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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Justices overturn lower court rulings on policy targeting people from six majority-Muslim countries.
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.
Now that the major players have agreed to the giant European Open Science Cloud, it’s time to get the project moving.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Biology’s zeal for preprints — papers posted online before peer review — is opening up a thorny legal debate: should scientists license their manuscripts on open-access terms? Researchers have now shared more than 11,000 papers at the popular bioRxiv preprints site. But where some researchers allow their bioRxiv manuscripts to be freely redistributed and reused, others have chosen to lock them down with restrictive terms.
The immune system of a fetus developing in the womb faces a quandary: It has to prepare itself to attack dangerous pathogens after birth, by distinguishing its own cells from those of invaders. But until that time, it needs to avoid attacking the mother, whose cells are also “foreign.” A new study of fetal tissue has revealed one way the developing immune system keeps itself in check: by interrupting the production of a key weapon in the body’s arsenal against invaders.
University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier has been medically evacuated from North Korea in a coma after being detained for 17 months, his parents told The Washington Post on Tuesday.
Although Bial and Biotrial have been heavily criticized for the study, French authorities have concluded that the companies did not violate clinical trial regulations. In the wake of the case, the European Medicines Agency is developing stricter rules for “first-in-human” studies.
How Should Physicians Respond When the Best Treatment for an Individual Patient Conflicts with Practice Guidelines about the Use of a Limited Resource?
AMA Journal of Ethics
Physicians might not be able to find a best solution or process for resolving more difficult ethical dilemmas, such as how they should best distribute limited resources. They could, however, pursue a path that most respects and benefits their patients and themselves.
The world’s first commercial plant for capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air opened yesterday, refueling a debate about whether the technology can truly play a significant role in removing greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.
An approach to unleashing immune responses against cancer is showing promise in early clinical trials, and may boost the effectiveness of existing therapies. The experimental drugs target a protein called IDO, which starves immune cells by breaking down the crucial amino acid tryptophan. IDO can suppress immune responses and rein in potentially damaging inflammation. But it can also halt the body’s natural immune response to cancer and allow tumours to grow unchecked.
The world’s last line of defense against disease-causing bacteria just got a new warrior: vancomycin 3.0. Its predecessor—vancomycin 1.0—has been used since 1958 to combat dangerous infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. But as the rise of resistant bacteria has blunted its effectiveness, scientists have engineered more potent versions of the drug—vancomycin 2.0. Now, version 3.0 has a unique three-pronged approach to killing bacteria that could give doctors a powerful new weapon against drug-resistant bacteria and help researchers engineer more durable antibiotics.
In a remote village in South Sudan, 15 children died from severe toxicity caused by contaminated measles vaccines, government health investigators said Thursday. The National Adverse Events Following Immunization Committee, supported by the World Health Organization, and UNICEF vaccine safety experts examined the cases and those of 32 other children who suffered fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
Stefanie Joho was 22 when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She has been in remission for more than a year thanks to an immunotherapy treatment aimed at a genetic glitch, rather than aiming at the disease itself like chemotherapy does.
Faced with a barrage of criticism, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has scaled back a plan to cap its support for individual labs in order to free up funds for more scientists.
A Colombian biologist who faced a criminal trial for posting another scientist’s thesis online has been cleared of copyright violation — an offence that, under Colombian law, might have brought him a jail sentence.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued its first approval of a cancer drug that targets tumours with specific mutations, regardless of where in the body the tumour first took root. This deviates from the agency’s previous approach: although a drug’s use may have been linked to the presence of a particular molecular marker, the FDA still required individual approvals to deploy that drug based on the tumour’s location. The announcement on 23 May expands the use of pembrolizumab, manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. of Kenilworth, New Jersey. The drug boosts the body’s ability to attack tumours by blocking a protein called PD-1, which normally holds the immune system in check.
A hearing on how the U.S. government defrays the cost of doing federally funded research on college campuses might put most people to sleep. But when budgets are tight, the billions of dollars being spent each year on so-called overhead become an irresistible target for lawmakers. This past Wednesday, the science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives weighed in on the subject, one that is at the core of the U.S. research enterprise but also exceedingly complicated. The hearing gave Republicans an opportunity to voice support for lowering overhead payments, which cover things like electricity, lab maintenance, regulatory compliance, and administration.