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March 20, 2007

Full-Mental Nudity: The arrival of mind-reading machines

Years ago, Woody Allen used to joke that he’d been thrown out of college as a freshman for cheating on his metaphysics final. “I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me,” he confessed. Today, the joke is on us. Cameras follow your car, GPS tracks your cell phone, software monitors your Web surfing, X-rays explore your purse, and airport scanners see through your clothes. Now comes the final indignity: machines that look into your soul. (Slate)

March 19, 2007

Death in San Luis Obispo organ donor case is ruled natural

Coroner’s conclusion won’t halt probes into whether a doctor tried to hasten the demise. The San Luis Obispo County sheriff-coroner has concluded that a 26-year-old potential organ donor died of natural causes, complicating a criminal inquiry into whether a transplant surgeon attempted to hasten the man’s death. (Los Angeles Times)

Baby Gap: The Surprising Truth about America’s Infant-Mortality Rate

Last year, a widely distributed report from the group Save the Children, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, tied the United States with Malta and Slovakia for the second-worst infant-mortality rate among developed nations (at about six per 1,000 live births). “I’m always amazed to see where the United States is,” a Rand researcher said of the list. “We are the wealthiest country in the world,” a Save the Children spokesperson agreed, yet many “are not getting the health care they need.” Slate)

March 12, 2007

Adult and Cord Blood Stem Cell Patients, Researchers Reception

Our friends at DoNoHarm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics — AKA — send the following invitation

March 9, 2007

Inmates could trade an organ for an early out

Prison inmates in South Carolina could get up to six months shaved off their sentences if they donated a kidney or their bone marrow, under a proposed bill before the state Senate. “We have a lot of people dying as they wait for organs, so I thought about the prison population,” said state Sen. Ralph Anderson, the bill’s main sponsor. “I believe we have to do something to motivate them. If they get some good time off, if they get out early, that’s motivation.” The proposal was approved Thursday by the Senate Corrections and Penology Subcommittee. But it is almost certain to prompt fierce opposition from legal experts and prisoner rights advocates about whether inmates are able to make such a decision freely. (Los Angeles Times)

The miracle of cord blood

If not for umbilical cord blood, Jessica Berry of Macomb Township is convinced her 5-year-old daughter, Olivia, wouldn’t have survived. Born four months premature, Olivia weighed only 1 pound, 2 ounces. She required more than 10 blood transfusions, heart surgery and extensive treatment for her eyes and lungs. In all, the infant was hospitalized for the first five months of her life. Today, Olivia is a healthy girl who loves cartoons and doles out potato chips one by one to her 3-year-old sister, Sophia. (The Detroit News)

Trapped in Your Own Body

Imagine lying inert, unmoving, totally paralyzed — and your only way of telling people “I’m not dead!” is the tiny blink of one eye. Imagine hearing the doctors call you a vegetable, and you can’t even whisper back, “I’m still here.” Welcome to a rare world of patients “locked in” to bodies that have become prisons. Steve Chiappa of Toms River, N.J., lives with this medical mystery. And so does Glenda Hickey of Leduc, Alberta. (ABC)

Study Probes Odor, Sleep and Memory Link

Doctors have long advised that a good night’s sleep is important for memory – but researchers now say a familiar scent wafting in the bedroom might help sometimes, too. The caveat: In the study, being published Friday in the journal Science, it only worked for some kinds of memories and during one stage of sleep, meaning it’s not the answer for people hunting a quick memory boost. (AP)

March 8, 2007

75 New Reasons

DoNoHarm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics ( has just posted a PDF entitled “75 New Reasons to Reconsider the Alleged Need for Stem Cell Research that Destroys Human Embryos.” It is a catalog of recent advances in adult stem cell research and other alternatives to embryonic stem cell research published since June of last year. Here’s a sample:



Other categories are:

  • Stem Cell Sources
  • Cord Blood
  • Bone/Cartilage
  • Brain Damage
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Eye
  • Heart
  • Immune System (Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, etc.)
  • Kidney/Liver
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Spinal Cord
  • Wounds/Burns

75 items. June 2006 through February 2007. None involve the destruction of human embryos.

Will Korea Allow Full-Fledged Stem Cell Research?

