British boy cured with cells from “saviour sibling”

UK doctors say that a six-year-old boy has been cured of a rare blood disorder because of transplants from a baby brother who was created to give him tissue-matched healthy blood cells. Charlie Whitaker was born with Diamond Blackfan anaemia, which is normally a fatal condition. His parents failed to get permission from British authorities to create a "saviour sibling", so they sought help from a Chicago clinic which offered pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. A baby brother was born last year.

Ethicist John Harris, of the University of Manchester, denied that Charlie's case was a step towards designer babies or… MORE

Swiss to vote on stem cell research</b>

Voters in Switzerland will decide in a referendum next month whether scientists should be allowed to extract stem cells from surplus" IVF embryos. A law to this effect was passed last year by the Swiss parliament. However, green and anti-abortion groups joined forces and collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue. The government and science organisations are campaigning to support a Yes vote. At the moment, only one scientist is doing research with human embryonic stem cells in Switzerland, but she imports her cells. Anita Holler, of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, says that "many… MORE

Review finds child health unaffected by IVF</b>

The largest review ever of IVF children has found that the way they were conceived did not have an impact on their overall health, although there are immediate problems at birth. Kathy Hudson, of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University, brought together a panel of experts who reviewed 169 high quality studies.

Apart from the well-known risk that IVF children will be premature, underweight and twins, there appeared to be no notable problems with overall health, development and psychosocial skills, childhood cancers, major malformations and growth abnormalities, she said. However, the results for children born from… MORE

IN BRIEF:  euthanasia; Schiavo; IVF

  •  Schiavo -- In the latest incident in the long-running Terri Schiavo case, the Florida Supreme Court has rebuffed another attempt by Governor Jeb Bush to keep her alive. The governor is now considering an appeal to the US Supreme Court. Her parents are also waiting for a decision on their request for a new trial to determine their daughter's wishes.
  • MORE

    Embryo research divides candidates in final weeks

    In the closing weeks of the US presidential campaign, the use of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) has become a clear point of difference between the two candidates. Senator Kerry has given it his firm and frequent support, while President Bush is depicting his own policy as pragmatic but principled.

    It was expected that the issue would emerge in the third televised debate between the candidates this week. But there was only an oblique reference to it when Kerry was asked about Catholic bishops opposition to ESC research. "I am a Catholic and I grew up learning how to respect… MORE

    Harvard to clone embryos

     Scientists at Harvard University will probably become the first in the US to clone human embryos for research. Two separate teams at the newly-formed Harvard Stem Cell Institute are preparing applications for the university's ethics committee. One team, under Professor Douglas Melton, is applying to clone embryos to study juvenile diabetes. The other, under Dr George Q. Daley, will study diseases of the blood.

    Dr Daley recently was hauled over the coals at a committee hearing in the US Senate. He was repeatedly asked by Senator Sam Brownback, a fierce opponent of research cloning, exactly how old an embryo… MORE

    British judge rules that baby may die

    Doctors caring for a critically ill infant may decide if she should be denied life-saving treatment, a judge of the UK High Court has ruled. In a case which has riveted Britain, Sir Mark Hedley said that if her condition deteriorates the child's hospital can ignore her parents' insistence that that she be resuscitated.

    Eleven-month-old Charlotte Wyatt was born three months prematurely and has severe breathing and neurological problems. She has never been able to leave hospital and has survived only with the help of a life support system. Nevertheless her parents have insisted that she be kept alive… MORE

    Dispute over Colorado man’s “brain death” </b>

    A dispute over whether a Colorado man died before or after his organs were harvested has highlighted the ambiguous nature of "brain death". Last month 31-year-old William Rardin shot himself in the head after a history of mental illness. He was declared brain dead and an organ-recovery team removed his organs. However, the local coroner, Mark Young, later ruled the death a homicide, saying that the organs had been taken before adequate testing had been done to confirm the brain death diagnosis.

    The subsequent uproar led to a study by a panel of experts (which included a representative of the… MORE

    Wrongful birth lawsuit in Singapore</b>

    A 47-year-old Singaporean woman is suing her obstetrician because he failed to offer her a chance to abort her Down Syndrome child. The case is the first of its kind in Singapore.

    Katharine Soh Lea Chin was told by her doctor that because previous ultrasound scans had not detected any abnormality in the foetus, there was no need to have one later in the pregnancy. The doctor is defending himself by claiming that the woman consulted him two days past Singapore's legal limit of 24 weeks for abortions.

    Mrs Soh says that caring for the child is "physically and emotionally… MORE

    The UK’s other war on terror</b>

    Police in Coventry have arrested two animal rights activists for desecrating the grave of a woman linked to a farm where guinea pigs are bred for sale to research laboratories. The incident is the latest skirmish in a long-running campaign of harassment to close the Darley death camp", as the protesters call it.

    The woman was a relative of the Hall family which runs Darley Oaks farm. The Halls have experienced hate mail, malicious phone calls, hoax bombs, a paedophile smear campaign and arson attacks from extremists within the animal rights movement. The activists counter that they are fighting for… MORE

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