Latest posts  
June
10
  10:29:00 PM

Six decades of struggle over The Pill

In mid-1957 the US Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Enovid as a treatment for menstrual disturbance. It went on to approve its use as a contraceptive in 1960, after studies indicated the drug’s safety and efficacy.

An editorial in Nature this week catalogues the tumultuous history of the first oral contraceptive since 1957, celebrating its wide availability today. Once a social taboo, the article reports that in 2015 the contraceptive-drug market was worth more than US$6.1 billion globally. And a 2015 UN report stated that approximately 9% of women worldwide used The Pill.

The editors suggest that The Pill has been associated with increased enrollments in college for younger women, as well as an increase in average income. Margaret Sanger, they reflect, “maybe...would be celebrating” despite the “lack of political will” to make contraceptives more available in developing countries.

The anniversary comes at an interesting time, as Catholics prepare to mark the 50th anniversary of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae in 2018. Humanae Vitae (1968) deemed artificial contraception to be against both natural ethics and Christian morality, and has provided a strong counterpoint to the near universal endorsement of contraception within North America and Europe.

to make a comment, click here
 
June
10
  9:23:00 PM

Charlie Gard saga may end in days

The protracted legal saga surrounding 10-month-old UK infant Charlie Gard, who suffers from a rare genetic and has brain damage, may come to an end in days. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is currently considering whether to affirm the decision of UK courts to allow the withdrawal of treatment.

Gard suffers from mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, and has been on life support for several months in Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London. In early April the High Court in London ruled that it was in Gard’s best interests that treatment be stopped and he be allowed to die. His parents have attempted, unsuccessfully, to appeal against the decision. Gard’s parents want him to be discharged from Great Ormond Street to travel to the US for an experimental treatment known as nucleoside replacement therapy.

The ECHR – the last court of appeal for the Gards – says it is currently considering written submissions, and has asked the Hospital to maintain life support until midnight next Tuesday.

The case has divided ethicists in the UK, with some arguing that it would be “reasonable” to allow Gard to be taken to the US for treatment.

Writing recently in The Lancet, Oxford bioethicist Julian Savulescu challenged the reasoning behind the High Court decision:  

The claim that Charlie Gard’s life is objectively against his best interests turns, crucially, on the claim that a very small chance of a small improvement is outweighed by the suffering attending his condition and its treatment. But this not an “objective fact” but a value judgment. There is space for reasonable disagreement. For example, is a one in 10000 chance of improvement worth some months of “unpleasantness”, of needles and invasive procedures?

In a response to Savulescu, Oxford neonatologist and bioethicist Dominic Wilkinson disagreed:

...a shift in perspective casts that argument into doubt...imagine that there were a sudden epidemic of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome affecting thousands of newborn babies. Would it be ethical to artificially ventilate for months thousands of infants to achieve some measure of improvement in one infant? … it seems wrong to subject thousands of infants to invasive and unpleasant life-support treatment to benefit one child. That implies that this chance of recovery is too slim to make treatment plausibly in the current child’s interests.
to make a comment, click here
 
June
10
  9:19:00 PM

Rethinking the 14 day rule

Policy analysts in the United States and UK are calling for a “reconsideration” of the decades-old 14-day embryo experimentation rule - a regulation that requires scientists to terminate any embryo in vitro before it reaches two weeks of development. New embryology research indicates that scientists can now grow embryos in a culture dish well past 14 days, permitting research into early human development and various diseases.

An article in this month’s Hastings Center Report calls for “a new public discussion” of the longstanding regulation, suggesting in particular that we take into account new scientific and social perspectives on embryo research. “...our understandings of responsible research have evolved to require greater public participation in decisions about science”, writes University of Edinburgh bioethicist Sarah Chan. “Broader public discourse must begin now”.

Chan says that the 14-day rule was originally based on an arbitrary compromise between different viewpoints on the moral status of the embryo. We should be open to considering whether the public now wants to extend or restrict the limits we place on embryo research.

The purpose of engagement cannot be solely to reassure the public or gain public acceptance; nor should academics concerned with policy be open to engagement only when we feel safe that publics will tamely agree with us. An even-handed approach is needed: we need to be willing to hear what people have to say, even if we may not like it.”

Baroness Mary Warnock, a moral philosopher and one of the original proponents of the rule, has cautioned against change. According to Warnock, the rule provides a way of allowing for embryo research, while still addressing slippery slope concerns: “you cannot successfully block a slippery slope except by a fixed and invariable obstacle, which is what the 14-day rule provided.” 

to make a comment, click here
 
June
10
  9:12:00 PM

The first year of California’s assisted suicide: over 500 prescriptions

Over 500 people have been prescribed life-ending drugs since physician assisted suicide was legalised in California in June last year, according to statistics released by Compassion and Choices.

