Scientists grappling with chimera ethics </b>

chimeric mice The US National Academy of Sciences is studying the ethical limits of research with chimeras, or mixed-species animals, an issue which is becoming more urgent with the development of stem cell biology. Scientists are already developing animals which have human organs and cells: pigs with human blood, sheep with largely human livers and hearts; mice with some human neurons. They are useful for research on the development of cells and could become medical resources as well. Some scientists are growing partially human organs in animals, for instance.

However, there are concerns about… MORE

Koreans claim that adult stem cells have cured paralysed woman </b>

An unnamed Korean woman walks again after treatment with stem cells Researchers at Chosun University in South Korea claim that stem cells from umbilical cord blood injected into the spine of a woman paralysed for 19 years have helped her to walk again. The stem cells were injected on October 12 and within three weeks, she took her first steps with the help of a walker. Professor Song Chang-hun says that the technique will be tested on four more patients soon. The results will be published next year.

Another researcher, Professor Kang Kyung-sun, told… MORE

Asian stem cell centres “mind-boggling” </b>

UK scientists returning from a visit to Asia report that a staggering level of technology and commitment is being put into stem cell research in Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Singapore. "I came back blown away by the whole thing," said Stephen Minger, of King's College London, one of Britain's leading stem cell researchers. "It was mind-boggling to everybody." In Seoul, he found that the labs of Hwang Woo-suk, the first scientist to clone human embryos, were better equipped than his own and that Hwang's team was cloning nearly a thousand animal embryos a day. In China there was a similar… MORE

Evidence for health of IVF babies “relatively weak” </b>

A surprisingly negative report from the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) has concluded that contrary to popular belief, the evidence for the long-term health of IVF babies is "relatively weak" compared to other well-established clinical techniques. Some patients, it says, are "prepared to undergo any treatment that might help them conceive" and had not considered the long-term implications. "With couples willing to go to great lengths to have a child," the MRC says, "it is of paramount importance to safeguard the health of these children from the moment they are conceived until they grow up and want to start families… MORE

Animal rights extremists undermine democracy, says Oxford head </b>

Chris Patten The new chancellor of Oxford University in the UK has made a blistering attack on animal rights extremists. In his first speech as Chancellor, Mr Chris Patten said that their violent tactics were undermining fundamental principles of liberal democracy. Capitulating to them would encourage extremists of other stripes to harass universities to discourage them from studying particular branches of science or history, or from employing staff of particular ethnic or religious backgrounds. "These are all issues that are on the frontier between an Enlightenment world of liberty and reason, and darkness," he… MORE

Dutch euthanasia cases </b>

Two recent test cases in the Netherlands have helped to clarify the distinction between murder and palliative care. In the first, the Dutch Supreme Court rejected an appeal by an Amsterdam GP, Dr Wilfred van Oijen against a charge of murder. He had an 84- year-old patient in a coma who was expected to die within 48 hours. He injected 50 mg of alcuronium and soon afterwards she died. Dr van Oijen's defence was that this "help with dying" was palliative care. However, the Supreme Court rejected this argument. Because the patient was in coma, she was not suffering, and… MORE

Desperate” couples offered unproven IVF treatment </b>

Unscrupulous fertility clinics are offering women unproven and potentially risky tests and treatments based on the theory that natural killer cells" in the womb may be responsible for recurrent miscarriages. According to a study in the British Medical Journal, many women who have high levels of these cells are being offered powerful treatments, such as steroids or immune-suppressant drugs, to reduce them. But at this stage, say the authors, there is no evidence to justify the tests and it is wrong to offer risky treatments which have not been licensed for use in reproductive medicine.

Dr Mark Hamilton, of the… MORE

Switzerland gives green light to embryonic stem cell research </b>

map of Switzerland A nationwide referendum on embryonic stem cell research passed easily in Switzerland on Sunday with the support of two-thirds of the voters. Debates there had mirrored the pattern in other countries, with an alliance of religious, pro-life and green groups clashing with science and industry groups. The referendum was strongly supported by the Swiss pharmaceutical and biotech sector which, along with healthcare, accounts for about one-third of the total capitalisation of the Zurich stock exchange. Novartis and Roche, two of the world's largest drug companies, are based in Switzerland. Under the… MORE

Doctors and lawyer duel over malpractice in Florida </b>

Three strikes and your doctor is out in Florida. A newly approved amendment to the state constitution stipulates that any doctor convicted of three instances of malpractice will have his medical licence automatically revoked. The measure was supported by lawyers. Doctors retaliated by supporting another amendment which reduces the percentage of an award a lawyer can take as a fee. This also passed.

Unsurprisingly, Florida doctors are unhappy. "It has branded the state as probably the most unfriendly state for physicians," says Dr Robert Yelverton, a gynaecologist and obstetrician from Tampa. Observers think that lawyers now have the upper hand,… MORE

Stanford bioethicist closes ethical gap </b>

William Hurlbut It may be possible to obtain embryonic stem cells without creating an embryo, contends a conservative American bioethicist who sits on the President's Council on Bioethics. Frustrated by the poisonous stalemate between those who view the embryo as a human being and those who dismiss it as mere human tissue, Dr William Hurlbut argues that it is possible to use cloning technology to create a being which could never develop into an embryo, still less a baby.

According to the Boston Globe, Hurlbut's idea, which he calls altered nuclear transfer" has the… MORE

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