The National Bioethics Committee will convene Friday to discuss such contentious issues as human egg donation, which is important in experiments with cloned embryos. The gathering aimed at ironing our differences between committee members is expected to show whether the country will allow cloned stem cell research in a full-fledged manner. (The Korea Times)

Robotic age poses ethical dilemma

An ethical code to prevent humans abusing robots, and vice versa, is being drawn up by South Korea. (BBC)

China: Expert urges mainland to start cloning

A cloning expert has called for China to give scientists the green light to further develop the technology as the country is not encumbered by the political and religious debates that have put cloning on hold in the United States and Europe. (The Standard)

Connecting Your Brain to the Game

Emotiv Systems, an electronic-game company from San Francisco, wants people to play with the power of the mind. Starting tomorrow, video-game makers will be able to buy Emotiv’s electro-encephalograph (EEG) caps and software developer’s tool kits so that they can build games that use the electrical signals from a player’s brain to control the on-screen action. (Technology Review)

Woman Awakens After 6 Years, Slips Back

A woman who went into a vegetative state in November of 2000 awoke this week for three days, spoke with her family and a local television station before slipping back on Wednesday. “I’m fine,” Christa Lilly told her mother on Sunday – her first words in eight months. She has awakened four other times for briefer periods. (AP)

House Clarifies Organ Donation Law

The House Wednesday approved by a 422-0 vote legislation named for the late Georgia Rep. Charlie Norwood, that organ donor groups say could lead to many more kidney transplants each year. The “Charlie W. Norwood Living Organ Donation Act,” which the Senate is expected to adopt soon, would specify that “paired” kidney donations don’t violate laws against trading organs for compensation. (AP)

Scientists Plan China, Hong Kong, Taiwan Umbilical Cord Stem Cell Trial

Scientists are preparing for a large clinical trial in 2008 which aims to use stem cells to help 400 patients with spinal cord injuries in Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan grow new cells and nerve fibers. Stem cells from umbilical cord blood will be injected into the spinal cords of the participants, who will also be given lithium to help stimulate cell regeneration, said Wise Young, a leading neuroscientist and spinal cord injury researcher. (Reuters)

Cancer Genome Scientists Discover 100 More Mutated Genes

Cancer is a disease of genes gone awry, but new insights into the “cancer genome” could point the way to effective treatments, an international team of researchers reports. Scientists taking part in the Cancer Genome Project say they’ve identified more than 100 mutated genes that help drive 210 different cancer types. Each mutation could prove a promising new target for drug research, the scientists say. (Health Day)

Hundreds rally against embryonic cloning procedure at Missouri Capitol

Hundreds of opponents of embryonic stem-cell research crammed the Capitol halls Wednesday urging a statewide election on whether to overturn a voter-approved constitutional protection for such research. Legislative proposals to put a stem-cell research amendment back on the 2008 ballot have stalled in divided House and Senate committees. But Wednesday, Rep. Jim Lembke told ralliers he was pursuing a seldom-used petition method to try to yank the legislation out of committee and onto the House debate calendar. (AP)

March 7, 2007

Where’s My Personalized Medicine?

Despite its ability to predict dangerous and even deadly drug reactions, a high price tag and lack of familiarity with the technology have prevented doctors from embracing the world’s first DNA chip test to deliver personalized medicine. (Wired)

Scientists claim first in using brain scans to predict intentions

At a laboratory in Germany, volunteers slide into a donut-shaped MRI machine and perform simple tasks, such as deciding whether to add or subtract two numbers, or choosing which of two buttons to press. They have no inkling that scientists in the next room are trying to read their minds — using a brain scan to figure out their intention before it is turned into action. (AP)

I feel your pain: Study examines empathy during psychotherapy

They’re special, those moments of close connection when you become attuned to another person’s mood, and it seems you can sense what he or she feels. This “we’re on the same wavelength” phenomenon is known as empathy, part of the emotional glue that helps bind people together. Now it’s being studied with the tools of modern science, sophisticated neuro-imaging scans and physiological tests that track how people’s brains and bodies respond during social encounters. (Chicago Tribune)


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

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Animal-Human Hybrids
Gene Therapy
Reproductive Technology
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"Therapeutic" Cloning
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