WHO seeks to clarify: It’s not suggesting pregnancy delays in Zika regions

first_img Tags pregnancyWHOZika Virus HealthWHO seeks to clarify: It’s not suggesting pregnancy delays in Zika regions Felipe Dana/AP Some babies born to mothers infected with Zika during pregnancy have been found to have a host of birth defects, including microcephaly, a condition in which newborns have abnormally small heads and sometimes underdeveloped brains.Studies have suggested that 1 in 100 women infected in pregnancy might have a child with microcephaly — though one paper said the figure might be as high as 13 percent.And another study suggested about 29 percent of women infected during pregnancy may give birth to an infant with brain-related birth defects. Some babies have been born with visual and-or hearing impairments. Others have scarring in their brains — a sign of brain tissue death — or are missing parts of their brains. Are you at risk of contracting Zika virus?Volume 90%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Linkhttps://www.statnews.com/2016/06/10/who-zika-pregnancy-advice/?jwsource=clCopied EmbedCopiedLive00:0001:3301:33  Related: The world needs a Zika vaccine. Getting one will take years The World Health Organization is seeking to correct reports that ricocheted around the globe on Thursday indicating that the organization was advising tens of millions of people in Latin and South America to consider delaying pregnancy because of the risks associated with the Zika virus.In fact, the WHO did not mean to issue any such advice.William Perea, the WHO official who is coordinating global health guidance on the Zika outbreak, told STAT on Friday that the agency is not trying to push people in Zika-affected countries towards any one choice regarding pregnancy. Instead, he said, the WHO wanted to make it clear that women and men living in places where the virus is spreading should be fully informed about all of their options and the risks they entail.advertisement @HelenBranswell center_img By Helen Branswell June 10, 2016 Reprints Senior Writer, Infectious Disease Helen covers issues broadly related to infectious diseases, including outbreaks, preparedness, research, and vaccine development. Numerous news outlets around the world, STAT among them, interpreted that to mean the WHO was now taking a step it had previously declined to take. When asked earlier in the spring about whether people should be counseled to delay pregnancy, WHO officials said decisions about when to get pregnant were complicated personal matters.Perea said the WHO is aware that the updated guidance has been widely misinterpreted and is trying to figure out what to do to address the misunderstanding.“We understand that the way it’s phrased, it can be misinterpreted,” he said. About the Author Reprints Helen Branswell “WHO doesn’t want to make any of those options any more important than the other,” said Perea. “Delaying pregnancy is among them, obviously, but it’s not the only one.”The confusion arose because of a recent update to the global health agency’s guidance on preventing sexual spread of Zika. “Men and women of reproductive age living in affected areas should be informed and orientated to consider delaying pregnancy,” the guidance stated.advertisementlast_img read more

