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Science Needs Your Cells

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 10:22

(New York Times) – Many aspects of Ms. Lacks’s story reflect genuine injustice: the racism that characterized the health care system of her day; the suffering of her young family after her death; their own lack of access to health care. But should we be outraged by what happened to her cells, and could happen to our own? Actually, no.

Boston University Researchers Will Study Hernandez’s Brain

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 10:10

(Associated Press) – Boston University researchers will study Aaron Hernandez’s brain to determine if the former NFL star suffered from the same degenerative brain disease as Hall of Famer Junior Seau and former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who also took their own lives. Hernandez hanged himself in prison early Wednesday, days after winning an acquittal in a 2012 double homicide case. He was already serving a life term in a 2013 killing.

National Guidelines Oppose Push to Allow Parents to Choose Sex of IVF Babies

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 09:55

(Sydney Morning Herald) – Australia’s peak medical council has knocked back a push to allow parents to choose the gender of their baby in new national guidelines. But the National Health and Medical Research Council left the door open for future changes, suggesting sex selection may be ethical. On Thursday, the NHMRC banned clinics from offering gender selection for non-medical purposes in its long-anticipated guidelines for assisted reproductive technologies (ART). The council’s working committee – the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) – had recommended the council consider condoning sex selection in certain circumstances.

Judge Who Wrote Key Physician-Assisted Suicide Ruling Dies

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 09:52

(U.S. News & World Report) – A federal appeals court judge who wrote a key ruling on doctor-assisted suicide has died. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Senior Judge John T. Noonan died on Monday at the age of 90. Noonan — an appointee of President Ronald Reagan — joined the San Francisco-based court in 1985 and authored nearly 1,100 opinions over a 31-year career.

The Go-To Gene Sequencing Machine with Very Strange Results

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 09:46

(Wired) – To find his unicorn, Sinha would have to dig deeper, into the proteins that would eventually define the cells. That would require him to sequence the RNA of thousands of seemingly identical stem cells from a collection Weissman had built. And like most geneticists working today, the machine he turned to was from Illumina: the San Diego-based company whose products sequence 90 percent of all genetic data. But instead of a true stem cell, Sinha stumbled onto something very different. Inconsistent results led him to identify an issue with the underlying operations of Illumina’s newer sequencers—an issue that could have contaminated the results of similar high-sensitivity data produced on the machines in the last two years.

Geisinger Accused of Coercing Patients to Participate in Genetic Research

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 09:28

(Penn Live) – The Geisinger Health System has been accused by two of its former doctors of coercing patients to participate in genetic research. Drs. Neelkamal Soares and his wife Shibani Kanungo make the accusation in a wrongful termination suit filed this week in Montour County court against the health system and Geisinger Clinic, the employer of physicians. Kanungo also has concerns that patients are being billed for tests performed solely for research purposes, the complaint states.

New Evidence in France of Harm from Epilepsy Drug Valproate

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 13:27

(BBC) – A drug given to pregnant women for epilepsy and bipolar disorder caused “serious malformations” in up to 4,100 children, a French study suggests. Mothers treated with valproate for epilepsy were up to four times likelier to give birth to a malformed child, the preliminary study found. Introduced in France in 1967, valproate is prescribed widely worldwide. Doctors in France are now advised not to give it to girls, women of childbearing age and pregnant women.

Level of Unconsciousness in Brain Damaged Patients Related to Body Temperature

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 13:10

(Science Daily) – Researchers discovered that patients who scored better on the Coma Recovery Scale-Revised, especially, those patients with a stronger arousal had body temperature patterns that were more closely aligned with a healthy 24-hour rhythm. This finding demonstrates a newly discovered relationship between circadian body temperature variation and the level of consciousness of a patient with severe brain damage. This finding suggests that patient’s consciousness levels should be assessed during time windows when their circadian rhythm predicts them to be more responsive.

Biotech Firm Pulls Pioneering Gene Therapy Due to No Demand

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 13:06

(Reuters) – The biotech company behind the Western world’s first gene therapy and the most expensive prescription medicine in history is giving up on the product because of lack of demand. Only one patient has been treated commercially since the drug was first approved in Europe nearly five years ago, a spokeswoman for Dutch-based UniQure said on Thursday. UniQure went into the record books when its gene therapy Glybera was approved by European regulators for an ultra-rare blood disorder in 2012, and the drug was finally launched two years later with a price tag of around $1 million per treatment.

Cherokee Nation Files First Lawsuit Targeting Pharmacies As Well As Drug Companies in Opioid Crisis

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 13:00

(STAT News) – Cherokee Nation is suing CVS Health, Walgreens, and other drug companies and retailers, alleging the companies didn’t do enough to stop prescription painkillers from flooding the tribal community and creating a crisis of opioid addiction. The lawsuit, filed in tribal court on Thursday, alleges that the companies failed to properly monitor opioid prescriptions and orders. The tribal government alleges that those patterns should have raised red flags that the companies are legally responsible for reporting to federal officials.

