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October 30, 2009

Do Gene Patents Hurt Research?

Human gene patents have stirred social controversy for decades. People have marched in the streets decrying the evils of “patenting life.” National and international agencies have issued reports calling for a range of reforms. Patient groups have instigated legal action aimed at overturning key patents. And a variety of politicians have called for a ban on the practice. In the United States, for example, there was a 2007 bill, the Genomic Research and Accessibility Act, which sought to ban gene patents. In my home country of Canada, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health suggested a similar prohibition. (Science Progress)

How Premature Is Too Early To Live For A Baby?

In the course of the debate over health care reform, some of the political rhetoric has focused on “rationing” and the idea of how much money can or should be spent on someone at the end of his or her life. But as care evolves, similar debates may someday surround how much can be spent at life’s beginning. (ABC News)

Bending the Rules of Clinical Trials

Louise (not her real name), a scientist and avid runner in her 50s, first noticed the strange pangs under her right ribcage a few weeks before we met. Her CAT scan revealed a liver so riddled with islands of tumor that the radiologist called them “too numerous to count.” None of the standard surgical, radiologic or chemotherapy treatments would help, and her doctor told her that she had two, maybe three, months to live. (New York Times)

Want A Job In Akron? Hand Over Your DNA

It’s not unusual for employers to conduct criminal background checks during the hiring process. But the University of Akron has taken this to a surprising new level. (CBS News)

AAAS chief calls for greater EU-US research cooperation

The EU and the US must forge stronger research ties in order to tackle the greatest challenges facing the world today, Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), told attendees at the inaugural annual lecture of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Brussels, Belgium on 28 October. (CORDIS)

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi gets stem cell treatment

IT MAY not surprise parents that the head-banging, string-shredding world of heavy metal can seriously damage your health. But now Tony Iommi, the British guitarist who helped to invent the genre, has revealed that he is undergoing stem-cell treatment to save the hand that inspired a generation. (The Australian)

October 29, 2009

Industry Years Behind on Testing Approved Drugs

Federal drug officials have long been criticized for failing to force drug makers to complete studies proving that their drugs work as hoped, and Congressional investigators on Monday released yet another report pointing out that some of these studies remain undone many years after being promised. (New York Times)

Swiss to Tighten Assisted Suicide Rules, Consider Ban

Switzerland is looking to change the law on assisted suicide to make sure it is only used as a last resort by the terminally ill, and to limit so-called “death tourism,” the government said on Wednesday. (ABC News)

One embryo is best, in vitro fertilization study finds

When couples with fertility problems turn to in vitro fertilization, they often assume that they can double their chances for a healthy baby by transferring two embryos to the womb instead of just one. (Los Angeles Times)

Australia set to end ban on animal transplants for humans

AUSTRALIA is expected to lift a five-year ban on the transplantation of animal cells and organs into humans, opening the way for research into the use of pig cells in fighting diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Huntingdon’s disease and strokes. (Sydney Morning Herald)

October 28, 2009

California Awards Grants for Research Projects in Nonembryonic Stem Cells

Over the last year, the general public has learned a lot about the use of Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs by healthy people to improve alertness and concentration. And with that awareness there appears to be a growing acceptance, or at least resignation, as a series of recent publications strongly suggests. zz9New York Times)

Prescribing Cognitive Enhancers: A Primer

Over the last year, the general public has learned a lot about the use of Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs by healthy people to improve alertness and concentration. And with that awareness there appears to be a growing acceptance, or at least resignation, as a series of recent publications strongly suggests. (Bioethics Forum)

Scientists Make Cells That Form Eggs and Sperm in Lab

U.S. researchers have found a way to coax human embryonic stem cells to turn into the types of cells that make eggs and sperm, shedding light on a stage of early human development that has not been fully understood. (ABC News)

Gene therapy may boost success of lung transplants

New procedure could sharply increase the supply of functional lungs by preventing and possibly repairing organs damaged during harvesting. The process also may decrease rejection by the recipient. (Los Angeles Times)

Event: Does Genetics Matter? Help, Hype and the New Horizon of Epigenetics

Does Genetics Matter? Help, Hype and the New Horizon of Epigenetics
Progress Educational Trust
Clifford Chance, 10 Upper Bank Street, London E14 5JJ, UK
18 November 2009 – 9.30am-5pm

As genetics vies with stem cells for centre stage in human biomedical research, there are dangers of both overselling future benefits (for example, the power of personal genomics) and overlooking past triumphs (for example, help for families threatened by serious monogenic/Mendelian disease). PET‘s 2009 annual conference will provide a critical examination of the current state of play in human genetics. It will be the first public event to address epigenetics before a mixed lay and specialist audience, and will feature exciting new insights into the epigenetic capture of early developmental experience and how this might explain the link between fetal/childhood adversity and later risk of adult disease.

For more information

Call for Abstracts: Is Medical Ethics Really in the Best Interest of the Patient?