Having stomach troubles? Try swallowing this mini robot

first_img CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Has your child swallowed a small battery? In the future, a tiny robot made from pig gut could capture it and expel it.Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are designing an ingestible robot that could patch wounds, deliver medicine, or dislodge a foreign object. They call their experiment an “origami robot” because the accordion-shaped gadget gets folded up and frozen into an ice capsule.“You swallow the robot, and when it gets to your stomach the ice melts and the robot unfolds,” said Daniela Rus, a professor who directs MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “Then, we can direct it to a very precise location.”advertisement Related: Related: In the LabHaving stomach troubles? Try swallowing this mini robot Tags robotstechnology Associated Press By Associated Press July 19, 2016 Reprints Not your grandma’s pills: 7 intriguing new ways to deliver drugs center_img It’s still a long way before the device can be deployed in a human or animal. In the meantime, the researchers have created an artificial stomach made of silicone to test it.Rus said one of the robot’s most important missions could be to save the lives of children who swallow the disc-shaped button batteries that increasingly power electronic devices. If swallowed, the battery can quickly burn through the stomach lining and be fatal.advertisement Robot surgeon performs first soft-tissue operation by itself MIT’s team has a patent pending and presented its research at a robotics conference in Sweden this spring. Rus said medical companies have expressed interest in clinical applications, which require going through the regulatory process of conducting animal and human studies.“It’s a nifty idea,” but it could be a decade or so before hospitals could use such a device, said William Messner, a professor of mechanical engineering at Tufts University in Massachusetts who is not involved with the project. He said it could also have promise in performing biopsies.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration “has to get involved with anything like this and they’re rightfully very careful about any kind of medical instrument,” Messner said. “The big problem is: What if it gets stuck? Now you’ve really got a problem.”The multidisciplinary project fits into the growing field of soft robotics that coalesced with the 2013 founding of the peer-reviewed Soft Robotics Journal, based at Tufts. The Boston region is a hub for research into the moving machines made of flexible materials that can change shape and size, making them useful for surgery and other complex environments.— Matt O’Brien About the Author Reprints Elise Amendola/AP The robots could seek out and capture the battery before it causes too much damage, pushing it down through the gastrointestinal tract and out of the body.The robot’s flexible frame is biodegradable, made of the same dried pig intestine used for sausage casing. The researchers scoured markets in Boston’s Chinatown before finding the right material to build an agile robot body that could dissolve once its mission was accomplished.“They tried rice paper and sugar paper and hydrogel paper, all sorts of different materials,” Rus said. “We found that sausage casing has the best properties when it comes to folding and unfolding and controllability.”Embedded in its meaty body — it wouldn’t be hard to make a kosher version, Rus said — is a neodymium magnet that looks like a tiny metal cube.Magnetic forces control its movement. Researchers use remote-control joysticks to change the magnetic field, allowing the robot to slip and crawl through the stomach on the way to the object it is trying to retrieve or the wound where it must deliver drugs.Would it hurt to ingest a robot? Probably not, said research team member Steven Guitron, an MIT graduate student in mechanical engineering.“I’m sure if you swallowed an ice cube accidently, it’s very similar,” he said.last_img read more

Testing wearable sensors as ‘check engine’ light for health

first_imgHe envisions one day having wearables that act as a sort of “check engine” light indicating it’s time to see the doctor.“One way to look at this is, these are the equivalent of oral thermometers but you’re measuring yourself all the time,” said Snyder, senior author of a report released Thursday on the project.advertisement Newsletters Sign up for Morning Rounds Your daily dose of news in health and medicine. It was that phenomenon that alerted Snyder, the longest-tested participant, “that something wasn’t quite right” on one of his frequent long flights.Landing in Norway for a family vacation, Snyder noticed his oxygen levels didn’t return to normal like they always had before. Plus his heart rate was much higher than normal, which sometimes signals infection.Sure enough, soon a low-grade fever left him dragging. He feared Lyme because two weeks before going abroad, Snyder had helped his brother build a fence in a tick-infested rural area in Massachusetts. He persuaded a Norwegian doctor to prescribe the appropriate antibiotic, and post-vacation testing back home confirmed the diagnosis.Also during the study’s first two years, Snyder and several other volunteers had minor cold-like illnesses that began with higher-than-normal readings for heart rate and skin temperature — and correlated with blood tests showing inflammation was on the rise before any sniffling. WASHINGTON — A next step for smart watches and fitness trackers? Wearable gadgets gave a Stanford University professor an early warning that he was getting sick before he ever felt any symptoms of Lyme disease.Geneticist Michael Snyder never had Lyme’s characteristic bulls-eye rash. But a smart watch and other sensors charted changes in Snyder’s heart rate and oxygen levels during a family vacation. Eventually a fever struck that led to his diagnosis.Say “wearables,” and step-counting fitness trackers spring to mind. It’s not clear if they really make a difference in users’ health. Now Snyder’s team at Stanford is starting to find out, tracking the everyday lives of several dozen volunteers wearing devices that monitor more than mere activity.advertisement Please enter a valid email address. Tags wellness HealthTesting wearable sensors as ‘check engine’ light for health Related: Related: About the Author Reprintscenter_img Michael Snyder, professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, sports wearable gadgets. Steve Fisch via AP Move over Fitbit: Sweat-sensing bracelet could be next wearable tech Leave this field empty if you’re human: In addition, the Stanford team detected variations in heart rate patterns that could tell the difference between study participants with what’s called insulin resistance — a risk factor for type 2 diabetes — and healthy people.No, don’t try to self-diagnose with your fitness tracker any time soon. The findings in Thursday’s report are intriguing but the study is highly experimental, cautioned medical technology specialist Dr. Atul Butte of the University of California, San Francisco, who wasn’t involved with the research.“This kind of approach is going to help science more than the general public” until there’s better data about what’s normal or not, Butte said. “Remember, the baseline is always in motion. We’re always getting older. We’re always exposed to things. Just because there’s a deviation doesn’t mean it’s abnormal.” Associated Press From vibrating pillowcases to smart pajama belts, sleep tech is flooding the market Among the earliest hints: Changes in people’s day-to-day physiology may flag when certain ailments are brewing, from colds to Lyme to type 2 diabetes, researchers reported in the journal PLOS Biology.Interest in wearable sensors is growing along with efforts to personalize medicine, as scientists learn how to tailor treatments and preventive care to people’s genes, environment, and lifestyle. The sensors are expected to be a part of the National Institutes of Health’s huge “precision medicine” study, planned to begin later this year.But a first step is learning what’s normal for different people under different conditions.The Stanford team is collecting reams of data — as many as 250,000 daily measurements — from volunteers who wear up to eight activity monitors or other sensors of varying sizes that measure heart rate, blood oxygen, skin temperature, sleep, calories expended, exercise and even exposure to radiation. That’s paired with occasional laboratory tests to measure blood chemistry and some genetic information.An initial finding: Blood oxygen levels decrease with rising altitudes during plane flights, in turn triggering fatigue. But toward the end of long flights, oxygen begins rising again, possibly as bodies adapt, the researchers reported. Privacy Policy By Associated Press Jan. 12, 2017 Reprintslast_img read more

