Biologists clone monkey embryos</b>

An American team has successfully cloned monkey embryos for the first time. Although the resulting pregnancies only last a month, reproductive biologist Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh was elated. His work has confirmed the results of a South Korean team which announced earlier this year that it had cloned human embryos and created an embryonic stem cell line. Dr Schatten says his work opens up the possibility of refining research cloning without using human eggs and embryos.

As recently as last year Schatten speculated in the journal Science that cloning any primate, including man, might be impossible. Now… MORE

India promoting medical tourism</b>

Dental Care and Cure Centre in Ludhiana: specializing in creating beautiful smiles. Indian doctors are profiting from globalisation by offering high-quality, low-cost medical treatment for foreigners in posh private hospitals. A recent study by the consulting group McKinsey estimated that India's revenue from medical tourism could be US$2.2 billion by 2012. Most patients come from Asia, Africa or the Middle East, although some come from the US, Canada and Europe.

India's health care system as a whole is far inferior to developed countries, but there are some superbly equipped hospitals, staffed by experienced doctors… MORE

IN BRIEF: euthanasia, ethnic weapons, gay genes… </b>

  • UK euthanasia: Two of the UK's royal medical colleges have dropped their opposition to a bill which would allow doctors to assist patients to commit suicide. The Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of General Practitioners have both adopted a neutral stance on a controversial private members' bill. The British Medical Association remains opposed. MORE

  • UN debates cloning again</b>

    Un Secretary-General Kofi Annan A year after debate in the United Nations' legal committee over an international ban on cloning ended in stalemate, the UN is again trying again to thrash out an agreement. The delegates are deeply divided, with about 60 countries led by Costa Rica opposing the creation of human embryos for research and 20 countries led by Belgium supporting it. There is unanimous support for a ban on reproductive cloning. The debate is expected to last for two days. Secretary General Kofi Annan has expressed his personal support for therapeutic cloning,… MORE

    Stem cells continue to fuel debate in US election</b>

    John Kerry embraces Dana Reeve, widow of Christopher Reeve, on the campaign trail Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry continued to boost stem cell research in the closing days of his campaign, painting his opponent as an enemy of science and progress. In Ohio he jeered that if George Bush had been President during other periods in American history, he would have sided with the candle lobby against electricity, the buggy-makers against cars, and typewriter companies against computers."

    Armed with a warm endorsement from the widow of Christopher Reeve, the recently deceased quadriplegic activist… MORE

    MIT professor slams Harvard’s stem cell bid</b>

    An MIT biotechnologist has pleaded with Harvard University not to pursue plans to do therapeutic cloning. Associate Professor James Sherley wrote in the Boston Globe that "adult stem cell research is predicted to beat the pants off human therapeutic cloning research when it come to yielding significant advances in cell medicine." Given the unresolved debate over whether the research is ethical, he argues, "no reviewing body could, in good faith, approve it". Prof Sherley also argued that the moral argument for therapeutic cloning was self-contradictory. At least reproductive cloning (which he staunchly opposes) creates life, while therapeutic cloning destroys it. MORE

    Colorado man finds kidney on web</b>

    Bob Hickey (left) and donor Rob Smitty In a radical break with accepted methods of organ donation, a Colorado executive has found a new kidney after linking up with a living American donor on a private website in Boston. Bob Hickey found his donor, Rob Smitty, of Tennessee, through, an internet site which charges US$295 a month to post patients' stories. The hospital where the procedure was done asked both men to sign statements that the donor was not profiting from the procedure, as US law forbids selling body parts. Hickey says that… MORE

    War or peace, ethics stay the same, says World Medical Assoc</b>

    The World Medical Association has announced that it will amend its policy on how doctors should behave in times of armed conflict to emphasis that the ethical standards which they observe in times of peace do not change because of war. This is intended to help doctors behave in an ethical way when they are caught between cooperating with the police or the army and their duty of care to their patients.

    The WMA reaffirmed its policy that it is "unethical for physicians to give advice or perform procedures that are not justifiable for the patient's health care or that… MORE

    Debating designer deafness

    A small number of people in the deaf community would use prenatal genetic testing or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to ensure that they have a deaf child, according to a news feature in Nature. Although the notion might horrify the non-hearing-impaired, many deaf people view their condition not as a handicap, but as a rich and vibrant culture. Some might fear that they could not share this way of life with a hearing child.

    A British genetics counsellor, Anna Middleton, has studied attitudes of deaf people to prenatal testing. Although her results were inconclusive, she did find that a few… MORE

    US stem cell experts study guidelines for chimaeric embryos</b>

    In the absence of a law governing stem cell research, the US National Academies are studying guidelines on the production of chimaeric embryos, which mix cells and DNA from different species. Many researchers believe that they could learn valuable lessons about human development by injecting human embryonic stem cells into embryos, foetuses or newborn animals of other species.

    For instance, Irving Weissman, of Stanford University, one of the leading figures in US stem cell research, feels that much of his own work is only be possible with human-mouse chimaeras. It would even be possible to construct a mouse whose entire… MORE

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