The Health News – 8 April 2016

Overview:
• A powerful new gene-editing technology called CRISPR has enormous potential to treat human diseases but the ability to tinker with genes can also be controversial. Since gene technology first emerged over 40 years ago we’ve seen a wealth of genetic advances — not least of all the decoding of the human genome in 2001.

• SA Health has apologised for its second error in prostate cancer tests in less than a week, it was revealed 100 men were left fearing they had prostate cancer, despite the fact they had already had their prostate glands removed, after test results incorrectly showed elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels.

• Some parents wonder if the European-style of drinking — introducing drink to children around the dinner table with family — would result in a better relationship with the substance later on.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the  8th of April 2016. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-07/crispr-gene-editing-technology-explainer/7217782

A powerful new gene-editing technology called CRISPR has enormous potential to treat human diseases but the ability to tinker with genes can also be controversial. …

Since gene technology first emerged over 40 years ago we’ve seen a wealth of genetic advances — not least of all the decoding of the human genome in 2001.

But that’s nothing compared to the genetic revolution that we’re at the beginning of right now, thanks to a technique adapted from bacteria called CRISPR (the catchy acronym for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats).

Researchers learn what genes do by switching them on or off, or cutting them out of the DNA in a cell entirely.

Since it appeared in 2012, CRISPR has completely transformed the process that researchers use to edit genes this way.

It’s not the first method devised for this kind of genome editing, but CRISPR is a lot cheaper, faster, and more accurate than any of the alternatives. In technology jargon, it’s a capital D disruptor.

And with applications in gene therapy (replacing faulty genes with healthy ones), drug research and agriculture for starters it’s no wonder the method has taken off like a rocket.

In 2016 approval was also given to a British biologist to use CRISPR on unwanted human embryos to better understand the role of genes in healthy development. (The researchers will use unwanted IVF embryos and the experiments — and embryos — will be terminated after one week.)

While the embryos from these experiments won’t result in a child, they have added urgency to the debate around what limitations need to be put on the use of CRISPR.

That was the focus of the International Summit on Human Gene Editing in Washington …., which resulted in a call for a moratorium on using CRISPR on germ line cells (egg and sperm) until all safety issues and societal concerns have been addressed.

As the accuracy and safety of CRISPR improves, and the potential clinical benefits of CRISPR become feasible, this stance will certainly evolve.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-07/sa-prostate-tests-told-patients-see-urologists-sa-health-error/7308830

SA Health has apologised for its second error in prostate cancer tests in less than a week.

Earlier this week it was revealed 100 men were left fearing they had prostate cancer, despite the fact they had already had their prostate glands removed, after test results incorrectly showed elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels.

Siemens, the company which provided SA Pathology with testing kits, denied the kits were faulty.

This time, the results were accurate, but 68 patients were given an incorrect comment on their results that recommended they see a urologist, instead of recommending a re-screening in six to 12 months’ time.

Chief medical officer Dr Paddy Phillips said he would head up a review into the prostate cancer screening bungles.

The State Opposition described the latest problem as another example of systemic culture and governance problems in SA Health.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-07/can-a-healthy-relationship-between-alcohol-children-be-created/7305142

It is a question many parents ponder: Is there a right time to introduce children to alcohol?

While research into the health risks of alcohol on a developing brain was in, some parents wonder if the European-style of drinking — introducing drink to children around the dinner table with family — would result in a better relationship with the substance later on.

In Italy, where wine is seen as a central part of the nation’s cultural identity, primary school children are set to be taught about wine, its history, and how to drink responsibly.

But experts do not think that approach would be wise for Australians given the nation’s cultural relationship with grog.

Australia’s legal drinking age is 18 years old, while each state has its own laws about supplying minors with alcohol in a private setting.

Professor Ann Roche, from [the] National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Flinders University, said Australians’ relationship with alcohol was vastly different from many European cultures.

She said recent studies had found young teenagers who had been introduced to alcohol in the family setting “with small sips” by the time they were 16 years old were more likely to be heavier, regular drinkers than children who were not introduced to alcohol.

Professor Roche said a young person’s brain was not fully developed and the frontal lobe that controls judgment and risk assessment developed last.

SA Network of Drug and Alcohol Services executive officer Michael White disagreed with the Italy’s wine studies for students because it would promote wine consumption as an “ordinary part of life”.

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