Pharmalot, Pharmalittle: Shkreli talk at Harvard elicits a fire alarm and jeers

first_imgPharmalot Pharmalot, Pharmalittle: Shkreli talk at Harvard elicits a fire alarm and jeers Tags Martin ShkrelipatentspharmaceuticalsSTAT+ By Ed Silverman Feb. 16, 2017 Reprints Ed Silverman Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. Log In | Learn More What’s included? What is it? Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free! GET STARTEDcenter_img GET STARTED @Pharmalot Rise and shine, another busy day is under way. The short person has already left for the local schoolhouse and the official mascots have fertilized the Pharmalot grounds, which means the time has come to quaff cups of stimulation — Cinnamon Dolce, anyone? — and forage for interesting items. Perhaps you can relate. In any event, here are some tidbits. Hope you have a smashing day and do keep in touch. We cherish leaks and secret documents…Martin Shkreli sparks anger wherever he goes. The “pharma bro,” who was widely reviled for jacking up the price of an old drug and then taunting critics, was invited by the Harvard Financial Analysts Club to discuss investing on Wednesday night event. But a few minutes before it began, someone pulled a fire alarm and police evacuated the building. the Voice of America says. When the event did start, protesters kept interrupting his presentation. Alex Hogan/STAT About the Author Reprints STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. Pharmalot Columnist, Senior Writer Ed covers the pharmaceutical industry. [email protected] last_img read more

Pharmalot, Pharmalittle: Johnson & Johnson discloses drug prices to deflect criticism

