Progress report: adult stem cells

  • A California company has announced that it can obtain ethically non-controversial stem cells from the placenta. Celgene Corporation has developed a technology which isolates pluripotent cells. They can then be used for repairing damaged or diseased tissue. "Human embryos were once thought to be the only source of stem cells that could give rise to all types of tissue, but several studies have shown that stem cells derived from the placenta following birth may have similar regenerative properties," says a company press release. Celgene's latest research has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal. MORE

  • US IVF industry begins to centralise

    In a move which reveals the growing sophistication of the IVF industry, a supplier of business services is quietly building up a nationwide network of providers. IntegraMed, a New York company listed on NASDAQ with revenue of around US$100 million, specialises in business support for the US$2 billion fertility industry. It is also moving into self-insurance for malpractice suits in conjunction with a number of high-quality clinics. Integramed regards itself as "the only true national fertility brand".

    IntegraMed recently affiliated with a leading Philadelphia IVF clinic, Abington Reproductive Medicine, adding it to 23 other fertility clinics across the country. Its… MORE

    Bioethics and language

    An Indian doctor has coined a new term to describe screening and eliminating unborn children if they have genetic defects, preventive genetics". Dr Sharad Gogate, of Foetal Medicine Consultancy Services in Mumbai, says that it is "a new clinical specialty which tries to reduce the serious impact of these genetic disorders on the individual as well as entire population". With the mapping of the human genome, it will be possible to reduce the burden of genetic disease. She feels that if defects are not detected "at an early stage [they] can be most devastating for the individual, family and the… MORE

    IN BRIEF: gelding cloned; bills fail

    Cloning: French and Italian scientists have succeeded in cloning a horse which was an endurance champion. Horses in endurance races are normally gelded, so they cannot sire offspring. Since international rules do not permit artificial insemination or any kind of fertility treatment for horses, the clone will be used for breeding. MORE

    Belgian doctors often kill newborns

    More than half of the newborn babies who died in the Dutch- speaking region of Belgium were helped on their way by doctors, according to The Lancet. Researchers studied the death of nearly every baby under twelve months in Flanders between August 1999 and July 2000. Paediatricians told them that they had taken "end of life" decisions in more than half the cases. In most instances, this meant withholding or withdrawing treatment because they believed that the baby had no chance of survival or no chance of a "bearable future". But in 40… MORE

    Large US companies moving into stem cell research

    Several large companies in the US are starting to do research with embryonic stem cells (ESCs), the Wall Street Journal has discovered. Amongst the companies which have already launched research programs or plan to do so are Becton, Dickinson & Co, Invitrogen Corp, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric Co, and the US-based operations of the Swiss drug company Novartis. Although some are interested in stem-cell therapies, most of them regard this as risky work which is unlikely to lead to products in the short term. Instead, they want to use ESCs to test… MORE

    Disability activists fearful after Schiavo case

    from the Not Dead Yet website Disability activists in the US are worried that the death of Terri Schiavo may set a precedent for how they will be treated, according to the Washington Post. "The right wing wants to kill us slowly and painfully" with limits on government assistance, says the founder of the disability group Not Dead Yet, Diane Coleman. "The left wing wants to kill us quickly and call it compassion."

    What happens if I go to the hospital and they say, 'He's so disabled anyway, should we do these heroic measures?'"… MORE

    Researchers still learning about brain injuries

    In the wake of the bitterly contested death of Terri Schiavo, the New York Times has surveyed how much doctors know about the type of brain injury she sustained. In recent years researchers have done a lot of work to categorise unconscious states. The most familiar, of course, is sleep, whose deepest phases show little electrical activity in the brain and almost complete unresponsiveness.

    Then there are states of impaired unconsciousness known as comas. There are a range of states of comas, but patients usually emerge from them gradually within two to three weeks. Recently doctors agreed on another category… MORE

    Nazi scientists did cutting-edge science by following funding trail

    A deeper look at the role of scientists in Nazi Germany is overturning the conventional view that only a few rotten apples collaborated and that their work was mere pseudo-science anyway. Independent science historians supported by the Max Planck Society (MPS), which administers 80 research institutes in Germany, have studied archives and found how closely many scientists worked with the Nazi regime at the height of its power.

    The MPS now believes that a large part of the worst criminal activity was not pseudo-science, but cutting edge work. The government of the time willingly funded basic research without requiring scientists… MORE

    England moves one step closer to euthanasia

    England and Wales have moved a step closer to legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide with the publication of a House of Lords select committee report on the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill bill. Now that an election has been called for May 5, there will be no debate in Parliament, but the report suggests a debate early in the next session. Members of the committee visited Oregon, the Netherlands and Switzerland and heard from more than 140 witnesses. The were divided on whether the law should be changed, but they did recommend that a future bill should be considered… MORE

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