(Reuters) – A man accused of fatally shooting three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, who was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial, can be forcibly medicated in an effort to restore him to competency, an appeals court ruled on Thursday. The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that the state can administer anti-psychotic drugs to Robert Lewis Dear, 59, over his lawyer’s objections.
(STAT News) – A new paper points to a previously unknown hurdle for scientists racing to develop therapies using the revolutionary genome-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9: the human immune system. In a study posted Friday on the preprint site bioRxiv, researchers reported that many people have existing immune proteins and cells primed to target the Cas9 proteins included in CRISPR complexes. That means those patients might be immune to CRISPR-based therapies or vulnerable to dangerous side effects — the latter being especially concerning as CRISPR treatments move closer to clinical trials.
(STAT News) – Despite its cartoonish reputation, hypnotherapy has helped numerous patients in clinical trials control their response to pain, anxiety, and even digestive disorders. Handel was fortunate to cross paths with some of the researchers involved in those trials, and they shared some of what they knew. Handel believed then, as he does now, that with the right mindset, even people who are dying can feel —and, indeed, be — more in control of their bodies.
(Scientific American) – Doctors say it’s difficult to treat the condition. There is no cure other than to quit using marijuana, and many patients are skeptical that cannabis is making them sick, so they keep using it and their vomiting episodes continue. Doctors can do little to relieve the symptoms, since traditional anti-nausea medications often don’t work and there are no pills to prevent the onset of an episode. Patients may need intravenous hydration and hospital stays until the symptoms subside.
(South China Morning Post) – Although medical institutions and staff in China have been banned from carrying out “any form of surrogacy” since 2001, the business operates in a legal grey area. Lin said she realised something was wrong with her son after she brought him back to China. She told Kanfa News that when she contacted the agency about her son’s condition, it offered to arrange another surrogate birth for her. “After the baby was diagnosed with cerebral atrophy, we contacted the agency and they replied that if there is a problem with the baby … the agency will arrange a new surrogacy with no charge,” Lin was quoted as saying. “This baby was three months old [at the time]. He is a person – a life. For [the agency] he is just a business deal.”
(U.S. News & World Report) – Stem cell transplants could offer new hope for people with a severe form of scleroderma — a debilitating and deadly condition that affects the immune system, a new study suggests. “Scleroderma hardens the skin and connective tissues and, in its severe form, leads to fatal organ failure, most often the lungs,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Keith Sullivan. He is a professor of medicine and cellular therapy at Duke University Medical Center.
(The Conversation) – After cigarettes, alcohol is perhaps the most common carcinogen that humans voluntarily expose themselves to. How this simple substance promotes cancer, though, has not been clear. But our latest study, using genetically modified mice, sheds some light on the possible mechanism. Our previous research revealed the principle mechanism that protects us from alcohol-induced DNA damage. The first level of this protection consists of an enzyme that converts acetaldehyde – a toxic byproduct created in the body when alcohol is metabolised – into a harmless substance.
(ABC News) – As in many countries, abortion is a subject of taboo in Brazil, a socially conservative nation with the world’s largest Roman Catholic population as well as a growing evangelical Christian community. Abortion is illegal here except when a woman’s life is at risk, when she has been raped or when the fetus has a usually fatal brain abnormality called anencephaly. But amid a rising tide of conservatism in Brazil and concerns that abortion will become further restricted, women are coming out of the shadows to tell their stories in the hopes of galvanizing support for expanded access to abortion.
(Sci Dev Net) -Pakistan, a country with a high rate of marriages among close relatives, has taken a step towards dealing with inherited disorders by establishing a genetic mutation database, or mutome, that the developers say will help provide genetic counselling and screening, and aid in personalised healthcare. The Pakistan Genetic Mutation Database (PGMD), which already covers 1,000 mutations implicated in 120 types of syndromic and non-syndromic disorders, was built using the PubMed database of references and abstracts as well as consultations with the country’s leading genetic scientists.
(Deutsche Welle) – “Hacking” means to release something from its original context and to give it new form. Biohackers aren’t interested in cracking computer networks or sucking information out of foreign computers. They’re amateur scientists, biologists, technicians, physicists, artists – or simply interested people who want to deal creatively and in an interdisciplinary manner with biology. They also want to conduct research independent of big companies or politics.