first_img STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. Ed Silverman About the Author Reprints Good morning, everyone, and nice to see you again. We were preoccupied yesterday with a panel engagement — these occur from time to time — but have now returned to the usual routine, as you can see. And what a routine it is. Deadlines, meetings, and whatnot are piling up quickly. No doubt, you can relate. So please join us as we cope with a few cups of stimulation. And of course, here are your tidbits. Have a smashing day and do keep in touch …Johnson & Johnson raised the list prices on its drugs by an average of 8.5 last year — and 3.5 percent after paying rebates and discounts, according to this report. List prices increased an average of 9.7 percent in 2015, 8.3 percent in 2014, and 9 percent in 2013. The disclosure was the latest by a big drug maker to explain pricing trends to an angry public, although Johnson & Johnson did not provide breakdowns by product. Pharmalot Columnist, Senior Writer Ed covers the pharmaceutical industry. Unlock this article — plus daily coverage and analysis of the pharma industry — by subscribing to STAT+. First 30 days free. GET STARTED What’s included? Alex Hogan/STAT By Ed Silverman Feb. 28, 2017 Reprints Tags drug pricespharmaceuticalsSTAT+center_img Pharmalot Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. Pharmalot, Pharmalittle: Johnson & Johnson discloses drug prices to deflect criticism Log In | Learn More What is it? @Pharmalot [email protected] GET STARTEDlast_img read more

Q&A: Cutting basic research sets off a ‘slow-motion disaster’

first_img What’s included? Q&A: Cutting basic research sets off a ‘slow-motion disaster’ GET STARTED By Meghana Keshavan March 16, 2017 Reprints Meghana Keshavan @megkesh Politics Dr. Barrett Rollins, chief scientific officer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Dana-Farber Cancer Institute What is it? STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond.center_img [email protected] Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. Log In | Learn More About the Author Reprints Biotech Correspondent Meghana covers biotech and contributes to The Readout newsletter. If the Trump administration’s new budget proposal passes as-is, billions of dollars in biomedical research funding are under threat — with basic science likely to be first on the chopping block.The budget proposal is suggesting a $6 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health, which is about 20 percent of its total budget. Unlock this article — plus daily intelligence on Capitol Hill and the life sciences industry — by subscribing to STAT+. First 30 days free. GET STARTED Tags cancerpolicyresearchSTAT+last_img read more

U.S. panel considers giving a nod to new vaccine, and a competitor objects

first_img @HelenBranswell U.S. panel considers giving a nod to new vaccine, and a competitor objects What is it? Tags infectious diseaseSTAT+Vaccines Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP About the Author Reprints Log In | Learn More By Helen Branswell June 22, 2017 Reprints Helen Branswell Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. ATLANTA — If you want to avoid shingles — a condition that comes with a painful rash — there is a vaccine available. But studies have shown that protection generated by the vaccine declines quickly.A new vaccine, however, is being considered for approval, and if and when the Food and Drug Administration gives it the green light, its may hit the market with a highly desirably preferential rating from an influential panel of vaccine experts. GET STARTED STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. Pharma What’s included? Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free! GET STARTED Senior Writer, Infectious Disease Helen covers issues broadly related to infectious diseases, including outbreaks, preparedness, research, and vaccine development.last_img read more

