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07/27/2017

Australia cuts conservation protections in marine parks

Nature

When Australia established a vast network of marine reserves in 2012, it was hailed as a major win for conservation. But management plans for the sea havens were suspended a year later. Now, scientists are angry at the Australian government’s release last week of a draft proposal to significantly erode the size of protected areas in the reserves, opening up large stretches to commercial and recreational fishing.

07/26/2017

‘Unprecedented’ outbreak of dengue fever plagues Sri Lanka

CNN

Sri Lanka is facing an “unprecedented” outbreak of deadly dengue fever, with 296 deaths recorded and over 100,000 cases reported in 2017 alone, according to the Red Cross.

07/25/2017

US defense agencies grapple with gene drives

Nature

The JASONs, a group of elite scientists that advises the US government on national security, has weighed in on issues ranging from cyber security to renewing America’s nuclear arsenal. But at a meeting in June, the secretive group took stock of a new threat: gene drives, a genetic-engineering technology that can swiftly spread modifications through entire populations and could help vanquish malaria-spreading mosquitoes.

07/24/2017

Scientists record videos in strands of DNA using CRISPR

Science

With the help of the gene editor CRISPR, scientists can now save videos in DNA, Nature writes. The researchers encoded five grayscale images into 104 DNA fragments per image, each made up of 33 DNA letters. One image per day was then introduced to the Escherichia coli bacterium. Because CRISPR adds DNA snippets to its host genome in sequential order, researchers were able to recover the recorded images after sequencing and put them together to see the movie.

07/21/2017

Scientists plan to trick Zika-carrying mosquitoes into breeding themselves out of existence

Washington Post

This summer, a Silicon Valley tech company will have millions of machine-raised, bacteria-infected mosquitoes packed into windowless white vans, driven inland and released into the wild — or, at least, the streets of Fresno, Calif. And, yes, Fresno County officials are encouraging this. It’s all part of the “Debug Fresno” project, which aims to cut down on the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, an unwelcome invasive species that arrived in California’s Central Valley in 2013.

07/20/2017

In the next 30 years, we’ll make four times more plastic waste than we ever have

Science

Seventy years ago, plastic was barely used outside of the military. Today, we can’t live without it. And over the next 30 years, we may produce four times more plastic waste than we ever did, a new study shows.

07/19/2017

British baby Charlie Gard to be evaluated by US doctor

CNN Health

Baby Charlie Gard, the 11-month-old with a rare, terminal medical condition who has been the center of an ongoing legal battle, will be evaluated by a doctor from the United States. Charlie will be examined early this week, in London, by Dr. Michio Hirano, a neurologist at New York’s Columbia University Medical Center.

07/18/2017

Two female scientists sue Salk Institute, alleging discrimination at ‘old boys club’

Science

Two senior female scientists are suing their employer, the prestigious Salk Institute for Biological Studies, alleging pervasive, long-standing gender discrimination. The independent institute, in San Diego, California, was founded by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk 57 years ago.

07/17/2017

Engineered cell therapy for cancer gets thumbs up from FDA advisers

Nature

External advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have thrown their support behind a therapy that genetically engineers a patient’s own immune cells to target and destroy cancers. In a unanimous vote on 12 July, the panel determined that the benefits of CAR-T therapy outweigh its risks. The vote comes as the agency considers whether to issue its first approval of a CAR-T therapy, for a drug called tisagenlecleucel, manufactured by Novartis of Basel, Switzerland.

07/14/2017

New Zealand aims to eradicate invasive predators, but winning public support may be big challenge

Science

A year ago, the national government here announced a bold plan to rid the country of a trio of invasive predators that threatens native birds. Experts say the task will require new technologies—such as deadlier toxins and possibly even the release of genetically modified organisms—that have yet to be invented. But winning public support for using these new methods could be an even bigger task, scientists say.

