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New Jersey Keeps Newborn DNA for 23 Years. Parents Are Suing

By Emily Mullin, Wired

Parents have filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of New Jersey for storing newborn blood samples long past the one-year limit and using the samples for more than medical purposes. While newborns in every state have their blood tested for diseases soon after birth, New Jersey keeps blood samples for decades. A court case made public last year also revealed that these blood samples are used for criminal investigations. The plaintiffs suing the state argue that the storage and use of newborn blood samples violates their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Parents are calling for more privacy surrounding medical records and their use. If the state wants to use DNA for medical research or criminal investigations, they need consent. The state has until November 24th to respond to this class action.

by Cora Bainum

This hybrid baby monkey is made of cells from two embryos

By Carissa Wong, Nature

Scientists have produced the first live-born chimeric primate. Scientists made this primate by genetically editing embryonic stem cells with a green fluorescent gene and injecting the stem cells into a primate embryo. This chimeric primate was the only embryo out of 74 that developed into a newborn. Unfortunately, the chimeric primate had to be euthanized after only 10 days of life because it suffered from hypothermia and breathing difficulties. Scientists say they will optimize future studies for a higher birth rate from the edited embryos.

Scientists believe this technique could be used to study human disease treatments by creating chimeric monkeys with human disease traits. Chimeric rats and mice are already being used to study human disease. However, because primates are close relatives to humans, scientists believe chimeric primates would be a better organism to study. Additionally, scientists hypothesize this technology could also be used to grow human organs in pigs or non-human primates. Opposing scientists warn that ethical concerns must be considered when editing genes and creating new life.

by Lexy Campbell

World’s First Whole-Eye and Partial Face Transplant Gives Arkansas Man New Hope

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN

In a near-miraculous feat, a team of surgeons at NYU Langone Health in New York has successfully performed the world’s first whole-eye and partial face transplant in an Arkansas man. Aaron James, the transplant recipient, is a veteran who worked as a high-voltage power lineman. In June 2021, Aaron was working in Mississippi where he was electrocuted by a live wire. This accident caused serious injuries including amputation of his left arm and a loss of his eye and half of his face. Shortly after the accident, Aaron, who was being treated at a hospital in Dallas, was introduced to Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez and his team at NYU Langone Health’s Face Transplant Program. There were no promises that Aaron would be able to see out of the transplanted eye, but Aaron and his family decided to proceed with the surgery regardless. “Even if doesn’t work, I’ll have an eye, and then you all could learn something from this,” Aaron said. “You have to have a patient zero.” The surgery took more than 21 hours and more than 140 surgeons and was ultimately deemed a success. 

by Harleigh Markowitz

After Antidepressants, a Loss of Sexuality

By Azeen Ghorayshi, The New York Times

Doctors and patients have known that antidepressants can cause sexual problems. However, now a group of people who have taken Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), the most common antidepressants, have reported sexual problems after stopping the medication. This includes genital numbness, decreased or lost libido, and lack of pleasure from orgasms. These sexual problems have been deemed post-SSRI sexual dysfunction. While authorities in Europe and Canada have stated that SSRIs can lead to existing sexual issues, some psychiatrists have been skeptical.

The article describes the worry that over-emphasizing long-lasting sexual issues can lead to people who need antidepressants to avoid them. In addition, depression can also lead to decreased sexuality, so not all sexual problems are due to post-SSRI sexual dysfunction. Post-SSRI sexual dysfunction is also a hypothesis and has not been clinically proven. 

More than 10,000 people have joined support groups for post-SSRI sexual dysfunction and have voiced their feelings of neglect about their struggles. Patients and doctors have also petitioned regulators to add warnings of persistent sexual problems.  

This article is important because a large number of people take antidepressants and they are life-saving for many. So, while post-SSRI sexual dysfunction is alarming it is necessary to weigh the risks and benefits of the medication. In addition, this article highlights the need for more research about the side effects after someone stops taking SSRIs. 

by Caroline Hansen

Ending TB Is Within Reach — So Why Are Millions Still Dying?

By Stephanie Nolen, The New York Times

Tuberculosis has surpassed COVID-19 as the leading cause of death from infectious disease, claiming 1.36 million lives in 2022 alone. These numbers, found by the World Health Organization, defy significant recent advancements in the diagnoses and treatment of tuberculosis. The new treatments can be taken as a few pills, instead of the numerous tablets and injections that were used in the past. For those infected with antibiotic-resistant TB, the new drug is taken in a 6-month regimen, as opposed to the 1.5-year plan required by the old drugs. Thus, the troubling findings indicate a problem in accessibility for the areas that need them the most.

In Ghana alone, two-thirds of those living with TB are unaware of their infection. The Kaneshie clinic, located in Ghana, exemplifies many of the remaining barriers to care. Of the five members of the TB treatment team, only two were present processing TB tests and distributing drugs, resulting in no screenings that day. Beyond personnel, affordability remains a major obstacle. The current cost of TB treatment is about $150 per patient, and this is largely covered by donors and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. However, funding for TB services fell from $6.4 billion in 2018 to $5.8 billion in 2022. It is hoped that the advent of improved screening technology and the promising M72 vaccine will reverse the trend in TB mortality, but not enough health centers in developing countries have the capacity to use them. Despite medical innovations providing ample reason for optimism in the campaign to treat TB, personnel, funding, and infrastructure remain the primary challenges in delivering quality care to the most affected regions in the world.

by Saif Hossain

Items summarized by: Cora Bainum, Lexy Campbell, Harleigh Markowitz, Caroline Hansen, Saif Hossain