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April 8, 2014

NIH Stem-Cell Programme Closes

(Nature) – Stem-cell researchers at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) have been left frustrated and confused following the demise of the agency’s Center for Regenerative Medicine (CRM). The intramural programme’s director, stem-cell biologist Mahendra Rao, left the NIH, in Bethesda, Maryland, on 28 March, and the centre’s website was taken down on 4 April. Although no official announcement had been made at the time Nature went to press, NIH officials say that they are rethinking how they will conduct in-house stem-cell research.

Obsession with Health and Safety Is Killing Science, Claims James Lovelock

(The Telegraph) – The ‘religious’ obsession with health and safety is putting off a generation of children from science because they are banned from taking part in experiments, one of Britain’s leading scientists has claimed. James Lovelock, 94, who first detected CFCs in the atmosphere and proposed the Gaia hypotheses, which suggests the Earth is a self-regulating system, claims education has become a ‘tick box’ exercise which is doing nothing to inspire youngsters.

April 7, 2014

Video: Is Peer Review Broken?

(Biome)  To coincide with this year’s Experimental Biology conference, BioMed Central and BMC Biologyorganised a panel discussion to explore the increasing frustration with the peer-review process from the scientific community.

‘Hackathons’ Aim to Solve Health Care’s Ills

(The Wall Street Journal) – Hackathons, the high-octane, all-night problem-solving sessions popularized by the software-coding community, are making their way into the more traditional world of health care. At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a recent event called Hacking Medicine’s Grand Hackfest attracted more than 450 people to work for one weekend on possible solutions to problems involving diabetes, rare diseases, global health and information technology used at hospitals.

April 4, 2014

Scientist Quit Effort to Live Blog STAP Cell Regulation

(Science) – A scientist who has been trying to reproduce STAP cells–a new type of stem cells–and regularly blogging about his progress has given up.  “I don’t think STAP cells exist and it will be a waste of manpower and research funding to carry on with this experiment any further,” Kenneth Ka-Ho Lee, an embryologist and stem cell researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote on his ResearchGate page yesterday. Though he is giving up, he hopes others will continue to investigate whether the new approach – which has dogged by controversy and claims of research misconduct — can really lead to stem cells.

European Parliament Approves Bill to Increase Clinical Trial Transparency

(Science) – Researchers who do clinical trials in the European Union will have to make the results public under a bill approved by the European Parliament yesterday. In a sweeping vote held here yesterday, 594 members of the Parliament voted in favor of the plan, while only 17 voted against and 13 abstained. The vote, which confirms an informal deal reached in December between Parliament and the European Union’s 28 member states, is a victory for activist groups who want trials data out in the open.

New Study Casts Doubt on Heart Regeneration in Mammals

(Science Codex) – The mammalian heart has generally been considered to lack the ability to repair itself after injury, but a 2011 study in newborn mice challenged this view, providing evidence for complete regeneration after resection of 10% of the apex, the lowest part of the heart. In a study published by Cell Press in Stem Cell Reports on April 3, 2014, researchers attempted to replicate these recent findings but failed to uncover any evidence of complete heart regeneration in newborn mice that underwent apex resection.

April 3, 2014

New Hope for Embattled STAP Cell Researchers?

(Los Angeles Times) – Just hours after Japanese investigators announced findings of fabrication and misconduct in a highly criticized “acid bath” stem cell study, scientists in Hong Kong said they had partly succeeded in reproducing the controversial experiment, but without acid.

April 2, 2014

Diet’s Link to Longevity: After 2 Studies Diverge, a Search for Consensus

(New York Times) – The studies are immensely expensive because the monkeys must be followed for their lifetimes and given almost the same standard of health care as human beings. But these long-running experiments are also of great importance. In laboratory mice, reducing the calories in a normal diet increases longevity by up to 40 percent, and it does so by postponing the onset of age-related diseases. The monkey studies are the most direct way of determining whether the same would be true of people.

April 1, 2014

Stem-Cell Scientist Found Guilty of Misconduct

(Nature) – A committee investigating problems in papers claiming a method to apply stress to create embryonic like cells has found the lead researcher guilty of scientific misconduct. The judgment is the latest twist — but not the final word — in the bizarre story of stimulus triggered activation of pluripotency (STAP), a method that researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, Japan, still say is able to turn ordinary mature mouse cells into cells that share embryonic stem cells’ capacity to turn into all of the body’s cells.

March 28, 2014

Stem Cell Scientists Reveal ‘Unethical’ Work Pressures

(New Scientist) – Stem cell research is touted as the way to a medical revolution, but all too often accusations of poor practice arise. To glean some insight into why, New Scientist asked 1000 stem cell researchers from around the world to answer an anonymous survey about the pressures of their work. More than 110 replied. Some admitted to faked results, others told of unethical behaviour from superiors, and several placed the blame on high-profile journals.

