(Nature) – Brain implants that deliver electrical pulses tuned to a person’s feelings and behaviour are being tested in people for the first time. Two teams funded by the US military’s research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), have begun preliminary trials of ‘closed-loop’ brain implants that use algorithms to detect patterns associated with mood disorders. These devices can shock the brain back to a healthy state without input from a physician. The work, presented last week at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting in Washington DC, could eventually provide a way to treat severe mental illnesses that resist current therapies. It also raises thorny ethical concerns, not least because the technique could give researchers a degree of access to a person’s inner feelings in real time.
(Pro Publica) – ProPublica’s story detailed how the nursing home industry dispenses medication a month at a time, but then is forced to destroy it after patients pass away, stop using it or move out. Some send the drugs to massive regional incinerators or flush them down the toilet, creating environmental concerns. In Iowa, a program called SafeNetRx retrieves the excess medication, inspects it and dispenses it for free to needy patients. Almost 80,000 Iowans have used SafeNetRx to obtain medication — from cheap antibiotics to cancer drugs worth thousands of dollars per month.
(New York Times) – The Philippines suspended its school-based dengue immunization program on Friday after the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi warned that its flagship vaccine, Dengvaxia, had been found to pose health risks in people not previously infected. The suspension came after health experts expressed worries about Sanofi’s announcement this week. The company said further clinical studies had revealed that, in those who had previously had dengue, the vaccine could prevent repeat infection. But for those who had not had dengue, and were vaccinated and later became infected, “more cases of severe disease could occur,” Sanofi said in the advisory.
(STAT News) – In the barely three years since biologists discovered how to create these “brain organoids,” the lentil-sized structures have taken neuroscience by storm. Starting with a recipe developed by scientists in Austria, researchers from Japan and China to Europe and North America are seeding lab dishes with human stem cells, adding special molecules — many labs, like chili chefs, have their own secret blends — that make the stem cells morph into a variety of brain cells. They then put the dishes into special chambers called bioreactors that keep them warm and in gentle motion reminiscent of a womb, encouraging the cells to form blobs with working neurons and many other features of a full-size human brain.
(Medical Xpress) – U.S. regulators have approved a first-of-a-kind test that looks for mutations in hundreds of cancer genes at once, giving a more complete picture of what’s driving a patient’s tumor and aiding efforts to match treatments to those flaws. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Foundation Medicine’s test for patients with advanced or widely spread cancers, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed covering it.
(Reuters) – Researchers announced the launch of two big studies in Africa on Thursday to test a new HIV vaccine and a long-acting injectable drug, fuelling hopes for better ways to protect against the virus that causes AIDS. The start of the three-year vaccine trial involving 2,600 women in southern Africa means that for the first time in more than a decade there are now two big HIV vaccine clinical trials taking place at the same time.
(Nature) – Shahbazi et al. used their ex utero culture systems to study the coordination between the exit from pluripotency and the formation of the amniotic cavity. First, the authors noticed that the downregulation of pluripotency genes coincided with the appearance of the amniotic cavity in both mouse and human embryos. Next, they observed that maintaining pluripotent cells in a naive state in embryos by artificially supplying LIF prevented the cells from forming the amniotic cavity.
(Gizmodo) – But with the “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” tattoo glaring back at them, the ICU team was suddenly confronted with a serious dilemma. The patient arrived at the hospital without ID, the medical staff was unable to contact next of kin, and efforts to revive or communicate with the patient were futile. The medical staff had no way of knowing if the tattoo was representative of the man’s true end-of-life wishes, so they decided to play it safe and ignore it.
Zygon Journal of Religion and Science (vol. 52, no. 3, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Transhumanism, Theological Anthropology, and Modern Biological Taxonomy” by Travis Dumsday
- “A Contribution to the Debate on Science and Faith by Christian Students from Abidjan” by Klaas Bom And Benno Van Den Toren
- “Should a Christian Adopt Methodological Naturalism?” by Andrew B. Torrance
- “Assessing the Field of Science and Religion: Advice from the Next Generation” by Michael S. Burdett
- “Philosophical Anthropology, Ethics, and Love: Toward a New Religion and Science Dialogue” by Christian Early
- “Knowing Ourselves as Embodied, Embedded, and Relationally Extended” by Warren S. Brown
The New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 377, no. 12, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Tuberculosis Elimination in the United States — The Need for Renewed Action” by R. Bayer and K.G. Castro
- “The Fate of FDA Postapproval Studies” by S. Woloshin, L.M. Schwartz, B. White, and T.J. Moore
Birth (vol. 44, no. 3, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Informed Consent and Refusal in Obstetrics: A Practical Ethical Guide” by Andrew Kotaska
Journal of Value Inquiry (vol. 51, no. 3, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “The Ethics of Patenting the BRCA Genes for Breast Cancer Research” by John Jung Park
- “Focusing Respect on Creatures” by Elizabeth Foreman
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy (vol. 20, no. 1, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Bioenhancement of Morality” by Bert Gordijn and Henk ten Have
- “Compulsory Administration of Oxytocin Does Not Result in Genuine Moral Enhancement” by Vojin Raki?
- “‘Unnatural’ Thoughts? On Moral Enhancement of the Human Animal” by Norman K. Swazo
- “Inspectors’ Ethical Challenges in Health Care Regulation: A Pilot Study” by W. Seekles et al.
- “Tragedy in Moral Case Deliberation” by Benita Spronk, Margreet Stolper, and Guy Widdershoven
- “Do We Have a Moral Responsibility to Compensate for Vulnerable Groups? A Discussion on the Right to Health for LGBT People” by Perihan Elif Ekmekci
- “Personal Factors Affecting Ethical Performance in Healthcare Workers During Disasters and Mass Casualty Incidents in Iran: A Qualitative Study” by Mehrzad Kiani
- “Withdrawal of Artificial Nutrition and Hydration in Neonatal Intensive Care: Parents’ and Healthcare Practitioners’ Views” by Véronique Fournier et al.
- “Blurring Nature at Its Boundaries. Vague Phenomena in Current Stem Cell Debate” by Martin Hähnel
- “Caregiver Burden and the Medical Ethos” by Karsten Witt, Johanne Stümpel, and Christiane Woopen
- “Suffering and Dying Well: On the Proper Aim of Palliative Care” by Govert den Hartogh
- “Is Decision-Making Capacity an “Essentially Contested” Concept in Pediatrics?” by Eva De Clercq
- “Zika, Public Health, and the Distraction of Abortion” by Thana Christina de Campos
- “Abortion for Fetal Defects: Two Current Arguments” by Susana Nuccetelli
(Vox) – Scarlet fever, a leading killer of children in the 19th and early 20th centuries, is suddenly making a comeback in many parts of the world, and no one knows why. The bacterial infection brings on a red, sandpapery rash all over the body, a high fever, and sore throat, and can cause serious health complications, including heart and kidney damage. The advent of antibiotics in the mid-20th century made the disease less deadly.
(STAT News) – It’s got sun, sand, top-flight biomedical research, and highly rated hospitals. But can San Diego really become a hub for medical tourism? City leaders sure hope so. They recently launched a marketing initiative — funded mostly by a local philanthropist — that aims to attract patients from across the country and around the world. The pitch: Get your hip replaced or your cancer treated by top specialists — and then take your family to Legoland or SeaWorld.