March 11, 2014
Family petitions for unapproved drug to save son
(ABC News) – Seven-year-old Josh Hardy has beaten cancer four times, his parents said, but now they fear he will die from a virus that causes the common cold. They say their best hope for Josh’s survival is an unapproved anti-viral drug called brincidofovir, but the company that makes it says it can’t give it to him. So the Hardys have started several online petitions to change the company’s mind.
Europe faces up to big pharma over clinical data
(New Scientist) – Next week could see a major step forward in the battle to pass laws compelling drug companies to release all the data from their clinical drugs trials. On 12 March, the European Parliament is expected to finalise and give formal approval to much amended draft legislation, with a full vote taking place at the beginning of April. But even as members deliberate, pharmaceutical companies will be fighting back in the European Court of Justice against the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Union agency with responsibility for regulation of medicines in Europe.
US provides $40 million to tackle infectious diseases
(Sci Dev Net) – Developing countries will receive extra support to prevent, detect and respond to health threats as the US government announced plans last month (13 February) to boost funding for nations at high risk from infectious disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — along with the Department of Defense — will dedicate a total of US$40 million from their 2014 budgets to capacity-building efforts. There is the possibility of an additional US$45 million in 2015 if the US Congress approves President Barack Obama’s request for the extra money.
Report: Cancer will be No. 1 killer in U.S.
(CNN) – In 16 years, cancer will become the leading cause of death in the United States, surpassing heart disease, according to a new report from the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The number of new cancer cases is expected to increase nearly 45% by 2030, from 1.6 million cases to 2.3 million cases annually. This influx of new patients will place a bigger burden on a field of medicine already stretched by physician shortages and financial difficulties, says the report, which highlights growing problems for cancer care in the United States.
From boomers to seniors, 2 of every 100 Americans now have artificial hips, knees, study finds
(Associated Press) – It’s not just grandma with a new hip and your uncle with a new knee. More than 2 of every 100 Americans now have an artificial joint, doctors are reporting. Among those over 50, it’s even more common: Five percent have replaced a knee and more than 2 percent, a hip. “They are remarkable numbers,” said Dr. Daniel J. Berry, chairman of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic. Roughly 7 million people in the United States are living with a total hip or knee replacement.
Patentholder on breast cancer tests denied injunction in lawsuit
(New York Times) – Myriad Genetics, which lost a closely watched Supreme Court case last year involving the patenting of genes, has suffered another setback in its efforts to protect its main genetic test from competition. A federal judge on Monday denied Myriad’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have immediately stopped a rival company, Ambry Genetics, from offering a similar test.
Several FDA-approved anti-cancer drugs induce stem cell tumors, perhaps thwarting therapy
(Medical Xpress) – Using a new approach to systematically test chemotherapy drugs in an unusual animal model, a research team led by University of Massachusetts Amherst molecular biologist Michele Markstein, with Norbert Perrimon at Harvard Medical School, report that several have a serious side effect: Inducing hyper proliferation in stem cells that could lead to tumor recurrence.
New stem cell transplant holds promise for treatment of degenerative disc disease
(Business Standard) – Researchers have said that recent development in stem cell research could help treat degenerative disc disease. Senior author, Wenchun Qu, MD, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said that this landmark study draws the conclusion in pre-clinical animal studies that stem cell therapy for disc degenerative disease might be a potentially effective treatment for the very common condition that affects people’s quality of life and productivity.
23andMe admits FDA order ‘significantly slowed up’ new customers
(The Guardian) – Genetics will be a cheap and critical part of daily life, 23andme co-founder Anne Wojcicki has told the SXSW festival, claiming that genetics should be used for preventative medicine to bring down the cost of healthcare. Sketching out the scale of an industry worth more than $3 trillion, Wojcicki said that working on Wall Street, she had seen how the industry has a profit incentive for illness, making money from everything from flu to diabetes and obesity.
Cambridge scientists film embryo implantation for the first time
(Reuters) – Cambridge University biologists have cracked the so-called ‘black box’ of embryonic development, a mystery which has long puzzled scientists. The researchers have found a way to record the earliest stages of an embryo’s growth and have filmed for the first time ever, the moment of implantation, opening new possibilities for improved methods of IVF treatment and regenerative medicine.
Synthetic biologists shine light on genetic circuit analysis
(R & D) – In a significant advance for the growing field of synthetic biology, Rice Univ. bioengineers have created a toolkit of genes and hardware that uses colored lights and engineered bacteria to bring both mathematical predictability and cut-and-paste simplicity to the world of genetic circuit design.