The pro-euthanasia lobby group is celebrating the positive reception of the laws among healthcare providers and the general public, writing in press release that “the implementation of the law has been a huge success”.

A very significant proportion of healthcare providers and individual practitioners still object to the provision of euthanasia. But Compassion and Choices says that nearly 500 healthcare facilities and over 100 hospice locations have adopted policies” supportive of patient choice and doctors who choose to participate in the law”.

A survey by the group found that 504 patients had been prescribed barbiturates since June last year. Official statistics are expected to indicate an even higher number of prescriptions.

Dan Diaz, husband of the late euthanasia advocate Brittany Maynard, said that “She would be proud that her advocacy inspired our legislators to pass this law that enabled hundreds of terminally ill Californians avoid tortuous suffering.”

Yet many doctors have expressed serious reservations about the law.

Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, director of UC Irvine’s medical ethics program, objects that the law doesn’t mandate an evaluation by a psychiatrist. He says without that, patients are left without sufficient supports when they're most vulnerable.

"Would they feel differently or would they pursue a different course of action if they felt that they had the familial or the social support or the support from health care professionals that they needed to walk through the process?" he asks.

Kheriaty also questions whether the lack of access to mental health and specialist care might play into a patient’s choice. Access to services vary based on geography and income.

"It’s not so much the folks from Silicon Valley, but the folks in Central Valley that I would be worried about," he says.

to make a comment, click here
 
June
03
  9:41:00 PM

The enhancement debate continues

Human enhancement has been a hot-topic in bioethics for a number of years. The latest edition of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics takes stock of the field.

Several significant figures in the enhancement debate, such as the Nicholas Agar, Rob Sparrow and Anders Sandberg, contribute to the volume, engaging at length with the morality of using biotechnology to promote moral behavior and augment the capacities of human beings.

Several contributions address the question of whether, if we were able to enhance ourselves and others, such enhancements would be desirable. A significant proportion of the discussion also focuses on terminological debates about the scope of the concept of “moral enhancement”, and whether or not it pertains to already existing technologies and practices in society.

In his paper “Moral bioenhancement and free will: continuing the debate”, Vojin Raki challenges Savulescu and Persson’s defence of compulsory moral enhancement. According to Raki, a state-sanctioned enhancement initiative could undermine the very aims of moral enhancement, among other reasons by replacing local injustices with broader political repression.

Some commentators are sceptical about the possibility of moral enhancement. Yet according to Raki, “this special section is one more indication that the interest in moral bioenhancement and other sorts of bioenhancements is continuing to increase”.

to make a comment, click here
 
June
03
  8:58:00 PM

Embryonic stem cell trials to launch in China

China will begin trialling the use of embryonic stem-cells (ES) to treat Parkinson’s disease and macular degeneration, in a move that has met with criticism from international experts.

The trials, which come in the wake of new stem-cell regulations introduced in China  in 2015, will test the efficacy of injecting ES-derived cells into damaged areas of the brain and eyes.

In one trial, ES-derived neuronal-precursor cells will be injected into the areas of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease in attempt to regenerate dopamine-producing tissue. In another trial, the ES-derived retinal cells will be injected into eyes of people with age related macular degeneration. It is believed that the retinal cells may be able to replace cells damaged as a result of epithelial tissue degeneration.

“It will be a major new direction for China,” Pei Xuetao, a stem-cell scientist at the Beijing Institute of Transfusion Medicine who is on the central-government committee that approved the trials, told Nature.

Other researchers who work on Parkinson’s disease, however, worry that the trials might be misguided.

Jeanne Loring, a stem-cell biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who is also planning stem-cell trials for Parkinson’s, is concerned that the Chinese trials use neural precursors and not ES-cell-derived cells that have fully committed to becoming dopamine-producing cells. Precursor cells can turn into other kinds of neurons, and could accumulate dangerous mutations during their many divisions, says Loring. “Not knowing what the cells will become is troubling.”

Lorenz Studer, a stem-cell biologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, says that “support is not very strong” for the use of precursor cells. “I am somewhat surprised and concerned, as I have not seen any peer-reviewed preclinical data on this approach,” he told Nature.

to make a comment, click here
 
June
03
  8:49:00 PM

IVF vs natural conception: babies have same cognitive ability, says study

A new study by researchers from the University of Oxford suggests that IVF babies have the same cognitive ability as naturally-conceived children.

