Tag: cells

Bioethics News

Debate Reignites Over the Contributions of ‘Bad Luck’ Mutations to Cancer

March 24, 2017

(Science) – How much of cancer is due to random “bad luck”? More than 2 years ago, a pair of researchers brought that question to prominence when they tried to sort out environmental versus inherited causes of cancer. They examined the extent to which stem cell divisions in healthy cells—and the random mutations, or “bad luck” that accumulate—drive cancer in different tissues. Their effort, which implied that cancer was harder to prevent than hoped and that early detection was underappreciated, sparked controversy and confusion. Now, the researchers are back with a sequel: a new paper that aims to parse “bad luck” risks by cancer type, and that brings in cancer data from other countries.

Source: Bioethics.com.

This article was originally published on Bioethics.com under a Creative Commons License.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

The Future of Bioethics: Organ Transplantation, Genetic Testing, and Euthanasia

By Ana Lita

When you think of bioethics, some of the first hot-button topics you may consider are organ transplantation, fertility and genetic engineering, and end-of-life-care. The Global Bioethics Initiative serves as a platform to address many bioethical questions and engages in public debates to develop resolutions to present and emerging issues.

Dr. Ana Lita, founder of the Global Bioethics Initiative, discusses the various areas GBI addresses and highlights the organization’s contributors in their prospective fields. She acknowledges the valuable contribution of the current president of GBI, Dr. Bruce Gelb, in the field of organ transplantation. She also addresses the original co-founder of GBI, Dr. Charles Debrovner, and his lifelong passion in the field of fertility and genetic engineering. Lastly, Dr. Lita offers a brief insight into the future of Bioethics in these uncertain times.

ORGAN MARKETS AND THE ETHICS OF TRANSPLANTATION 

Recent developments in immunosuppressive drugs and improved surgical techniques have now made it much easier to successfully transplant organs from one human body to another. Unfortunately, these developments have led to the rise of black-markets in human organs. This underground market is where people who need kidneys to survive or to improve the quality of their lives, for example, purchasing such organs from impoverished persons in the developing world. In January 2017, scientists announced that they successfully created the first human-pig hybrid and a pig embryo with some human characteristics. Given the increasing need for transplant organs, should such markets be regulated and legalized?  Could the success of therapeutic cloning eliminate the need to consider this option?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Moving Toward Answers in ME/CFS

Thinkstock/Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

Imagine going to work or school every day, working out at the gym, spending time with family and friends—basically, living your life in a full and vigorous way. Then one day, you wake up, feeling sick. A bad cold maybe, or perhaps the flu. A few days pass, and you think it should be over—but it’s not, you still feel achy and exhausted. Now imagine that you never get better— plagued by unrelenting fatigue not relieved by sleep. Any exertion just makes you worse. You are forced to leave your job or school and are unable to participate in any of your favorite activities; some days you can’t even get out of bed. The worst part is that your doctors don’t know what is wrong and nothing seems to help.

Unfortunately, this is not fiction, but reality for at least a million Americans—who suffer from a condition that carries the unwieldy name of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), a perplexing disease that biomedical research desperately needs to unravel [1]. Very little is currently known about what causes ME/CFS or its biological basis [2]. Among the many possibilities that need to be explored are problems in cellular metabolism and changes in the immune system.

A number of studies suggest that abnormalities in cellular metabolism, a complex biological process that the body uses to create energy [3][4][5], may underlie ME/CFS. A recent study of metabolite pathways in blood samples from people with ME/CFS reported a signature suggestive of a hypometabolic condition, similar to a phenomenon biologists have studied in other organisms and refer to by the term “dauer” (a hibernation-like state) [5].

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

So, What is Not to Like about 3D Bioprinting?

Guest Post: Gill Haddow & Niki Vermeulen

Paper: 3D bioprint me: a socioethical view of bioprinting human organs and tissues

Bioprinter developed by Alan Faulkner-Jones & Wenmiao Shu (Strathclyde University).  Picture made by Beverley Hood (Edinburgh College of Art) during a recent laboratory visit.

