Fertility chief to be carpeted over “designer baby” tests</b>

The head of the UK's fertility authority, Suzi Leather, has been issued a "please explain" note by a House of Commons committee after she failed to consult Parliament or the public before allowing a London IVF clinic to screen embryos for an adult-onset medical condition. MPs, scientists and bioethics groups are alarmed that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has established a precedent for using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to detect a genetic predisposition to diseases which will only affect people in later life. A spokeswoman for the HFEA would only reveal that the committee which made the decision was made… MORE

Spain approves embryo research</b>

The Spanish government has announced that researchers will be allowed to create embryonic stem cells from IVF embryos, despite bitter opposition. "It is not ethical to place obstacles and difficulties in the way of scientists who are using their talent and knowledge to improve our capacity to treat illness," deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega explained. The health minister added that it would provide a "socially useful" purpose for spare IVF embryos.

The Spanish government plans to spend 100 Euros (US$130 million) over the next four years on "regenerative medicine", including embryo research. The health minister indicated… MORE

New method of creating embryonic stem cell lines</b>

A Chicago IVF clinic has developed a new method of obtaining embryonic stem cells which some scientists say could bypass ethical objections. Yury Verlinsky, of the Reproductive Genetics Institute, says that his team has managed to create stem cell lines from four- day-old human embryos at the morulae stage. All previous embryonic stem cell lines have been created from older embryos at the blastocyst stage. There is only a day or two of difference in age, but it appears that stem cells can be extracted from the morulae without killing them. This raises… MORE

Green light for older mums</b>

The world's leading science journal, Nature, has declared that there is no place for "ageism" in reproductive medicine. In a special issue on human fertility, Nature argues that scientific advances which could delay menopause should be welcomed and that older women should not be discouraged from having children. Research into women's reproductive health is important for its potential benefits to quality of life and overall health. It should not be sidetracked by detractors who make the patronising and outdated argument that older women shouldn't have babies that they will be too old to care for."

A double standard of fertility… MORE

IN BRIEF: </b>informed consent; cloning; US doctors; organ donor

  • Informed consent MORE

  • IVF expert backs rabbit-human embryos</b>

    Professor Alan Trounson wants to create rabbit-human hybrids Leading reproductive biologist Alan Trounson, of Monash University in Melbourne, says that hybrid rabbit-human embryos could be a useful source of embryonic stem cells to test drugs for incurable diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis. Addressing a conference in Melbourne, he said that interspecies embryos would be used in research centres around the world, if not in Australia, within the next two to four years.

    With a review of Australia's two-year-old law governing embryo research and cloning coming up, Professor Trounson wants Parliament to put… MORE

    UN defers vote on cloning</b>

    Once again the United Nations has deferred a vote on an international cloning ban because of an apparently unbridgeable gap between supporters and opponents of therapeutic cloning. Although the debate in the legal committee ended last Friday, discussion will continue informally, according to UN sources. Achieving an agreement could ultimately hinge on the upcoming American elections, for a Kerry victory would swing the US behind cloning human embryos.

    Bernard Siegel, the executive director of the Genetics Policy Institute, a therapeutic cloning lobby group in Florida, claimed that the delay represented a victory. He noted that a number of southern African… MORE

    Flu vaccine rationing raises ethical concerns</b>

    Americans eager to get flu shots Americans are infuriated that a critical shortage of flu vaccine has hit just as they are preparing for the onset of winter. The flu strikes 56 million Americans each year. Public health authorities expect about 200,000 to be hospitalised and 36,000 to die. Routine vaccination against the flu nearly always wards off serious problems. Both presidential candidates have attempted to squeeze the crisis for votes, President Bush by foregoing his annual flu shot, and Senator Kerry by accusing his opponent of incompetence. Experts predicted this scenario long ago,… MORE

    Scientists probing “therapeutic forgetting” </b>

    Some things you'd rather forget Could a tablet swallowed immediately after a terrible experience help you forget it? Scientists are working on drugs which might be able to prevent traumatic memories being stored if taken soon after a disturbing event -- or at least to dull their impact if they are reawakened. These could be useful for treating victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as soldiers or torture victims. Tests of a drug called propranolol, which blocks stress hormones that etch memories in the brain have been promising enough for researchers to conduct… MORE

    Nip ‘n tuck no key to happiness</b>

    British cosmetic surgeons have warned that their services will not save a marriage or change an unhappy life. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has published guidelines which discourage patients from seeking surgery in times of stress and unhappiness. More Britons seek cosmetic surgery than any other European country, with rhinoplasty, breast enlargements and liposuctions increasing sixfold in six years.

    The surgeons are worried that the popularity of television make-over programs will lead people -- mostly women -- to feel that this kind of surgery is a normal procedure, more like tinting eyelashes or having one's hair done. "The… MORE

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