May
09
 

SHADY STEM CELL DOCTORS TO EVADE IRISH BAN BY USING FERRY

Hundreds of Britons with multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases are said to be queuing up for treatment in Ireland with a shady company touting the therapeutic value of stem cells. And because the Irish Medical Council is threatening to ban the treatment, Advanced Cell Therapeutics is planning to treat patients in international waters on the ferry from Cork, in Ireland, to Swansea, in Wales.

Demand from the UK has been huge, following reports in the tabloid press about remarkable recoveries and a televised interview with a clinic doctor. The treatments cost up to ?12,000. Patients can also go to a clinic in Rotterdam, but it is being investigated by the Dutch healthcare inspectorate.

The Guardian newspaper has been conducting its own investigations of the company and has found that ACT has close links with a failed American company called Biomark International which also offered stem cell cures. Its founders are accused by US authorities of distributing untested stem cell… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
May
09
 

BRITISH KILLER FAILS TO GET IVF

A UK prisoner serving life for murder has failed in his latest attempt to get access to IVF treatment. Kirk Dickson, 34, married Lorraine in 2002, a pen pal who was also serving a sentence in another jail. Mrs Dickson is now 48 and will require IVF to become pregnant. After the Home Secretary turned down Mr Dickson's request for the facilities to allow this, he appealed to a British court and lost. Now his request has also been turned down by the European human rights court in a 4 to 3 decision.

The responses of the judges indicate the range of views about the ethics of IVF. Judge Bonello, of Malta, declared that "I am not particularly impressed by the argument that society regularly allows children to be born in similar or worse circumstances. The state in this case is being asked to become an active accomplice and participant in this future conception." However, in a dissenting opinion, Judge… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
May
09
 

PRESSURE GROWING FOR CHIMERAS

Although US President George Bush denounced human-animal hybrids as an "egregious abuse" in this year's State of the Union address, along with human cloning, pressure appears to be mounting to create them for medical research. A feature in this month's Nature Biotechnology contends that they will provide tantalising insights into fundamental scientific questions.

In a sense, hybrids, or chimeras, have already arrived. In 2003, Chinese researchers created nearly 100 human-rabbit blastocysts for their stem cells. UK researcher Ian Wilmut has applied to use the Chinese technique to study human disease. Douglas Melton, of Harvard University, is planning to use it as part of his investigations of diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. "Laboratory chimeras may help unravel the mysteries of human disease without risky and unethical human experimentation," says the article.

According to Nature Biotechnology, most scientists feel that it is unlikely that human neural stem cell transplants would confer human consciousness upon animals. At least in the case of mice, the… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
May
09
 

STEM CELLS COULD BYPASS ANIMAL EXPERIMENTATION

To avoid experimenting upon animals, German researchers want to use mouse stem cells when they examine whether drugs are toxic for unborn humans. These tests would offer "at least the same amount of information about the possible toxic effects on unborn human life as experiments on mice, rabbits, rats and guinea pigs," says Dr Heribert Bohlen, of Cologne, a co-developer of the new R.E.Tox method. The new method is also cheaper, he says.

The technique -- while not altogether novel -- will soon become more important, as a new EU regulation to be passed before the end of the year will require the testing of 30,000 chemicals already on the market for safety. As many as 6,000 substances will have to be analysed to see if they could harm fertility or affect an embryo's development. click here to read whole article and make comments




 
May
09
 

ABORTION CLINIC THRIFT

An autopsy has revealed that a 19-year-old Down Syndrome woman who died following a late-term abortion at a leading late-term abortion clinic was stripped of her corneas shortly after death. "The eyes are absent secondary to organ procurement (corneal donation)," says the document. The death of Christin Gilbert, a Texas resident whose family brought her to the Kansas clinic of Dr George Tiller, has become a cause c?lebre for the anti-abortion movement.

