March 7, 2014
Genetic cause found for premature ovarian failure
(Medical Xpress) – A team led by researchers from the Spanish National Research Council and the University of Salamanca has found a genetic cause for premature ovarian failure, a disorder affecting 1 percent of women that provokes the loss of ovarian function years before menopause. The results, published in The New England Journal of Medicine and Human and Molecular Genetics journals, demonstrate for the first time that mutation in STAG3 gene is the major cause of human fertility disorders as it provokes a loss of function of the protein it encodes.
March 6, 2014
Gene-editing method tackles HIV in first clinical trial
(Nature) – A clinical trial has shown that a gene-editing technique can be safe and effective in humans. For the first time, researchers used enzymes called zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs) to target and destroy a gene in the immune cells of 12 people with HIV, increasing their resistance to the virus. The findings are published today in The New England Journal of Medicine. “This is the first major advance in HIV gene therapy since it was demonstrated that the ‘Berlin patient’ Timothy Brown was free of HIV,” says John Rossi, a molecular biologist at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California.
New findings on neurogenesis in the spinal cord
(Medical News Today) – Research from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden suggests that the expression of the so called MYC gene is important and necessary for neurogenesis in the spinal cord. The findings are being published in the journal EMBO Reports. The MYC gene encodes the protein with the same name, and has an important role in many cellular processes such as proliferation, metabolism, cell death and the potential of differentiation from immature stem cells to different types of specialized cells. Importantly it is also one of the most frequently activated genes in human cancer.
Early treatment is found to clear H.I.V. in a 2nd baby
(New York Times) – When scientists made the stunning announcement last year that a baby born with H.I.V. had apparently been cured through aggressive drug treatment just 30 hours after birth, there was immediate skepticism that the child had been infected in the first place. But on Wednesday, the existence of a second such baby was revealed at an AIDS conference here, leaving little doubt that the treatment works. A leading researcher said there might be five more such cases in Canada and three in South Africa.
Chemotherapy in last months of life associated with increased risk of dying away from home
(Eurekalert) – The use of chemotherapy in terminally-ill cancer patients in the last months of life is associated with increased risk of undergoing resuscitation and dying in an intensive care unit, suggests a paper published on bmj.com today. The researchers suggest that end-of-life discussions may be particularly important for patients receiving chemotherapy and suggest that caregivers should ensure that patients are aware of their prognosis, likely outcomes of treatment and that their choices are aligned with their end-of-life values.
Stem cells to treat lung disease in infants
(Asian Scientist) – A phase I clinical study conducted by researchers in Korea has found that it is safe and feasible to use stem cell therapies for preventing and treating lung disease in preterm infants. Advances in neonatal care for very preterm infants have greatly increased the chances of survival for these fragile infants. However, preterm infants have an increased risk of developing bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), a serious lung disease, which is a major cause of death and lifelong complications.
Thailand offers tourists a chance to win a new face
(CNN) – Fancy a different face but can’t afford to go under the knife? Thailand’s Tourism Authority has launched an Extreme Makeover contest, offering three lucky ladies a chance to win free facial surgery along with a shot at $5,000 and a luxury vacation. To enter, you’ll have to submit photos showing your face from various angles, along with a health profile and written explanation of why you so badly covet a makeover.
March 5, 2014
Parents’ fight against sepsis reaches C.D.C.
(New York Times) – Sepsis is what happens when the body’s own responses to an infection spin out of control, destroying cells and blood vessels. This leads to shock, organ failure and death. The sooner treatment begins, the better the chances of survival. That and many other aspects of sepsis remain poorly understood. After a campaign by the Stauntons, the New York State Department of Health issued new regulations, which went into effect at the end of 2013, requiring hospitals to adopt techniques for early identification and treatment of sepsis. They are among the most rigorous regulations in the country.
Injections providing protection against AIDS in monkeys, studies find
(New York Times) – Researchers are reporting that injections of long-lasting AIDS drugs protected monkeys for weeks against infection, a finding that could lead to a major breakthrough in preventing the disease in humans. Two studies by different laboratory groups each found 100 percent protection in monkeys that got monthly injections of antiretroviral drugs, and there was evidence that a single shot every three months might work just as well.
