January
03
 

CRITICS CALL FOR TIME OUT TO REFLECT

Of course, not all observers tried to put a good face on the Korean scandal. The chief editorial writer for The Independent in the UK, Mary Dejevsky, welcomed the news as an opportunity to take "a long second look... at this whole area of science". She fears a return of eugenics when scientists eventually master the technology for therapeutic cloning.

Until now, the stem-cell pioneers and gene-therapy proponents have been extraordinarily successful in ignoring all links between their research and the earth 20th century pursuit of eugenics," she writes. "If you want to split hairs, you could say that the quest then was to improve the human race, whereas now it is to improve each individual, one by one. But the implications are surely the same: the exclusion, demonising or destruction of those who do not, or cannot be made to, fit."

And bioethics writer Wesley J. Smith, writing in the Weekly Standard, called for a review of "how science's… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
January
03
 

AUSTRALIAN SCIENTISTS LOBBY FOR CLONING

Stem cells are also at the top of the bioethics agenda in Australia at the moment. A government report, the Lockhart Review, has recommended that therapeutic cloning and other research techniques be legalised. Stem cell scientists are jumping in to defend it.

Professor Alan Trounson, one of the world's leading researchers in the field, argued in a newspaper column that embryonic stem cells will be very useful in research and drug testing. He contends that cloned embryos are "not embryos in the usual understanding of the term" because they are not formed by the union of egg and sperm and because they will not be implanted in a womb.

The head of the Australian Stem Cell Centre, Dr Hugh Niall, praised the Review's analysis of three major objections to cloning embryos in The Age. The first, the slippery slope argument that cloning embryos leads to cloning full-term babies is dismissed because reproductive cloning will be against the law and therefore… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
January
03
 

SMILE FOR THE PATIENTS, DOCTOR!

 A smile makes up for doctors' lack of dress sense, a New Zealand study has found. Most patients prefer smiling doctors in semi-formal attire to po-faced doctors in the same garb. The next most popular options are white coat, formal suit, jeans and casual dress. Patients tended to be more comfortable, researchers found, with relatively conservative styles, such as long sleeves, covered shoes and dress trousers and skirts. Facial piercings, short tops and men wearing earrings are not popular.

As for forms of address, the New Zealand study found that most patients prefer to be addressed by their first name -- although New Zealanders are not known for their formality in any case. But they do want doctors to introduce themselves by their title and first and last names. The breast pocket was the most favoured location for a name badge.

click here to read whole article and make comments



 
January
03
 

CHINESE PRISONERS IN ORGAN MARKET

The British press has again reported that the Chinese military is profiting from the sale of organs of executed prisoners. A reporter for the London Telegraph posing as an entrepreneur discovered that transplant operations for foreigners are carried out at military hospitals. With their close links to the police, these hospitals can ensure good tissue matches for the patients. The government maintains that all prisoners have agreed to the donation and that in some cases their relatives are compensated.

Although no British patients have yet taken advantage of the service, the Telegraph says, Western patients would be charged about US$40,000 for a kidney transplant, with $12,000 to $15,000 going to a middleman. Asian patients pay about half this figure, but Westerners get VIP treatment. click here to read whole article and make comments




 
January
03
 

US MEDICAL SCHOOL EMBROILED IN CORRUPTION SCANDAL

In a scenario more familiar on Wall Street than in American universities, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey has become the first educational institution in the US to make a deal to avoid criminal prosecution. The trustees of the university have accepted an administrator who will oversee its expenses and management for at least two years in an effort to clean up "gross mismanagement" and "illegal conduct". Apart from allegations of conflict of interest, donations to political candidates, excessive bonuses for executives, and no-bid contracts, prosecutors say that the university deliberately over billed Medicaid by tens of millions of dollars. click here to read whole article and make comments



 
December
20
 

HWANG IN DISGRACE AS INVESTIGATION BEGINS

The descent of Hwang Woo-suk from the world's premier stem cell scientist to disgraced liar is nearly complete. Seoul National University has sealed off his office and secured materials from his lab as it began a probe to determine whether his highly-praised research was either a deliberate fraud or just a badly botched experiment. In any case, Hwang has told the journal Science, which published his ground-breaking paper back in May, that he wishes to retract it.

