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April 24, 2014

FDA Releases Proposed E-Cigarette Regulations

(CNN) – The Food and Drug Administration is making another attempt at regulating electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products. On Thursday, the agency proposed rules that call for strict regulation of electronic cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, nicotine gels, water pipe tobacco and hookahs. Currently, the FDA only has regulatory authority over cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco.

Fetal Tissue Used to Power Oregon Homes

(Time) – An Oregon county commission has ordered an incinerator to stop accepting boxed medical waste to generate electricity after learning the waste it’s been burning may include tissue from aborted fetuses from British Columbia. Sam Brentano, chairman of the Marion County board of commissioners, said late Wednesday the board is taking immediate action to prohibit human tissue from future deliveries at the plant that has been turning waste into energy since 1987.

A Fatal Wait: Veterans Languish and Die on a VA Hospital’s Secret List

(CNN) – At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list. The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.

Cloaked DNA Nanodevices Survive Pilot Mission

(Nanotechnology Now) – It’s a familiar trope in science fiction: In enemy territory, activate your cloaking device. And real-world viruses use similar tactics to make themselves invisible to the immune system. Now scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have mimicked these viral tactics to build the first DNA nanodevices that survive the body’s immune defenses. The results pave the way for smart DNA nanorobots that could use logic to diagnose cancer earlier and more accurately than doctors can today; target drugs to tumors, or even manufacture drugs on the spot to cripple cancer, the researchers report in the April 22 online issue of ACS Nano.

Study: Gene Therapy May Boost Cochlear Implants

(Washington Post) – Australian researchers are trying a novel way to boost the power of cochlear implants: They used the technology to beam gene therapy into the ears of deaf animals and found the combination improved hearing. The approach reported Wednesday isn’t ready for human testing, but it’s part of growing research into ways to let users of cochlear implants experience richer, more normal sound.

First Medical Tourism Awards Tout Top Treatment Tips

(CNN) – When they can see the world, save cash and get that surgery you wanted, it’s no wonder that increasing numbers of travelers are hopping on a jet in search of cut-price healthcare. The worldwide medical tourism industry is said to be growing by up to 25% each year as patients with passports head abroad for procedures costing as much as 80% less than at home.

A New Womb for the Baby

(The Sydney Morning Herald) – It’s now more than a year since Brannstrom and his team carried out nine pioneering womb transplants, five of them mother-to-daughter, in Gothenburg, Sweden. But Brannstrom and his colleagues are still on call for both donors and recipients 24 hours a day. ”They do ring me a lot,” he says, as he pads downstairs, still wearing surgical clothes and battered rubber hospital slip-ons, to show me the rooms at the Sahlgrenska Hospital where the operations took place.

Animals with Human Rights Make Researchers Run Scared

(Nature) – As these animals inch closer to citizens’ rights, the trend is being watched with worried eyes by biomedical researchers who fear judges could extend these rights to lab animals like monkeys and rats, thereby curbing experimentation. It also disturbs veterinarians who fear a flood of expensive malpractice suits if pets are worth more than their simple economic value.

Trafficking Ring Lured Desparate Young Women to Turkey in Body Organs-for-Sale

(Jerusalem Post) – Young Israeli women in dire economic straits were lured into traveling to Turkey to donate their kidneys and other organs on the promise of quick cash, Negev police said Tuesday, adding that the mastermind of the organ-trafficking ring is still on the run. According to Negev police, the suspect, a man in his 50s from southern Israel, promised girls aged 18 to 20 tens of thousands of dollars to travel to Turkey and undergo transplant surgery.

Most Support Birth Control Mandate, Survey Shows

(NBC News) – Most Americans — 69 percent — support the requirement that health insurance plans pay for birth control, a new survey shows. The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to pay for contraception as part of 10 essential benefits, including vaccines and cancer screenings. It’s the most controversial requirement, with religious groups, some conservative commentators and some employers objecting.

Study Finds Long-Term Survival of Human Neural Stem Cells Transplanted into Primate Brain

(Science Codex) – A team of researchers in Korea who transplanted human neural stem cells (hNSCs) into the brains of nonhuman primates and assessed cell survival and differentiation after 22 and 24 months found that the hNSCs had differentiated into neurons at 24 months and did not cause tumors. The study will be published in a future issue of Cell Transplantation but is currently freely available on-line as an unedited early e-pub.

Adult Stem Cell Research Shows Promise

( – Scientists sporting white coats and safety gloves are working in a bright Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lab on an incredible project. They are part of FDA’s MSC Consortium, a large team of FDA scientists studying adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)—cells that could eventually be used to repair, replace, restore or regenerate cells in the body, including those needed for heart and bone repair.

