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March 31, 2009

New Prospects for Prosthetics

Over the last few decades, we have seen robots created with astonishing capabilities—a humanoid robot that can walk up and down stairs, a robot that can rove on Mars, collect samples, and send images back to Earth, and robots that are used to help perform surgery. With all the amazing robotic technology that surrounds us, one might wonder why prosthetic limbs (used to replace human arms and legs) aren’t more like the real thing. (Northwestern University)

Stem cells put to test in stroke treatment in Houston

Houston doctors have launched the nation’s first experimental trial treating stroke with a patient’s own stem cells, following similar pioneering work in the Texas Medical Center with heart patients and brain-damaged children. (Houston Chronicle)

Polypill ‘could become a reality’

The concept of a polypill for everyone over 55 to cut heart disease by up to 80% was mooted over five years ago, but slow progress has been made since. Now a trial in India shows such a pill has the desired effects and is safe and well-tolerated by those who take it. Although The Lancet study is proof of concept, experts still question the ethics of a pill for lifestyle issues. (BBC)

National Bioethics Committee up and running in Gabon

A newly formed National Bioethics Committee in Gabon is latest fruit of efforts to ensure that the growing number of clinical trials conducted in sub-Saharan Africa does not compromise the safety of research participants. (PharmaTimes)

Stem cell provision in budget irritates some legislators

The fight over embryonic stem cell research, until now mainly a battle over clashing values on life and health, has mutated into a hot budget issue in the Senate.

Republican budget writers inserted a provision last week that would ban using funds in the budget for any research that destroys human embryos. (The Dallas Morning News)

New Issue of The American Journal of Bioethics is Now Available

The American Journal of Bioethics (Volume 9, Issue 4, 2009) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “Organizational Needs Versus Ethics Committee Practice” by David Magnus, 1-2.
  • “Screening in the Dark: Ethical Considerations of Providing Screening Tests to Individuals When Evidence is Insufficient to Support Screening Populations” by Ingrid M. Burger and Nancy E. Kass, 3-14.
  • “On Patient Requests for Unproven Screening: Dim Guidance for Screening in the Dark” by Heidi Malm, 15-17.
  • “Professional Integrity and Screening Tests” by David J. Doukas, 19-21.
  • “The Gray Zones of Privatized Imaging” by Patricia W. Lau and Judy Illes, 22-21.
  • “Does Direct-to-Consumer Marketing of Medical Technologies Undermine the Physician-Patient Relationship?” by Leah Rosenberg, 22-23.
  • “The Value of Information and the Ethics of Personal-Genomic Screening” by Peter H. Schwartz, 26-27.
  • “Ethical Challenges Within Veterans Administration Healthcare Facilities: Perspectives of Managers, Clinicians, Patients, and Ethics Committee Chairpersons” by  Mary Beth Foglia, Robert A. Pearlman,  Melissa Bottrell,  Jane K. Altemose, and Ellen Fox, 28-36.
  • “Developing the Capacity of Ethics Consultants to Promote Just Resource Allocation” by Marion Danis and Samia A. Hurst, 37-39.
  • “Roles and Responsibilities of Ethics Committees” by Rosalind Ekman Ladd, 41-42
  • “Understanding the Scope of Clinical Ethics” by Monique Lanoix, 45-46.
  • “Unnecessary Time Pressure in Refusal of Life-Sustaining Therapies: Fear of Missing the Opportunity to Die” by Thomas I. Cochrane, 47-54.
  • “The “Window of Opportunity:” Helping Parents Make the Most Difficult Decision They Will Ever Face Using an Informed Non-Dissent Model” by Alexander A. Kon, 55-56.
  • “The Straight Route to Withholding Hand-Feeding and Hydration” by Norman L. Cantor, 57-58.
  • “End-of-Life Treatment Decisions: The Opportunity to Care” by Alan Jotkowitz, 59-60.

New Issue of Nanotoxicology is Now Available

Nanotoxicology (Volume 3, Issue 1, 2009) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “Nanomaterials: A challenge for toxicologists” by Alok Dhawan, Vyom Sharma, and Devendra Parmar, 1-8.
  • “Emerging trends of nanoparticles application in food technology: Safety paradigms” by Mukul Das, Neha Saxena, and Premendra D. Dwivedi, 10-18.
  • “Are nanomaterials a threat to the immune system?” by Premendra D. Dwivedi, Amita Misra, Rishi Shanker, and Mukul Das, 19-26.
  • “Inflammation and short-term cardiopulmonary effects of particulate matter” by Marcello Lotti, Iolanda Olivato, and Lorenzo Bergamo, 27-32.
  • “he effect of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles in the Comet assay with UVA photoactivation of human sperm and lymphocytes” by Rajendran C. Gopalan, Ilham F. Osman, Amir Amani, Marcel De Matas, and Diana Anderson, 33=39.
  • “Lysosomal cytotoxicity of carbon nanoparticles in cells of the molluscan immune system: An in vitro study” by Michael N. Moore,  John A. J. Readman,  James W. Readman, David M. Lowe, Patricia E. Frickers, and Amanda Beesley, 40-45.
  • In vitro investigation of immunomodulatory effects caused by engineered inorganic nanoparticles – the impact of experimental design and cell choice” by Tobias Pfaller, Victor Puntes, Eudald Casals, Albert Duschl, and Gertie J. Oostingh, 46-59.