NHS Must Offer Transgender Men Egg Storage So They Can Be Parents, Says British Fertility Society Guidance
(The Telegraph) – Women transitioning to men must be offered egg storage on the NHS, because they have the right to become parents too, the British Fertility Society said as it published new guidance today. Gender reassignment surgery has been available on the NHS since 1999 and the numbers of people choosing to change sex has grown considerably in the last decade, with some London clinics now handling nearly 2,000 referrals a year.
(BBC) – Patients undergoing surgery in Africa are more than twice as likely to die following an operation than the global average, researchers say. But they say the most worrying revelation was just how few Africans have access to elective surgery – surgery that is scheduled in advance. The number of these operations is 20 times lower than the demand, the study in the Lancet medical journal says. They call the deficit a “silent killer”.
(ProPublica) – A startling spike in recent years in the number of Texas women dying as a consequence of pregnancy or childbirth has spurred a furious debate over whether deep funding cuts to reproductive health services are to blame. A peer-reviewed study published today in the quarterly journal Birth could add a new dimension to the argument. It attributes part, though not all, of the increase in Texas’ maternal mortality rate — which is among the highest of any state — to a statistical mirage caused by misreporting on death certificates.
(Reuters) – Prescriptions for nerve pain medicines like Neurontin and Lyrica have more than tripled in recent years, driven by increased use among chronically ill older adults and patients already taking opioids, a U.S. study suggests. The proportion of U.S. adults prescribed Neurontin and other drugs in the same family of medicines climbed from 1.2 percent in 2002 to 3.9 percent by 2015, a period that also saw a surge in opioid overdoses and deaths. The family of medicines, known as gabapentinoids, includes gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant) and pregabalin.
(Wired) – But a burgeoning field called soft robotics promises to bring more “natural” movements to the machines. And today, a pair of papers in Science and Science Robotics detail a clever new variety of robotic “muscle,” a series of oil-fueled pouches activated with electricity. This actuator (aka the bit that moves a robot) is as strong and efficient as human muscle, but can pull off more contractions per second. Which could make for a prosthesis that moves more naturally, perhaps—or maybe farther down the road, soft yet strong robots that help you around the house without accidentally terminating you.
(Medscape) – A report on the experience of a large California healthcare system 1 year after California passed its aid-in-dying law shows that the worst fears regarding that legislation have not come to pass. The law, passed on June 9, 2016, allows physicians to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who wish to end their lives. The new report was published online December 26 as a research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine. It shows that, within a large California healthcare system, the patient population seeking physician-assisted dying, and their reasons for doing so, were similar to what has previously been reported.
(Reuters) – U.S. drug approvals hit a 21-year high in 2017, with 46 novel medicines winning a green light — more than double the previous year — while the figure also rose in the European Union. The EU recommended 92 new drugs including generics, up from 81, and China laid out plans to speed up approvals in what is now the world’s second biggest market behind the United States. Yet the world’s biggest drugmakers saw average returns on their research and development spending fall, reflecting more competitive pressures and the growing share of new products now coming from younger biotech companies.
(Managed Care Magazine) – Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that attaches to the opioid receptors but has a “ceiling effect”—at a moderate dose the effect plateaus and is not increased by taking more. It’s nearly overdose-proof unless combined with other sedating drugs. While it provides a high for the opioid-naïve, it’s a ho-hum experience for individuals with opioid tolerance. All it does is stave off his or her withdrawal symptoms and block opioid craving. That’s why the doctors who believe in it find it a useful tool for putting lives back on track.
(Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) – Scientists in the U.S. have grown mouse skin tissue complete with hair follicles (HFs) directly from mouse pluripotent stem cells (mPSCs). The hairy skin more closely resembles natural mouse skin than existing lab-grown tissue that is constructed by piecing together different cell types. The Indiana University School of Medicine researchers suggest that if hair-growing human skin can be generated using a similar approach, it could provide an important model for studying disease or for evaluating new drugs.
(Reuters) – A majority of French people would favor allowing surrogate motherhood, though primarily only for medical reasons, a poll showed on Wednesday, highlighting a shift in attitudes as France prepares to review laws relating to assisted reproduction. All forms of surrogacy, where a woman gives birth to a child on behalf of someone else, are banned in France, as in several other European countries such as Germany. Some countries like the United Kingdom allow for altruistic surrogacies, not commercial ones.