By: Kaitlyn Morabito, Ph.D.
U.K. researcher applies for permission to edit embryo genomes
Stirring up an old controversy about “designer babies”, a scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London has applied for “a license to edit the genes of human embryos” from the UK’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA). In an effort to research early human development, researcher Kathy Niakan would like to use genomic editing to better understand this process. The use of genomic editing of embryos would be solely for use in the laboratory and not used for reproduction. This application comes on the heels of calls from the scientific community to evaluate the risks and benefits of using these emerging and established techniques in embryonic research as well as develop new guidelines for their use. In the US, this research would be not be illegal, but would not be eligible for funding from the National Institutes of Health due to federal law. (Gretchen Vogel, ScienceInsider)
Experimental Ebola drug ZMapp gets fast track status from FDA
With the Ebola epidemic still raging in West Africa, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has fast tracked approval of ZMapp, an antibody-based Ebola drug that initially made headlines for its experimental treatment of Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. In total, the drug was used in nine infected patients in Africa, the US, and Western Europe. However, the efficacy of the drug cannot be evaluated since it was not administered in a controlled clinical trial. The drug has been shown to be effective when given within forty-eight hours of infection in monkey studies. ZMapp consists of three monoclonal antibodies that were generated in mice and acts by binding to the virus to prevent attachment and entry into new cells. ZMapp will need to be shown to be both safe and able to induce an immune response in human before it will be given approval by the FDA. (Debra Goldschmidt, CNN.com)
NFL Head Trauma
87 of 91 tested ex-NFL players had brain disease linked to head trauma
According to a study by the US Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University, ninety-six percent of tissue samples tested for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE, were positive. CTE is a brain disease thought to be caused by trauma to the head and has become a headline regarding the safety of NFL players. The samples came post-mortem from NFL players who were concerned that they may be suffering from CTE, so the overall prevalence in former NFL players is unknown. Although publicized as being found mainly in athletes involved in repetitive brain trauma, CTE strikes non-athletes as well including people who experience grand mal seizures and abuse. CTE can only be diagnosed post-mortem and is defined by the build-up of tau protein in the brain leading to neurological symptoms. This is not the first time the NFL has addressed this issue, and have previously settled with former NFL players to cover medical expenses for disorders associated with repeated head trauma. Additionally, the NFL has been working to decrease head trauma through changing regulations and evaluation procedures. (Jason Hanna, Debra Goldschmidt and Kevin Flower, CNN.com)
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