(Nature) – Gene-edited human embryos have offered a glimpse into the earliest stages of development, while hinting at the role of a pivotal protein that guides embryo growth. The first-of-its-kind study stands in contrast to previous research that attempted to fix disease-causing mutations in human embryos, in the hope of eventually preventing genetic disorders. Whereas those studies raised concerns over potential ‘designer babies’, the latest paper describes basic research that aims to understand human embryo development and causes of miscarriage.
(Nature) – These studies are valuable on several counts. They provide important insights into the biology of human embryos, and the possible mechanisms of genome editing in this context. They also highlight technical and ethical issues that inform researchers, funders, journals and regulators as they plan and assess future projects in this field. In particular, they show the importance of properly assessing the suitability of the type and number of embryos needed for research projects that explore different aspects of human germline editing.
(Quartz) – More than 40 million people around the world are enslaved, either through forced labor or by forced marriage, a human-rights group estimates. The same organization found there were 45.8 million people enslaved last year, 35.8 million in 2014, and 29.8 million in 2013—making news with these whopping numbers each time. The figures are heartbreaking, yet the fluctuations don’t mean that the enslaved population changes drastically year to year. They show just how hard it is to pin down the data.
(UPI) – Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are on the rise, and the World Health Organization issued a warning Wednesday of the lack of new antibiotics under development while the threat of antimicrobial resistance grows. Although the superbugs have not spread widely in the United States, two patients last year were infected by a bacteria that was resistant to colisitin, an antibiotic of last resort, and a Nevada woman in her 70s died after returning from a trip to India with a superbug resistant to all antibiotics.
(New Scientist) – Human embryos have been genetically edited in the UK for the first time, using a technique called CRISPR. But why do researchers think this is so important? The UK team, led by Kathy Niakan of the Francis Crick Institute in London, used the CRISPR genome-editing method to disable a gene thought to play a key role in early development. The researchers used around 60 spare embryos donated by couples who’d had IVF, which would otherwise have been discarded.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood Has Filed a Federal Lawsuit That Challenges a Maine Restriction Common across Most of the U.S.
(Associated Press) – The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday that challenges a Maine restriction common across most of the U.S. that abortions be performed solely by physicians. The two groups were joined by four nurses and abortion provider Maine Family Planning in challenging the law that prevents advanced practice registered nurses, such as nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, from performing the procedure.
(Reuters) – Women diagnosed with breast cancer who want to freeze their eggs and embryos before tumor treatment leads to infertility can do this without delaying the start of chemotherapy, a U.S. study suggests. Researchers focused on 89 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer who received counseling at a fertility clinic about a relatively new technique known as random-start ovarian stimulation.
(The Verge) – From 1970 to 2000, life expectancy in the US rose by about 2.5 months every year. If that rate had kept up, people born in the US since 2015 should expect to live longer than 79 years. But the annual increase in life expectancy slowed starting in 2000, and stopped altogether in 2014. That’s mostly because the rising death rate from drug overdoses shaved more than three months off life expectancy in 2015. Three months may not seem like much, but that’s roughly the same reduction attributable to rising death rates from injuries, Alzheimer’s, suicide, chronic liver disease, and sepsis combined.
Human Reproduction Update (vol. 23, no. 5, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Novel Reproductive Technologies to Prevent Mitochondrial Disease” by Lyndsey Craven et al.
(Nature) – In middle- and low-income countries the technology-centric approach to cancer threatens to do more harm than good. For the past 15 years, we have worked as clinical researchers in some 40 countries and conducted more than a dozen studies on national cancer-control planning. Our experiences — along with epidemiological and other data collected over 20 years — indicate that the countries that rate relatively poorly on measures of cancer survival and mortality do so largely because of deficits at the political, economic and social level.
(UPI) – The data shows that the HIV epidemic in Lesotho is coming under control. Prior PEPFAR-supported Population-based HIV Impact Assessments, or PHIAs, announced for Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Data from the six African countries was obtained via PHIAs, funded by the U.S. government through PEPFAR and conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ICAP at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and local governmental and non-governmental partners.