The creator of the pig-human chimera keeps proving other scientists wrong

first_img About the Author Reprints Early this year, seeking a way to grow human organs for transplant, his group announced it had created pig-human chimeras — fetal pigs with human cells mixed in. His Salk Institute lab has discovered two new kinds of stem cells, including one considered the pinnacle of stem cells because, in addition to being able to create every type of cell in the body, it can also form tissues like the placenta and amniotic sac that embryos need to survive. Last December, they used a technique in mice that may help reverse aging by reprogramming adult cells back to their youth. Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. Related: Tags CRISPRethicsgeneticsprofiles Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte stands in a lab at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif. Sandy Huffaker for STAT “It’s hard to know where to start, he’s doing so many different things. You get the sense he’s sort of fearless.” By Usha Lee McFarling Aug. 7, 2017 Reprints Related: Usha Lee McFarling Please enter a valid email address. There are those who remain skeptical about these early findings. The pig chimera, for example, contained so few human cells that Stanford stem cell researcher Hiromitsu Nakauchi said it seemed “like more a negative result.” Others say the many barriers to creating human organs in pigs seem insurmountable. And the work is revolting to people who oppose any dabbling with human embryos or mixing of human and animal tissue.Human cells are shown in green in this developing heart in a 4-week-old chimeric pig embryo. Salk InstituteBut among scientists, Izpisua Belmonte has a growing legion of fans. They applaud him for his audacious work, his pushing of boundaries, his keen intellect, and his willingness to conduct difficult experiments everyone tells him will never succeed.“Scientists have this way of predicting what can’t be done, then being proven wrong by other scientists who are not bound by conventional wisdom,” said Dr. George Q. Daley, a stem cell researcher and dean of Harvard Medical School. “Juan Carlos is both rigorous and intrepid enough to take bold risks and then produce science that surprises us all.”Izpisua Belmonte, now 57, is an unlikely star of this futuristic arena. He was born in rural Spain to a farm family so poor that he had to drop out of elementary school at age 8 and work in the fields. His mother could neither read nor write. When he finally re-enrolled in school at 16, he quickly caught up — and caught the notice of teachers who encouraged him to attend the University of Valencia.He had no interest in science. He wanted to study philosophy. But on his way to enroll in the philosophy department, a beautiful building caught his eye and, on a whim, he enrolled there instead. It was the pharmacy department.Izpisua Belmonte went on to earn a Ph.D., studying adipose tissue in Bologna, Italy — but fat research frankly bored him. Only when he moved to a lab in Heidelberg, Germany, and helped with pioneering work on the genes that rigorously control the body patterns of embryos, did he find a spark.“That’s when it clicked,” he told STAT. “This is what I want to do.”It was there, fiddling with genes and embryonic tissues, that Izpisua Belmonte finally found some questions he could sink his teeth into. They were biological questions, but they were also deeply philosophical: How could a single cell unfold into a unique individual? Where did the instructions come from? And how much, really, separated humans from other animals?After more training at UCLA — to learn about frogs — Izpisua Belmonte was heading to Europe to start his own lab. But first, he attended a conference where three of his mentors happened to be speaking. All mentioned the young scientist’s work.Salk Institute scientist Ron Evans was at the conference and decided he had to meet the person everyone was buzzing about. “He thought differently,” said Evans, who recruited Izpisua Belmonte on the spot, ”and the combination of his thinking and meticulous execution was exciting.”The famed institute is now being roiled by a very public gender discrimination lawsuit, but it has long been known for the quality of the scientists it hires; the 53-member faculty includes three Nobelists, four Lasker Award winners, and more than a dozen members of the National Academy of Sciences. Izpisua Belmonte joined the faculty in 1993, and, according to Evans, has more than lived up to his promise. @ushamcfarling There are many reasons for that success: a strong work ethic (“science 25 hours a day” is how Izpisua Belmonte describes his schedule), large labs in both the U.S. and Spain, the embrace of new tools like CRISPR gene-editing as soon as they emerge, and a focus on some of life’s most fundamental questions. Perhaps the most important reason is his depth of understanding of embryos and how they work — and his ability to coax them to not only give up their secrets but do things even millions of years of evolution never had.Izpisua Belmonte was not content to work just with chicks and mice, the standard lab animals for embryology. His new lab was filled with salamanders, including Mexican axolotls, amphibians that can regenerate not only limbs, but jaws, spines, and brains. His was one of the first labs in San Diego to study zebrafish, valuable because they have see-through embryos that develop outside their bodies. “The lab,” he said, “was like a zoo.”His quest for regeneration started with limbs. They could regrow, even though they were made of so many different cell types, including muscle, bone, skin, and nerve. They had specific and complex patterns. To Izpisua Belmonte, they were like “small embryos outside the body.”They were also a lot like organs — even using the same genes and pathways to develop. He thought being able to create organs for the tens of thousands of desperate people on transplant waiting lists might be one of the most important things he could do.When embryonic stem cells burst onto the scene in the late 1990s, Izpisua Belmonte immediately saw their potential. Like many scientists, though, he didn’t start working with them right away because of ethical and funding issues.But his native Spain jumped on board in 2003, passing a law endorsing work on the cells. The next year, officials asked Izpisua Belmonte to create and run a new center for regenerative medicine where he could work on them. (He was becoming something of a legend in Spain. That same year, his hometown, Hellin, named the local high school after him.)In 2006, Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka discovered that adult cells could be reprogrammed into stem cells, abating most ethical issues and igniting the field. (He was later awarded a Nobel Prize for this work.) At the outset, stem cells promised to cure everything and produce anything, including human organs to order. But many labs, including Izpisua Belmonte’s, found the trial and error attempts to create different cell types or grow specific organ shapes on scaffolds hugely frustrating.