers and creates a new fund to help victims. The House has passed similar legislation and the White House has voiced support.
(Reuters) – Biologists in China reported carrying out the first experiment to alter the DNA of human embryos, igniting an outcry from scientists who warn against altering the human genome in a way that could last for generations. The study from China appeared last weekend in an obscure online journal called Protein & Cell. In an interview published on Wednesday on the news site of the journal Nature, lead author Junjiu Huang of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou said both Nature and Science had rejected the paper, partly for ethical reasons.
(Nature) – Mothers may one day be able to prevent their children from inheriting mitochondrial defects. Therapies that modify diseased eggs are inching closer to the clinic, but researchers are still hotly debating the safety and ethics of the most promising techniques. These involve combining the nucleus of the mother’s egg with mitochondria from a healthy woman to create a ‘three-parent embryo’. In the 23 April issue of Cell team proposes an alternative: neutralizing the faulty mitochondria. Some researchers say that the approach could help enable the ethically questionable practice of engineering human embryos to have modifications that would be passed on to future generations.
(Epoch Times) – After passing a resolution that condemned organ transplant abuses in China in late 2013, the European Parliament returned to the issue recently, with a detailed examination of China’s practices and promises for reform, and ideas for what member states can do to tackle the practice. China is unique among countries for running an organ transplantation system built upon abuse.
(Medical Xpress) – Correctly diagnosing a person with cancer—and identifying the specific type of cancer—makes all the difference in successfully treating a patient. Today your doctor might draw from a dozen or so similar cases and a big book of guidelines. But what if he or she could instead plug your test results and medical history into a computer program that has crunched millions of pieces of similar data?
(Medical Xpress) – Headlines today are heralding a new “simple blood test”, claiming it can accurately predict if a woman will develop breast cancer in the future. This sounds amazing. But you’d be correct in thinking it’s also too good to be true. In the study, which you can read here in the journal Metabolomics, the researchers suggest that a blood test looking at the chemicals and molecules present in a woman’s blood – her so called ‘metabolic profile’ – could tell doctors if she will develop breast cancer within the next seven years.
(The Conversation) – Botox, or Botulinum neurotoxin type-A, is most commonly known for its cosmetic use as a smoother of wrinkles. But research my colleagues and I just published may put a frown on the face of even its most avid users because we’ve shown how this extremely powerful neurotoxin travels into the central nervous system from injection sites on the face.
(Medical Xpress) – The search for genes that contribute to the risk for autism has made tremendous strides over the past 3 years. As this field has advanced, investigators have wondered whether the diversity of clinical features across patients with autism reflects heterogeneous sources of genetic risk. If so, it was reasoned, then selecting a group of patients with very similar clinical features might result in a “purer”, i.e., more genetically homogenous, group of patients, making it easier to find autism-related genes. Results from a new study published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry now cast the validity of this view into doubt.
(ABC.net.au) – A Sydney Hospital has today revealed the medical records of 88 people conceived through its IVF program more than three decades ago were deliberately changed to protect the identity of the sperm donors. The Royal North Shore Hospital commissioned an external investigation into record-keeping practices at its former fertility clinic during the late 1970s and early ’80s. It dashes hopes for those now-adult individuals conceived through the program of ever being able to trace their biological background.
(Physorg) – University of Toronto engineers and a pediatric surgeon have joined forces to discover that physical forces like pressure and tension affect the development of limbs in embryos—research that could someday be used to help prevent birth defects. The team, including U of T mechanical engineer Yu Sun (MIE), U of T bioengineer Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez (IBBME) and SickKids Hospital’s Dr. Sevan Hopyan, used live imaging and computer models to study the links between mechanical forces, changes in cell shape and cell movement in the embryo.
(Medical Xpress) – Most doctors balk at talking with seriously ill patients about what’s important to them in their final days, especially if the patient’s ethnicity is different than their own, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The study, to be published in PLOS ONE on April 22, is based on questionnaires answered anonymously by 1,040 medical residents in their last year of training.
(The Epoch Times) – Australia has long been criticised for downplaying human rights concerns in China for fear of jeopardising its highly lucrative trade relationship. Prime Minister Tony Abbott conceded as much in a leaked conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last year. Mr Abbott reportedly told Dr Merkel that Australia’s China policy was a mixture of two emotions, “fear and greed,” Fairfax Media reported last week.
(Nature) – In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published in the online journal Protein & Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted—rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month about the ethical implications of such work. In the paper, researchers led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, tried to head off such concerns by using ‘non-viable’ embryos, which cannot result in a live birth, that were obtained from local fertility clinics.
(Science) – A 44-year-old man appeared to be recovering nicely after a double lung transplant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. A week after the surgery, however, the patient, whose own lungs had been ruined by the inflammatory disease pulmonary sarcoidosis, grew confused and then became delirious. Although a brain scan found nothing wrong, tests showed that the amount of ammonia in his blood had spiked—and continued to rise even after dialysis to remove the toxin. Forty days after his surgery, he died.
(Science Daily) – Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp., have successfully developed a post-exposure treatment that is effective against a specific strain of the Ebola virus that killed thousands of people in West Africa. The study results, in the April 22 edition of Nature Journal, demonstrated that the treatment is the first to be shown effective against the new Makona outbreak strain of Ebola in animals that were infected with the virus and exhibited symptoms of the disease.
(Reuters) – Israel’s BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics said a mid-stage clinical trial of its adult stem cell treatment showed a “statistically significant” effect in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). According to the ALS Association, 5,600 people in the United States are diagnosed each year with the neurodegenerative disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which has severely disabled British physicist Stephen Hawking.