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08/30/2017

Basic studies of how our brains work are now clinical trials, NIH says

Science

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, has confirmed that the agency’s definition of clinical trials now includes imaging studies of normal brain function that do not test new treatments. The change will impose new requirements that many researchers say don’t make sense and could stifle cognitive neuroscience.

08/29/2017

Hunting a Killer: Sex, Drugs and the Return of Syphilis

The New York Times

OKLAHOMA CITY — For months, health officials in this socially conservative state capital have been staggered by a fast-spreading outbreak of a disease that, for nearly two decades, was considered all but extinguished.

Syphilis, the deadly sexually transmitted infection that can lead to blindness, paralysis and dementia, is returning here and around the country, another consequence of the heroin and methamphetamine epidemics, as users trade sex for drugs.

08/28/2017

Fewer antibiotic prescriptions are being filled, a new analysis finds

Washington Post

The use of antibiotics among Americans with commercial health insurance has decreased during the past several years, according to a new analysis that nevertheless shows lingering variations for different ages and in different parts of the country.

08/25/2017

Teen drug overdose death rate climbed 19% in one year

CNN

The rate of teen drug overdose deaths in the United States climbed 19% from 2014 to 2015, from 3.1 deaths per 100,000 teens to 3.7 per 100,000, according to data released this week. The new numbers involve teens ages 15 to 19 and were released by the National Center for Health Statistics.

08/24/2017

Zebrafish implanted with a cancer patient’s tumor could guide cancer treatment

Science

To create mouse avatars, researchers implant some of a patient’s cancer cells into rodents lacking a normal immune system and measure whether various drugs destroy the tumors that sprout in the animals. But the mice are expensive to create and typically require between 2 and 6 months to deliver a verdict.

08/23/2017

Elderly couple got ‘deepest wish’ — to die together — in rare euthanasia case

Washington Post

Nic and Trees Elderhorst knew exactly how they wanted to die. They were both 91 years old and in declining health. Nic Elderhorst suffered a stroke in 2012 and more recently, his wife, Trees Elderhorst, was diagnosed with dementia, according to the Dutch newspaper, De Gelderlander. Neither wanted to live without the other, or leave this world alone. So the two, who lived in Didam, a town in the eastern part of the Netherlands, and had been together 65 years, shared a last word, and a kiss, then died last month hand-in-hand — in a double euthanasia allowed under Dutch law, according to De Gelderlander.

08/22/2017

China’s embrace of embryo selection raises thorny questions

Nature

Early experiments are beginning to show how genome-editing technologies such as CRISPR might one day fix disease-causing mutations before embryos are implanted. But refining the techniques and getting regulatory approval will take years. PGD has already helped thousands of couples. And whereas the expansion of PGD around the world has generally been slow, in China, it is starting to explode.

08/21/2017

Zika has all but disappeared in the Americas. Why?

Science

One. That is the total number of locally transmitted Zika cases confirmed in the continental United States this year, as of mid-August. That single case, recorded on 26 July in Hidalgo County in Texas, which borders Mexico, contrasts with hundreds of cases of local transmission last year.

08/18/2017

Trump’s ‘Emergency’ Declaration For Opioids Could Be A Double-Edged Sword

Huffington Post

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he plans to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. Clearly, the massive increase in drug deaths warrant a serious government response. But what does a national emergency actually mean?

08/17/2017

Artificial intelligence identifies plant species for science

Nature

Computer algorithms trained on the images of thousands of preserved plants have learned to automatically identify species that have been pressed, dried and mounted on herbarium sheets, researchers report.

08/16/2017

Commit to talks on patient data and public health

Nature

Of course it was going to happen — and now it has. Last week, an international team reported the use of CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing techniques to correct a heart-wrenching mutation in human embryos. These attempts worked several times more efficiently than previous ones had, and avoided introducing new genetic errors. Although the embryos were never destined to be used for pregnancies (and have now been destroyed), the work — carried out mainly in the United States — makes it easy to foresee practical applications to genetically alter human embryos.

08/15/2017

Horse Clones Start Heading to the Races

Bloomberg News

So far, the big winner in the great clone race has been Alan Meeker, chief executive officer of Crestview Genetics. Since 2010 the 52-year-old Texas oil heir has created close to 100 horse clones valued at $500,000 to $800,000 each, depending on how long the company’s raised them.

08/14/2017

Americans are becoming more open to human genome editing, survey finds, but concerns remain

Science

CRISPR, the powerful genome-editing tool, does a molecular tango to cut and modify DNA that is highly nuanced. The same subtlety applies to the public’s views on how best to use genome editing in humans, a new survey of adults in the United States shows.

