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05/10/2018

Salmon spawn fierce debate over protecting endangered species, thanks to a single gene

Science

They concluded that the genetic change that produced spring-run Chinook occurred only once in the species’s history. And new data published on 29 April on bioRxiv show that in rivers where spring runs disappeared decades ago, less than 1% of the remaining fish carry a copy of the early migration version of the gene. The scarcity of that gene makes it very unlikely a spring run will reappear once lost.

05/09/2018

Which Anti-Depressant Is Right for You? Your DNA Can Shed Some Light

Washington Post

Genomics is coming to psychiatry, with some doctors using a gene test to figure out the most effective anti-depressant for a patient.

05/09/2018

In monkeys, researchers find possible biological marker of autism

STAT

Researchers have been left empty-handed so far in their quest to uncover some measurable biological signal that could be used to diagnose autism spectrum disorder, leaving clinicians to identify the condition just based on a child’s behavior. But on Wednesday, scientists reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine that a hormone that regulates blood pressure could be one of those signposts.

05/08/2018

Ebola outbreak declared in Democratic Republic of Congo

CNN

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo declared an outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever, a rare and deadly disease, on Tuesday, the World Health Organization reported. The declaration came after laboratory results confirmed two cases of the disease in the province of Bikoro in the northwestern part of the country.

05/08/2018

How Orphan Drugs Became a Highly Profitable Industry

The Scientist

Government incentives, advances in technology, and an army of patient advocates have spun a successful market—but abuses of the system and exorbitant prices could cause a backlash.

05/07/2018

Families of Children with Rare Diseases Fuel Gene Therapy Research

The Scientist

It’s a compelling narrative: A parent learns that his or her child has a fatal disease with no cure, and, though not a scientist, embarks on a quest to find some treatment. Such stories have played out in the plotlines of films such as Lorenzo’s Oil and Extraordinary Measures, on national morning shows and local news segments, and on crowdfunding pages to drum up support for the cause.

05/04/2018

Up to 270 women may have died after England breast cancer screening failures

CNN

As many as 270 women in England may have died because they were not called for a final breast cancer screening, the British government disclosed on Wednesday. UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced an independent inquiry into the failings, attributed to a computer algorithm error. An estimated 450,000 women failed to get a letter inviting them to their final screening, he said.

05/04/2018

Genome writing project aims to rally scientists around virus-proofing cells

Science

Launched in 2016 with the sprawling ambition to build large genomes, the synthetic biology initiative known as Genome Project–write (GP-write) is now, slowly, getting down to specifics. Ahead of a meeting today in Boston, GP-write’s leadership announced a plan to organize its international group of collaborators around a “community-wide project”: engineering cells to resist viral infection.

05/03/2018

Iowa lawmakers pass the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban — as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected

CNN

The Republican-led legislature in Iowa has passed a bill that, if signed into law, will become the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban: It forbids doctors from performing the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected. In many cases, that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even know they’re expecting.

05/02/2018

The CEO Who Injected Himself With An Experimental Herpes Therapy Was Found Dead In A Sensory Deprivation Tank

Buzzfeed

Traywick, 28, was found in a spa in Northwest DC, according to police. Staff discovered him in a sensory deprivation flotation tank, according to his colleague Tristan Roberts.

His body was taken for an autopsy, and his cause of death was not immediately known. Their investigation is still ongoing, but the police say they don’t suspect foul play.

Traywick was the CEO of Ascendance Biomedical, a tiny, controversial biotech startup on a mission to speed up the process of getting potentially life-saving treatments to patients.

At a biohacker conference in Austin in early February, Traywick made himself a guinea pig, injecting his leg with a never-before-tested, non-FDA-approved, gene-altering herpes treatment made by the company.

05/02/2018

NIH seeks health data of 1 million people, with genetic privacy suddenly an issue

Washington Post

The National Institutes of Health on Tuesday announced the launch of its attempt to enroll 1 million people in a landmark research effort aimed at developing “personalized” methods of prevention, treatment and care for a wide variety of diseases. The “All of Us” recruitment effort begins Sunday with community events in seven sites around the country, where people will be encouraged to sign up for the mammoth research project.