Miss. Governor Signs Mid-Pregnancy Abortion Ban

(ABC News) – Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday signed a bill to ban abortion starting at the midpoint of a full-term pregnancy. Supporters say it’s designed to protect women’s health, while abortion-rights advocates say it’s unconstitutional. House Bill 1400, which becomes law July 1, will ban abortion starting at 20 weeks’ gestational age. That’s defined as 20 weeks since the start of the woman’s last menstrual period. A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks.

A European Vision for Synthetic Biology Has Been Launched Today

(Nanowerk News) – The Strategic Vision, coordinated by BBSRC, represents the culmination of the strategic activities of the Synthetic Biology ERA-NET (ERASynBio) – a project which aims to develop and coordinate synthetic biology in the European Research Area. The document sets out an ambitious vision for the future of European synthetic biology, highlighting major opportunities and challenges over the next five to ten years.

Gold Nanoparticles Help Target, Quantify Breast Cancer Gene Segments in a Living Cell

( – Purdue University researchers have developed a way to detect and measure cancer levels in a living cell by using tiny gold particles with tails of synthetic DNA. A team led by Joseph Irudayaraj, professor of agricultural and biological engineering, used gold nanoparticles to target and bind to fragments of genetic material known as BRCA1 messenger RNA splice variants, which can indicate the presence and stage of breast cancer.

April 23, 2014

A New Edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association is Available

The Journal of the American Medical Association (Volume 311, No. 15, April 16, 2014) is now available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Cost-Related Motivations for Conducting Research:  Participants Should Be Informed” by Rahul K. Nayak, Steven D. Pearson, and Franklin G. Miller
  • “Integrating Care at the End of Life:  Should Medicare Advantage Include Hospice?” by David G. Stevenson, and Haiden A. Huskamp
  • “Ethics, Regulation, and Comparative Effectiveness Research:  Time for a Change” by Richard Platt, Nancy E. Kass, and Deven McGraw
  • “Maternal Body Mass Index and the Risk of Fetal Death, Stillbirth, and Infant Death:  A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” by Dagfinn Aune, et al.
  • “WHO Issues New Guidelines to Ensure Contraception as a Human Right” by M. J. Friedrich

Protein that Shrinks Depressed Brains Identified

(New Scientist) – Could preventing the brain shrinkage associated with depression be as simple as blocking a protein? Post-mortem analysis of brain tissue has shown that the dendrites that relay messages between neurons are more shrivelled in people with severe depression than in people without the condition. This atrophy could be behind some of the symptoms of depression, such as the inability to feel pleasure. As a result, drugs that help repair the neuronal connections, like ketamine, are under investigation.

Ebola Outbreak: Death Toll Rises to Over 140 in Liberia, Guinea

(CNN) – A total of 142 deaths have been reported from the Ebola outbreak in Guinea and Liberia, the World Health Organization said. The virus is still limited to the two nations, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, despite rumors of it spreading to other countries. Nineteen suspected cases reported in Sierra Leone tested negative for the virus, it said.

Almost Blind Michigan Man ‘Seeing Something New Every Day’ Thanks to New Retina Procedure

(Associated Press) – A degenerative eye disease slowly robbed Roger Pontz of his vision. Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as a teenager, Pontz has been almost completely blind for years. Now, thanks to a high-tech procedure that involved the surgical implantation of a “bionic eye,” he’s regained enough of his eyesight to catch small glimpses of his wife, grandson and cat.

FDA Discourages Use of Tissue-Shredding Tool

(Nature) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has suggested that surgeons refrain from using tissue-grinding tools to remove uteruses or uterine growths because they increase the risk of spreading undetected cancer. It has also instructed manufacturers to review the labelling of the devices, known as morcellators, and is considering requiring a ‘black box’ warning, the strongest warning it can mandate.

HIV Turns 30 Today

(ABC News) – It’s been 30 years since scientists announced the cause of AIDS: a shifty retrovirus that would come to be known as HIV. More than 1,750 Americans had already died from the rare infections and cancers caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, health officials said at the time, and another 2,300 people were living with AIDS.


The Bioethics Poll
Should individuals and/or institutions be allowed to patent human genes?
Yes, with some qualifications

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Which area of research should more money be invested in:
Animal-Human Hybrids
Gene Therapy
Reproductive Technology
Stem Cell Research
"Therapeutic" Cloning
None of the above

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