“We could be 100 years doing that,” Izpisua Belmonte said. “We were trying to imitate nature with very little knowledge.” He couldn’t, as he puts it, “educate” the cells in the Petri dish.” And they just wouldn’t form the complex 3-D structures he needed to build working organs. Then the idea hit. In one of his first published papers, back in Germany, Izpisua Belmonte had grafted tissue from an embryonic mouse limb bud onto the wing bud of a chick embryo and found development proceeded normally. The experiment showed that the signals for development appeared similar in widely differing species. It also suggested that mixing tissues from different species might work.“This idea of chimera was already in my mind,” Izpisua Belmonte said. “It was in my first paper and has stayed there for many years.” And animals grow perfect organs inside of them all the time, he noted.Geneticists had long used chimeras made from genetically distinct mice as tools. The mid-’80s saw the debut of the shaggy “Geep” or goat-sheep chimera. And a handful of labs, including Izpisua Belmonte’s, had succeeded in getting a small number of various types of human stem cells to grow in mice. But there were problems with using mice for his organ project. Even if you could grow a human liver in a mouse, he thought, it would be far too tiny to be of any use.Izpisua Belmonte decided it was far better to grow human organs in pigs than mice. The group had early success with cows, too, but found pigs much cheaper and easier to use. Pigs also have organs about the size of humans, large litters, and a long history of human health applications.Still, getting human cells to grow inside of pig hosts seemed so impossible the team didn’t think their first experiments would work. “The pig embryo sees the human cells as an invader. The natural response is to find a way to kill them,” said Jun Wu, a senior researcher in Izpisua Belmonte’s lab who was lead author on the chimera paper. “We didn’t expect we’d find any human cells.”But they did. Only a tiny percentage of the human cells, about 1 in 100,000 cells, survived in the pig embryos — so few that some in the field wonder whether those cells were just flukes that survived but would never really function. Some, like Harvard’s Daley, say many barriers remain before complex organs that require multiple types of tissue, not to mention nerve inputs and blood vessels, could ever be created for humans in animals and not be rejected by the immune system.“It remains a highly speculative and risky proposition,” Daley said. But he and others also see the study as a critical first step.Research associate Alejandro Ocampo works in Izpisua Belmonte’s lab at the Salk Institute. Sandy Huffaker for STATHow did Izpisua Belmonte get the chimera experiment to work against all odds? One reason is its scale. He pulled together a team of 40, including pig farmers, to run the chimera experiments on a massive farm of some 9,000 pigs in Spain. The effort took four years and involved injecting stem cells into some 2,000 embryos.There was also his deep understanding of development. Pigs are so different from humans. They gestate in just three months while humans take nine. Izpisua Belmonte likens this to cars entering freeways at vastly different speeds: Accidents are bound to happen.To overcome this problem, Izpisua Belmonte tried using stem cells of different ages in the experiments. While theory might suggest that the earliest, most embryo-like stem cells would work best because they have the most potential to become any type of cell, the results showed that the pig embryos were more open to accepting intermediate, or slightly aged, human stem cells.Izpisua Belmonte is also the first, said University of Cambridge developmental biologist Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, to think about stem cells not just in terms of time, but also in space. Last year, he also published the discovery of “region specific” stem cells, finding some are more powerful depending on where they originate from in an embryo.“It’s a very novel concept,” she said. “I like the way he uses developmental biology to tackle important human health problems.”center_img Privacy Policy Related: Izpisua Belmonte readily admits that he’s a long, long way from growing any human organs in pigs. First, the team will need to create chimeras with a much higher percentage of human cells. Izpisua Belmonte thinks that’s coming. He already has a few powerful tricks up his sleeve.One is the use of CRISPR to edit out the genes involved in the development of an organ, leaving the host with a vacancy that can then be preferentially filled with donor cells. Izpisua Belmonte calls this “emptying the niche.”The technique has worked well in mice-rat chimeras to create mice with pancreases, hearts, and eyes that are rich in rat cells. Mice even developed gallbladders with rat cells — a finding that stunned Izpisua Belmonte because normal rats don’t have gallbladders and haven’t for millions of years.