First Australian human embryonic stem cells created

A scientist at Sydney IVF celebrating the success of its stem cell tests. Photo: Peter Rae, Sydney Morning Herald A Sydney IVF clinic has created Australia's first embryonic stem cell line from a left-over IVF embryo donated by a couple interested in scientific research. The line was developed by Sydney IVF about a month it obtained a research licence.

The medical director of Sydney IVF, Professor Robert Jansen, says that the stem cells will be used for research. He predicts that they will eventually lead to therapies for degenerative diseases. "There are several hurdles but there's a small chance it will be inside five years." He also hopes to be able to create stem cell lines from genetically defective embryos to test drugs. "The potential of stem cell research is boundless," he says.

Rather than pass on the $500,000 spent on developing the stem cell line to its customers, Sydney IVF said that… click here to read whole article and make comments

Japan debates rules for organ donation

Faced with a lengthening list of candidates for heart transplants and a tiny list of donors, Japanese patients are going overseas to the US, Canada and Germany. Some parliamentarians claim that their law on organ donation is too restrictive and are calling for changes in the consent law. At the moment, Japan does not allow organs to be harvested from brain-dead patients unless they have expressed their wishes in writing. Without this in hand, even their relatives are not allowed to authorise a transplant. As a result, since 1997, only 29 Japanese diagnosed as brain dead have become organ donors, even though 3,000 suffer brain death each year.

Good intentions are not the problem. Although more than a third of Japanese say that they would be willing to donate their organs, only about 5% have signed donor cards. However there is also a deep cultural bias against harvesting organs from the brain-dead. A lobbyist against liberalising the law, Eiji Tsunakawa,… click here to read whole article and make comments

Bride famine arrives in India

Bride at Indian wedding Indian social scientists are predicting a rise in sexual violence and wife-sharing because 40 million aborted girls are missing from the population. It is estimated that 5 million girls are aborted each year. "In Haryana [state] a whole generation of young men is failing to find wives because a quarter of the female population has simply disappeared," says the London Times.

"All over India, since the 1980s when the country was flooded with cheap ultrasound technology, this mobile killing machine, wielded by doctors with no ethics, has been doing its lethal work," the Times reports. "Villages may not have clean drinking water or electricity, but they have access to ultrasound tests. Some clinics in towns load the machine onto a van, along with a generator, and go to remote towns offering sex-selection services. In some villages no girl has been born for years."

Women's groups have reported cases of… click here to read whole article and make comments

Nobel laureates back Kerry as white knight of US science

Forty-eight Nobel-Prize winning scientists have backed Democrat presidential hopeful John Kerry as the best hope for American science. President George Bush, they charge, had short- changed scientific research by accepting biased advice, reducing funding and restricting immigration of scientific migrants. "John Kerry will change all this," they said. "John Kerry will restore science to its appropriate place in government." Mr Kerry has promised to place America at the forefront of scientific discovery and amongst other moves, has promised to lift barriers to human embryonic stem cell research. click here to read whole article and make comments

Freezing eggs could be big business for US MBA student

A Harvard Business School student has founded a company which promises to extend women's fertility with the unproven technique of egg-freezing. Christina Jones, 34, who has already helped to found two IT companies, is establishing a network of clinics which will harvest, freeze and store eggs. The target market for her company, Extend Fertility, is women from elite universities and business schools who want to delay child-bearing because of their careers or because they cannot find a partner. Women as old as 40 will be eligible.

The project seems premature to many IVF doctors. Only about 100 babies have been born from frozen eggs around the world and there have been no studies of their subsequent health. Even amongst fertility specialists, Ms Jones's initiative is controversial. She has managed to recruit a scientific advisory board from the staff of Stanford University, but other scientists say that egg freezing is still experimental and that… click here to read whole article and make comments

Single cell could yield foetal diagnosis

An Australian scientist working for a US pathology giant is developing single-cell fingerprinting in a new laboratory in Brisbane. The work of Associate Professor Jock Findlay gives a glimpse of the range of capabilities opening up for the IVF industry.

Professor Findlay's team is developing clinical diagnostic techniques which can yield cheap and accurate results in a single day from a single cell. Foetal cells taken from a Pap smear will allow doctors to determine the sex of an unborn child and whether it has single-gene defects or Down syndrome or other major chromosomal abnormalities. This will enable all women to be tested -- not just those at risk of bearing a child with a defective genotype. It will then be possible to eliminate even more of the defective children.

Another test will help to make pre-implantation diagnosis more efficient by testing the single cell extracted from the embryo. This will also "fingerprint" an embryo to match it to the… click here to read whole article and make comments

Two more British suicide tourists die in Zurich

The Swiss suicide clinic Dignitas has helped a mentally ill British couple to die in its Zurich clinic. Robert Stokes, 59, and his wife Jennifer Anne, 53, drank pentobarbitone with the help of a "euthanasia assistant", a Bedfordshire coroner found this week. Their son David said that his parents were mentally disturbed. "I know my parents were not terminally ill. The only terminal illness they had was inside their heads," he told the press. click here to read whole article and make comments

Scottish bioethics council calls for embryo research moratorium

The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics has called for a moratorium on all research on human embryos in the UK because laws regulating the field are hopelessly out of date. The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, it says, grants licences for procedures which would outrage the public if they understood what was happening. The world-famous Roslin Institute in Midlothian which cloned Dolly the sheep, for instance, is creating embryos from human eggs without sperm, a process called parthenogenesis.

"Out of respect for democratic values and the view of the general public, a moratorium should be enforced on parthenogenesis and other possible procedures until the HFEA has adequately consulted with wider society," says the SCHB in report to the British Parliament.

The proposal was dismissed by biotechnologist Professor Wayne Davies, of Glasgow University. "I don't think people would be so keen on a moratorium if a member of their family were at risk of developing Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, or… click here to read whole article and make comments


by Michael Cook
Australian Doctor, 15 June 2004   

IN BRIEF: Zavos again click here to read whole article and make comments

Australian euthanasia activist promotes suicide pill in US

Director Janine Hosking working on her documentary of the death of Lisette Nigot Australian assisted suicide activist Dr Philip Nitschke is spruiking his "peaceful pill" in the US while he attends the launch of a documentary about his involvement in the suicide of a 79-year- old Perth woman. He will tell several right-to-die groups in Washington DC that his pill can easily be made from household ingredients. "If you drink it you will go to sleep and you will die," he explains.

The documentary, Mademoiselle and the Doctor, directed by Janine Hosking, is being shown at a Washington film festival. It examines the relationship between Dr Nitschke and Lisette Nigot, a retired academic who wanted to die before she turned 80, even though she was healthy. Because it depicts euthanasia as a basic right for everyone, not just those who are terminally ill and in great pain, Dr Nitschke acknowledges that it changes the… click here to read whole article and make comments

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