India’s Proposed Surrogacy Law Raises Trafficking Risk for Foreign Women–Expert

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 12:49

(Reuters) – India’s proposed law to regulate its booming surrogacy industry and curb the exploitation of impoverished Indian women could result in more foreign women being trafficked into the country to rent out their wombs, a leading expert warned on Tuesday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is considering a bill to ban commercial surrogacy while allowing “altruistic” surrogacy to infertile, married Indian couples. In such cases, the surrogate must be related to the couple, and cannot accept payment.

Vienna Parliament Condemns Organ Harvesting in China

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 12:46

(The Epoch Times) – The city of Vienna became the first European capital to echo a European Parliament resolution which censures the Chinese regime for its organ harvesting crimes recently. The Vienna Provincial Parliament “condemns the systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from prisoners in the People’s Republic of China,” read the resolution, which was unanimously passed on April 7. The Chinese regime had carried out organ harvesting “without consent and affects large numbers of Falun Gong adherents and members of politically persecuted, religious, and ethnic minorities,” the resolution continued.

Nanoparticles Remain Unpredictable

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 12:44

(PhysOrg) – Every year, several thousands of tonnes of man-made nanoparticles are produced worldwide; sooner or later, a certain part of them will end up in bodies of water or soil. But even experts find it difficult to say exactly what happens to them there. It is a complex question, not only because there are many different types of man-made (engineered) nanoparticles, but also because the particles behave differently in the environment depending on the prevailing conditions.

Identical Twins, Not-So-Identical Stem Cells

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 15:30

(Science Daily) – Salk scientists and collaborators have shed light on a long-standing question about what leads to variation in stem cells by comparing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from identical twins. Even iPSCs made from the cells of twins, they found, have important differences, suggesting that not all variation between iPSC lines is rooted in genetics, since the twins have identical genes.

‘I Don’t Think Anything Can Prepare You for Seeing a Patient Die’

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 15:23

(The Guardian) – I saw my first patient death a few months ago, during my first placement on a medical ward. It was a woman with dementia. I was there when the doctor made the decision to remove her oxygen mask. We drew the curtains and I rubbed her leg, just to let her know that someone was with her. I was glad to be there as she took her final breaths. I still think about her. She was unmarried and had no family. She died alone, but we were there, so I guess she wasn’t completely alone.

Young Human Blood Makes Old Mice Smarter

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 15:14

(Nature) – A protein found in young human blood plasma can improve brain function in old mice. The finding, published on 19 April in Nature, is the first time a human protein has been shown to have this effect. It’s also the latest evidence that infusions of ‘young blood’ can reverse symptoms of ageing, including memory loss, decrease in muscle function and metabolism, and loss of bone structure. For decades, researchers have studied the effects of young blood on ageing in mice through a technique called parabiosis, in which an old mouse is sewn together with a younger one so that they share a circulatory system.

3D-Printable Knee Implants May Help Damaged Knees

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 15:08

(UPI) – Researchers have developed a cartilage-mimicking material made from 3D-printed hydrogel that may one day allow 3D-printed knee implants in humans. The hydrogel-based material developed by researchers at Duke University is the first to match human cartilage in strength and elasticity while also remaining 3D-printable and stable inside the body.

God in the Machine: My Strange Journey into Transhumanism

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 14:43

(The Guardian) – Many transhumanists such as Kurzweil contend that they are carrying on the legacy of the Enlightenment – that theirs is a philosophy grounded in reason and empiricism, even if they do lapse occasionally into metaphysical language about “transcendence” and “eternal life”. As I read more about the movement, I learned that most transhumanists are atheists who, if they engage at all with monotheistic faith, defer to the familiar antagonisms between science and religion. “The greatest threat to humanity’s continuing evolution,” writes the transhumanist Simon Young, “is theistic opposition to Superbiology in the name of a belief system based on blind faith in the absence of evidence.” Yet although few transhumanists would likely admit it, their theories about the future are a secular outgrowth of Christian eschatology.

Emerging Ethical Concerns in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 14:09

(Entrepreneur) – Science fiction novels have long delighted readers by grappling with futuristic challenges like the possibility of artificial intelligence so difficult to distinguish from human beings that people naturally ask, “should these sophisticated computer programs be considered human? Should ‘they’ be granted human rights?” These are interesting philosophical questions, to be sure, but equally important, and more immediately pressing, is the question of what human-like artificial intelligence means for the rights of those whose humanity is not a philosophical question.

How Drug-Company ‘Benevolence’ Silences the Sick

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 15:39

(Bloomberg) – Like most companies that sell high-priced drugs, Valeant says that no patient will ever be deprived of Syprine because of cost. And I can see why, if you’re the Wilson Disease Association, that would be the most important thing. But the societal costs are high. No matter what the patients’ out-of-pocket costs are, insurance companies and Medicare are still paying Valeant millions of dollars for a drug that just 11 years ago cost $1 a tablet. Which means that we’re all paying for Syprine, either as taxpayers or as insurance customers.