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June 11, 2014

‘Game-Changing’ Drug Could Be Effective in Suicide Prevention

(Medical Xpress) – A drug traditionally used as an anaesthetic and sometimes used recreationally could be effective in preventing suicide and lifting the mood of severely depressed patients, according to a UNSW academic who has trialled the drug in Sydney. Ketamine, which has the street name ‘special K’, has been shown to be effective in most patients who were part of the trial, at least temporarily. The participants were suffering from Major Depressive Disorder and had exhausted all other medical treatments.

New Tumor-Targeting Agent Images and Treats Wide Variety of Cancers

(Medical Xpress) – Scientists at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center (UWCCC) report that a new class of tumor-targeting agents can seek out and find dozens of solid tumors, even illuminating brain cancer stem cells that resist current treatments. What’s more, years of animal studies and early human clinical trials show that this tumor-targeting, alkylphosphocholine (APC) molecule can deliver two types of “payloads” directly to cancer cells: a radioactive or fluorescent imaging label, or a radioactive medicine that binds and kills cancer cells.

Breakthrough Study Sheds New Light on Best Medication for Children with Seizures

(Medical Xpress) – A recently published clinical study in the Journal of the American Medical Association has answered an urgent question that long puzzled ER pediatricians: Is the drug lorazepam really safer and more effective than diazepam – the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved medication as first line therapy most often used by emergency room doctors to control major epileptic seizures in children? The answer to that question – based on a double-blind, randomized clinical trial that compared outcomes in 273 seizure patients, about half of whom were given lorazepam – is a clear-cut “no,” said Prashant V. Mahajan, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A, one of the authors of the study.

Guidelines Needed for Creating Germ Cells In Vitro, Scientists State

(Medical Xpress) – Research aimed at developing germ cells—the progenitors of eggs and sperm—in vitro should be held to especially rigorous scientific standards, a distinguished team of reproductive biologists declares in the journal Cell. In the article, authors John Schimenti, Ph.D., of Cornell University and his Jackson Laboratory colleagues, Mary Ann Handel, Ph.D., and John Eppig, Ph.D., note that because “germ cells are the ultimate stem cells,” laboratories are racing to develop these cells in vitro for assisted reproduction.

Searching Chromosomes for the Legacy of Trauma

(Nature) – In 2012, I volunteered to participate in a study of children of Holocaust survivors led by Rachel Yehuda, a neuroscientist and the director of the traumatic stress studies division at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. The study aimed to determine whether the risk of mental illness owing to trauma is biologically passed from one generation to the next.

Considering How Neuroscience Could Influence Moral Decisions

(Bioethics.gov) -  Resuming its consideration of ethical issues generated by neuroscience research, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) turned its attention Tuesday morning to the potential implications of what advances in neuroscience might mean for ethics and moral decision-making. The session featured Joshua D. Greene, Ph.D., the John and Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, and Alfred R. Mele, Ph.D., William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University.

Diseases Spread in Weeks. Epidemic Research Takes Years. This Must Change

(The Guardian) – In the 38 years separating these epidemics, methods for containing Ebola have been standardised. Yet our knowledge of how to treat patients or develop a vaccine has not moved on at all. It is still a matter of quarantine and safe funerary practices: shut you away and bury you nicely. These remain the most effective public health tools we have, but also the bluntest and most brutal. Can it be right to rely on them still? Is it ethical to have made no progress because these epidemics affect people far away from the centres of political gravity?

Revolving Doors at Hospital

(New York Times) – Two days later she was back in the emergency room, wheezing and choking all over again, her readmission an embarrassment to the professional staff — and, for the hospital, a big fat fine from Medicare in a new effort to discourage these repeat performances. Cases like hers torture health policy makers, partly because nobody can quite figure out who is to blame. The system’s culpable habits are legion: discharging patients who are still sick, providing them with incomprehensible instructions, forgetting they’re too weak to get to the pharmacy, overlooking the booby traps at home, providing no coherent follow-up. Sometimes the outpatient doctor doesn’t even know the patient has been admitted.

Scientists Use Stem Cells to Create HIV Resistance

(Medical Xpress) – Yuet Wai Kan of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues have created HIV-resistant white blood cells by editing the genomes of induced pluripotent stem cells. The researchers inserted genes with a mutation that confers resistance to HIV into stem cells. White blood cells grown from these stem cells were HIV resistant. The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Moms Pick Best Embryos from a Petri Dish with New Tool

(Bloomberg) – Women in the U.S. having trouble conceiving the natural way now may use a new tool to help choose the lab-dish embryo most likely to result in a pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration cleared for sale Auxogyn Inc.’s time-lapse photography device that assists fertility doctors who typically eyeball embryos to pick the most viable ones for placing in the womb. The closely held Menlo Park, California-based company’s Eeva System assesses the timing of important changes in embryos’ development to differentiate between ones that look equally healthy.