One of the co-authors of the paper in which Hwang claimed to have produced 11 stem cell lines from cloned embryos has now alleged that Hwang fabricated some of the results. "Of the 11 embryonic stem cells described in Hwang's study, nine are fake, with the authenticity of the two others yet to be confirmed," says Roh Sung-il, of MizMedi Hospital. Hwang denies this and says that he was "shocked" by Dr Roh's remarks. His story is that the cells had been… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
December
20
 

GLOOM IN OFFICES OF KOREAN’S PUBLISHER

One casualty of Hwang's fall from grace is the reputation of the journal Science which published his work with great fanfare on May 19. According to a report in the New York Times, the mood in its editorial offices has sunk "from elation to distress and exhaustion". Although Science, like many other journals, has had to deal with fraud before, this "has been unlike anything else," according to its executive editor, Monica Bradford.

The problem is, says Ms Bradford, that reviewers assume that the data are real and only pose queries about whether these can support the conclusions. The paper by Hwang and his 24 co-authors was assessed by three reviewers and accepted in two months. The average time from submission to acceptance is three months.

Stem cell scientists and ethicists everywhere are watching events unfold with "a kind of collective mesmerised despair", bioethicist Laurie Zoloth told the Times. "What we do not understand is how one person could have… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
December
20
 

MORE GLOOM IN CALIFORNIA

And in California, which is set to become a beneficiary of Korea's pratfall, embryonic stem cell scientists are gloomy for a different reason. No matter how hard they shake the piggy bank, nothing is falling out. Despite the fact that voters authorised a US$3 billion bond issue to be lavished on their labs and research projects more than a year ago, not one cent has been spent. "I liken it to the Iraq thinking -- we won the war and didn't know what to do afterward," says Paul Berg, a Nobel laureate who serves on the board of the institute which is supposed to spend the money.

The problem is that opponents of the institute have tied it up in countless lawsuits and until these are solved, the state will not issue the bonds. Not all of its foes oppose the institute on ethical grounds. Some believe that the money should be spent on California's pressing social problems. Some oppose… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
December
20
 

LEGALISE HYBRID EMBRYOS, SAYS AUSTRALIAN REPORT

 A government-appointed committee has proposed that Australian legislation be amended to allow both the creation of hybrid embryos and therapeutic cloning. If accepted by its Parliament, Australia would have the world's most progressive embryo legislation.

Amongst the radical reforms proposed are the authorisation of cross- species embryos, a practice allowed no where else in the world, hybrid fertilisation, therapeutic cloning, and the export and import of embryos. The report strongly supports the commercialisation of embryo research but stresses that patients must not share in the profits which might arise from the use of their tissue.

Central to its recommendations is a redefinition of the term embryo". This is commonly thought of as a fertilised egg, but the committee says that the entity only becomes an embryo after about 16 hours, at the time of the first cell cleavage.

The report, chaired by retired judge John Lockhart, has been hailed by scientists who are reassuring the… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
December
20
 

NEW DISCOVERY COULD BYPASS EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS

American researchers have coaxed adult stem cells from adult mice to change into brain, nerve, heart and pancreatic cells -- a discovery that could put embryonic stem cells in the shade. A researcher at the University of Louisville, Dr Mariusz Ratajczak, said, "We have found a counterpart for embryonic stem cells in adult bone marrow. This could negate the ethical concerns." His next move will be to replicate the experiment with similar cells identified in adult humans.

"It's huge," said Ryan Reca, one of the researchers. "It's an amazing discovery." "If cells from adult humans behave the same, the discovery goes from 'very important' to 'incredibly important'," said Dr Stephen Emerson, of the University of Pennsylvania.

The cells are called "very small embryonic-like" cells, or VSELs, which exist in blood and help to repair damaged tissue after strokes. Ratajczak's discovery revolves around how to grow these in the laboratory, multiply them and change them into other cells with his patented… click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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