(New York Times) – Hospitals in the United States are accredited by the Joint Commission, which periodically makes unannounced inspections, spending several weeks assessing whether the staff is following best practices. Now a new study suggests that when the inspectors are watching, fewer people die. The study, in JAMA Internal Medicine, used records of Medicare admissions from 2008 to 2012 at 1,984 hospitals. During that time, there were 244,787 admissions during Joint Commission inspections, and 1,462,339 in the three weeks before and after.
(BBC) – Measles is spreading across Europe wherever immunisation coverage has dropped, the World Health Organization is warning. The largest outbreaks are being seen in Italy and Romania. In the first month of this year, Italy reported more than 200 cases. Romania has reported more than 3,400 cases and 17 deaths since January 2016. Measles is highly contagious. Travel patterns mean no person or country is beyond its reach, says the WHO.
(CNN) – Now, a new study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry looks beyond the total number of overdose deaths to get a better picture of how heroin use patterns have changed since 2001. Since then, the number of people who have used heroin has increased almost five-fold, and the number of people who abuse heroin has approximately tripled. The greatest increases in use occurred among white males.
(BBC) – Two anti-abortion activists who secretly recorded conversations with Planned Parenthood have each been charged with 15 felonies in California. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt filmed undercover videos of themselves trying to buy foetal tissue, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. The pair created a fictitious bio-research firm and used fake identities for meetings with the healthcare group. Prosecutors say their actions invaded people’s privacy.
(New Scientist) – A GROUP of charities, led by Médecins Sans Frontières, is fighting to have a drug’s patent revoked by the European Patent Office. Sofosbuvir can cure hepatitis C in just three months, but costs up to €55,000 for a course of treatment. The drug’s patent is held by pharmaceuticals firm Gilead of Foster City, California, giving the company a monopoly over the drug in Europe.
(World Health Organization) – WHO today launched a global initiative to reduce severe, avoidable medication-associated harm in all countries by 50% over the next 5 years. The Global Patient Safety Challenge on Medication Safety aims to address the weaknesses in health systems that lead to medication errors and the severe harm that results. It lays out ways to improve the way medicines are prescribed, distributed and consumed, and increase awareness among patients about the risks associated with the improper use of medication.
(STAT News) – On Tuesday night — after decades of false starts, struggles to persuade disbelieving colleagues, and a tortuous path through the maze of drug discovery — Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG announced that the Food and Drug Administration had approved its new drug for MS based on Hauser’s research. Researchers say the medication is a significant improvement over other treatments for the debilitating disease, which afflicts more than 400,000 Americans and by some estimates more than 2 million more patients worldwide.
(The Atlantic) – Conservative Catholics and left-wing feminists often find each other on opposite sides of political debates, especially when it comes to what women should do with their bodies. Yet in Europe, there is a reproductive rights issue on which the Catholic Church, well-known for its staunch pro-life position, is finding common ground with pro-choice feminists: surrogacy.
(The Guardian) – The neoliberal Indian economic miracle is reaching beyond the employment of local labour in call centres and factories and into the extraction of biological vitality. The issues of worker rights and safety that continue to plague outsourced production now find new manifestations in surrogacy. A place with stark socioeconomic inequality like New Delhi is perfect for such industry. Those in chauffeured cars provide investment in technology and expertise while the poor provide its biological resource. Surrogacy is one of a growing set of industries, such as some medical trials, or tissue and organ trade, that are developing around the medical sciences and that rely on lax regulation.
(The Washington Post) – “Unlike a business, a student’s sex life does not operate on a 9-5 schedule, and because of this, access to emergency contraceptives should not operate on a schedule,” Riback, a government and politics major from Baltimore, wrote this month in the student newspaper the Diamondback. Experts say the morning-after pill works best the sooner one takes it after unprotected sex. Students who need it sometimes don’t want to wait for health centers to open. One option to solve this problem on some campuses is a simple vending machine.
