(BBC) – The idea of palliative or end-of-life care, to support people in the last months or years of their life, was well established in other countries. But in Mongolia, home of the conqueror Genghis Khan, where nomads have lived and died by the harsh conditions of the landscape for millennia, it was entirely unknown. Then a trip to Sweden in 2000, to attend a European Palliative Care Association conference, opened Davaasuren’s eyes and eventually helped her make Mongolia a better place to die.
(The Guardian) – Children as young as nine are the target of cosmetic surgery apps and makeover games that are likely to make them feel dissatisfied with their own faces and bodies, a new report warns. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is calling for social media sites to investigate the apps and take them down, warning that they have a pernicious effect on the young, who may be tempted to go under the knife. “We’ve been shocked by some of the evidence we’ve seen, including makeover apps and cosmetic surgery ‘games’ that target girls as young as nine,” said Jeanette Edwards, professor of social anthropology at the University of Manchester, who chaired the council’s inquiry.
(Scientific American) – More than half of American teens have had sex by age 18, but teenage pregnancy and birth rates extended their 2-1/2-decade decline because of increased contraceptive use, according to a U.S. government study released on Thursday. Most of the 55 percent of teens who have had sex by 18 used some type of protection, typically a condom, the study of more than 4,000 teenagers by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics showed.
(Medical Xpress) – A developing fetus bathes in a mixture of cellular secretions and proteins unique to its mother’s uterus. Before fertilization, the pH of uterine fluid helps create a conducive environment for sperm migration, and afterward, its volume supports the embryo as it implants onto the wall of the uterus. Recent evidence suggests that uterine fluid may play another key role in embryonic development: communicating the mother’s outside conditions to the fetus, so that the latter can prepare accordingly. A review of this research appears on June 22 in Trends in Molecular Medicine.
(Kaiser Health News) – Nagel is among a new breed of nurses devoted to caring for patients with sepsis, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s attempt to fight an infection causes widespread inflammation. She has a clear mission: identify and treat those patients quickly to minimize their chance of death. Nagel administers antibiotics, draws blood for testing, gives fluids and closely monitors her charges — all on a very tight timetable.
(The Local) – The testing of in-vitro embryos for serious hereditary conditions will finally be allowed in Switzerland from September 1st. The date was confirmed by the Swiss government on Wednesday after the Swiss public approved the move in a referendum in June 2016, becoming the last country in Europe to do so. The law on medically assisted reproduction will be changed to allow pre-implantation genetic diagnosis – the testing of embryos during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) before they are implanted in the womb.
(Sacramento Bee) – Abortion-rights groups asked a federal court Tuesday to block Arkansas from enforcing new restrictions lawmakers approved this year, including a ban on a commonly used second-trimester procedure that the groups say would make it nearly impossible for many women in the state to have an abortion. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit challenging the measure banning the procedure known as dilation and evacuation. Abortion-rights supporters contend it’s the safest and most common procedure used in second-trimester abortions.
(Deutsche Welle) – But the second, and perhaps more interesting aspect of digitalization, is that we can experiment with our identity, Sjoblad says. He calls himself a “biohacker,” a person who “hacks” biological, organic processes to make them better. According to his website, Sjoblad “works to radically democratize public access to powerful technologies. In this setting, he does not step back from experiments with technology with his own body.” Moreover, he envisions a future in which “the human body has fundamentally different capabilities than it does today.”
(Wired) – Doctors still don’t fully understand how depression works, which makes studying and developing new treatments all the more challenging. “We don’t know how any of these meds work on the brain,” says Mandel. “We know about as much about ketamine as we do about any of the others. We do know that ketamine tends to cause new growth in the brain.”
(CNN) – The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled Wednesday that courts may consider vaccines to be the cause of an illness, even in the absence of scientific evidence confirming a link. The EU’s highest court said that if the development of a disease is timely to the person’s receiving a vaccine, if the person was previously health with a lack of history of the disease in their family and if a significant number of disease cases are reported among people receiving a certain vaccine, this may serve as enough proof.
(STAT News) – It has been 61 years since the discovery of the mutation responsible for sickle cell, which affects about 100,000 people in the U.S., and 30 years since scientists found a compensatory mutation — one that keeps people from developing sickle cell despite inheriting the mutant genes. Last year, when STAT examined the lack of progress, scientists and hospital officials were frank about one reason for it: Other genetic disorders, notably cystic fibrosis, attracted piles of money that led to cures, but sickle cell strikes the “wrong” kind of people, including African-Americans, and so has historically been starved for funds.