Misleading Mouse Studies Waste Medical Resources

(Nature) – The failure of experimental drugs that had once looked promising could have been prevented with better animal studies, according to a re-examination of past clinical trials. I hear too many stories about patients who have used their one shot at getting into a trial on a drug that didn’t have enough legs to begin with, and that’s a tragedy,” says Steve Perrin, an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) researcher who led the work.

Medical Experiments Need Consent – Even in Emergency

(New Scientist) – ONE of the most important tenets of biomedical research on humans is informed consent: volunteers must understand what the research is about and what the risks are before agreeing to take part. If they are unable to do so, a family member must consent on their behalf. Sometimes, however, obtaining informed consent is impossible. That often happens in trauma medicine where eligible patients arrive at hospital unconscious and close to death. Under these circumstances the authorities can waive the requirement for informed consent. Under US law, for example, trauma victims can be enrolled in certain medical trials without their knowledge.

New Doubts over Mice Used in Trials, Further Cloud STAP Cell Research by Riken

(The Japan Times) – The Japanese researcher and lead author of two recent papers on groundbreaking stem cell research that have been called into question gave a co-author stem cells produced from mice of different genetic lines than originally asked for, officials with the government-backed Riken institute said. The episode raises further questions about the quality of research conducted by Haruko Obokata, a unit leader at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology who claimed her team had found a new, simple way to produce stem cells — called STAP cells (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) — that can transform into any type of body tissue.

March 27, 2014

Leading Surgeons Warn against Media Hype about Tracheal Regeneration

(Medical News Today) – Reports of the two earliest tissue-engineered whole organ transplants using a windpipe, or trachea, created using the patient’s own stem cells, were hailed as a breakthrough for regenerative medicine and widely publicized in the press. However, two leading transplant surgeons in Belgium warn of the dangers of media attention, and urge that tracheal bioengineering be demonstrated as both effective and safe before further transplants take place.

Replacing Insulin through Stem Cell-Derived Pancreatic Cells under the Skin

(Medical Xpress) – Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and UC San Diego School of Medicine scientists have shown that by encapsulating immature pancreatic cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESC), and implanting them under the skin in animal models of diabetes, sufficient insulin is produced to maintain glucose levels without unwanted potential trade-offs of the technology. The research suggests that encapsulated hESC-derived insulin-producing cells hold great promise as an effective and safe cell-replacement therapy for insulin-dependent diabetes.

Alzheimer’s Disease Risk May Begin in the Womb

(The Telegraph) – A pregnant mother’s eating habits may influence her unborn child’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s, new research has suggested. Scientists found that offspring of mice fed a high-fat diet were more likely as adults to experience impaired blood flow in the brain, a feature linked to the disease. When the offspring were also fed a high-fat diet their brains became less able to rid themselves of harmful amyloid protein, which accumulates in sticky tangles in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Investing in the Science of Public Health

(Huffington Post) – There is another aspect of the shrinking public investment in science research that we should be equally concerned about: the implications of underfunding the science of how to prevent disease and create a healthier population. This is the science of public health. Without good health, after all, American workers will not be able to hold those jobs.

March 26, 2014

Event: Research in Developing Countries

The Salim El-Hoss Bioethics and Professionalism Program at the American University of Beirut, Faculty of Medicine, and Kuwait University
In collaboration with the Nuffield Council on Bioethics – UK and joint sponsorship with Cleveland Clinic
6th Regional Conference: Research in Developing Countries
May 25 – May 26, 2014
The Arab Organizations Headquarters Building
Kuwait

See here for conference information.

March 21, 2014

New Educational Module Available on Informed Consent for Anticipate and Communicate

(Bioethics.gov) – The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (the Bioethics Commission) has just posted to Bioethics.gov a new educational module on informed consent in the management of incidental and secondary findings. The module integrates material from the Bioethics Commission’s December 2013 report Anticipate and Communicate: Ethical Management of Incidental and Secondary Findings in the Clinical, Research, and Direct-to-Consumer Contexts (Anticipate and Communicate).

March 20, 2014

Alzheimer’s Prevention Trial to Evaluate, Monitor Participants’ Reactions to Learning of Higher Disease Risk Status

(Medical Xpress) – A new clinical trial will soon begin testing whether early medical intervention in people at risk for Alzheimer’s can slow down progression of disease pathology before symptoms emerge, as outlined in Science Translational Medicine. For the first time, people with no Alzheimer’s disease symptoms will be told of their risk status before being asked to join the randomized controlled trial. As part of the overall prevention trial, Penn Medicine neurodegenerative ethics experts will monitor how learning about their risk of developing Alzheimer’s impacts trial participants.

 

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