Open Call For Abstracts: Is Medical Ethics Really in the Best Interest of the Patient?
Uppsala, Sweden, 14-16 June 2010
Abstract submission deadline: February 15

This conference is divided into three themes, one for each day of the conference. Each theme has three keynote presentations that will be followed by oral presentations in parallel sessions.

Monday June 14:
Should ideology be allowed to trump patient well-being?

Tuesday June 15:
What is the role of informed consent in medical research?

Wednesday June 16:
Ethical review boards: are they important ethical safeguards or over-burdensome and unnecessary bureaucracy?

We wanted to be a little provocative but, as the examples of questions indicate, we expect input both regarding “medical ethics as unduly bureaucratic” and “researchers as lazy when they complain about this alleged bureaucracy”.

We think that both ideology and prudence may in practice play a role both in clinical decision-making and in medical research ethics, but think that medical ethics, and the patients, would benefit from a clearer understanding of their relationship and their proper roles.

We welcome presentations on medical research ethics as well as clinical ethics and encourage both empirical and theoretical contributions including discussions about different philosophical approaches to these issues.

The abstracts will be peer reviewed and a notification of acceptance is due in March 2010. On this basis we invite scholars of all disciplines and medical practitioners to submit abstracts. Submission deadline February 15, 2010.

Call for abstracts

Conference website:

October 27, 2009

UK Government U-turn over DNA database

The proposals were open for public consultation from May to August 2009, during which time they received widespread condemnation from civil liberties campaigners citing Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which relates to personal privacy). In addition, the Government received criticism from wider scientific organisations and numerous individuals for the use of flawed and inappropriate statistical data as evidence to support the proposed measures. (PHG Foundation)

Patient-Centered Care and Preference-Sensitive Decision Making

Over the past 20 years or so, there has been a rise of 2 parallel movements, one toward the explicit use of clinical trial data to guide clinical practice (evidence-based medicine) and the other toward patient empowerment through explicit informed consent, shared decision making, and patient-centered care. Both components have been integrated into models of quality clinical care, but sometimes there are conflicts between evidence- and guideline-driven care and patient-centered care. [Premium (JAMA)]

Hwang Woo-suk’s cloning fraud has not set back stem cell research

Hwang Woo-suk’s research was supposed to be the harbinger of a medical revolution. In the space of 18 extraordinary months in 2004 and 2005, his team claimed to have created the first cloned human embryo, and then to have produced cloned embryonic stem (ES) cells, apparently paving the way for a new era of regenerative therapy. (Times Online)

New Issue of Health and Human Rights: An International Journal is Now Available

Health and Human Rights (Volume 11, Number 1, 2009) is now available.

Articles Include:

  • “The Power of Community in Advancing the Right to Health: A Conversation with Anand Grover” by Anand Grover.
  • “Suffering and Powerlessness: The Significance of Promoting Participation in Rights-Based Approaches to Health” by Alicia Ely Yamin.
  • “Health Through People’s Empowerment: A Rights-Based Approach to Participation” by Pol De Vos, Wim De Ceukelaire, Geraldine Malaise, Dennis Perez, Pierre Lefevre, and Partick Van der Stuyft.
  • “Social Participation Within A Context of Political Violence: Implications for the Promotion and Exercise of the Right to Health in Guatemala” by Walter Flores, Ana Lorena Ruano, and Denise Phe Funchal.
  • “Participation and the Right to Health: Lessons from Indonesia” by Sam Foster Halabi.
  • “A Card Before You Leave: Participation and Mental Health in Northern Ireland” by Frank V. McMilan, Nicola Browne, Stephanie Green, and Dessie Donnelly.
  • “Witness to Hunger: Participation Through Photovoice to Ensure the Right to Food” by Mariana Chilton, Jenn Rabinowich, Christina Council, and Jennifer Breaux.
  • “Unexpected Agency: Participation as a Bargaining Chip for the Poor” by Clara Rubincam and Scott Naysmith.
  • “HIV/AIDS in Cuba: A Rights-Based Analysis” by Tim Anderson.
  • “Global Goes Local: Integrating Human Rights Principles into a County Health Care Reform Project” by Roslyn Solomon.

New Issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association is Now Available

JAMA (Volume 302, Number 14, October 14, 2009) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “Surgeons Continue to Debate Place of Randomized Trials of Surgical Procedures” by Bridget M. Kuehn , 1513-1519.
  • “Surgical Tourism: Some US Patients Travel Abroad for Less Costly Surgery” by Mike Mitka, 1519.
  • “Experts Say Projected Surgeon Shortage a “Looming Crisis” for Patient Care” by Rebecca Voelker, 1520-1521.
  • “Insurance ‘Purging’ Explored” by Mike Mitka, 1522.


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

View results

Which area of research should more money be invested in:
Animal-Human Hybrids
Gene Therapy
Reproductive Technology
Stem Cell Research
"Therapeutic" Cloning
None of the above

View results

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