French green light for embryo research

 The French government has set in place a law which allows scientists to create embryonic stem cells from "spare" IVF embryos. The deputy minister for research, Fran?s d'Aubert, says that similar work was being undertaken around the world and that it would not be realistic to prevent it". The research, however, must be directed towards the development of treatments for serious diseases.

Until the new law comes into effect early next year, scientists will only be allowed to work on imported stem cell lines. It is estimated that there are 120,000 frozen IVF embryos in France which have accumulated… MORE

Research progress with embryonic stem cells</b>

Two research teams have claimed this month that embryonic stem cells (ESCs) can help restore heart function -- although human applications are still years away. In Israel, scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology generated heart cells which functioned as biological pacemakers. The technique has been successful in pacing pigs' ventricles.

And in New York, scientists from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center injected ESCs into mouse embryos which had a genetic heart problem which normally proves fatal. The cells developed into healthy heart tissue and influenced neighbouring cells by secreting two key signalling molecules. Their experiment indicates that there still much… MORE

Nobody here but me and my microbes</b>

A study by UK scientists in Nature Biotechnology indicates that ushering in the era of genetic engineering and personalised medicine may be more involved than anyone had imagined. It turns out that most of the cells in our body are bacteria, fungi and viruses. More than 500 species of bacteria exist in the human body, making up more than 100 trillion cells -- compared to a mere several trillion human cells. We humans, it seems, are "super-organisms" who share our bodies with an abundant quantity of other life forms.

It follows that much of the genetic material in our bodies… MORE

IN BRIEF: cyberchondria; postponing families; Italian referendum</b>

  • Browsing internet health sites can bring on a condition which doctors are calling "cyberchondria", according to a study by researchers at the University of Derby in Britain. People often incorrectly self-diagnose their ailments based on vague or misleading advice and then seek treatment that they do not need from their family doctors. The study found that sites linked to societies, charities or professional bodies normally gave sound advice, but sites run by individuals were often unreliable. MORE


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    Dolly's creator applies to clone human embryos

    Professor Ian Wilmut, the Scottish scientist who helped create the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, has applied for a licence to clone human embryos in order to study motor neurone disease. He says that cloned embryos will be an "extremely powerful" tool . "We would emphasise that, at this time, our objective is to understand the disease," he says. "We hope one day it will lead to treatment, but we're not… MORE

    Spain to allow embryo research</b>

    It was not just Spain's foreign policy which changed after the Madrid bombing swept a Socialist government into power. Health minister Elena Salgado told a medical conference in Granada this week that embryonic stem cell research would be allowed in Spain from the end of October. The only remaining step is drafting an informed consent protocol.

    Research will be done at the Institute of Regenerative Medicine in Catalonia and in the National Stem Cell Bank in Andalucia. The move has been vigorously opposed by the Catholic Church, but Ms Salgado dismissed its protests. "The Church has the right to inform… MORE

    Parents fight hospital to keep their infant alive</b>

    The British parents of a seriously ill infant girl have won the right to challenge a hospital's plans not to resuscitate her if she requires a ventilator. Eleven-month-old Charlotte Wyatt was born three months premature with serious heart and lung problems and doctors believe that she will not survive beyond infancy because her lungs are so severely damaged. She has never been able to leave the hospital. Nonetheless, her parents believe that she can pull through and that future medical advances could extend her life expectancy. But St Marys Hospital, in Portsmouth, believes that it is not in her best… MORE

    Growing problem of elder abuse</b>

    Someone slipped into a Philadelphia nursing home last week and cut the feeding tubes of six unconscious patients aged between about 40 and 80. Fortunately the leaking tubes were discovered soon after and none of the victims' lives was actually endangered. The barbaric" act -- in the words of local police -- was just one incident in what a study published this week in The Lancet calls the pervasive and growing problem" of elder abuse.

    Researchers from Cornell University estimate that the rate of elder abuse is probably between 2% and 10% and… MORE

    Could the First Amendment protect cloning? </b>

    The First Amendment to the American constitution guarantees free speech -- and therefore the right to perform cloning research, an author has argued in the New York Times. Brian Alexander, an advocate of extending human potential through technology, says that a number of legal scholars believe that the First Amendment protects the right of scientists to do research. After all, if the Supreme Court protected the "right to inquiry" in Griswold v Griswold, the famous case that struck down a state ban on contraceptives, shouldn't the right to inquire in a laboratory also be protected?

    Indeed, according to R. Alta… MORE

    Scientists struggle to justify animal research</b>

    mice have rights,too, The scientific community is ill-prepared for an increasingly bitter debate over animal research, according to a Newsday (US) feature. Over the past 40 years, the welfare of research animals has improved immensely -- but public standards have risen even more. A Gallup poll last year found that only 3% of American believed that animals don't need much protection because they are only animals -- but that 25% thought that they deserved "the exact same right as people to be free from harm and exploitation".

    The Foundation for Biomedical Research and… MORE

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