“That’s something fantastic,” he said in an interview here in an office decorated with sculptures of eggs and huge colorful photos of human and zebrafish embryos. “It’s evolution taking place not in millions of years but in 19 days” — the length of a time a mouse gestates.The team is now working on using the CRISPR technique in pig embryos to increase the human cell count in organs. They’re also using their newest stem cells in tests; experiments now underway show they survive far better in chimeras as well.Izpisua Belmonte stands with senior researcher Jun Wu and research associate Keiichro Suzuki. Sandy Huffaker for STATIn 2015, Izpisua Belmonte applied for a prestigious NIH Director’s Pioneer Award that comes with $500,000 a year for five years. He was thrilled when he got a call telling him his application had received the highest ratings. It had been hard for him to get governmental funding for research involving human embryos and embryonic stem cells. Much of his work had been funded by private foundations, with some contributions from California’s stem cell agency, CIRM.But a few weeks later, he got another call. The grant couldn’t be funded, he was told, because the National Institutes of Health would not support work on human chimeras. The issue had the agency scrambling to sort out its policy; it convened a workshop for the following month on the issue, inviting Belmonte and other chimera researchers to make a case for their work. National Science Correspondent Usha covers the toll of Covid-19 as well as people and trends behind biomedical advances in the western U.S. We’ve created human-pig chimeras — but we haven’t weighed the ethics First human-pig chimeras created, sparking hopes for transplantable organs — and debate [email protected] HeavyweightsThe creator of the pig-human chimera keeps proving other scientists wrong LA JOLLA, Calif. — It was the salamanders.Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte had spent years probing the inner workings of embryos, ferreting out the genes that give a body its shape or allow wings to form instead of legs. He’d tracked wafting chemical messengers that, like traffic police, guide streams of dividing cells either left or right. He’d even found a way to tweak animals to grow extra limbs. But one thing he never stopped thinking about was how salamanders could lose parts of their bodies and then regrow perfect replacements. Was it possible, he wondered, that humans might do the same?The dogged pursuit of that question has pushed Izpisua Belmonte to the forefront of biology as he’s made one stunning discovery after another — many before the world is ready to deal with their far-reaching ethical implications.advertisement Leave this field empty if you’re human: It’s one of many examples of regulatory agencies, and society for that matter, scrambling to keep up with Izpisua Belmonte. “There are no policies in place for what he’s working on,” said UC Davis’s Knoepfler, who has called for more guidance in the area. “It’s all uncharted territory, and he’s one of the folks who is pushing us into that territory.”The creation of human-animal chimeras is deeply upsetting to many people. Animal rights groups vehemently oppose the work. Some bioethicists say the work is an affront to human dignity. The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops calls it the creation of “beings who do not fully belong to either the human race or the host animal species.”Hank Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University, said many people are fine with the idea of growing organs in animals, but problems arise when the research starts involving what he’s termed “brains, balls, and beauty.” Most people would object, Greely said, to a pig with a human brain, a pig with human cells that can reproduce, or a pig with a human nose.“The big issue is this question of humanness and if we are conferring humanness on nonhumans,” he said. “That is going to make people upset.”Greely has served with Izpisua Belmonte on panels to address ethical issues and co-authored articles with him on the ethics of chimeras. “Juan Carlos has always seemed aware of these issues. He gets that people can get freaked out,” Greely said. “I’m quite convinced he’s sensible and responsible.”In this chimeric mouse embryo, the developing heart includes a large number of rat cells. Salk InstituteIzpisua Belmonte said he wants more than anyone to see clear guidelines. He understands the importance of what the new technologies, many of them from his lab, portend.“We’re in a critical moment in human evolution. Everything that has happened in the past billion years follows two rules: random mutation and natural selection,” he said. “We’re now at a moment in history where we don’t have to follow Darwin’s rules. We need to be conscious of that.”But he also thinks fears of the potential humanness of chimeras are greatly overblown, in part because of biology: So few human cells have survived in embryos so far, he said, and chimeras are highly likely to be sterile. He said technology could be used to prevent human cells from migrating into an animal’s brain, and any reproduction of chimeras could be avoided by not bringing the animals to term. (His lab stops the pig experiments after just four weeks even though Spain would allow them to go further.)“Scientists have the most to lose by not being careful,” he said.He worries that restrictions on the research mean that U.S. science will fall behind in this area. An internationalist who fondly recalls the babble of foreign languages spoken in the European labs where he trained, Izpisua Belmonte said he has no problem turning to colleagues in foreign countries for their expertise or to conduct work that might not be funded or allowed in the U.S.“If that means we knock on the door of another lab in China, we need to,” he said. “If it’s in Saudi Arabia, let’s go there.”Izpisua Belmonte did end up getting that Pioneer Award from the NIH late last year. But he had to agree to keep away from human tissue and use the funds to work only on creating organs for primates.He’s agreed, but hopes future NIH policy will fund research on animal-human chimeras. “In the end,” he said, “we want to cure humans, not monkeys.” She’s hellbent on solving the organ shortage with ‘designer pigs.’ Just don’t keep her waiting Paul Knoepfler, stem cell researcher at University of California, Davis His lab also played a supporting role in two extremely controversial studies conducted at Oregon Health and Science University: the work reported last week on the editing of a heart-disease gene in human embryos, as well as the creation last year of “three parent” embryos in an effort to eliminate the mutations that lead to mitochondrial disease.“It’s hard to know where to start, he’s doing so many different things,” said Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell researcher at University of California, Davis. “You get the sense he’s sort of fearless.”advertisementlast_img read more