Sociology Professor Melinda Mills and doctoral student Anna Barbuscia say that, despite the higher rates of multiple births or adverse health outcomes among IVF babies, the wealth, education and age of IVF parents ‘cancels out’ any potentially detrimental aspects of IVF-conception.

Mills and Barbuscia studied data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative group of 18,552 families. Over 12,000 children were part of the study (150-180 of whom were artificially conceived), with cognitive ability tests performed at 3, 5, 7 and 11 years.

The researchers found that, in early years, the IVF-conceived children actually scored higher on the tests, with the disparity narrowing in later years of development.

Specifically, the study states that “at age 3 and 5 years, children conceived with the aid of ART have higher verbal cognitive abilities than NC children (P < 0.001) but this consistently decreases over time and diminishes by age 11 years”.

“The findings suggest that the positive effect of the family background of children conceived through artificial reproduction techniques “overrides” the risks of related poor health impairing their cognitive ability,” Melinda Mills said.

To date, results on the long-term effects of IVF conception on children have been mixed. Several studies reported an increased risk of damage to their behavioural, social, emotional and cognitive development, as well as mental disorders or physical problems such as low birthweight and premature delivery. A number of systematic reviews suggested, however, that there were no developmental differences once the baby was a few weeks old.

to make a comment, click here
 
June
03
  8:42:00 PM

Unexpected mutations after CRISPR gene-editing

A study lead by investigators at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) suggests that CRISPR gene-editing technology can introduce hundreds of unintended mutations into the human genome.

The study, which has sparked concerns about the negative effects of gene-editing interventions, involved researchers sequenced the entire genome of mice that had undergone CRISPR gene editing in previous study into blindness. Researchers looked for all mutations, including those that only altered a single nucleotide.

According to Kellie Schaefer, a Stanford PhD student and co-author of the study,  the genomes of two independent gene therapy recipients had sustained more than 1,500 single-nucleotide mutations and more than 100 larger deletions and insertions. The earlier study had successfully corrected for blindness in the mice, but none of the DNA mutations were predicted by computer algorithms that are widely used by researchers to look for off-target effects.

Similar studies in the past have involved the use of computer algorithms to identify areas most likely to be affected off-target mutations; these areas are then examined for deletions and insertions. Yet this method has the weakness of missing anomalous mutations in unexpected areas of the genome.

“Researchers who aren’t using whole genome sequencing to find off-target effects may be missing potentially important mutations,” said Dr. Stephen Tsang, and opthomologist and geneticist who was a co-author of the study. “Even a single nucleotide change can have a huge impact.”

The researchers didn’t notice anything obviously wrong with their animals, and remained positive about the potential of CRISPR technology. They did, nevertheless, suggest that whole-genome sequencing should be used by others to determine the safety and accuracy of their CRISPR gene-editing methods.

to make a comment, click here
 
June
03
  2:53:00 PM

Can blood transfusions from teenagers slow the ageing process?

Anti-ageing technology is flourishing in Silicon Valley. The latest to hit the headlines is parabiosis – transfusions of blood or plasma from another body.

A California company called Ambrosia (after the elixir which made Greek gods immortal) is charging its older clients US$8,000 for plasma transfusions from people aged between 16 and 25.

So far about 100 people have signed up, Dr Jesse Karmazin, the co-founder of the company, told a conference this week. Although anyone over 35 is eligible, so far most clients have been of retirement age. The blood is sourced from blood banks, so the donors may not be aware that it is being used to rejuvenate oldies.

Strictly speaking, the clients are signing up for a clinical trial, “Young Donor Plasma Transfusion and Age-Related Biomarkers”, which has been registered with the National Institutes of Health. Critics say that it borders on fraud. But Dr Karmazin says that all of his patients have improved, and that there have been no side-effects.

Using young blood to reverse ageing appeals to something deep in the human psyche. Tech billionaire Peter Thiel is intrigued by promising research on mice. He told the internet magazine Inc last year:

I'm looking into parabiosis stuff, which I think is really interesting. This is where they did the young blood into older mice and they found that had a massive rejuvenating effect. And so that's ... that is one that ... again, it's one of these very odd things where people had done these studies in the 1950s and then it got dropped altogether. I think there are a lot of these things that have been strangely underexplored.

However, there are numerous ethical issues.

