(US News & World Report) – Doctors may be no match for computers when it comes to Alzheimer’s. A study published in July in the journal Neurobiology of Aging found that artificial intelligence could detect signs of the disease in patient brain scans before physicians. The computer-based algorithm was able to correctly predict if a person would develop Alzheimer’s disease up to two years before he or she actually displayed symptoms. It was correct 84 percent of the time.
(The Guardian) – Scientific pioneer, superstar surgeon, miracle worker – that’s how Paolo Macchiarini was known for several years. Dressed in a white lab coat or in surgical scrubs, with his broad, handsome face and easy charm, he certainly looked the part. And fooled almost everyone. Macchiarini shot to prominence back in 2008, when he created a new airway for Claudia Castillo, a young woman from Barcelona. He did this by chemically stripping away the cells of a windpipe taken from a deceased donor; he then seeded the bare scaffold with stem cells taken from Castillo’s own bone marrow. Castillo was soon back home, chasing after her kids. According to Macchiarini and his colleagues, her artificial organ was well on the way to looking and functioning liked a natural one.
(STAT News) – Vaccine giant Sanofi Pasteur has quietly pulled the plug on its Zika vaccine project, a move that underscores how difficult it may be at this stage to develop a vaccine against the virus. The company announced the move in a statement posted on its website at 3 p.m. Friday, pointing to a decision by a federal funding body to scale back spending on Zika-related research. Sanofi said BARDA — the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services — informed the company in mid-August that it was reducing its financial assistance for Sanofi’s Zika vaccine project.
(Scientific American) – The government of St. Kitts and Nevis has launched an investigation into the clinical trial for a herpes vaccine by an American company because it said its officials were not notified about the experiments. The vaccine research has sparked controversy because the lead investigator, a professor with Southern Illinois University, and the U.S. company he co-founded did not rely on traditional U.S. safety oversight while testing the vaccine last year on mostly American participants on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.
(MIT Technology Review) – The gene-editing system CRISPR is the hottest subject in biology because of the technique’s ability to change DNA letters and potentially cure genetic disease. So what could be better? What about a way to edit genes with no CRISPR at all. A startup called Homology Medicines says it has a way to do that. The Bedford, Massachusetts, company has raised an impressive $127 million to treat genetic diseases using viruses it claims are capable of efficiently repairing human genes, all on their own.
(Scientific American) – Scientists have successfully used “reprogrammed” stem cells to restore functioning brain cells in monkeys, raising hopes the technique could be used in future to help patients with Parkinson’s disease. Since Parkinson’s is caused by a lack of dopamine made by brain cells, researchers have long hoped to use stem cells to restore normal production of the neurotransmitter chemical. Now, for the first time, Japanese researchers have shown that human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) can be administered safely and effectively to treat primates with symptoms of the debilitating disease.
(BBC) – As families desperately clawed through red earth and debris that had buried their communities within just a few hours, another fear was already taking hold. Gushing muddy waters had poured into poor communities, killing at least 500 people, leaving many more homeless and wrecking what were already very basic water and sanitation systems. Although tragedy has already struck, things could get a lot worse.
(Wired) – Most of the time, siloed medical information is more of a nuisance than anything else. But when Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area last week, evacuations and rescue efforts forced patients to seek treatment anywhere they could. And most of the time, their health records didn’t go with them. That information void can be almost as catastrophic as the catastrophe itself.
(CNN) – Opioids are a class of drugs that include some prescription painkillers as well as illicit drugs such as heroin and street fentanyl. The majority of drug overdose deaths nationwide involve an opioid, and about 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, the Nevada Department of Corrections is preparing to use fentanyl in a three-part drug combination for an upcoming execution, it said in a statement August 17. The combination includes the sedative diazepam, which is often sold under the brand name Valium; the muscle relaxant cisatracurium; and fentanyl, according to the statement.
(Scientific American) – Parents considering whether to enroll a sick son or daughter in a clinical trial often face a barrage of conflicting emotions. On one hand, they hope that the experiment will lead to a breakthrough in treatment. On the other, they must deal with the uncertainty and fear that come from willingly exposing their child to an unproven therapy that could turn out to be ineffective or even more harmful than standard treatment. What parents may not anticipate, however, is that their child’s contribution to scientific understanding could also be squandered on a study that is never completed or that fails to be published in the medical literature.