(The Economist) – BETWEEN 2000 and 2015 half a million people in America alone died of drug overdoses—mostly of opioids, a class of addictive, generally synthetic painkillers related to morphine. On August 8th Tom Price, the secretary for health and human services in America, raised the possibility of a vaccine to prevent addiction—something he described it as “an incredibly exciting prospect”. Experts have cautioned that such treatments are nowhere near reality. But research is going on. A study published in this week’s Nature, for instance, describes the search for a vaccine against fenethylline—a drug particularly popular in parts of the Middle East.
(Times of India) – If surrogacy is an economic opportunity, why not selling of babies or children? If a couple is in dire need of money and the sale of children can help alleviate their poverty, why can’t they do it? Every time they needed money, they could produce a baby and sell it, or sell one of the already existing babies/children and reduce their own burden and also help a childless family in the process. India could be selling its excess population of poor children all over the world perhaps. It could become a market leader. It could help reduce the population and could be the best poverty alleviation scheme with no input of government’s scarce resources.
(ABC News) – Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday signed into law a bill expanding coverage on abortions and other reproductive services to thousands of Oregonians, regardless of income, citizenship status or gender identity. Proponents called it America’s most progressive reproductive health policy. The Pro-Choice Coalition of Oregon said it is the first legislation in the United States to comprehensively address systemic barriers to accessing reproductive health care. Chris Pair, Brown’s press secretary, confirmed Brown signed the bill Tuesday.
(UPI) – Stem cells from young hearts might breathe new life into aging ones, research in rats suggests. In the study, a special type of stem cells was taken from the hearts of newborn rats and injected into the hearts of old rats, average age 22 months. Other rats from the same age group were given saline shots instead.
(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday reversed a ruling that prevented Arkansas from cutting off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood following the release of controversial videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis reversed a federal judge’s ruling forbidding Arkansas from carrying through with Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson’s directive to suspend Medicaid reimbursements to a Planned Parenthood affiliate.
(The Atlantic) – Since 2008, Panigrahi’s team has been running a large clinical trial in rural India, where they gave a probiotic of their own devising to thousands of randomly selected newborn babies. Their product contained a strain of Lactobacillus plantarum, chosen for its ability to attach to gut cells. The team also added a sugar, chosen to nourish the microbe and give it a foothold when it enters a baby’s gut. Together, this combination is called a synbiotic. And it was strikingly effective.
(New Scientist) – IT IS only half a cup of blood, but it could change your life. Blood taken from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord is a rich source of uniquely potent stem cells. Parents are often encouraged to donate it to a public bank, so that it might be used to treat others with rare blood disorders. However, there is no guarantee you will get to use your own blood later if you need it. This was not a problem when the disorders it treated were exceptionally rare. But this is changing.
(UPI) – A new genetic blood test might pave the way for detecting early stage cancers that often prove fatal when caught too late, a new study suggests. The test scans blood for DNA fragments released by cancerous tumors, explained lead researcher Dr. Victor Velculescu. By reviewing these DNA fragments for mutations found in 58 “cancer-driver” genes, the blood test detects many early stage cancers without rendering false positives for healthy people, said Velculescu, co-director of cancer biology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, in Baltimore.
(STAT News) – The nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager will soon limit the number and strength of opioid drugs prescribed to first-time users as part of a wide-ranging effort to curb an epidemic affecting millions of Americans. But the new program from Express Scripts is drawing criticism from the American Medical Association, the largest association of physicians and medical students in the U.S., which believes treatment plans should be left to doctors and their patients.
(STAT News) – But instead of rejecting members who get contrary results, Donovan said, the conversations are “overwhelmingly” focused on helping the person to rethink the validity of the genetic test. And some of those critiques — while emerging from deep-seated racism — are close to scientists’ own qualms about commercial genetic ancestry testing. Panofsky and Donovan presented their findings at a sociology conference in Montreal on Monday. The timing of the talk — some 48 hours after the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. — was coincidental. But the analysis provides a useful, if frightening, window into how these extremist groups think about their genes.
