Long-term studies of PGD needed, says British expert

The health of children born after pre-implantation genetic diagnosis should be monitored for five years, says Professor Peter Braude, of King's College London. Developed 15 years ago, PGD involves extracting a single cell from an early embryo and testing it for sex or genetic diseases. Doctors do not believe that anything is amiss with PGD children, but they lack the data to prove it.

"I don't expect there to be abnormalities found, but there might be and I think we need to know whether this does cause any problems later. We do actually require some data to confirm that,"… click here to read whole article and make comments

Fireman’s recovery after 10 years puzzles doctors

In a case which was reported around the world in the wake of the debate over Terri Schiavo, a fireman who was severely brain-damaged 10 years ago has recovered consciousness and is chatting with his family. Donald Herbert, now 43, from upstate New York, was deprived of oxygen for several minutes in a house fire in 1995. When he was rescued he was blind, barely able to speak and unable to recognise family and friends. Suddenly, last week, he began to talk. Apparently he thought he had only been away for three months.

Doctors were stunned by Mr Herbert's… click here to read whole article and make comments

Adult stem cell cures move a step closer to reality

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a method of multiplying adult stem cells indefinitely, a step towards making them an effective therapy. The main obstacles to their acceptance have been isolating them and multiplying them. Now a team headed by Dr Rudolph Jaenisch has reported in the journal Cell that activating the Oct4 gene causes adult stem cells to replicate without forming mature tissue.

Konrad Hochedlinger, one of Jaenisch's team, explains that "you could remove a person?s skin tissue, put it in a dish, isolate the skin stem cells, then subject it to an environment that… click here to read whole article and make comments

Where’s the ounce of prevention, asks Australian IVF researcher

Dr Fiona Stanley Debates over IVF treatment are ignoring the primary question of how infertility can be prevented, says one of Australia's leading epidemiologists, Dr Fiona Stanley. She argues that IVF should be part of a broader approach to infertility which deals with its causes and with strategies for prevention rather than with a single type of treatment.

"The causes of infertility include sexually transmitted diseases and other infections that result in damage to the tubes down which the eggs must travel to be fertilised. We have data from most Australian states to… click here to read whole article and make comments

ABI in the media

by Dr Amin Abboud, The Age (Melbourne), May 6   

IN BRIEF: gay sperm donors; 9/11 and foetal stress; Gay sperm donors: Gay rights activists have criticised a ruling by the US Food and Drug Administration which bars any man who has engaged in homosexual sex in the previous five years from serving as an anonymous sperm donor, describing it as a "policy based on bigotry". Most doctors and IVF clinics are expected to observe the ruling, even though it does not have the force of law. Some American sperm… click here to read whole article and make comments

US scientists publish guidelines for ethical stem cell research

American stem cell scientists now have guidelines which will allow them to handle, destroy and clone human embryos ethically. A long- awaited report from the National Academies of Sciences recommends thorough documentation and close scrutiny of embryo research even though it sets few firm ethical boundaries.

Given the prestige of the National Academies, these recommendations are likely to be widely followed although they have no legal status. At the moment, the Bush Administration effectively discourages embryonic stem cell research and there are no coordinated national guidelines for scientists to follow. "A standard set… click here to read whole article and make comments

Congress may support Down Syndrome parents

The US Congress is studying a US$25 million bill to provide information and referrals to support groups for those wondering whether they should abort a Down syndrome child. The bill has the support of one of the Senate's most conservative Republicans, Sam Brownback of Kansas, and one of its most liberal Democrats, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

The author of an article in the last issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology about negative depictions of Down Syndrome amongst doctors and nurses, Harvard Medical School student Brian Skotko, was invited to help introduce… click here to read whole article and make comments

Australian govt sticks by IVF budget cuts

The Howard Government in Australia appears to have dug in its heels over its plan to reduce its generous subsidies for IVF treatment in its budget later this month.The minister for health, Tony Abbott, and the treasurer, Peter Costello, have flagged a cap on the currently unlimited number of cycles which the government supports through Medicare. They want to reduce it to three a year for younger women and to three in total for women over 42. The government estimates that this will save $7 million a year.

The idea has been… click here to read whole article and make comments

Effectiveness of IVF questioned

IVF can improve pregnancy rates amongst couples with unexplained fertility, but there is little evidence to show that IVF results in more live births than other treatments, according to a review of recent studies. "IVF is becoming popular when there is no specific explanation for unexplained fertility as it may be able to overcome a variety of problems," says Dr Zabeena Pandian, of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. "However, it is expensive, complicated and can have many adverse effects, including multiple births."

In reviewing the research Dr Pandian found that most studies are small and vary considerably in their quality,… click here to read whole article and make comments

Was stem cell research oversold in California?

In the wake of jubilation over California's new US$3 billion stem cell institute, the media is beginning to do a reality check on the potential of embryonic stem cells for "miracle cures". Writing in the Sacramento Bee, Stuart Leavenworth says that "most scientists say it will take years, and possibly decades, before embryonic stem cell treatments are proven and made widely available". Arthur Caplan, the most widely-quoted bioethicist in the US media, and a supporter of embryo research, acknowledges that nothing will happen quickly. "No one knows if you can control embryonic stem cells. It is like trying to argue… click here to read whole article and make comments

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