Stem cells continue to fuel debate in US election</b>

John Kerry embraces Dana Reeve, widow of Christopher Reeve, on the campaign trail Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry continued to boost stem cell research in the closing days of his campaign, painting his opponent as an enemy of science and progress. In Ohio he jeered that if George Bush had been President during other periods in American history, he would have sided with the candle lobby against electricity, the buggy-makers against cars, and typewriter companies against computers."

Armed with a warm endorsement from the widow of Christopher Reeve, the recently deceased quadriplegic activist… MORE

MIT professor slams Harvard’s stem cell bid</b>

An MIT biotechnologist has pleaded with Harvard University not to pursue plans to do therapeutic cloning. Associate Professor James Sherley wrote in the Boston Globe that "adult stem cell research is predicted to beat the pants off human therapeutic cloning research when it come to yielding significant advances in cell medicine." Given the unresolved debate over whether the research is ethical, he argues, "no reviewing body could, in good faith, approve it". Prof Sherley also argued that the moral argument for therapeutic cloning was self-contradictory. At least reproductive cloning (which he staunchly opposes) creates life, while therapeutic cloning destroys it. MORE

Colorado man finds kidney on web</b>

Bob Hickey (left) and donor Rob Smitty In a radical break with accepted methods of organ donation, a Colorado executive has found a new kidney after linking up with a living American donor on a private website in Boston. Bob Hickey found his donor, Rob Smitty, of Tennessee, through, an internet site which charges US$295 a month to post patients' stories. The hospital where the procedure was done asked both men to sign statements that the donor was not profiting from the procedure, as US law forbids selling body parts. Hickey says that… MORE

War or peace, ethics stay the same, says World Medical Assoc</b>

The World Medical Association has announced that it will amend its policy on how doctors should behave in times of armed conflict to emphasis that the ethical standards which they observe in times of peace do not change because of war. This is intended to help doctors behave in an ethical way when they are caught between cooperating with the police or the army and their duty of care to their patients.

The WMA reaffirmed its policy that it is "unethical for physicians to give advice or perform procedures that are not justifiable for the patient's health care or that… MORE

Debating designer deafness

A small number of people in the deaf community would use prenatal genetic testing or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to ensure that they have a deaf child, according to a news feature in Nature. Although the notion might horrify the non-hearing-impaired, many deaf people view their condition not as a handicap, but as a rich and vibrant culture. Some might fear that they could not share this way of life with a hearing child.

A British genetics counsellor, Anna Middleton, has studied attitudes of deaf people to prenatal testing. Although her results were inconclusive, she did find that a few… MORE

US stem cell experts study guidelines for chimaeric embryos</b>

In the absence of a law governing stem cell research, the US National Academies are studying guidelines on the production of chimaeric embryos, which mix cells and DNA from different species. Many researchers believe that they could learn valuable lessons about human development by injecting human embryonic stem cells into embryos, foetuses or newborn animals of other species.

For instance, Irving Weissman, of Stanford University, one of the leading figures in US stem cell research, feels that much of his own work is only be possible with human-mouse chimaeras. It would even be possible to construct a mouse whose entire… MORE

British boy cured with cells from “saviour sibling”

UK doctors say that a six-year-old boy has been cured of a rare blood disorder because of transplants from a baby brother who was created to give him tissue-matched healthy blood cells. Charlie Whitaker was born with Diamond Blackfan anaemia, which is normally a fatal condition. His parents failed to get permission from British authorities to create a "saviour sibling", so they sought help from a Chicago clinic which offered pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. A baby brother was born last year.

Ethicist John Harris, of the University of Manchester, denied that Charlie's case was a step towards designer babies or… MORE

Swiss to vote on stem cell research</b>

Voters in Switzerland will decide in a referendum next month whether scientists should be allowed to extract stem cells from surplus" IVF embryos. A law to this effect was passed last year by the Swiss parliament. However, green and anti-abortion groups joined forces and collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue. The government and science organisations are campaigning to support a Yes vote. At the moment, only one scientist is doing research with human embryonic stem cells in Switzerland, but she imports her cells. Anita Holler, of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, says that "many… MORE

Review finds child health unaffected by IVF</b>

The largest review ever of IVF children has found that the way they were conceived did not have an impact on their overall health, although there are immediate problems at birth. Kathy Hudson, of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University, brought together a panel of experts who reviewed 169 high quality studies.

Apart from the well-known risk that IVF children will be premature, underweight and twins, there appeared to be no notable problems with overall health, development and psychosocial skills, childhood cancers, major malformations and growth abnormalities, she said. However, the results for children born from… MORE

IN BRIEF:  euthanasia; Schiavo; IVF

  •  Schiavo -- In the latest incident in the long-running Terri Schiavo case, the Florida Supreme Court has rebuffed another attempt by Governor Jeb Bush to keep her alive. The governor is now considering an appeal to the US Supreme Court. Her parents are also waiting for a decision on their request for a new trial to determine their daughter's wishes.
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