Will the male of the species go the way of the dodo?

Are men becoming obsolete? This dire news (or possibly good news in some circles) has been voiced many times as stem cell research unfolded over the past 20 years. Now there is an experiment to give it some credibility.

From two mothers, Chinese researchers have bred healthy mice which went on to have normal pups of their own. They achieved this feat by altering stem cells from a female mouse and injecting them into the eggs of another. Of 210 embryos, 29 survived.

Mice pups from two fathers were also born using a similar but more complex approach, but… MORE

Genetic privacy eroding fast with growth of ancestry databases

Back in April came the stunning news that a 30-year-old cold case may have been solved in California using “forensic geneology”. A man believed to be the Golden State Killer, who was responsible for at least 12 murders and more than 50 rapes between 1976 and 1986, was arrested after investigators used publicly available ancestry databases to track him down. His own profile had not been posted, but profiles of some of his relatives had been. 

As a statistical geneticist has noted: “You are a beacon who illuminates 300 people around you.”

From April to August, the use… MORE

Walmart wants to know your heart rate and temperature

About 324 million people live in the United States. About 140 million of them visit Walmart in person or online every week, many of them pushing shopping trolleys. Is there an opportunity for gathering Big Data here?

Probably. The retail giant has applied for a patent which can track a shopper’s heart rate, temperature, grip strength and walking speed through the handle of the trolley. The patent, published in August, is called a "System and Method for a Biometric Feedback Cart Handle".

Walmart intends to us the data it reaps to care for the health of its customers, according to… MORE

New journal to explore what comes after Humanity 1.0

This has just come to our attention: a journal launched last year on trans and post-humanism. The Journal of Posthuman Studies is based at the Ewha Institute for the Humanities, a Korean “research institute to overcome the crisis of humanities” and published by the Penn State University Press. Its editor-in-chief is Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, a German philosopher at John Cabot University in Rome.   

In an introductory note, Sorgner explains the difference between posthumanism and transhumanism, two terms which are probably regarded as synonymous by outsiders.

The two movements differ significantly in language, style, and methodology. Transhumanists are linear… MORE

Academics continue to spar over conscientious objection

Conscientious objection has been a subject of vigorous debate in medical ethics in recent years. Two major journals have published themed issues on the topic, and in 2016 a group of influential bioethicists published a consensus statement arguing for greater restrictions on conscientious objection in the UK and other Western liberal democracies.

Opponents of conscientious objection argue that doctors’ primary duties are to their patients and not to their own personal conscience, and that, where a conflict should occur between a clinicians values and that of their patients, the wishes of the patient should normally… MORE

NHS terminates contracts over waste disposal scandal

The National Health Service has terminated several contracts with waste disposal provider Health Environmental Services (HES) after evidence emerged that hundreds of tonnes of hospital waste, including human body parts, had been allowed to accumulate in the company’s facilities.

HES controls approximately 20 percent of the waste disposal market in the UK, and has facilities across the United Kingdom.

According to NHS England documents obtained by the Health Service Journal, large amounts of various forms of human waste, including amputated limbs, as well as infectious liquids, cytotoxic waste produced during cancer… MORE

Capital punishment abolished in Washington State

Washington State’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that capital punishment is “unconstitutional” and “racially biased”, in a decision that makes Washington the 20th US state where courts or legislatures have overturned or abolished the death penalty.

A five-member majority of the court did not say that executing people who commit heinous crimes is inherently wrong, but said evidence showed that death sentences had been “imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner”.

“We are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance,” the majority’s… MORE

MSF ordered off Nauru

The international medical aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres has been abruptly ordered off the Pacific island of Nauru where it was providing mental health services to asylum seekers detained by Australian authorities.

Nauru is home to a large Australian refugee processing centre that has been the centre of intense political scrutiny in recent years, with the indefinite detention of families and reports of substandard facilities leading Amnesty International to label it a “horror”.

The Nauruan government informed the MSF representatives last Friday that their services were no longer required, giving them just… MORE

Dutch man may have fathered 1000 children

Amsterdam street scene 

Ivo van Halen, a 34-year-old Dutch IT consultant, is compiling a very long Christmas card list. After learning that he was donor-conceived five years ago, he has been looking for his half-siblings on DNA testing sites on the internet. So far he has identified 57 of them in the Netherlands, plus his biological father. But a government agency for donor-conceived people believes that there could be as many as 1000 of them.

Mr van Halen’s sperm donor father donated regularly at three clinics for 20 years and some of the sperm was exported to… MORE

Should HIV+ people be allowed to donate organs?

A medical team at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa has performed an ethically controversial liver transplant from a HIV-positive donor to a HIV-negative patient.

The donor was the 27-year-old mother and the recipient her infant child.

She had insisted on being considered as a donor, but doctors were initially reluctant because international transplant guidelines clearly exclude HIV-positive donors. However, no other donors were available and the child was near death. After extensive consultation the transplant went ahead; the child appears to be healthy and HIV-negative. (Click here for the published case study.)

Writing in The… MORE

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