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.
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    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

    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

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