Cellectis off-the-shelf CAR-T therapy grounded following patient’s toxic death

first_img Two clinical trials of an off-the-shelf CAR-T cancer therapy from Cellectis (CLLS) have been placed on clinical hold following the death of a patient caused by a severe toxic reaction to the treatment.Cellectis’ stock price is down 30 percent to $22.79 in early Tuesday trading. The biotech company, with operations in Paris and New York, announced the FDA clinical hold on Sunday night. Tags biotechcancerCAR-Tdrug developmentFDASTAT+ Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free! GET STARTED Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. About the Author Reprints Log In | Learn More GET STARTED Adam’s Take What’s included? Senior Writer, Biotech Adam is STAT’s national biotech columnist, reporting on the intersection of biotech and Wall Street. He’s also a co-host of “The Readout LOUD” podcast. By Adam Feuerstein Sept. 5, 2017 Reprints [email protected] Adam Feuerstein STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. Cellectis off-the-shelf CAR-T therapy grounded following patient’s toxic death @adamfeuerstein What is it?last_img read more

Biotech’s next big IPO could unravel at the 11th hour

first_img GET STARTED Log In | Learn More By Damian Garde Jan. 25, 2018 Reprints Andrew Harnik/AP Biotech’s next big IPO could unravel at the 11th hour What’s included? About the Author Reprints [email protected] National Biotech Reporter Damian covers biotech, is a co-writer of The Readout newsletter, and a co-host of “The Readout LOUD” podcast. What is it?center_img Damian Garde Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free! GET STARTED STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. Tags biotechnologySTAT+ @damiangarde Biotech On the eve of what was to be a $130 million payday, one of biotech’s buzziest startups on Thursday issued an 11th-hour disclosure that the Food and Drug Administration has safety concerns about its lead drug.Solid Biosciences, a biotech darling with an oft-cited origin story, said that the FDA put a hold on its clinical trial for its gene therapy for muscular dystrophy, asking the company to make manufacturing adjustments and other changes before dosing more patients. Solid was expected to go public this week with a hotly anticipated initial public offering, one investors expected to be a bellwether for the whole biotech sector.last_img read more