07/13/2017

The people fighting the world’s harshest abortion law

CNN

El Salvador’s ban on abortion is one of the toughest in the world, but for the first time in 20 years, there are signs the law could be weakened. These are some of the men and women spearheading the country’s movement for women’s rights.

07/12/2017

FDA chief to impose tougher doctor-training rules on opioid manufacturers

Washington Post

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, stepping up the agency’s efforts against the nation’s opioid epidemic, announced plans Monday to require manufacturers of painkillers to provide more extensive education for physicians and other health-care professionals who prescribe the drugs.

07/11/2017

Trump administration chooses Georgia physician to lead US public-health agency

Nature

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Brenda Fitzgerald will direct the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price announced on 7 July. She has a deep appreciation and understanding of medicine, public health, policy and leadership — all qualities that will prove vital as she leads the CDC in its work to protect America’s health 24/7,” Price said in a statement.

07/10/2017

How Canadian researchers reconstituted an extinct poxvirus for $100,000 using mail-order DNA

Science

A group led by virologist David Evans of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, says it has synthesized the horsepox virus, a relative of smallpox, from genetic pieces ordered in the mail. Horsepox is not known to harm humans—and like smallpox, researchers believe it no longer exists in nature; nor is it seen as a major agricultural threat. But the technique Evans used could be used to recreate smallpox, a horrific disease that was declared eradicated in 1980.

07/07/2017

Ebola outbreak in Africa ends — but gaps in public health leave region vulnerable

Nature

“The response was good, but it would not be valid to say that this shows that we’re ready for a larger response in a bigger context — that remains to be seen,” says Daniel Bausch, director of the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team, an agency created to fill some of the gaps exposed by the 2014 crisis.

07/06/2017

Transcending the Tragedy Discourse of Dementia: An Ethical Imperative for Promoting Selfhood, Meaningful Relationships, and Well-Being

AMA Journal of Ethics

Supporting people living with dementia in maintaining selfhood, relationships, and well-being requires seeing beyond the common negative focus on disability. Furthermore, prioritizing the person rather than the disease requires rejecting the tragedy discourse, which is the negative lens through which dementia is typically considered.

07/05/2017

For Parents of U.K. Infant, Trump’s Tweet Is Latest Twist in an Agonizing Journey

The New York Times

The long journey for Connie Yates and Chris Gard, whose infant son, Charlie, cannot breathe or move on his own, appeared to have come to an end last week. The courts had ruled that the baby’s rare genetic condition was incurable and that the only humane option was to take him off life support. The couple announced that they were getting ready “to say the final goodbye.” Then Pope Francis and President Trump weighed in, offering statements of support and thrusting a global spotlight onto a heart-rending case that has become a cause célèbre in Britain.

07/05/2017

Living to 125 and beyond: Scientists dispute there’s a limit to our lifespans

CNN

Don’t mess with our collective dreams of immortality. A flurry of new research vigorously opposes a study from last year that dared to suggest there might be a ceiling to the human lifespan.

07/04/2017

Single-cell sequencing made simple

Nature

Single-cell biology is a hot topic these days. And at the cutting edge of the field is single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq). Conventional ‘bulk’ methods of RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) process hundreds of thousands of cells at a time and average out the differences. But no two cells are exactly alike, and scRNA-seq can reveal the subtle changes that make each one unique. It can even reveal entirely new cell types.

07/03/2017

Europe’s top court alarms vaccine experts

Science

On 21 June, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling in the case of a French man who claimed his multiple sclerosis was triggered by a hepatitis vaccine. Some media stories suggested that from now on, “vaccines can be blamed for illness without scientific proof,” which alarmed vaccine advocates. But experts on liability law are divided on what the court’s decision will mean for medical product liability in Europe. Some argue that rather than dealing a blow against science or vaccines, the court sought to balance individuals’ rights against society’s interest in preventing disease; others say the ruling leaves a worrying amount of room for judges in the European Union to ignore certain kinds of scientific evidence.