Hospital antibiotics use can put patients at risk, study says
(Washington Post) – Doctors in some hospitals prescribe up to three times as many antibiotics as doctors at other hospitals, putting patients at greater risk for deadly superbug infections, according to a federal study released Tuesday. In addition, about one-third of the time, prescriptions to treat urinary tract infections and prescriptions for the drug vancomycin were given without proper testing or evaluation, or prescribed for too long, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alzheimer’s in a dish
(Harvard Gazette) – Harvard stem cell scientists have successfully converted skins cells from patients with early onset Alzheimer’s into the types of neurons that are affected by the disease, making it possible for the first time to study this leading form of dementia in living human cells. This may also make it possible to develop therapies more quickly and accurately than before.
March 4, 2014
Artificial heart patient dies
(BBC) – The first patient to be fitted with a pioneering artificial heart in France has died. The 76-year-old man, who has not been named, died 75 days after the operation in Paris. The bioprosthetic device, made by French company Carmat, is designed to replace the real heart for up to five years. It is intended to help patients who are in the advanced stages of heart failure.
Heart implants, 3-D printed to order
(MIT Technology Review) – It’s a poetic fact of biology that everyone’s heart is a slightly different size and shape. And yet today’s cardiac implants—medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators—are basically one size fits all. Among other things, this means these devices, though lifesaving for many patients, are limited in the information they can gather. Researchers recently demonstrated a new kind of personalized heart sensor as part of an effort to change that. The researchers used images of animals’ hearts to create models of the organ using a 3-D printer. Then they built stretchy electronics on top of those models. The stretchy material can be peeled off the printed model and wrapped around the real heart for a perfect fit.
Doctors call for healthcare reforms in prisons
(UPI) – In a new study, public health experts say more should be done to protect and improve the health of prison populations. The paper, published in the most recent edition of the journal Health Affairs, argues that too many prisoners return to their communities with debilitating diseases — diseases that burden the economy and exacerbate public healthcare resources.
The breast cancer racial gap
(New York Times) – A troubling racial divide in breast cancer mortality continues to widen in most major cities around the country, suggesting that advances in diagnosis and treatment continue to bypass African-American women, according to new research. An analysis of breast cancer mortality trends in 41 of the largest cities in the United States shows that the chance of surviving breast cancer correlates strongly with the color of a woman’s skin.
Consumers should be wary when a doctor prescribes a drug for ‘off-label’ treatment
(Washington Post) – You probably assume that when your doctor prescribes a medication, the Food and Drug Administration has approved it for your specific condition. But sometimes doctors prescribe drugs to treat conditions other than the ones for which they were approved. Such “off-label” use, although legal, might not be a good first-choice treatment. Yet about one in five prescriptions are written for an unapproved use. An analysis by Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has evaluated some of the drugs most often prescribed off-label.
Heart problems linked to those born with H.I.V.
(New York Times) – Children born with H.I.V. are more likely to have heart problems later in life, even if they are treated early with antiretroviral drugs, a recent study has found. The study was based on medical exams of 165 American teenagers born with H.I.V., but is applicable to the three million children in the world living with the virus, said the lead author, Kunjal Patel, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
LSD, reconsidered for therapy
(New York Times) – On Tuesday, The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease is posting online results from the first controlled trial of LSD in more than 40 years. The study, conducted in the office of a Swiss psychiatrist near Bern, tested the effects of the drug as a complement to talk therapy for 12 people nearing the end of life, including Peter. Most of the subjects had terminal cancer, and several died within a year after the trial — but not before having a mental adventure that appeared to have eased the existential gloom of their last days.
Differences in care at for-profit hospices
(New York Times) – People who pay attention to hospice care, so often a godsend for the dying and their families, have noticed and wondered about two trends in recent years: 1) What began as a grass-roots movement to improve end-of-life care is becoming a business. In 1990, only 5 percent of hospices were for-profit operations; by last year, they dominated the industry, representing 63 percent of hospices. 2) We’ve also seen that hospice patients are increasingly likely to be “disenrolled” before they die.
Reconstructing faces using human stem cells from fat
(Medical News Today) - Researchers in London, UK, are investigating the effectiveness of stem cell therapies for facial reconstruction. A joint team, from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and University College London’s Institute of Child Health, has published the findings of their research in the journal Nanomedicine. This follows the recent news that another UK-based team, of The London Chest Hospital, has begun the largest ever trial of adult stem cells in heart attack patients.
Indian hospitals are doing a roaring trade in medical tourists from Afghanistan
(Time) – Last week, a report by international charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) said one in every five of the patients interviewed had a family member or close friend who had died within the last year due to a lack of access to medical care. Aid money can’t always fix the problem. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) recently revealed that construction defects, and a lack of water, staff and and power, meant that the Salang Hospital in Parwan province was unable to function properly, despite the fact that over half a million dollars had been spent on it.