Miracle newborn revives after declaration of death

Just after an American team of transplant surgeons started a debate over heart transplants from terminally-ill, but not brain-dead, newborns, a “miracle” in an Israeli hospital ought to make people think twice about endorsing the controversial procedure. A 600-gram stillborn baby spent at least five hours in a hospital fridge after doctors had pronounced her dead. But when her parents came to arrange for her burial, she moved and grasped her grandmother's finger. "We unwrapped her and felt she was moving. We didn't believe it at first. Then she began holding my mother's hand, and then we saw her open her mouth," said 26-year-old Faiza Magdoub, the baby's mother. The child was taken to neonatal intensive care, where she is in critical condition. ~ Reuters, Aug 23


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Face transplants could become routine, say doctors

Face transplants could become routine, according to a survey of doctors who have successfully performed three of the revolutionary procedures. Writing in The Lancet, Dr Laurent Lantieri, a French doctor who operated on a man severely disfigured by a genetic disease, says "There is no reason to think these face transplants would not be as common as kidney or liver transplants one day."

As with all transplants, immunosuppressants are needed to keep the recipient's body from attacking the donated face. This appears to be under control. A French patient whose face was chewed by a dog now takes only three pills a day. "That's less than most people with diabetes," said Lantieri.

However, it is still early days, and some doctors are sceptical. There is an increased risk of cancer with anti-rejection drugs and the face might also be destroyed within a few years. Some doctors believe that the future of facial restoration is stem cells,… click here to read whole article and make comments

Lancet calls for post-abortion counselling

The leading international medical journal The Lancet has become a supporter of providing post-abortion psychological care. In response to a recent report from the American Psychological Association which found that first-trimestre abortion was no riskier than a birth, the Lancet said that “the fact that some women do experience psychological problems after a termination should not be trivialised... Women choosing to terminate must be offered an appropriate package of follow-up care, which includes psychological counselling when needed.” ~ The Lancet, Aug 23


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Blood from embryonic stem cells

A company specialising in embryonic stem cell research has reported in the leading journal Blood that it can create red blood cells from embryonic stem cells. In a company press release Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, highlighted the importance of his results.

“Limitations in the supply of blood can have potentially life-threatening consequences for patients with massive blood loss. Embryonic stem cells represent a new source of cells that can be propagated and expanded indefinitely, providing a potentially inexhaustible source of red blood cells for human therapy.”

The news made headlines everywhere, but a bit of scepticism is due, even though Blood is an important, peer-reviewed journal. First, ACT is on the verge of running out of cash and has a history of making sensational claims which get abundant media coverage even though the advances have little practical application.

Second, although ACT's… click here to read whole article and make comments

Chemical castration made option for paedophiles

Much of bioethical discourse is concerned with enhancement. How about dis-enhancement, or shedding, rather than adding to physical abilities? With the return of former rock star Gary Glitter to the UK in disgrace as a convicted paedophile in the news, a Canadian scheme to treat paedophiles with chemical castration is being studied as a solution. Serious sex criminals and men who have not offended but are afraid that they might are being treated with psychotherapy, group counselling and drugs.

I have seen many patients who have committed murders and rapes, who have been involved in sexual torture of victims, who have changed dramatically on these medications, to the point where they are nowhere near the risk they were,” says Dr Paul Fedoroff, of the Royal Ottawa Mental Healthcare Centre.

Chemical castration, or antilibidinals, as doctors term them, are not new and are already being used by psychiatrists in the UK. But there… click here to read whole article and make comments

British man grew marijuana to pay for IVF

This item in the Northhampton (UK) Post and Chronicle caught our eye:

“A businessman who ran a cannabis factory to help pay for IVF treatment ‘lost his bottle’ and shut it down after reading the Chronicle & Echo. Stephen Ashmore, aged 44, was jailed for 14 months at Northampton Crown Court yesterday for the cannabis factory he set up on an industrial unit in James Watt Close, Daventry.”

Mr Ashmore’s lawyer suggested that there were mitigating circumstances. He had been growing marijuana to pay for IVF treatment which cost £4,500 for each cycle. However, the judge was unsympathetic. "You're not going to get a suspended sentence from me,” he was told. “That would send out completely the wrong message and that needs to go out not just from newspapers but from this court."

That’s all the information we have to go on. What about Mr Ashmore’s missus? Did he have one?… click here to read whole article and make comments

Debate over controversial new heart donor rule for children

Heart surgeons at Denver Children’s Hospital have found a way to increase the supply of hearts for children who need a heart transplant. They have altered the definition of when a donor child is dead. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr Mark Boucek and colleagues explain how and why they shortened the time that another child’s heart stopped beating before they removed his heart. Between 2004 and 2007, with the approval of a local ethics committee, and the consent of the parents involved, they removed hearts from three children who had severe brain damage from oxygen deprivation during birth. The hearts were then transplanted into three children with severe heart problems. The doctors say that this reduces the time children spend waiting for a donated heart and reduces the number who die on the waiting list.

However, the Denver protocols are highly controversial. One bioethicist, George J. Annas,… click here to read whole article and make comments

The stem cell curse: more faked papers, unethical research

InnsbruckIs it their novelty? Is it their potential profitability? Or is it a Wagnerian doom which hangs over stem cell research? Once again a reputable researcher has allegedly violated ethical standards, run experiments badly and faked documentation in order to publish in a highly ranked journal.

This time Götterdämmerung took place in Austria, not Korea, and with adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cells. The ensuing controversy is in danger of tearing apart the Medical University of Innsbruck. In 2007, a team led by Hannes Strasser published a paper in The Lancet which described its success in cultivating stem cells taken from upper arm muscle and injecting them into women's urinary sphincter muscles to treat urinary incontinence. But an investigation by the government's Agency for Health and Food Safety has issued a report alleging that the urologists neglected to secure proper approvals for the trial, designed the trial poorly, and forged supporting… click here to read whole article and make comments

And another scandal in Bulgaria

And, in Bulgaria, even more stem cell Götterdämmerung. The entire board of Sofia's university hospital has been sacked over a scandal involving fraudulent stem cell treatment. This was followed by the resignation of the country's deputy health minister, Matey Mateev, whose 21-year-old son was also implicated. According to Bulgaria's largest newpaper, Trud, patients were told that they would receive bone marrow transplants from a matched donor at US$3,000 per procedure. Some patients were told that this treatment was their only hope of being cured. In fact, they were given their own bone marrow, which was quite useless as a therapy. Hospital doctors defended themselves by claiming that the procedure was part of "stem cell research". Mr Mateev backs them up, saying that they "are working on new approaches in medicine". ~ BMJ, Aug 15 click here to read whole article and make comments

Nordic sperm imports banned in US

Some American women are unhappy because the US Food and Drug Administration has banned the importation of foreign sperm to prevent the possible spread of mad cow disease.  Nordic sperm banks have been hit hard by the restriction. They were popular suppliers because their donors were blonde, blue-eyed, tall and well-educated. They also had a clearer genetic heritage. The Washington Post spoke with one woman, Julie Peterson, who desperately wanted the same sperm donor so that her daughter could have a sibling with the same biological father. Now women are having to go to scalpers for the few vials of frozen Nordic sperm which are still available in the US, or they have to travel to Mexico, Canada, or even back to Denmark. ~ Washington Post, Aug 13 click here to read whole article and make comments

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