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The Ethics Issue Blocking Organ Transplant Research

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 14:14

(The Atlantic) – There’s nothing to do for the dead patient at this point. But his or her organs can be saved, and because most transplanted organs in the United States come from brain-dead donors, these minutes are crucial. For this reason, researchers have wanted to study the use of drugs or procedures in brain-dead donors, halting organ damage that happens in the minutes after death. But this kind of research is almost impossible to do in the United States. The ethics of so-called donor-intervention research are incredibly fraught. How do you get informed consent and from whom? The dead donor?

FDA Approves Emergency Use Declaration for Multiplex Zika Test

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 14:06

(UPI) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the first multiplex test for the Zika virus and three other viruses. The FDA made the authorization for CII-ArboViroPlex rRT-PCR Test developed by the Center for Infection and Immunity, or CII, at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Medicine Monday.

South Carolina Sues Drug Manufacturer over Opioid Crisis

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 13:59

(ABC News) – South Carolina has become the latest state to accuse a drug manufacturer of exacerbating its opioid drug crisis by using deceptive marketing, with the state’s top prosecutor suing the maker of OxyContin. Attorney General Alan Wilson on Tuesday announced the state had sued Purdue Pharma, accusing the maker of OxyContin and other opioid drugs of violating South Carolina’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.

India Restores Hospital Oxygen Supply as Anger Mounts over Child Deaths

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 13:47

(Reuters) – Indian health authorities on Monday delivered oxygen to a public hospital where 63 people have died of encephalitis in recent days, nearly half of them children, as it ran out of medical supplies because of unpaid bills, triggering public outrage. The deaths of the children have again exposed India’s underfunded and poorly managed public healthcare despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s vows to revamp the system.

From Alaska to Florida, States Respond to Opioid Crisis with Emergency Declarations

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 16:06

(NPR) – Public health officials and others concerned about the nation’s opioid crisis are hailing President Trump’s decision to declare it a national emergency. A Presidential commission on opioids said in its interim report that an emergency declaration would allow the administration to take immediate action and send a message to Congress that more funding is needed. But while the Trump administration prepares the presidential order, governors in six states have already declared emergencies to deal with opioids. They range from Alaska and Arizona in the West to Florida, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts in the East.

Doctors Wanted to Take Me Off Life Support–But I Was Conscious the Whole Times

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 15:50

(Readers’ Digest) – They asked him questions: Blink once for yes, twice for no. It took extraordinary effort for Richard to get his eyes to work. Up to 70 percent of people diagnosed with the syndrome die within a short period of time. Of those who do survive, only a handful recover enough to lead a normal life. But before he could even hope for such an outcome, Richard would have to endure new terrors.

California’s Assisted-Dying Loophole: Some Doctors Won’t Help Patients Die

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 15:38

(San Francisco Chronicle) – Although no studies of doctors’ views have been conducted since the law took effect, Duncan said her conversations with colleagues and other information led her to conclude that far fewer than half of California’s 135,000 licensed physicians would agree to prescribe life-ending medications. Some have religious or personal objections, she said, and others just don’t see it as part of the doctor-patient relationship. Even most doctors who specialize in end-of-life care, such as those who work in hospices, “don’t have comfort or expertise” in the new law, Duncan said.

Babies with a Rare Form of Epilepsy Depend on This Drug. The Maker Stopped Selling It.

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 15:33

(Miami Herald) – The medicine has had a powerful effect. Seizures that once struck multiple times an hour now come once every five or six days. But the drug came with a deadline: At the end of June, GlaxoSmithKline, the British drug company that sells Potiga, pulled it off the market because of declining sales, forcing families to stockpile supplies or wean their children off a drug that dramatically improved their quality of life. The dilemma faced by parents whose children benefited from Potiga – and future families who potentially may never have access to the drug – highlights the limitations of drug companies’ business model.

When Torture Becomes Science

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 15:30

(New York Times) – Was the Central Intelligence Agency’s post-9/11 “enhanced interrogation” program an instance of human experimentation? Recently declassified documents raise this explosive question. The documents were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in connection with a federal lawsuit scheduled for trial next month. The case was brought on behalf of three former detainees against two psychologists who developed the C.I.A.’s program. I reviewed some of the documents in a recent article in The Texas Law Review.

Orphan Black Is Ending, but How Far Has Human Cloning Come?

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 15:24

(The Verge) – With the end of Orphan Black imminent, we’re looking at the real world for our fix of real science straddling the world of science fiction. Since the show began airing in 2013, have we gotten any closer to the future of extreme body modifications and human cloning that Orphan Black has so often teased? I spoke with Paul Knoepfler, a biology professor at UC Davis, and John Quackenbush, professor of biostatistics and computational biology at Harvard and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, to see how far away we are from some of the show’s most outrageous inventions.

