(PhysOrg) – Americans are torn over the promise of artificial intelligence, a new poll showed Wednesday, expressing broad optimism about the emerging technologies but also fearing their negative impacts—including job losses, a poll showed Wednesday. The Gallup survey showed 79 percent of Americans say artificial intelligence has had a “mostly positive” or “very positive” impact on their lives thus far.
(Scientific American) – The process of medical research has been likened to searching for a needle in a haystack. With the continued acceleration of novel science and health care technologies in areas like artificial intelligence, digital therapeutics and the human microbiome we have tremendous opportunity to search the haystack in new and exciting ways. Applying these high-tech advances to today’s most pressing health issues increases our ability to address the root cause of disease, intervene earlier and change the trajectory of human health.
(Reuters) – A Massachusetts pharmacist was sentenced on Wednesday to eight years in prison after being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges stemming from his role in a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 76 people and sickened hundreds more. Glenn Chin, the former supervisory pharmacist at New England Compounding Center, was convicted by a federal jury in Boston in October but was cleared of second-degree murder charges, which would have exposed him to a maximum prison sentence of life.
(STAT News) – It was supposed to be a $10 billion idea, one that would help wean the world off its opioid dependence and give the drug industry a bounty of lucrative new products. But the bottom fell out for a new class of pain medicines, called NGF inhibitors, when patients in clinical trials starting inexplicably blowing out their joints. The Food and Drug Administration put a halt to further studies in 2010, and a bunch of once-transformational drugs suddenly looked like costly scientific mistakes.
(STAT News) – Pay for performance, the catchall term for policies that purport to pay doctors and hospitals based on quality and cost measures, has been taking a bashing. Last November, University of Pittsburgh and Harvard researchers published a major study in Annals of Internal Medicine showing that a Medicare pay-for-performance program did not improve quality or reduce cost and, to make matters worse, it actually penalized doctors for caring for the poorest and sickest patients because their “quality scores” suffered.
(STAT News) – When scientists discovered that the Zika virus was causing birth defects, it seemed to catch the world off guard. The mosquito-borne virus could slip from mother to fetus and damage the developing brain, leaving newborns with a range of serious complications. But what if other viruses spread by insects also pose a threat to fetuses? On Wednesday, scientists reported that two viruses, West Nile and Powassan, attacked mouse fetuses when pregnant mice were infected, killing about half of them. The viruses also successfully infected human placental tissue in lab experiments, an indication that the viruses may be able to breach the placental barrier that keeps many maternal infections from reaching the fetus.
(PhysOrg) – Dutch researchers have been performing tests “for years” on humans and animals to study the effects of diesel fumes, scientists said Tuesday, amid an outcry in Germany over similar experiments. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) “is involved in research in which volunteers … are exposed to diluted emissions from a diesel engine” for a maximum of two hours, Flemming Cassee, a toxicologist at the organisation told AFP.
(Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) – Gene therapies offer the promise of a one-time cure for genetic diseases, but they have to make it past the immune system first. For gene therapies that are infused directly into the body, that is, in vivo gene therapies, a large fraction of people have immune systems that are primed with pre-existing neutralizing antibodies to gene therapies in clinical development. The exact proportion of people depends on the design and material makeup of the gene therapy, but if present, these antibodies neutralize the therapy and any transduced cells, rendering the treatment ineffective.
(Japan Today) – A woman in her 60s sued the government Tuesday seeking 11 million yen in damages over her forced sterilization when she was a teenager on grounds of mental disability under the now-defunct eugenic protection law. The woman in Miyagi Prefecture, whose name was not disclosed, filed the first such suit over forced sterilizations in Japan at the Sendai District Court, saying the state failed to legislate for relief measures despite the serious human rights infringement.
(News Medical) – Huntington’s disease is an incurable neurodegenerative condition that affects around 1 in 10000 Americans. It affects muscle coordination and cognitive function. Symptoms of the disease typically appear around middle age, when many of the neurons in the brain have been lost. Clinical features include severe dementia and muscle coordination problems. Dr Ali Brivanlou and his team used embryonic stem cells to model this complex genetic disease, which they then used to observe changes in embryos with Huntington’s disease as early as conception.