(The Conversation) – The rate of IVF births has risen dramatically in recent years as fertility rates continue to fall worldwide. To date, over 5m babies have been born with the help of these technologies. However, there have been concerns about potential health problems in children conceived by IVF. Our latest study shows that those fears are largely unfounded.
(Nature) – On 28 March, a Japanese man in his 60s became the first person to receive cells derived from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that had been donated by another person. The surgery is expected to set the path for more applications of iPS cell technology, which offers the versatility of embryonic stem cells without the latter’s ethical taint. Banks of iPS cells from diverse donors could make stem cell transplants more convenient to perform, while slashing costs.
(STAT News) – Tech billionaire Elon Musk is announcing a new venture called Neuralink focused on linking brains to computers. The company plans to develop brain implants that can treat neural disorders — and that may one day be powerful enough to put humanity on a more even footing with possible future superintelligent computers, according to a Wall Street Journal report citing unnamed sources.
(UPI) -Researchers at Northwestern University created a synthetic version of the female reproductive system that can be used to test drug therapies. The system is shaped like a cube and consists of a series of small tubes, each containing cells from a different part of the female reproductive system, including the uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes and liver.
(The Guardian) – A doctor acted dishonestly when she lied to investigators about the dangerously high temperature of a nurse who went on to develop Ebola, a tribunal has found. Dr Hannah Ryan, who had been working in Sierra Leone during the west Africa Ebola outbreak of 2014, was one of the medics who assessed Pauline Cafferkey following the Scottish nurse’s return to the UK in December 2014. Ryan did not raise the alarm when a colleague wrote down Cafferkey’s temperature as 1C lower than it actually was during a “chaotic” screening process at Heathrow airport on 28 December 2014, a medical practitioners tribunal found on Monday.
(MIT Technology Review) – William Kochevar of Cleveland can slowly move his right arm and hand. No big deal—except that the 56-year-old had been paralyzed from the shoulders down since a bicycling accident ten years ago. The setup that is allowing Kochevar to move his arm again is a “neuroprosthetic” involving two tiny recording chips implanted in his motor cortex and another 36 electrodes embedded in his right arm. Now, during visits he makes to an Ohio lab each week, signals collected in his brain are being captured and sent to his arm so he can make some simple voluntary movements.
(Nature) – Fusion proteins are a common theme in childhood cancers, from brain tumours to leukaemias. And Max’s struggle with this one highlights the difficulty of tackling them in young patients. The diseases they cause tend to be aggressive, and the intensive chemotherapy treatments used to fight them can be brutal. It is hard to study paediatric cancers in general, both because they are uncommon and because of the ethical concerns involved in experimenting on children. But perhaps most maddeningly, the fusion proteins themselves, the most obvious point of attack for new therapies, have proved to be slippery targets. “There aren’t too many cancers that just say, ‘Here is my Achilles heel,’” says Damon Reed, a paediatric oncologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. “These are doing that.”
(Science) – Computer hardware is getting a softer side. A research team has come up with a way of genetically engineering the DNA of mammalian cells to carry out complex computations, in effect turning the cells into biocomputers. The group hasn’t put those modified cells to work in useful ways yet, but down the road researchers hope the new programming techniques will help improve everything from cancer therapy to on-demand tissues that can replace worn-out body parts.
(New Atlas) – Donating blood saves lives, but there’s never enough, especially when the difficulties of storage and matching blood types are taken into account. Artificial blood has been in the works for years, but it’s held back by the fact that the stem cells it’s grown from can only produce so many red blood cells. Now, researchers at the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant may have busted that barrier, by developing immortalized cell lines that can be cultured indefinitely to produce artificial blood on a much larger scale.
(STAT News) – At first glance, physicians’ poor understanding of death and the process of dying is baffling, since they are supposed to be custodians of health across the lifespan. Look deeper, though, and it may reflect less the attitudes of physicians themselves and more the system that nurtures them. After all, we train vigorously on how to delay the onset of death, and are judged on how well we do that, but many of us get little training on how to confront death.