20 January 2017 Vol 355, Issue 6322
By Erik Stokstad
Science20 Jan 2017 : 238-242 Full Access
The best way to stop people from dying of rabies is to protect dogs. Can that strategy work in the world’s poorest countries?
An estimated 59,000 people die from rabies around the world every year. Their horrible suffering—including convulsions, terror, and aggression—and the fact that many victims are children led the World Health Organization and others to announce a goal to eliminate rabies deaths worldwide by 2030. The plan calls for cheaper and faster treatment for people. But its long-term bet is on vaccinating domestic dogs, which cause more than 99% of infections. The challenges are enormous in sub-Saharan Africa, where poor countries can hardly pay for millions of dogs to be vaccinated, and their governments often have trouble organizing vaccination campaigns across vast rural areas. In pilot projects underway in Tanzania, Kenya, and a few other African countries, scientists are testing strategies for reaching and vaccinating dogs more efficiently and quantifying the economic benefits of potentially expensive national campaigns. For Africa as a whole, rabies elimination might cost between $800 million to $1.55 billion. The price could come down, however, from dog vaccine banks, for example, and other ways to make vaccines cheaper and more easily distributed.
Technology beats corruption
By Rema Hanna
Science20 Jan 2017 : 244-245 Full Access
Biometric smart cards help to reduce corruption in cash transfer programs in India
More than 1.9 billion individuals in the developing world benefit from social safety net programs: noncontributory transfer programs that distribute cash or basic in-kind products to the poor. But despite their importance, high levels of corruption often stifle the effectiveness of these programs. If cash transfer programs are particularly prone to graft, then in-kind programs should be preferred in practice. In a recent paper, Muralidharan et al. report evidence to the contrary by showing that use of a modern banking technology—biometric smart cards—can help to drastically reduce corruption in cash transfer programs (1).
Human tissues in a dish: The research and ethical implications of organoid technology
By Annelien L. Bredenoord, Hans Clevers, Juergen A. Knoblich
Science20 Jan 2017
Growing functional human tissues and organs would provide much needed material for regeneration and repair. New technologies are taking us in that direction. In addition to their use in regenerative medicine, stem cells that grow and morph into organ-like structures known as organoids can be used in drug development and toxicology testing. The potential developments and possibilities are numerous and affect not only biomedicine but also areas of ongoing ethical debate, such as animal experimentation, research on human embryos and fetuses, ethics review, and patient consent. Bredenoord et al. review how organoids affect existing ethical debates and how they raise novel ethical dilemmas and professional responsibilities.