05/01/2018

Federal appeals court hears CRISPR patent dispute

Science

Here’s a double-negative brain twister with potentially huge financial ramifications and a Nobel Prize resting on the answer: For an invention to be “nonobvious”—and therefore patentable in the United States—should there be no guarantee of success when researchers embark on experiments that lead to the invention? That mind-bending question was the centerpiece of a case heard today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., over the lucrative patent portfolio surrounding the revolutionary genome editor commonly known as CRISPR.

04/30/2018

Took an ancestry DNA test? You might be a ‘genetic informant’ unleashing secrets about your relatives

USA Today

You just wanted to find out if you were Portuguese or Spanish, but instead you found out you were related to a mass murderer. This is a reality in a world where the alleged Golden State Killer, now known as Joseph James DeAngelo, was arrested after DNA found at one of the killer’s crime scenes was checked against genetic profiles from genealogical websites that collect DNA samples.

04/27/2018

Flu virus finally sequenced in its native form

Nature

The genome of the flu virus has been fully sequenced in its native RNA form for the first time. Previously, all influenza genomes — as well as those of other viruses that store their genetic material as RNA — had been determined by copying the molecule into DNA. The native flu genome was generated using ‘nanopore’ sequencing technology, which reads RNA strands as they stream through a tiny molecular channel.

04/26/2018

Man’s second face transplant is a world first

CNN
Lantieri and his colleagues began Hamon’s second face transplantation on a Tuesday afternoon in January, and the surgery ended in the early morning of the following day. “I’m 43 years old, the donor was 22 years old, so I was 22 years old,” Hamon humorously told BFMTV of his procedure. Hamon underwent immunological therapy to lower the risk of rejecting the second transplant. He also received psychological support and speech therapy, which will continue for many months.

04/25/2018

British toddler Alfie Evans not allowed to leave country, UK court says

CNN

Alfie, admitted to Alder Hey Hospital in December 2016, was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease associated with severe epilepsy and has been in a semivegetative state for more than a year. During that time, he has been kept alive by artificial ventilation in the critical care unit.

04/25/2018

FDA investigating unauthorized herpes vaccine research

CNN
Since 1995, Halford had been conducting and publishing research on the herpes simplex virus, for which he had received small grants from the National Institutes of Health. But the biology professor at Southern Illinois University had run out of time. Diagnosed in 2011 with sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma, a rare form of cancer, Halford knew that he might not be able to complete development of his vaccine and gain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration before his life ended. In fact, when Halford died of cancer in June at the age of 48, his vaccine had not cleared all the regulatory hurdles necessary for a medical product to be approved for use in the US. Now, the FDA has launched a criminal investigation into Halford’s research practices, according to a report by Kaiser Health News.

04/24/2018

U.S. agencies clash over who should regulate genetically engineered livestock

Science

A disease that kills millions of pigs a year may soon meet its match — if two federal agencies can agree on the idea.

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus is one of the latest examples of a condition that scientists believe they can beat with genetic engineering, and one that’s caught up in a disagreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over how quickly such methods should be approved, and by whom.

04/23/2018

Can a genetic weapon combat one of the world’s major crop destroyers?

Science

The spotted wing fruit fly is one of the world’s major crop destroyers. Scientifically known as Drosophila suzukii, this peppercorn-size insect uses a serrated organ to lay its eggs inside—rather than on top of—unripe fruit, damaging raspberry, strawberry, and cherry crops across the globe. Now, scientists may have found a way to fight this pest using a strategy called gene drive, which can spread genes rapidly through a population.

04/20/2018

Why doctors don’t use alternatives to opioids

The New York Times

As Congress deliberates how to respond to the surging opioid epidemic, a number of bills have been introduced to support the development and Food and Drug Administration approval of a non-opioid pain medication. But the problem in American medicine is not a lack of alternatives to opioids, but the minimal utilization of the many non-opioid treatments for pain that already exist.

