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




 
December
20
 

PRAGUE CHECKS OUT EUTHANASIA

Euthanasia has become a hot topic in the Czech Republic. As part of a revision of the criminal code, a bill before parliament sets a maximum penalty for assisting a suicide at six years, but sets no minimum penalty. This opens the door to allowing people who assist in suicides to walk away with only a token punishment, say critics of the bill. Its supporters claim that the law would simply distinguish between the different motivations for killing.

MP Miroslav Rethmann commented that "the main aim of the criminal code was to offer more protection, a better protection of human life. However, the way it has been worked out, the law in fact says that under certain circumstances some lives do not deserve the same protection as others." click here to read whole article and make comments




 
December
20
 

SWISS HOSPITAL TO LEND SUICIDES A HAND

And in Switzerland, a university hospital will begin offering its wards for assisted suicides, provided that the person is of sound mind and incurably ill. Until now, Swiss hospitals had refused to cooperate with the suicide organisations which have flourished there. But after two years of debate and consultation, the University of Lausanne has opened its doors. "We are not trying to encourage suicide," says the hospital's legal and ethical director, Alberto Crespo. " But at the same time, as a hospital, we have to respect the wishes of someone who wants to die. We can't be paternalistic. We can't decide for a person what they should do. It is up to the person to decide whether they want to live or not." click here to read whole article and make comments



 
December
20
 

SAS SOLDIER KILLS SON AND WALKS AWAY FREE

A former British SAS soldier has walked away with a two-year suspended sentence after killing his disabled 10-year-old son. Andrew Wragg, 38, admitted that he had killed his son Jacob, who had Hunter Syndrome, but he described it as a mercy killing. He sent his wife and other son out for the evening, drank himself "silly" and then smothered the child with a pillow. The jury cleared him of murder.

Muriel Gray, a Glasgow columnist, popular horror novelist and former rector of Edinburgh University, was scathing in her criticism of the case. "[Justice] Rafferty's decision appears to be based on the fact that she considers the parents of disabled children, on her sliding scale of suffering, to be right up there at the top, demonstrated when she talked about the 'remorseless strain' and pressure that Jacob put on his parents. The subtext is as patronising as it is bleak. It's 'Blimey mate. A life of clearing up snot, pooh and… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
December
20
 

IN BRIEF: IVF; Parkinson’s

IVF: Doctors fail to test for endometriosis, a disease of the lining of the uterus which causes infertility, before giving their patients IVF treatment , suggests an article in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Although the study was based on only 29 women, the research has important implications since endometriosis affects up to 50% of infertile women. Dr Camran Nezhat, of Stanford University, says that the pendulum has swung too far in favour of IVF -- which requires powerful fertility drugs that can carry serious side effects -- and treating endometriosis first may help women conceive. click here to read whole article and make comments



 
December
13
 

FACE TRANSPLANT PATIENT SELLS HER STORY

The world's first face transplant patient, Isabelle Dinoire, signed a film deal three months before her operation, the London Times, has revealed. Some doctors were disgusted by way Dinoire's doctors cooperated in the project. "It is a real travesty," Dr Raffi Der Sarkissian, a plastic surgeon at Boston University, told ABC News. I would not condone sale of photos, videos or details of the technique for product. With the advent of 'reality shows' and exposure of techniques all over the media, there exists a risk of experimental procedures being done not for the advancement of surgery, but for money and self-aggrandisement."

However, an American bioethicist quickly jumped in to defend the deal since it was done freely and Dinoire probably needed the money. Even if her medical expenses are fully covered by the French national health system, it is hard to see how she would have had an income since she was mauled, how she can work during her… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
December
13
 

THREE PROBES LAUNCHED INTO HWANG’S RESEARCH

 Three investigations have been launched into the research of therapeutic cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk, of South Korea. The journal Science, in which his article about extracting stem cells from cloned human embryos was first published, is conducting an inquiry after mistakes emerged about the presentation of his data. And both the Seoul National University, where Hwang has his lab, and the University of Pittsburgh, which had very close links with Hwang, are also conducting probes into his work. Hwang has said that he will cooperate with the inquiries.

When the controversy first caught fire, it appeared that the only issue was whether the egg donors for the cloning process had been volunteers and whether they had give true informed consent. Scientists outside of Korea expressed confidence in the integrity of his scientific work even after Hwang admitted that he had lied about the donors. However, Korean internet news agency Pressian and TV network MBC dug harder and produced allegations… click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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 from the editor: Pointed Remarks
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