Event: 5th International Conference on Ethical Issues in Biomedical Engineering

5th International Conference on Ethical Issues in Biomedical Engineering 
Brooklyn, New York
April 3-5, 2009
Polytechnic Institute of NYU

Internationally known speakers from US and overseas will speak on a wide range of diverse topics including: Biomedical Ethics and Education, Ethics of Nanobiotechnology, Neuroethics, and Advances in Biomedical Technology and Ethical Concerns.  In addition, there will be a panel discussion on Surgeon-Industry Interactions: Ethical Challenges.  This conference is sponsored by the SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Polytechnic Institute of NYU, and is co-sponsored by other medical centers, universities and professional societies (e.g. Sigma Xi, IFMBE, AIMBE, ORS and ASBMR).

For more information or to register

March 30, 2009

California stem cell program needs a new treatment

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine threatens to suck up precious fiscal resources of a state with none to spare and is rife with conflicts of interest. (Los Angeles Times)

Creating an Atlas of the Human Mind

With $55 million, a collection of frozen human brains and robots capable of processing 192 brain slices a day, the Allen Brain Institute is attempting to do the impossible: systematically map out the expression patterns of more than 20,000 genes that make our grey matter tick. (Wired)

Economist Debates: The ethics of DNA databasing

This house believes that people’s DNA sequences are their business, and nobody else’s. (The Economist)

The eldest Emanuel emerges

Now, Ezekiel Emanuel has become something of a public figure, like his famous siblings, as he pursues a new challenge: trying to help the Obama administration reform the health-care system.

It’s an enormously difficult task given the nation’s economic woes, and one for which the former Chicagoan appears uniquely well suited but also surprisingly unprepared. (Chicago Tribune)

Study: Stem cell treatment effective in heart patients

A stem cell treatment designed to regenerate the heart led to less discomfort and an “improved tolerance” for exercise in patients suffering severe heart disease and chest pain known as angina, a study announced today that is led by Northwestern University and sponsored by Baxter International Inc. shows. (Chicago Breaking News)

March 27, 2009

Sting Operation Exposes Gaps in Oversight of Human Experiments

Thousands of medical research groups that monitor clinical trials on behalf of the drug industry may face tougher regulations in the wake of a congressional sting operation that found gaps in the nation’s oversight of experiments on humans. (Wall Street Journal)

Debate Over Drugs For ADHD Reignites

New data from a large federal study have reignited a debate over the effectiveness of long-term drug treatment of children with hyperactivity or attention-deficit disorder, and have drawn accusations that some members of the research team have sought to play down evidence that medications do little good beyond 24 months. (Washington Post)

Health insurance mandate seen part of U.S. overhaul

A mandate to purchase health insurance is likely to be part of a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system that Congress hopes to enact by the end of the year, a top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives said on Thursday. (Reuters)

Powerful proponent of psychiatric drugs for children primed for a fall

Dr. Joseph Biederman, chief of the Massachusetts General Pediatric Psychopharmacology Clinic, is already under investigation by Harvard University and the National Institutes of Health for failing to report income received from drug companies. Now, in newly released court documents, Biederman appears to be promising drugmaker Johnson & Johnson in advance that his studies on the antipsychotic drug risperidone will prove the drug to be effective when used on preschool age children. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Italian Senate approves end-of-life bill that bans withdrawing food and water from patients

The new bill, if approved by the lower house of parliament, would allow people to decide in advance how they want to be treated if they become incapacitated and to state it in a living will. Currently, Italy has no law allowing a living will. (Star Tribune)

Medical journals and ethics: Pity the messenger

In the past scientists sometimes managed to publish medical studies flogging the supposed benefits of some or other drug without disclosing that they had financial ties to the drug’s manufacturer. One of the leading voices arguing for full disclosure of such connections has been the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Catherine DeAngelis, JAMA’s editor, was even awarded the Catcher in the Rye humanitarian prize last year “because of her leadership on discussions of conflicts of interest in medicine.” (The Economist)

Israel panel slams anthrax vaccine test on troops

An expert panel has accused Israeli defense officials of “grave ethical failures” in testing an experimental anthrax vaccine on hundreds of Israeli soldiers. (AP)

Scientists excise vector, exotic genes from induced stem cells

A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers reports that it has created induced human pluripotent stem (iPS) cells completely free of viral vectors and exotic genes. (PhysOrg)


The Bioethics Poll
Should individuals and/or institutions be allowed to patent human genes?
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