Speed bumps slow progress for stem cell institute

California's new stem cell institute has hit speed bumps which are delaying commencement of its controversial research into embryonic stem cells and therapeutic cloning . The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine was set up after voters endorsed a US$3 billion funding proposal. However, the initiative has come under fire not only from those who opposed it last year, but from legislators who claim that it is secretive and vulnerable to conflicts of interest. Two lawsuits challenging the legality of the sale of bonds have been lodged by taxpayer groups and opponents of embryonic stem-cell research.

Two state senators are also… MORE

Australia’s tiny sex selection industry closes its doors

Australian IVF clinics will no longer be able help couples choose the sex of their baby after the Federal Government's Health Ethics Committee ruled that sex selection was not in the interest of the resulting child. "Admission to life should not be conditional upon a child being a particular sex," said the authority. It also contends that the procedure, which involves discarding embryos of the "wrong" sex, might undermine the parent-child relationship. However, it still supports sex selection for couples whose children might suffer from sex-linked genetic diseases.

Only two fertility clinics in Australia have been offering sex selection. They… MORE

Amputation obsession not harmless

A Scottish surgeon who has amputated the limbs of healthy patients at their request is trying to get their psychological disorder formally recognised so that the amputations can be covered by the National Health Service. Dr Robert Smith had performed two of these operations before his hospital, the Falkirk Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, forbade him to do any more.

The desire to have healthy limbs amputated is a rare but well- documented disorder which goes under several names: apotemnophilia (love of amputation), factitious disability disorder, amputee identity disorder, or body integrity identity disorder (BIID). The notion of mutilating or removing… MORE

IN BRIEF: Nitschke; Nazi experiments; population

Nitschke: Australia's best-known euthanasia advocate, Dr Philip Nitschke, has just published a book, Killing Me Softly, with journalist Fiona Stewart. The publicity blurb says that "they offer a future where a 'Peaceful Pill' could revolutionise euthanasia just as the contraceptive pill transformed birth control a generation ago."

Nazi experiments: New research has revealed that the Nazi extermination camp experiments of Dr Josef Mengele were supported by a network of elite German scientists. Dr Susanne Heim has told the Guardian that "it was formerly believed that scientists in Germany were oppressed by the Nazi… MORE

The extraordinary saga of Terri Schiavo continues

Despite what experts say, her parents say that brain-damaged Terri Schiavo responds. The plight of brain-damaged Florida Terri Schiavo continues to shake America. In an extraordinary move, the US Congress was recalled from its Easter recess to extend her life once again. The Senate voted unanimously and the House of Representatives voted 203- 58 to move the case to a Federal court. Her parents will argue that her constitutional rights are being denied by a local judge's decision that food and water can be withheld, at her husband's request, until she dies.


Nose stem cells could be breakthrough

An Australian team on a shoestring budget claims that adult stem cells harvested from the nose can morph into every kind of cell in the body. Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, of Griffith University in Brisbane, says that olfactory stem cells have all the advantages of embryonic stem cells and none of the disadvantages. They can be easily harvested, will not be rejected by the immune system and will not form tumours. Nor do they pose the ethical conundrums posed by the use of stem cells harvested from embryos. The research has been published in… MORE

Govt moves to stop stem cell free-for-all in India

Two government departments in India have agreed to draft common guidelines to monitor and control the mushrooming fields of stem cell medicine and research. A number of clinics are already offering stem cell therapies and some research institutes are forging ahead with experiments on human embryonic stem cells without government permission. Doctors at New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), for instance, have been treating patients with bone marrow stem cells for heart disease, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and stroke without permission and without reporting results in peer-reviewed journals. According to Nature, some scientists are concerned about the… MORE

500 embryos disappear from Croatian clinic

Supporters of more liberal assisted reproduction legislation in Croatia are using the disappearance of 500 frozen embryos to press for reform. The embryos, which belonged to couples from Croatia, Austria, Bosnia and Switzerland, disappeared from the Petrova Hospital in Zagreb. They were the responsibility of a gynaecologist, Asim Kurjak, who is being investigated by police for implanting frozen embryos without permission of the donors. A black market in frozen embryos operates in Croatia, with eggs reportedly being sold for 1,000 Euros.

Croatian IVF began only five years after the birth of Louise Brown in 1978. However, its IVF legislation has… MORE

Obesity could rescue American social security

Obesity epidemic The good news is that legions of fat Americans are going to rescue their crumbling social security system from collapse by dying as much as 20 years earlier than they should, says an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. The bad news is that the benefits of lower-than-forecast pension payouts will probably be offset by lost productivity and increases in Medicare costs. One worrying symptom of an impending crisis is that the lifetime risk of diabetes has risen to between 30 and 40% -- and diabetes reduces life expectancy by… MORE

Beware of foreign organ donors, says Australian study

Patients who seek kidneys overseas face a much higher risk of death and failed grafts, an Australian study claims. Paying organ donors is illegal in Australia even though the there is a severe shortage. Consequently a few people with end-stage kidney disease shop for their organs in Iran, Iraq, South America, Eastern Europe, South Africa and the Philippines. The survival rate of patients from these operations appears to be between 80% and 90%, compared to 95% for Australian transplants. The difference grows with time. Only 60% of overseas patients survive for five years, while 82% or more survive if the… MORE

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