(The Guardian) – When a child suffers a long-term or chronic illness, one of the greatest psychological problems they confront is isolation from their peers and schoolmates. It’s possible to keep up with schoolwork, but not the social interplay and group dynamics that are a critical part of school life. Dolva realised just how important and neglected this issue of social solitude was when she met a woman who lost her teenage daughter to cancer. She and her partners researched the problem, speaking to children with a multitude of different health conditions and came up with an answer: a telepresence robot called AV1.
(New York Times) – More than 500,000 Yemenis have been infected with cholera this year, and nearly 2,000 have died, the World Health Organization said Monday. Cholera is endemic in Yemen, which is on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula and across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. But the disease, caused by a bacterium in contaminated water, has spread rapidly since April. Civil war and bombing by neighboring Saudi Arabia have crippled much of the country’s water-distribution system, destroyed hospitals and forced vast numbers of people to flee their homes.
(Nature) – Early experiments are beginning to show how genome-editing technologies such as CRISPR might one day fix disease-causing mutations before embryos are implanted. But refining the techniques and getting regulatory approval will take years. PGD has already helped thousands of couples. And whereas the expansion of PGD around the world has generally been slow, in China, it is starting to explode. The conditions there are ripe: genetic diseases carry heavy stigma, people with disabilities get very little support and religious and ethical push-back against PGD is almost non-existent. China has also lifted some restrictions on family size and seen a subsequent rise in fertility treatments among older couples.
(The Verge) – The European inspection and certification company Tüv Süd gave Natural Cycles a CE certification in February, which means the app is now considered a medical device for contraception in Europe. To get the CE certification, Scherwitzl says the app has repeatedly demonstrated in a series of clinical studies that it improves the effectiveness of traditional planning methods. Notified bodies are companies like Tüv, which certify high-risk medical devices, whereas the European Medicines Agency gives certification for pharmaceuticals. EU member states pick the notified bodies, which are organizations that assess whether medical devices meet requirements set out in legislation.
Faith and Philosophy (vol. 34, no. 3, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Christian Cyborgs – A Plea For a Moderate Transhumanism” by Benedikt Paul Göcke
(New York Times) – With the arrival of two revolutionary treatment strategies, immunotherapy and personalized medicine, cancer researchers have found new hope — and a problem that is perhaps unprecedented in medical research. There are too many experimental cancer drugs in too many clinical trials, and not enough patients to test them on. The logjam is caused partly by companies hoping to rush profitable new cancer drugs to market, and partly by the nature of these therapies, which can be spectacularly effective but only in select patients.
Dying with Dignity May Challenge Ontario Law Exempting Religious Hospitals from Offering Assisted Death
(CBC News) – While more than 630 Ontarians to date have legally ended their lives with the help of a nurse or doctor, none have been able to do so within the walls of a hospital that has historic ties to the Catholic Church. But advocates for medically assisted dying argue that since these are public-funded health-care centres, they are bound to offer the option — even though Ontario law currently exempts any person or institution that objects. It’s legislation that Dying With Dignity Canada may challenge in court, according to the group’s CEO.
(Quartz) – Animal studies are the backbone of medical and scientific research. Because of animal testing, humans have developed vaccinations for smallpox, nearly eradicated polio, discovered chemotherapy, and made countless other innovations across the medical spectrum. But there’s a major flaw in the way we conduct these experiments: Far too many animal tests ignore biological sex entirely. A new study from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, published in Nature Communications, argues that too many animal experiments have failed to take into account sexual dimorphism—the traits that differ between sexes in a species, from size to bone density to coloring.
“What Kind of Society Do You Want to Live in?”: Inside the Country Where Down Syndrome Is Disappearing
(CBS News) – With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland. Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.
(BBC) – Plants have been “hijacked” to make polio vaccine in a breakthrough with the potential to transform vaccine manufacture, say scientists. The team at the John Innes Centre, in Norfolk, says the process is cheap, easy and quick. As well as helping eliminate polio, the scientists believe their approach could help the world react to unexpected threats such as Zika virus or Ebola. Experts said the achievement was both impressive and important. The vaccine is an “authentic mimic” of poliovirus called a virus-like particle.