March 10, 2014
The ‘cursed’ women living in shame
(BBC) – In a rural central Ugandan village, 17-year-old Sulaina sits on the mud floor of the tiny home she shares with her mother and younger brother and sister. She wants to help provide for her family. But she can’t. She can barely leave her house. Wherever she goes, a sickly smell follows her. That’s because she is constantly leaking urine. The rags she has stuffed in her underwear are drenched quickly, and then the urine starts running down her legs. She has sores all over her thighs where the urine has burned her. Sulaina has a condition called obstetric fistula. She developed it after giving birth to a baby girl last year.
Japanese researcher backtracks on ‘breakthrough’ STAP cell research
(Reuters) – A Japanese scientist called on Monday for withdrawing stem-cell research he had been involved in that had appeared to promise a new era of medical biology as doubts have arisen over the results. The research, described as game-changing by experts at the time, was covered breathlessly in Japan after it was published in the journal Nature, with co-researcher Haruko Obokata becoming an instant celebrity.
Blood test may detect Alzheimer’s in healthy people
(UPI) – U.S. researchers say they discovered and validated a blood test that can predict with 90 percent accuracy if a healthy person will develop Alzheimer’s. Dr. Howard J. Federoff, professor of neurology and executive vice president for health sciences at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, said the test identifies 10 lipids, or fats, in the blood that predict disease onset. It could be ready for use in clinical studies in as few as two years, he added.
How virus sleuths and public health officials track the cause of a mysterious illness
(Washington Post) – When a mysterious disease fells people — as happened in California recently, with as many as 20 children experiencing unexplained paralysis — teams of physicians and epidemiologists quickly mobilize. Perhaps you saw the movie “Contagion”? The idea is to find the culprit before it spreads but also to prevent public panic. The investigation typically begins with a doctor reporting a sudden increase in patients with a particular disease or symptom to a state health department. It then falls to the government to determine whether the report is a false perception, a statistical quirk or a genuine surge.
Stem cell study opens door to undiscovered world of biology
(Phys.org) – For the first time, researchers have shown that an essential biological process known as protein synthesis can be studied in adult stem cells – something scientists have long struggled to accomplish. The groundbreaking findings from the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) also demonstrate that the precise amount of protein produced by blood-forming stem cells is crucial to their function.
Mutations in leukemia gene linked to new childhood growth disorder
(Medical Xpress) – Mutations in a gene associated with leukaemia cause a newly described condition that affects growth and intellectual development in children, new research reports. A study led by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, identified mutations in the DNA methyltransferase gene, DNMT3A, in 13 children.
Banked, but cord blood is rare call
(Sydney Morning Herald) – Australian parents are paying thousands of dollars to store their babies’ umbilical cord blood with private operators – but only a few families have ever used it. Six out of about 30,000 people who banked cord blood privately in the past decade have accessed it, Mark Kirkland, medical director of private bank Cell Care, said. The head of the Australian Medical Association, Steve Hambleton, said he was concerned that parents are being ”oversold” on the merits of storage, which can cost up to $3000, and misled into spending money that is unlikely to have any benefit.
Chicago hospital evaluates stem-cell therapy for pain
(CBS Local) – Is it the future of pain relief, the end of pain pills, physical therapy and knee or hip replacements? CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist looks at a new procedure offered at only a handful of places. It’s still a bit controversial. But some doctors and their patients swear by it. Linda Morning-Starpoole suffered terrible knee pain, the result of sports injuries when she was younger. Traditional treatment might involve steroid injections, physical therapy and joint replacement. But she wanted an alternative.
The start of life as seen on smartphones
(The Irish Examiner) – The Instituto Marques in Barcelona, which has treated more than 1,000 Irish patients, has a hi-tech incubator called the Embryoscope, which allows couples to watch the embryos in the first days and weeks live on the internet before they are transferred to the womb. Dr Hans Arce, assisted reproduction consultant at the clinic which specialises in long-standing and unexplained infertility, said Irish patients feel closer to the process of conceiving their baby through the webcam images which were only previously seen by the embryologists working in the laboratory.
Will Belgium’s legalized child euthanasia trigger death tourism?
(Forbes) – Speculation on whether Belgium will become a new destination for what is known as “death tourism” has also been raised by representatives of political parties opposed to lifting age restrictions for medically assisted deaths. They argue that as cultural differences and moral reasons prevent most other nations from legalizing euthanasia, people will travel to countries that allow the practice. They worry that Belgium has opened its doors to death-seeking visitors.