First of all, participants in the trial are being charged $8,000. This is legal, but is also a way of introducing a therapy into the market which might never get approval if tested on a more conventional way. And then the data supporting a human trial is thin. “There's just no clinical evidence [that the treatment will be beneficial], and you're basically abusing people's trust and the public excitement around this,” says neuroscientist Tony Wyss-Coray, of Stanford University, told Science last year. Nor is there a placebo arm – because, Dr Karamazin says, Ambrosia could hardly charge $8,000 if half the participants received a placebo.

Finally, what about the teenagers who participate? They haven’t given their consent to it nor are they aware that Ambrosia is collecting $8,000 for using their blood. Even if they are not harmed by the transaction, it seems unfair in some respects.

And if parabiosis does work, even more questions arise. As a splenetic article in Gawker about Peter Thiel pointed out last year, “It’s not hard to imagine a Thielist future in which members of the overclass literally purchase the blood of the young poor in order to lead longer, healthier lives than their lesser counterparts can afford.” (Gawker closed down shortly afterwards, having lost a defamation suit funded by Thiel.)

News accounts of Karmazin’s announcement were accompanied by this clip from HBO’s hit series, Silicon Valley, which obviously is a sly dig at Thiel:

to make a comment, click here
 
June
02
  11:14:00 PM

Controversial trial to test transhumanist theories

Killing off death will require research and clinical trials. But these may be difficult to do ethically, as a controversial attempt to reanimate brain-dead patients suggests.

Philadelphia-based biotech firm Bioquark told STAT that it plans to begin a trial somewhere in Latin America within months. The idea is to inject the patient’s own stem cells into the spinal cord to stimulate the  growth of neurons. Other therapies could accompany this -- an injected blend of peptides, electrical nerve stimulation, and laser therapy for the brain.

As STAT points out, a description of the trial begs many questions. Who decides whether the patient is actually brain dead? How can a dead person participate in a trial? What happens if they do recover and are significantly impaired? Are the researches toying the hopes of families? Even in Latin America, will they get ethical approval?

Scientists and bioethicists are sceptical. Last year bioethicist Art Caplan and neuroscientist Ariane Lewis wrote a blunt editorial denouncing the Bioquark trial as “quackery”.

Dead means dead. Proposing that DNC may not be final openly challenges the medical-legal definition of death, creates room for the exploitation of grieving family and friends and falsely suggests science where none exists.

Dr Charles Cox, a pediatric surgeon in Houston who works with stem cells, was even more sceptical. “I think [someone reviving] would technically be a miracle,” he said. “I think the pope would technically call that a miracle.”

However, Bioquark’s CEO, Ira Pastor, responded that the idea was daring, but possible. He points out that there are dozens of cases of patients, mostly young one, who recovered after being brain-dead. “Such cases highlight that things are not always black or white in our understanding of the severe disorders of consciousness.”

The experiment is part of Pastor’s Reanima project, which he describes in transhumanist terms on various websites.

It is now time to take the necessary steps to provide new possibilities of hope, in order to counter the pain, sorrow, and grief that is all too pervasive in the world when we experience a loved one’s unexpected or untimely death, due to lesions which might be potentially reversible with the application of promising neuro-regeneration and neuro-reanimation technologies and therapies.

to make a comment, click here
 

Page 2 of 519 :  < 1 2 3 4 >  Last ›


 Search BioEdge

 Subscribe to BioEdge newsletter
rss Subscribe to BioEdge RSS feed

 upcoming events

Passport to Parenthood: Evidence and Ethics behind Cross-Border Reproductive Care
November 24, 2010, London
Progress Educational Trust asks whether fertility tourism is a problem or a solution.

10th World Congress of Bioethics
July 28-31, 2010, Singapore
Bioethics in a Globalised World

Created in the Image of God: realities and challenges in caring for the human person
April 30 - May 2, 2010, Montreal
AGM of Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies; featured speakers include Edmund Pellegrino and Margaret Somerville.

Consequences of the Bio-Medical Revolution
May 1, 2010, Biola University, La Mirada, CA
Helping nurses understand technological advances in health care and their ethical consequences.

Fertility, Infertility and Gender
June 16-18, 2010, Maynooth, Ireland (near Dublin)
Sponsored by the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, Oxford.


 upcoming events

Passport to Parenthood: Evidence and Ethics behind Cross-Border Reproductive Care
November 24, 2010, London
Progress Educational Trust asks whether fertility tourism is a problem or a solution.

10th World Congress of Bioethics
July 28-31, 2010, Singapore
Bioethics in a Globalised World

Created in the Image of God: realities and challenges in caring for the human person
April 30 - May 2, 2010, Montreal
AGM of Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies; featured speakers include Edmund Pellegrino and Margaret Somerville.