Team Identifies Protein that Keeps Blood Stem Cells Healthy as They Age

(Medical Xpress) – The new Mount Sinai study reveals how loss of a protein called Sirtuin1 (SIRT1) affects the ability of blood stem cells to regenerate normally, at least in mouse models of human disease. This study has shown that young blood stem cells that lack SIRT1 behave like old ones. With use of advanced mouse models, she and her team found that blood stem cells without adequate SIRT1 resembled aged and defective stem cells, which are thought to be linked to development of malignancies.

Fertility Clinics Are ‘Exploiting’ Some Infertile Women, Claims IVF Pioneer Lord Winston

(Daily Mail) – A fertility expert has today hit out at the ‘exportation’ of infertile women by some clinics. IVF pioneer Lord Robert Winston told peers in the House of Lords, that regulation by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority allowed for ‘entirely unvalidated experimental treatment’. Giving an example, Lord Winston said many clinics advertise on the London Underground and ‘some have relationships to do work overseas in other clinics, which are not allowed by British regulation’.

Physician-Assisted Death Divides Canadians, Medical Panel Hears

(CBC News) – Canadians are divided on physician-assisted death and other end-of-life care issues that need to be discussed with families and loved ones, a national tour by the Canadian Medical Association has heard. The medical group released its final report from its end-of-life tour in Ottawa on Tuesday, based on the findings of town hall meetings in five Canadian cities.

Transplant Tourism Website in China Taken Offline

(The Epoch Times) – Organs of this sort in China invariably come from executed prisoners—though the type of prisoner is disputed. China is in the shaky beginning stages of attempting to set up a voluntary organ donation system, to exist alongside the harvesting of organs from prisoners. Official numbers indicate that there were roughly 1,000 voluntary organ donors in 2013—while an estimated 300,000 Chinese patients need an organ. Global customers can be expected to pay more, however.

June 10, 2014

A Weakness Discovered in Metastatic Cancer Cells

(Medical News Today) – Metastatic cancer cells, which can migrate from primary tumors to seed new malignancies, have thus far been resistant to the current arsenal of anticancer drugs. Now, however, researchers at Whitehead Institute have identified a critical weakness that actually exploits one of these cells’ apparent strengths – their ability to move and invade tissues.

Sierra Leone Ebola Death Toll ‘Doubles to 12 in a Week’

(BBC) – Sierra Leone says its death toll from the contagious Ebola virus has doubled in one week, with hopes of containing the outbreak fading. Health ministry officials said at least 12 people had been killed by the deadly virus, up from six last week. They say the confirmed deaths were in the east, near the border with Guinea – the epicentre of the outbreak that has killed more than 200 people this year.

Study: Price Tag of Autism in the U.S. Exceeds $236 Billion per Year

(Los Angeles Times) – Good health is priceless, but autism spectrum disorders can be very expensive. A new study estimates that the lifetime cost of being diagnosed with autism in the United States is somewhere between $1.43 million and $2.44 million. Either of those totals is enough to give most people sticker shock. The figure at the low end of the range is for people on the autism spectrum who don’t have intellectual disabilities. The higher tally is for people who do, according to a study published Monday by the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Healthy Seniors Tested in Bid to Block Alzheimer’s

(Associated Press) – In one of the most ambitious attempts yet to thwart Alzheimer’s disease, a major study got underway Monday to see if an experimental drug can protect healthy seniors whose brains harbor silent signs that they’re at risk. Scientists plan to eventually scan the brains of thousands of older volunteers in the U.S., Canada and Australia to find those with a sticky build-up believed to play a key role in development of Alzheimer’s – the first time so many people without memory problems get the chance to learn the potentially troubling news.

Hit by a Car, an Emergency Doctor Experiences Firsthand the Shortcomings in ER Care

(Washington Post) – As a medical professional who became an accident victim and then a trauma patient, I was struck by the uneven nature of my care, which was marked by an overreliance on testing at the expense of my overall well-being. Instead of feeling like a connected patient at the center of care, I felt processed. This is disconcerting, especially at a time when patient-centered care — that is, care delivered with me, not to me or for me — is supposed to be becoming the new normal.

U.S. Federal Court Dismisses Challenge to Stem Cell Patent

(Science) – A U.S. federal appeals court has rejected an attempt to strike down a long-contested stem cell patent held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). The Santa Monica, California–based Consumer Watchdog (CW) had hoped to invalidate the patent, which it says puts a burden on California’s taxpayer-funded research by requiring licensing agreements to use the cells, but on 4 June the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that CW isn’t involved in work on human embryonic stem cells and, thus, can’t challenge the patent in court.

“Seed” Enhancers Seize Control during Stem Cell Development

(Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) – A pluripotent stem cell may be imagined to be in a state of readiness—ready to differentiate into any of the cell types that exist in the body. But stem cells don’t pass through developmental stages only after differentiation begins. Stem cell pluripotency itself is fairly dynamic. For example, pluripotent stem cells pass through at least two distinct developmental stages: naïve embryonic stem cells and primed epiblast stem cells.

 

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