06/30/2017

Stem cell approach for cataracts challenged

Science

A team of ophthalmologists and stem cell scientists is advancing a controversial new approach to treating cataracts, the clumping of lens proteins that blurs the vision of about one in six Americans over age 40, plus thousands of infants born every year. Instead of replacing the cloudy lens with a plastic replacement, this technique relies on the capsule’s resident stem cell to regrow an entire new lens.

06/29/2017

111 people died under California’s new right-to-die law

CNN

One hundred eleven people died last year under California’s new right-to-die law, according to a report released Tuesday by the state’s Department of Public Health. The End of Life Option Act went into effect on June 9, 2016. It allows for California residents, age 18 and older, to request life-ending medication from their doctor if they are suffering from a terminal illness and want to set their own timetable for their death. Between June 9 and December 31, 2016, 258 people initiated the process, according to the report. One hundred ninety-one people were prescribed the lethal medication, of which 111 patients “were reported by their physician to have died following ingestion of aid-in-dying drugs prescribed under EOLA.”

06/28/2017

WHO guidelines on ethical issues in public health surveillance

WHO

The WHO Guidelines on Ethical Issues in Public Health Surveillance is the first international framework of its kind, it fills an important gap. The goal of the guideline development project was to help policymakers and practitioners navigate the ethical issues presented by public health surveillance. This document outlines 17 ethical guidelines that can assist everyone involved in public health surveillance, including officials in government agencies, health workers, NGOs and the private sector.

06/27/2017

Scientists in limbo as US Supreme Court allows modified travel ban

Nature

Justices overturn lower court rulings on policy targeting people from six majority-Muslim countries.

06/26/2017

Texas signals support for unproven stem cell therapies

Science

Texas last week signaled its defiance of the federal government over unproven stem cell therapies, which are widely offered in the state for conditions including joint damage, diabetes, and neurodegenerative illnesses. A bill signed by Governor Greg Abbott allows clinics and companies in the state to offer the experimental treatments without the testing and approval required under federal law, provided they are recommended and delivered by a physician, and performed at a hospital or medical center with oversight from an institutional review board. Now, bioethicists and patient advocates wonder whether the state’s official blessing will simply maintain the status quo, embolden clinics already profiting from potentially risky therapies, or—perhaps—tighten certain protections for patients.

06/23/2017

Don’t let Europe’s open-science dream drift

Nature

Now that the major players have agreed to the giant European Open Science Cloud, it’s time to get the project moving.

06/22/2017

Strategies for Promoting High-Quality Care and Personal Resilience in Palliative Care

AMA Journal of Ethics

Palliative care (PC) clinicians are faced with ever-expanding pressures, which can make it difficult to fulfill their duties to self and others and lead to moral distress.

06/21/2017

China cracks down on fake peer reviews

Nature

The Chinese government is going on the offensive against scientists who dupe journals by creating fraudulent reviews of submitted papers. A coalition of agencies led by the science ministry announced on 14 June that the government would suspend the grants of researchers involved in such fraud, which surfaced earlier this year when a cancer journal retracted 107 research papers from Chinese authors. And funding agencies in China promised to increase policing of the scientific community to prevent similar deceptions.

06/20/2017

Trump ‘simply does not care’ about HIV/AIDS, say 6 experts who just quit his advisory council

Washington Post

The first hints of an uncertain future for the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS came last year, when Donald Trump’s presidential campaign refused to meet with advocates for people living with HIV, said Scott Schoettes, a member of the council since 2014. That unease was magnified on Inauguration Day in January, when an official White House website for the Office of National AIDS Policy vanished, Schoettes said. Last week, he and five others announced they were quitting the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, also known as PACHA.

06/20/2017

Legionnaires’ cases among newborns raise questions about water births

CNN

Cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been documented at hotels, gyms and even health care facilities, but a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that even newborns are being infected — after water births.