Picture this: It is twenty years’ from now and , one of your organs has stopped functioning properly or even at all. You will not need to wait in the long line of the human organ transplant list however. Instead, you can have an organ ready made for you. Bespoke design and ready to use. Who would not want this as a future scenario? While 3D printing is working with inorganic materials, the intention of bioprinting is to work with organic materials (including living cells) to create structures approximating body parts. These new forms of printing, should they be fully realised, will, it is argued, have the same revolutionary and democratising effect as book printing in their applicability to regenerative medicine and industry. Individually designed biological structures or body parts will become as available as text in modern literate societies. Not only would it make organs widely available to those who need them, but 3D printing organs would also resolve entrenched ethical problems ranging from eliminating the market in human organs and avoiding recipient rejection to averting human or non-human animal organs. Therefore, long-term 3D bioprinting has the potential to be a ‘game-changer’, no longer necessitating the need for living or deceased human donation as human organs would be printed on demand.

However, the technology is not yet at the level required to bioprint entire organs.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The 14 day rule – A brief update

In early December, this blog commented upon the 7 December 2016 conference at University College London, which debated rethinking the ethics whether or not to increase the UK’s restriction on experimentation on human embryos from 14 to 28 days. One result of that conference is that the Progress Educational Trust (the sponsor of the original conference) has since submitted a request to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee to open a new Parliamentary inquiry. That Committee’s response (in typical bureaucratic fashion) was to table the request until their current inquiry of genomics and genome editing was complete (see number 6 in their report).

In my Internet stalking of this issue, I came across a mid-January 2017 BBC Radio 4 two-part telecast coverage of the issue by Matthew Hill, which I commend to you. Each is approximately 30 minutes. Part 1 provides background information primarily regarding the general history of IVF in the UK in general and the history of the 14 day rule in particular, all done via present day interviews of the actual historical figures (or recorded interviews done at the time the events were transpiring). Note that the first 2 minutes are unrelated to the topic. Part 2 is similar, though concentrates upon the key persons in the current debate of moving from the present 14 day limit to a proposed new 28 day limit for embryo experimentation. If you don’t have time or inclination to listen to the whole series, consider the following snippets (time in minutes from start of each recording):

  • Part 1 – 12:00 – 15:00 – Baroness Mary Warnock discusses why she and the Warnock Committee settled on 14 days (arbritary, but a fixed number of days made more sense than a point in embryologic development that varied slightly from embryo to embryo).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

When stem cell treatments go wrong, they really go wrong

Three elderly women in Florida have been blinded by an unproven treatment, as a reminder of how dangerous stem cell therapies can be. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that the women signed up for a purported clinical trial in 2015 – for which they had to pay US$5,000. Within a week, they experienced a variety of complications, including vision loss, detached retinas and haemorrhage. Before the surgery, the vision in their eyes ranged from 20/30 to 20/200. They are now blind.

The article is a “call to awareness for patients, physicians and regulatory agencies of the risks of this kind of minimally regulated, patient-funded research,” said Jeffrey Goldberg, of Stanford University School of Medicine and a co-author.

“There’s a lot of hope for stem cells, and these types of clinics appeal to patients desperate for care who hope that stem cells are going to be the answer, but in this case these women participated in a clinical enterprise that was off-the-charts dangerous,” said Thomas Albini, another co-author.

At the clinic, U.S. Stem Cell Inc, fat cells from the patients’ abdomens were processed to obtain stem cells which were injected into their eyes. Patients reported that the entire process took less than an hour. The patients had both eyes treated at once — even though most doctors would opt for a conservative approach to observe how the first eye responds.

“There is a lot of very well-founded evidence for the positive potential of stem therapy for many human diseases, but there’s no excuse for not designing a trial properly and basing it on preclinical research,” Goldberg said.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The significance of 37

January 30, 2017

The significance of 37

Ana Krivokuca,

MSc in Molecular Biology, PhD in Genetics

Masters in Bioethics, Clarkson University &Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (exp. June 2017)

It’s a boy! Such a familiar statement but with somewhat peculiar and mysterious echo on the morning of 29th September, 2016. While drinking my first coffee of the day, I am wondering what is so unique about this boy to put him in the headlines of CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian and every other -post or -times that exist around the world . Aha! ˝World’s first baby born with new ‘three parent’ technique. Ok, this requires a larger cup of coffee….