Consequences of the Bio-Medical Revolution
May 1, 2010, Biola University, La Mirada, CA
Helping nurses understand technological advances in health care and their ethical consequences.

Fertility, Infertility and Gender
June 16-18, 2010, Maynooth, Ireland (near Dublin)
Sponsored by the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, Oxford.


 upcoming events

Passport to Parenthood: Evidence and Ethics behind Cross-Border Reproductive Care
November 24, 2010, London
Progress Educational Trust asks whether fertility tourism is a problem or a solution.

10th World Congress of Bioethics
July 28-31, 2010, Singapore
Bioethics in a Globalised World

Created in the Image of God: realities and challenges in caring for the human person
April 30 - May 2, 2010, Montreal
AGM of Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies; featured speakers include Edmund Pellegrino and Margaret Somerville.

Consequences of the Bio-Medical Revolution
May 1, 2010, Biola University, La Mirada, CA
Helping nurses understand technological advances in health care and their ethical consequences.

Fertility, Infertility and Gender
June 16-18, 2010, Maynooth, Ireland (near Dublin)
Sponsored by the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, Oxford.


 upcoming events

Passport to Parenthood: Evidence and Ethics behind Cross-Border Reproductive Care
November 24, 2010, London
Progress Educational Trust asks whether fertility tourism is a problem or a solution.

10th World Congress of Bioethics
July 28-31, 2010, Singapore
Bioethics in a Globalised World

Created in the Image of God: realities and challenges in caring for the human person
April 30 - May 2, 2010, Montreal
AGM of Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies; featured speakers include Edmund Pellegrino and Margaret Somerville.

Consequences of the Bio-Medical Revolution
May 1, 2010, Biola University, La Mirada, CA
Helping nurses understand technological advances in health care and their ethical consequences.

Fertility, Infertility and Gender
June 16-18, 2010, Maynooth, Ireland (near Dublin)
Sponsored by the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, Oxford.


 upcoming events

Passport to Parenthood: Evidence and Ethics behind Cross-Border Reproductive Care
November 24, 2010, London
Progress Educational Trust asks whether fertility tourism is a problem or a solution.

10th World Congress of Bioethics
July 28-31, 2010, Singapore
Bioethics in a Globalised World

Created in the Image of God: realities and challenges in caring for the human person
April 30 - May 2, 2010, Montreal
AGM of Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies; featured speakers include Edmund Pellegrino and Margaret Somerville.

Consequences of the Bio-Medical Revolution
May 1, 2010, Biola University, La Mirada, CA
Helping nurses understand technological advances in health care and their ethical consequences.

Fertility, Infertility and Gender
June 16-18, 2010, Maynooth, Ireland (near Dublin)
Sponsored by the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, Oxford.


 upcoming events

Passport to Parenthood: Evidence and Ethics behind Cross-Border Reproductive Care
November 24, 2010, London
Progress Educational Trust asks whether fertility tourism is a problem or a solution.

10th World Congress of Bioethics
July 28-31, 2010, Singapore
Bioethics in a Globalised World

Created in the Image of God: realities and challenges in caring for the human person
April 30 - May 2, 2010, Montreal
AGM of Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies; featured speakers include Edmund Pellegrino and Margaret Somerville.

Consequences of the Bio-Medical Revolution
May 1, 2010, Biola University, La Mirada, CA
Helping nurses understand technological advances in health care and their ethical consequences.

Fertility, Infertility and Gender
June 16-18, 2010, Maynooth, Ireland (near Dublin)
Sponsored by the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, Oxford.


 Best of the web

 Recent Posts
An urgent need for palliative care as the world turns grey
17 Jun 2017
Autonomy: a short history of a big idea
17 Jun 2017
The fake news about female libido
17 Jun 2017
Should we worry about a euthanasia market-takeover?
17 Jun 2017
Egg freezing on the rise in Silicon Valley
17 Jun 2017

 Archive
Jun 2017 | May 2017 | Apr 2017 | more >>

 Tags
public health, Down syndrome, IVF, law, research ethics, Belgium, clinical trials, neuroscience, China, privacy, abortion, Netherlands, conscientious objection, surrogacy, sperm donation, euthanasia, genetic testing, organ trafficking, eugenics, India, Canada, commercialization, stem cells, Australia, US, organ donation, assisted suicide, bioethics, UK, informed consent,

Home | About Us | Contact Us | rss RSS | Archive | Bookmark and Share | michael@bioedge.org

BioEdge - New Media Foundation Ltd © 2004 - 2009 All rights reserved -- Powered by Encyclomedia