04/20/2018

We’re Bad at Evaluating Risk. How Doctors Can Help.

The New York Times

My patient and I were locked in a game of decision-making hot potato. “What would you do, Doc?” he said. We’d been discussing whether he should get screened for prostate cancer. Such questions trouble most doctors. We often lob the choice back to patients, or “on the one hand, on the other hand” so much that they start sympathizing with Harry Truman, who reportedly joked he wished for one-handed advisers.

04/19/2018

Artificial intelligence must be ‘for common good’

BBC News

The Lords’ report said the UK has the potential to be a leader in developing AI and called on the government to support businesses in the field. It also recommended that people be educated to work alongside AI in the jobs of the future. It said that such education would “mitigate the negative effects” on jobs which are possible as AI develops.

04/18/2018

Drug companies get tax windfall, but they’re not reducing prescription prices

USA Today

Drug prices are a top pocketbook issue for Americans. President Trump understood that and campaigned on promises to bring down the cost of prescriptions. You’d think the massive tax cut he signed into law in December would be the perfect opportunity for drug companies to take some of their windfall and bring down those prices. But a new analysis shows that so far, you’d be wrong.

04/17/2018

The Drug Overdose Epidemic and Deceased-Donor Transplantation in the United States: A National Registry Study

Annals of Internal Medicine

The epidemic of drug overdose deaths in the United States has led to an increase in organ donors.

04/17/2018

Drug Company ‘Shenanigans’ to Block Generics Come Under Federal Scrutiny

The New York Times

Trump administration officials, seeking ways to lower drug costs, are targeting pharmaceutical companies that refuse to provide samples of their products to generic drug companies, making it impossible to create inexpensive generic copies of a brand-name medicine.

04/16/2018

Employees Jump at Genetic Testing. Is That a Good Thing?

The New York Times

Genetic disease risk screening is becoming a popular employee benefit. But the tests may not be all that beneficial for the general population, experts say.

04/13/2018

Vaping now an epidemic among US high schoolers

CNN

A sharp spike in vaping and the use of e-cigarettes by students has grabbed the attention of the US Food and Drug Administration. The rapid spread of the fad was flagged in a 2016 report from the US surgeon general. It cited a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students from 2011 to 2015, and the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey noted that 1.7 million high school students said they had used e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days.

04/12/2018

Artificial intelligence reveals how U.S. stereotypes about women and minorities have changed in the past 100 years

Science

How do you measure the stereotypes of the past after the past is gone? You could read what people wrote and tally up the slurs, but bias is often subtler than a single word. Researchers are now developing artificial intelligence (AI) to help out. A new study has analyzed which stereotypes are still holding fast—and which are going the way of the floppy disk.

04/11/2018

Squeaky clean mice could be ruining research

Nature

On an unseasonably warm February morning, Mark Pierson takes a 20-minute drive to one of Minneapolis’s larger pet shops. Pierson, a researcher in an immunology laboratory at the University of Minnesota, often comes here to buy mice, so most of the staff know him. Today he asks for ten, and an employee fishes them out of a glass box. Pierson requests the smaller mice because they’re typically younger, but he isn’t too picky. They probably all have what he wants: germs.

04/11/2018

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Precertification Pilot Program for Digital Health Software: Weighing the Benefits and Risks

Annals of Internal Medicine

In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new program for software classified as a medical device. The Digital Health Software Precertification (Pre-Cert) Program is designed to expedite regulatory review for companies that demonstrate quality and organizational excellence in software development. Although Pre-Cert is intended to promote the worthy goals of access and innovation in digital health, many questions have been raised. In particular, Pre-Cert may reduce incentives for developers to study the safety and effectiveness of their software products before patients start to rely on them. Although postmarket surveillance can mitigate risks of these products, the FDA does not have as much authority after a product’s widespread use to enforce data collection deadlines. Pre-Cert may also create confusion for patients and physicians, who may believe that marketed products were subject to rigorous study.