(Kaiser Health News) – It does not take a hurricane to put nursing home residents at risk when disaster strikes. Around the country, facilities have been caught unprepared for far more mundane emergencies than the hurricanes that recently struck Florida and Houston, according to an examination of federal inspection records. Those homes rarely face severe reprimands, records show, even when inspectors identify repeated lapses. In some cases, nursing homes failed to prepare for basic contingencies.
(STAT News) – As more medical care shifts from hospital to home, families take on more complex, risky medical tasks for their loved ones. But hospitals have not done enough to help these families, said Dr. Amy Billett, director of quality and safety at the cancer and blood disorders center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Boston Children’s Hospital. “The patient safety movement has almost fully focused all of its energy and efforts on what happens in the hospital,” she said. That’s partly because the federal government does not require anyone to monitor infections patients get at home.
(Scientific American) – The World Health Organization will next month launch a strategy to stop cholera transmission by 2030, it said on Monday, as an unprecedented outbreak in Yemen raced towards 700,000 suspected cases with little sign of slowing down. The WHO is also trying to keep the lid on a flare-up in Nigeria while tackling many entrenched outbreaks in Africa and an epidemic in Haiti, where almost 10,000 people have died since 2010.
(Reuters) – A Massachusetts pharmacist charged with murder for his role in a deadly 2012 U.S. meningitis outbreak showed “shocking” disregard for safety standards, a federal prosecutor said at the start of the trial on Tuesday. Glenn Chin, a former supervisory pharmacist at New England Compounding Center, oversaw the production of tainted steroids in filthy conditions, Assistant U.S. Attorney George Varghese told a federal jury in Boston.
States Are Asking for Records from Companies That Make And Distribute Prescription Opioid Painkillers
(Associated Press) – Attorneys general from most states are broadening their investigation into the opioid industry as a nationwide overdose crisis continues to claim thousands of lives. They announced Tuesday that they had served subpoenas requesting information from five companies that make powerful prescription painkiller demanded information from three distributors. Forty-one attorneys general are involved in various parts of the civil investigation.
(UPI) – Nurses now have a way to integrate genomics into patient care — an online toolkit launched by the National Human Genome Research Institute. The online toolkit of more than 100 resources is known as the Method for Introducing a New Competency Genomics, or MINC, and was developed with the help of clinical educators and administrators to provide resources for nurses at all levels of genomics competency.
(Medscape) – Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act (DWDA), passed through a voter-approved ballot initiative in 1997, lays out strict requirements for patients interested in requesting a prescription from their physician that would enable the patient to end to his or her life. In the 20 years since its passage, 0.2% of deaths in Oregon resulted from DWDA prescriptions but the number is increasing, researchers report in an article published online today in Annals of Internal Medicine.
(Medscape) – Ethical arguments against the legalization of physician-assisted dying remain more compelling than those in support of the practice, the American College of Physicians (ACP) states in an updated position statement published September 18 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The statement reaffirms the ACP’s opposition to physician-assisted dying as originally issued in 2001, but support for it is not universal. “Since then, there’s been a lot of interest in the subject, and several more states have legalized physician-assisted suicide,” ACP President Jack Ende, MD, told Medscape Medical News, explaining the reason the ACP revisited the issue. “We also felt there wasn’t enough attention given to patients with terminal illness to be sure they were receiving the best possible care, with hospice care and palliative care.”
(Quartz) – Doctors are starting to use genetic testing for preventive care, but they’re still nowhere near perfect and they’re not particularly well monitored. In one recent and very striking example, the San Francisco-based company Invitae announced last month it would be re-testing 50,000 saliva samples after discovering that it had accidentally given one patient a false negative in a test for Lynch syndrome. This inherited condition is caused by one of five genetic mutations, and is tied to a significantly higher risk of developing colon cancer.