Although Tiller and his staff were originally cleared by the state medical authorities, activists have succeeded in convoking a grand jury investigation through a citizen petition. Apart from the inflammatory abortion issue, the Gilbert case raises thorny questions about the scope of informed consent for disabled adults. Christin was unable to consent to sex, unable to consent to the abortion and unable to consent to organ harvesting. But they still happened.

click here to read whole article and make comments



 
May
02
 

TRY ANIMAL MODELS BEFORE CLONING HUMANS,     SAYS BRITISH SCIENTIST

One of the best-documented critiques of cloning human embryos has appeared in the latest issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics. In an article entitled "Why the apparent haste to clone humans?" Dr Neville Cobbe, of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology at the University of Edinburgh, asks why scientists are rushing ahead with human cloning before validating this approach with animal studies.

This point -- often overlooked in debates -- is a crucial issue. In a stinging challenge to supporters of embryo cloning, Cobbe points out that two inconclusive papers are the main props for the contention that no more animal research is needed. One reported an experiment which succeeded only with the help of adult stem cells and the other dealt with the brain, whose immunology is quite different from the rest of the body.

In recent months, especially after the Korean stem cell debacle, calls for therapeutic cloning have become more muted as… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
May
02
 

“FUTILE CARE” LAW UNDER FIRE IN TEXAS

 A "futile care" law in Texas has come under fire from anti- euthanasia activists after doctors allegedly gave up on a 54-year- old woman who was being kept alive with the help of a respirator and a dialysis machine.

On April 19, an ethics committee at St Luke's Episcopal Hospital gave the family of Andrea Clark 10 days to find another facility or doctor to treat her. If nothing was done, under a 1999 law signed by George W. Bush, who was then governor, her life support would be removed because further treatment would be deemed medically futile.

Ms Clark, a widow with a 23-year-old son, was an early success in the first "blue baby" heart operations, but she has had poor health for most of her life. Her current crisis began in November and her condition deteriorated in January after open-heart surgery. In recent days, another doctor has taken on her case and she appears to… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
May
02
 

STANFORD TRIALS “DIAL AN ETHICIST” SERVICE FOR SCIENTISTS

The growing awareness of bioethics has given rise to institutional review boards which oversee and regulate federally funded research in the US. But often scientists need on-the-spot ethical advice in the course of a project. To provide this, Stanford University bioethicists have devised a bench-side consultation service. According to David Magnus, they hope to integrate ethical thinking into a scientist's everyday life -- something that often seems to be missing. "A lot of scientists don't really see ethics as a part of their job," says his colleague Mildred Cho. Over the past six months, the service has helped seven different Stanford research groups.

Giving this kind of non-binding, voluntary advice can be hazardous, as Insoo Hyun, of Case Western Reserve University discovered too late. He worked with disgraced stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk to refine informed consent procedures for his experiments -- and later discovered that Hwang had blatantly ignored them. He was forced to withdraw a paper describing… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
May
02
 

BIG PHARMA PUTS SALES BEFORE SCIENCE, SAY CRITICS

Drug manufacturers are placing salesmanship before science, according to critics cited in Wired magazine. "The dominance of marketing over research has done real damage to company pipelines," says Jurgen Drews, a former research chief for the pharmaceutical giant Roche. Wired charges that the industry is spending billions on sometimes trivial remedies and copycat drugs, even though fewer drugs are being developed, patents on old drugs are expiring and critical areas of medicine are being ignored.

The drug industry is sailing in rough financial waters at the moment: the 10 largest companies have lost US$130 billion in combined market value over the last two years; there have been a number of scandals over drug safety and controversial sales practices; and 17 drugs have been recalled.

Although pharmaceutical companies deny that research has been compromised by a focus on sales, they spend twice as much on marketing and administration than on research. And a significant proportion of research budgets is spent on… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
May
02
 

GERIATRIC MERCY KILLINGS

A 83-year-old Texas man dying of cancer who had nursed his partially paralysed wife for 13 years has been charged with her murder. Doctors say that James Roberson will probably die within months and his case may never come to trial. Police in Dallas speculated that either he did not want his wife Mary to go to a nursing home after his death or he did not want to leave her alone.

The killing has been widely described as an act of compassion. However, a Colorado State University expert on mercy killings, Silvia Sara Canetto, disagreed. "Whether it's compassionate for the other person [who is killed] is difficult to answer," she said. "I would say it's not." click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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