Foetal stem cells persist in mothers </b>

Cells from babies live on in their mothers for her lifetime and could even prolong it, US researchers at Tufts-New England Medical Center have found. Foetal cells which appear to act like adult stem cells have been found in the livers, thyroids and spleens of women who have been pregnant. The discovery could influence the American debate about embryonic stem cells because these extremely rare cells appear to migrate to diseased organs and help to heal them.

"If we can prove these are stem cells, and harvest them from the blood or tissue of a woman who's been pregnant,… MORE

Singapore row over research ethics </b>

Singapore's dreams of becoming a world-class research hub for biotechnology are being tarnished by a dispute over the sacking of a UK scientist who used to head its National Neuroscience Institute. In 2002 Dr Simon Shorvon was accused of conducting tests without the proper consent of the patients involved and over whether ethics committees had been kept fully informed.

However, the UK-based Medical Protection Society has rejected all charges of professional misconduct on his behalf and three leading UK medical experts said that he acted ethically at all times. One of them, Professor Peter Sever, of Imperial College London, called… MORE

Italy’s new IVF law attacked after tragic case </b>

Italians are debating their strict new IVF law after it had unforeseen consequences for a 26-year-old Sicilian woman. Pregnant with triplets after an IVF procedure, her life was declared to be "at risk" by her doctor and she had a "foetal reduction" to abort one of the children. This is the second instance of foetal reduction since the law came into effect in March. The law, passed after years without regulation, stipulates that only stable, heterosexual couples of child-bearing age can receive treatment. They can only have a maximum of three embryos created and all embryos have to be implanted.… MORE

Facts with few readers—or readers with few facts? </b>

An exchange in the letters column of the leading journal Nature raises interesting points about whether scientists should worry about the message or the facts when they talk to the media. In January Nature published an article by a group of conservationists which predicted that many species would become extinct by 2050. Its argument was complex and used hard-to-understand statistics. Many articles in the media were wildly distorted. Most of them blared that a million or more species would become extinct by 2050. These exaggerated claims were subsequently taken up by some politicians and conservationists.

The solution of some Oxford… MORE

IN BRIEF: Australian infertility ~ underage girls and IVF ~ sperm donors </b>

  • Skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes in Australia may leave many women unable to conceive a child, say doctors. "I believe that within 10 years, if obesity continues to rise at the present rate, half of all Australian women could be temporarily or permanently infertile," says Dr Robert David, an obesity researcher. MORE

  • Drug giant accused of improper marketing to doctors </b>

    Schering-Plough 2003 annual report One of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies is being investigated by federal prosecutors in Boston for paying doctors large sums to prescribe its drugs. According to an investigative report by the New York Times, Schering-Plough sent some doctors unsolicited cheques ranging from at least US$10,000 to six-figure sums in exchange for a "consulting" agreement which involved little more than prescribing its drugs. The government is also looking into allegations that Shering-Plough "flooded the market with pseudo- trials". Doctors would receive US$1,000 to US$1,500 per patient for prescribing Intron A, the… MORE

    Stem cell research compared to Nazi death camps </b>

    A prominent Federal MP has compared some medical research in Australian universities with that done in Nazi death camps. Addressing a Right to Life conference in Melbourne, Chris Pyne said that the moral vacuum of concentration camps, which set no value on human life, foreshadowed 21st Century utilitarian medicine. Mr Pyne, a South Australian Liberal who is parliamentary secretary for family and community services, singled out human embryonic stem cell research for special criticism.

    "The claims made for embryo stem cell research, puffed shamelessly in recent days by the press, are by and large immune to moral scrutiny," he said.… MORE

    Peter Singer: latest sighting </b>

    Professor Peter Singer The controversial utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer has given more ammunition to his critics by firmly endorsing infanticide in a UK newspaper. In an interview with a UK newspaper, The Independent, Singer, now a professor at Princeton University, explains why.

    "All I say about severely disabled babies is that when a life is so miserable it is not worth living, then it is permissible to give it a lethal injection. These are decisions that should be taken by parents -- never the state -- in consultation with their doctors."

    In any case,… MORE

    Survey claims that euthanasia is common in NZ </b>

    Many general practitioners are killing or hastening the deaths of their patients, according to an anonymous survey in the New Zealand Medical Journal. Thirty-nine of 693 GPs had performed "some kind of action which would conform to everyday concepts of physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia". In 380 cases, action was taken without consulting the patient, rendering the action "legally dubious", according to the authors of the survey, even if the patient had been too ill to respond. But in 88 of these cases, there had been no discussion even though the patient was competent.

    Like similar surveys in other countries, the… MORE

    UK doctors want to screen embryos for breast and bowel cancer </b>

    UK scientists are soon to apply for a licence to screen IVF embryos for breast and bowel cancer genes so that parents will not place their children at risk of suffering from these diseases in later life. "The whole idea is to select the embryo that doesn't have the gene so the woman can start their pregnancy knowing the baby is safe," said Dr Paul Serhal, of University College London Hospital.

    The idea was immediately savaged by Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics. "By the time these embryos have reached the age when they are at risk of breast… MORE

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