(Bloomberg) – While doctors have long dispensed such nutritional advice to patients with a family history of these diseases, the emergence of affordable genomic studies is giving consumers new insights into how to live healthier lives. It’s a burgeoning market that Credence Research Inc. predicts will generate $340 million by 2022 from $70.2 million in 2015.
(Reuters) – Scientists have assembled the most complete human genome to be mapped with a single technology using a new pocket-size portable DNA sequencer, which they say could one day make genome mapping quick and simple enough to do at home. Using a device about the size of a mobile phone and called a MinION, made by Oxford Nanopore Technologies, researchers from Britain, the United States and Canada said they were able to sequence much longer strands of DNA than previously, making the process cheaper and swifter.
(Chemical & Engineering News) – Rather than poke a needle into an organ to sample cells and tissues—a risky venture—doctors would prefer to noninvasively measure molecular markers in a person’s blood and urine to monitor recovery. These markers, typically nucleic acids and proteins, could help indicate when a transplanted organ has started to fail, help guide treatments, minimize the number of biopsies needed, and ultimately improve transplant success rates.
(Deutsche Welle) – Croatia’s organ donor program is based on an opt-out arrangement. That means every citizen can theoretically become an organ donor if they have not explicitly stated their refusal to do so before they die. In Germany, however, citizens 16 years of age and older must register their decision to donate organs. At just 9.3 organ donations per 1 million inhabitants, Germany has one of the lowest percentages of actual organ donations in Europe. Spain lead worldwide with 46.9 donors per 1 million inhabitants in 2017.
(Vox) – Kosinski insists his intent was never to out anyone, but rather to warn us about the rapid extinction of privacy. And sexual orientation, he argues, is a start. Many more aspects of our inner lives — like personality traits — may be encoded in our faces. This is also a controversial idea, which harks back to the pseudoscience of physiognomy. When I spoke to Kosinski in November at his Stanford office, I was most interested in learning why he’s asking these controversial research questions, and whether his “warning” of a loss a privacy is actually just a blueprint to achieve it. He argues these technologies are already being used and have a huge potential for misuse.
(New Yorker) – Two days later, Jahi was declared brain-dead. With the help of a ventilator, she was breathing, but her pupils did not react to light, she did not have a gag reflex, and her eyes remained still when ice water was dripped in each ear. She was briefly disconnected from the ventilator, as a test, but her lungs filled with carbon dioxide. On an EEG test, no brain-wave activity could be seen. Like all states, California follows a version of the 1981 Uniform Determination of Death Act, which says that someone who has sustained the “irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead.”
(New York Daily News) – And I am learning that there may be alternatives available to terminating a pregnancy. Sometimes, by allowing women to choose to carry a baby with limited time to birth by permitting a natural life course with a grieving process, mothers have a chance to better cope with their impending loss. The Neonatal Comfort Care Program, though still in its initial stages, has shown preliminary data that parents felt very positively about how their babies were cared for soon after birth, and they had positive experiences bonding with their babies before their passing.
(CBS News) – Since the law was implemented a year ago, doctors estimate they’ve written more than 500 lethal prescriptions. But they say many patients can’t pay for the medicine, due to price-gouging. “It’s available, but it’s now extremely costly. It can cost a person $3,000 to 4,000 for a prescription, for the 100 capsules,” said UC San Diego Dr. Lynette Cederquist.
(CBS News) – The creators say there are 11 genes that impact attraction. The app processes DNA from a cheek swab to match users based on their pheromones — the chemicals released by the body that can trigger attraction. The dating tool also uses information from a user’s social media accounts. “The DNA will not be misleading,” said Mirza. “You cannot lie about your genetics.” But David Magnus, the director of biomedical ethics at Stanford, has his doubts. While there is scientific proof that pheromones can cause attraction, Magnus says there are many other factors that determine compatibility. There are also privacy concerns.
(Kaiser Health News) – The American Medical Association, the dominant voice for doctors nationwide, opposes allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medications at a patient’s request, calling it “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” But in December, the Massachusetts Medical Society became the 10th chapter of the AMA to drop its opposition and take a neutral stance on medical aid in dying.