Even though many believe that all of our genes reside in the nuclei of our cells, it’s more complicated than that. A small part of human genome (only 37 genes compared to an estimated 20,000-25,000 genes in the whole genome) is situated outside the nucleus, in the “energy factories” of the cells called mitochondria. Mutations in one of these 37 genes might cause mitochondria failure, cell damage, and even cell death. Mitochondrial diseases are usually progressive; they manifest differently and affect those parts of the body that have highest energy demands: brain, muscles or heart. These tiny pieces of DNA are inherited only from our mothers. So, each of us inherited these 37 genes from our mother, who inherited them from hers, and so on and so forth through generations.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

A Public Cervix Announcement

January 27, 2017

by Sean Philpott-Jones, Chair, Bioethics Program of Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

A Public Cervix Announcement

On Monday, just days after millions of women (and their allies) marched in political demonstrations, researchers reported a disturbing new finding that could affect the health and wellbeing of these protestors. In a study published in this month’s issue of the journal Cancer, scientists found that a woman’s risk of dying from cervical cancer was much higher than originally suspected.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. It also has the fourth highest mortality rate. Approximately 13,000 cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed annually among American women. The number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer has decreased significantly over the past 40 years, largely due to widespread use of the Pap test (or smear) to screen for the presence of precancerous lesions on the cervix, but over 4,000 women still succumb to the disease every year.

Previously, health experts had used those numbers to estimate that cervical cancer killed approximately 5.7 of 100,000 black women and 3.2 of 100,000 white women in the US. That racial disparity in death rates is pretty stark, particularly when you consider rates of cervical cancer incidence and mortality among other racial and ethnic groups. For example, Latinas have even higher incidence rates than black women — Hispanic women in the US are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer — but in recent years the death rate in this group has fallen to the point where it is similar to that of white women.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Equipoise and Caution Regarding “Ethical” Stem-Cell Therapy

You may have seen one of the many news reports this week about an “adult” stem cell treatment gone bad.  In it, doctors, not working in regulated industry or in the bounds of a clinical trial, injected stem cells derived from a person’s fatty tissue into the eyeballs of three people in an attempt to treat a vision-destroying condition called macular degeneration—and all three lost what remaining vision they had.  T

In a separate experience, two people received “reprogrammed” stem cells, also called “induced pleuripotent stem cells” or “iPSCs,” for the same condition, and they did not appear harmed, and may have been showing early signs of improvement, one year later.  In this second case, the cells are described as having undergone rigorous quality testing before being injected into the patients’ eyeballs.

The two cases are described in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine.  The links above are to those reports; subscription may be required to read them.  NEJM makes some of its editorials and perspective pieces generally available, other articles not.  Two such articles, one from FDA and one from a physician at Boston Childrens’ Hospital, address these cases.  In both opinion articles, the authors argue that careful regulation and quality control of stem cell studies is critical to their ethical testing.

To say this position is hard to argue with is a gross understatement.  I will confess that on this blog, in the past, I have wondered whether some use of “adult” or “somatic” stem cells is over-regulated, as, for example, when such cells are obtained from a woman’s fatty tissue, and reinjected into her in an attempt at breast reconstruction after surgery.  I’ve seen proposals in the past for work like that, and it seemed pretty straightforward—recovering a cell layer from a centrifuge, and reinjecting, all under sterile conditions.  The doctors in question in the case I saw were not in any way trying to cut any corners.  But existing regulation would have prevented their proposed breast-surgery work without a couple million dollars’ worth of the kind of work needed, and usually funded by industry, before commencing human trials of a new treatment.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Patients Lose Sight After Stem Cells Are Injected Into Their Eyes

Three women suffered severe, permanent eye damage after stem cells were injected into their eyes, in an unproven treatment at a loosely regulated clinic in Florida, doctors reported in an article published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine

Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.