(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.
(New York Times) – The law — part of Senate Bill 8, passed this spring — would require doctors to stop the fetus’s heart before performing a dilation-and-evacuation abortion, in which the cervix is dilated and the fetus is removed in pieces. This would be done either by injecting chemicals or by cutting the umbilical cord. There would be an exception for life-threatening emergencies. Proponents of the new law say this would ensure the “humane termination” of the fetus. Opponents say it would require women seeking abortions to undergo medically unnecessary and untested procedures — and note that using the chemicals in question would violate another Texas law, which prohibits the off-label use of drugs to induce abortions.
(Vox) – A Utah police officer earlier this year manhandled and arrested a nurse because she wouldn’t let him break the law. The chain of events was caught on body camera video at the University of Utah Hospital. After consulting with hospital staff, nurse Alex Wubbels tells Salt Lake City detective Jeff Payne that he is not allowed legally or under hospital policy to draw blood from an unconscious patient, because — by Payne’s own admission — he didn’t have a warrant (or probable cause) or consent, and the patient wasn’t under arrest.
(UPI) – The FDA has placed a full clinical hold on two clinical trials combining the cancer drug Keytruda with other therapies after an excess of deaths was reported. The agency announced on Thursday that two clinical trials of Keytruda, or pembrolizumab, combined with two other therapies have been halted after the trial sponsor, Merck, stopped enrolling patients into the trials and reported its concerns in June to the FDA.
(Science) – But such a feat has not been observed in previous CRISPR experiments, and some scientists are now questioning whether the repairs really happened that way. In a paper published online this week on the preprint server bioRxiv, a group of six geneticists, developmental biologists, and stem cell researchers offers alternative explanations for the results. And uncertainty about exactly how the embryos’ DNA changed after editing leaves many questions about the technique’s safety, they argue. (The authors declined to discuss the paper while it’s being reviewed for publication.)
(The Washington Post) – Needing a lifesaving transplant is truly awful for any child and family. For children with a disability, the challenges are even more immense. Lief has autism and is a non-speaking person who types to communicate. He struggles with sensory disturbance, profound motor planning difficulties and perseverance behaviors. Because of our son’s disability, the doctors at our local children’s hospital told us that no facility would perform the transplant, and we should prepare for him to die. A second hospital also refused to consider him.
(The Guardian) – Almost half a million pacemakers have been recalled by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to fears that their lax cybersecurity could be hacked to run the batteries down or even alter the patient’s heartbeat. The recall won’t see the pacemakers removed, which would be an invasive and dangerous medical procedure for the 465,000 people who have them implanted: instead, the manufacturer has issued a firmware update which will be applied by medical staff to patch the security holes.
(UPI) – Researchers at the National Institutes of Health recommend extending noninvasive prenatal testing to all 24 human chromosomes to detect genetic disorders. The standard method of genomic testing performed during pregnancy targets extra copies of chromosomes 21, 18 and 13 but rarely includes all 24 human chromosomes.
(The Economist) – But evidence that TCM works is scanty. Clinical trials in scientific journals have reported some examples of effective TCM treatments, for example against migraines and obesity. They have found some cases where TCM works well in combination with Western medicine, for example, in treating schizophrenia. However, the overall record is poor. America’s National Institutes of Health looked at 70 systematic reviews of TCM treatments. In 41 of them, the trials were too small or badly designed to be of use. In 29, the studies showed possible benefits but problems with sample sizes and other flaws meant the results were inconclusive.
(Reuters) – Cholera has broken out in northeast Nigeria at a camp for people displaced by the eight year conflict with Boko Haram, aid group Médecins Sans Frontières said on Thursday, bringing disease to communities already underfed and living in squalor. The outbreak in the city of Maiduguri, the epicenter of the fight against the Islamist insurgents, confirms aid groups’ fears that Nigeria’s rainy season could spread disease in camps for the internally displaced that are often already unsanitary.
(STAT News) – Getting thousands of Houston-area families to shelters has been a massive humanitarian effort. But the aid doesn’t end there: Many of the displaced have chronic medical conditions like asthma or injuries from recent days that need medical attention. Providers of telemedicine are hoping technology can help step into the breach. At Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, which has begun to take residents displaced by flooding in Houston, emergency-room doctors at Children’s Health, a pediatric hospital based in Dallas, are seeing young patients remotely.
(ABC News) – Safety advocates and state health officials are formally calling on the Food and Drug Administration to ban high-dose opioid painkillers to prevent accidental overdose deaths among patients and people who abuse drugs. A petition filed Thursday asks the FDA to ban opioid pills that, when taken as directed, would add up to a daily dose of more than 90 milligrams of morphine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that level is dangerous for most patients and doesn’t improve pain control or the ability to function.
(NPR) – The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday announced what the agency calls a “historic action” — the first approval of a cell-based gene therapy in the United States. The FDA approved Kymriah, which scientists refer to as a “living drug” because it involves using genetically modified immune cells from patients to attack their cancer. The drug was approved to treat children and young adults up to age 25 suffering from a form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia who do not respond to standard treatment or have suffered relapses.
(The Conversation) – Scientists who build artificial intelligence and autonomous systems need a strong ethical understanding of the impact their work could have. More than 100 technology pioneers recently published an open letter to the United Nations on the topic of lethal autonomous weapons, or “killer robots”. These people, including the entrepreneur Elon Musk and the founders of several robotics companies, are part of an effort that began in 2015. The original letter called for an end to an arms race that it claimed could be the “third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms”.
(Reuters) – Egypt is pushing to educate people in rural areas on birth control and family planning in a bid to slow a population growth rate that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said poses a threat to national development. The country is already the most populous in the Arab world with 93 million citizens and is set to grow to 128 million by 2030 if fertility rates of 4.0 births per thousand women continue, according to government figures.
(BBC) – Scientists have restored nerve cells destroyed by a condition similar to Parkinson’s disease, in monkeys. The Japanese team hope their work could lead to stem cell trials in human patients before the end of 2018. Parkinson’s disease causes the progressive loss of nerve cells that release dopamine, a chemical that helps control body movement. The researchers triggered a similar loss of cells in macaque monkeys, then used human stem cells to replace them.