Hospitals Slashed Use of Two Heart Drugs after Huge Price Hikes

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 15:18

(Kaiser Health News) – Even before media reports and a congressional hearing vilified Valeant Pharmaceuticals International for raising prices on a pair of lifesaving heart drugs, Dr. Umesh Khot knew something was very wrong. Khot is a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, which prides itself on outstanding heart care. The health system’s pharmacists had alerted doctors about the skyrocketing cost of the drugs, nitroprusside and isoproterenol. But these two older drugs, frequently used in emergency and intensive care situations, have no direct alternatives.

Cancer’s Newest Miracle Cure

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 14:57

(TIME) – In a calculated gamble, her doctors suggested a radical new option: becoming a test subject in a trial of an experimental therapy that would, for the first time, use gene therapy to train a patient’s immune system to recognize and destroy their cancer in the same way it dispatches bacteria and viruses. The strategy is the latest development in immunotherapy, a revolutionary approach to cancer treatment that uses a series of precision strikes to disintegrate cancer from within the body itself.

These Scientists Took over a Computer by Encoding Malware in DNA

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 12:36

(The Atlantic) – DNA is fundamentally a way of storing information. Usually, it encodes instructions for making living things—but it can be conscripted for other purposes. Scientists have used DNA to store books, recordings, GIFs, and even an Amazon gift card. And now, for the first time, researchers from the University of Washington have managed to take over a computer by encoding a malicious program in DNA.

People Back Editing Genes to Treat Disease, but Are Wary of Inheritable Changes

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 12:35

(NPR) – People generally think that editing human genes might be OK, but most think that there’s a clear line that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to changing traits that would be passed down to new generations, according to a survey reported Thursday. It’s not an abstract question. Earlier this month, gene editing made headlines after scientists in Oregon reported they had successfully corrected a genetic defect in human embryos in the laboratory. Along with the potential to prevent some diseases, this technology also comes with complicated ethical questions, including what kind of gene edits would be acceptable and who could benefit or be harmed.

‘Intersex’ Athletes to Learn if They Will Be Forced to Take Drugs to Suppress Testosterone

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 12:19

(Telegraph) – ‘Intersex’ athletes will learn next month whether they will be forced to take drugs to suppress their testosterone levels, amid an ongoing row which could tarnish the World Championships in London. South Africa’s Caster Semenya, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui could all medal in the 800m final on Sunday, but there have been claims that they are helped to victory by naturally high levels of the male sex hormone.

Test Uses Nanotechnology to Quickly Diagnose Zika Virus

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 12:10

(Eurekalert) – Washington University in St. Louis researchers have developed a test that quickly detects the presence of Zika virus in blood. Currently, testing for Zika requires that a blood sample be refrigerated and shipped to a medical center or laboratory, delaying diagnosis and possible treatment. Although the new proof-of-concept technology has yet to be produced for use in medical situations, the test’s results can be determined in minutes. Further, the materials required for the test do not require refrigeration and may be applicable in testing for other emerging infectious diseases.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis: Better IVF Results?

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 12:06

(Medscape) – The need to transfer fewer embryos while maintaining or increasing PRs prompted research of various embryo evaluation methods. Most embryos created in vitro are aneuploid and, therefore, do not or only rarely implant. Preimplantation assessment of chromosome content could enable the provider to transfer euploid embryos only. Results of screening with preimplantation genetic diagnosis for aneuploidy (PGD-A) have been mixed. Newer technologies have been shown to improve outcomes in young patients with a good prognosis. Good data on patients with a less favorable prognosis are unavailable, however.

A Physician Explores ‘A Better Path’ to the End of Life

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 11:10

(NPR) – My guest is a critical care and palliative care physician who is among the health care professionals trying to find a more humane approach to helping people as they reach the ends of their lives. Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter wants to help patients avoid what she describes as the end-of-life conveyor belt, where they are intubated, catheterized and die attached to machines, frequently without even knowing they’re dying.

Gene Therapy Is Not Available but Who Will Pay for It?

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 11:07

(Scientific American) – The science of gene therapy is finally delivering on its potential, and drugmakers are now hoping to produce commercially viable medicines after tiny sales for the first two such treatments in Europe. Thanks to advances in delivering genes to targeted cells, more treatments based on fixing faulty DNA in patients are coming soon, including the first ones in the United States. Yet the lack of sales for the two drugs already launched to treat ultra-rare diseases in Europe highlights the hurdles ahead for drugmakers in marketing new, extremely expensive products for genetic diseases.

US Biomedical Research Facilities Still Unprepared for Natural Disasters and Attacks

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 14:56

(Nature) – When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in 2012, the storm destroyed more than US$20 million worth of scientific equipment at New York University’s (NYU) Langone Medical Center. Tropical storm Allison hit the University of Texas Health Science Center (UT Health) in Houston in 2001 and caused so much damage some researchers had to restart their careers elsewhere. Despite such catastrophes, a new report finds that many research institutions in the United States are still unprepared for disasters.