(Nature) – Compare the genomes of enough people with and without a disease, and genetic variants linked to the malady should pop out. So runs the philosophy behind genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which researchers have used for more than a decade to find genetic ties to diseases such as schizophrenia and rheumatoid arthritis. But a provocative analysis now calls the future of that strategy into question — and raises doubts about whether funders should pour more money into these experiments. GWAS are fast expanding to encompass hundreds of thousands, even millions, of patients (see ‘The genome-wide tide’). But biologists are likely to find that larger studies turn up more and more genetic variants — or ‘hits’ — that have minuscule influences on disease, says Jonathan Pritchard, a geneticist at Stanford University in California.
(The Conversation) – Of course, the judge’s actions decided only the case before him. But now the genie is out of the bottle. Who else might find the engine of the criminal justice system bearing down on him or her because of words less morally bankrupt than Michelle Carter’s? Do doctors advising patients about end-of-life decisions have to worry about criminal prosecution if a patient stops taking medicine and dies as a result? Will family members have to urge their terminal relatives to do everything in their power to stay alive, lest they be prosecuted on the same theory as Carter’s?
(STAT News) – What insiders know, however, is not well-understood by the rest of us, who take for granted that each A, T, C, and G that makes up the DNA of all 23 pairs of human chromosomes has been completely worked out. When scientists finished the first draft of the human genome, in 2001, and again when they had the final version in 2003, no one lied, exactly. FAQs from the National Institutes of Health refer to the sequence’s “essential completion,” and to the question, “Is the human genome completely sequenced?” they answer, “Yes,” with the caveat — that it’s “as complete as it can be” given available technology.
(BBC) – Seventeen children have been paralysed by polio following an outbreak of the disease in Syria that the World Health Organization says is “very serious”. Earlier this month, the agency reported two polio cases in the Mayadin area of Deir al-Zour province, much of which is controlled by so-called Islamic State. Fourteen new cases have now been confirmed in the same area, while another was recorded in Raqqa province. It is the first re-emergence of polio in the war-torn country since 2014.
(Undark Magazine) – By its very nature, the biobank juxtaposes those who collect with those who are collected. Those who collect are most often scientists — those imbued with authority and the auspices of research — and they are often the arbiters of what happens to the samples after they enter the laboratory. Those who are collected from — medical patients or indigenous communities as part of anthropological studies — do not have the same sort of say in how their bodies are used, especially for commercial ends. This conjunction is at the very heart of the bioethical questions now facing biobanking overall. Who gets to participate in scientific research? Under what circumstances? And with what degree of autonomy?
(ProPublica) – You can walk into your local drugstore and buy a month’s supply of Aleve and Nexium for about $40. For Vimovo, the pharmacy billed my insurance company $3,252. This doesn’t mean the drug company ultimately gets paid that much. The pharmaceutical world is rife with rebates and side deals — all designed to elbow ahead of the competition. But apparently the price of convenience comes at a steep mark-up.
(Managed Care Magazine) – The federal government says that hospitals and other organizations that process or store patient health care information must report cyber breaches to HHS. But the rules are murky, and some of the worst cyberattacks have not been brought to light, the Wall Street Journal reports. The newspaper focuses on attacks by hackers using ransomware, which keeps the data under lock until the victim organizations pay up. So, technically, no patient medical information is released in such circumstances, which means health care organizations can avoid the embarrassment—as well as the competitive and financial fallout—that making such an attack public knowledge would generate.
(Thomas Reuters Foundation) – Police raided an illegal fertility clinic in southern Indian at the weekend and discovered 47 surrogate mothers – who had been lured to rent their wombs for money – living in “terrible conditions”, they said. Following a tip-off, Telangana state police raided the fertility clinic in the city of Hyderabad on Saturday and discovered the women, nearly all from northeastern India. “The women were all huddled in one large room and had access to just one bathroom,” investigating officer B. Limba Reddy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.
(PBS Newshour) – In vitro fertilization has grown to a $3 billion industry in the U.S. that is responsible for more than 1 million babies. But implanting several embryos under pressure for success often obscures potential complications and added responsibilities that can come with carrying twins, triplets or more. Bernice Yeung of Reveal joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss these ethical concerns.