08/11/2017

CRISPR fixes disease gene in viable human embryos

Nature

An international team of researchers has used CRISPR–Cas9 gene editing — a technique that allows scientists to make precise changes to genomes with relative ease — to correct a disease-causing mutation in dozens of viable human embryos. The study represents a significant improvement in efficiency and accuracy over previous efforts.

08/10/2017

First genetically engineered salmon sold in Canada

Nature

Genetically engineered salmon has reached the dinner table. AquaBounty Technologies, the Maynard, Massachusetts, company that developed the fish, announced on 4 August that it has sold 10,000 pounds (4,535 kilograms) of its hotly debated product to customers in Canada.

08/09/2017

Memory-enhancing drug reverses effects of traumatic brain injury in mice

Science

Whether caused by a car accident that slams your head into the dashboard or repeated blows to your cranium from high-contact sports, traumatic brain injury can be permanent. There are no drugs to reverse the cognitive decline and memory loss, and any surgical interventions must be carried out within hours to be effective, according to the current medical wisdom. But a compound previously used to enhance memory in mice may offer hope: Rodents who took it up to a month after a concussion had memory capabilities similar to those that had never been injured.

08/08/2017

CRISPR patent battle in Europe takes a ‘wild’ twist with surprising player

Science

MilliporeSigma, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Merck KGaA of Darmstadt, Germany, has become a new major player in the complicated European patent battles over CRISPR, the revolutionary genome-editing tool.

08/07/2017

Senate passes ‘right to try’ bill to help terminally ill patients get experimental drugs

Washington Post

The Senate on Thursday passed by unanimous consent a measure designed to make it easier for terminally ill patients to get access to experimental treatments without oversight from the Food and Drug Administration. The “right-to-try” legislation has been championed by the libertarian Goldwater Institute, which has worked to pass similar legislation in 37 states. The federal version, now headed to the House, would bar the government from blocking patients from getting access to medications that have undergone only preliminary testing in humans. Patients first would have to try all other available treatments and be unable to participate in clinical trials.

08/04/2017

Chimpanzees are first animal shown to develop telltale markers of Alzheimer’s disease

Nature

Aged chimpanzees develop brain characteristics that are similar — but not identical — to those seen in early Alzheimer’s disease in humans, researchers report on 1 August in Neurobiology of Aging. The findings from humanity’s closest relatives could help researchers to understand why people develop dementia, as well as suggest that caretakers of aging, captive chimpanzees watch them closely for behavioural changes.

08/03/2017

How Should Physicians Help Gender-Transitioning Adolescents Consider Potential Iatrogenic Harms of Hormone Therapy?

Journal Of Medical Ethics

Counseling and treatment of transgender youth can be challenging for mental health practitioners, as increased availability of gender-affirming treatments in recent years raises ethical and clinical questions. Is a gender identity diagnosis helpful? What is the right time to treat, and should the adolescent’s age matter in decision making?

08/02/2017

After French drug trial tragedy, European Union issues new rules to protect study volunteers

Science

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has issued new, stricter rules for studies that test drugs in people for the first time. They aim to better protect participants in such first-in-human studies—often healthy volunteers who receive a financial reward. The guideline, which was issued on 25 July, will take effect in February 2018. It comes in the wake of a tragedy in a French drug study last yearthat led to the death of one man and serious neurological damage in four others. But some say the revision isn’t going for enough.

08/01/2017

Crop breeders sprout plan to boost public sector research

Science

Universities need to get better at sharing patented seeds and other products of publicly-funded agricultural science if the United States wants to keep producing bountiful harvests, argues a new report from a group of leading academic researchers.

07/31/2017

Don’t run biomedical science as a business

Nature

As the White House and the US Congress continue to lock horns over President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, scientists are once again anxious about funding levels. But more money is not enough to create better science. Indeed, the scientific enterprise has been betrayed by the mismanagement of its financial support.

07/28/2017

Ninety-nine percent of ailing NFL player brains sport hallmarks of neurodegenerative disease, autopsy study finds

Science

The largest study of its kind has found damage in the vast majority of former football players’ brains donated for research after they developed mental symptoms during life. Of 202 former players of the U.S. version of the game whose brains were examined, 87% showed the diagnostic signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease associated with repetitive head trauma.

07/28/2017

First U.S. team to gene-edit human embryos revealed

Science

Since Chinese researchers announced the first gene editing of a human embryo 2 years ago, many expected that similar work in the United States was inevitable. Last night, the MIT Technology Review broke the news that such experiments have happened. The research, led by embryologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, also reportedly sidestepped problems of incomplete and off-target editing that plagued previous attempts, though details could not be confirmed since the work is not yet published and Mitalipov has so far declined to comment.

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.