Embryo research “barbaric”, says Irish biotechnologist</b>

However sceptical scientists may be about the ethics of using embryonic stem cells (ESCs) or about their therapeutic potential, few oppose the right of other researchers to do it. Even adult stem cell researchers tend to argue in favour of unrestricted freedom for scientific inquiry. So in the lead-up to a United Nations debate on cloning next month a blast from a respected Irish biotechnologist comes as a surprise. In an article in the Irish journal Studies, Dr Martin Clynes, the director of the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology at Dublin City University, describes… MORE

Sex selection increasing in Sydney</b>

Couples are paying up to A$13,000 to select the sex of their child at IVF clinics in Sydney, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The more prominent of these is Sydney IVF, run by Professor Robert Jansen. It does about social 100 sex selections a year, with another 100 done for medical reasons. Girls have been the choice of 63% of couples, says Dr Kylie de Boer, a sydney IVF embryologist. "When the mother is the driving force, the decision is almost always for a girl. It's about the mother-daughter relationship." The SMH's investigation of genetic testing uncovered another clinic… MORE

Maverick scientist creates cow-human hybrids </b>

Dr Zavos at one of his many media appearances Despite venomous quarrels, bitter hostility and mutual incomprehension amongst the doctors, lawyers, scientists and philosophers who wrangle about bioethics, there is one thing on which they can agree: Panayiotis Zavos is a bad, bad dude. The controversial American fertility expert, who combines technical expertise with the bumptious manners of a carpet salesman on late- night TV, has become notorious for attempting to clone humans -- unsuccessfully, so far, despite a number of tantalising press conferences. None of Zavos's work has thus far been corroborated by… MORE

The fate of surplus embryos: thawed out, burnt up and prayed over</b>

With no regulation to determine what US IVF clinics should do with their surplus embryos, clinics have come up with an astonishing array of solutions, according to a study in the journal Politics and the Life Sciences. About 3% of clinics managed to avoid creating any surplus embryos, a practice that has just been mandated in Italy. About 16% of the clinics kept the embryos frozen for ever, because of religious reasons, state laws, or fear of being sued. Occasionally they were "adopted out" to infertile couples.

The great majority of clinics did dispose of the embryos, but in very… MORE

IN BRIEF: euthanasia; Bill Gates; medical tourism; unsafe water</b>

  • French health minister Philippe Douste-Blazy wants to bring a simmering debate on euthanasia to a boil. In an interview with Le Figaro, Douste-Blazy, a cardiologist, called for a law which would ensure "the right to die in dignity" without authorising active euthanasia. MORE

  • Shifting the goal posts for embryonic stem cell research</b>

    stem cellsAlthough it is more difficult to assess who is winning the PR war over embryonic stem cells than who is top dog in the presidential race, one certainty is emerging. Scientists are now acknowledging that there has been too much hype about "miracle cures". The near horizon for clinical trials is now being set at five years. Some leading scientists have stopped mentioning cures and instead stress how important ESCs will be for research.

    For example, Irving Weissman, of Stanford University, one of America's leading stem cell scientists, says that rather than being… MORE

    Germany under pressure to legalise therapeutic cloning</b>

    In the wake of the British Government's decision to issue the first licences for cloning embryos to the University of Newcastle, Germany's National Ethics Council may recommend legalising cloned embryos as well. "The UK position to allow cloning human embryos for research underscores the different opinions within Europe," says the Council's chairman, Spiros Simitis. "It also forces all other members to review their positions."

    A leading newspaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, has reported that a majority of the council's 25 members now favour lifting a ban, provided that a clear regulatory system is in place. On the other hand, not all… MORE

    Bioethicists slated for ties to industry</b>

    A bioethicist from Canada's McGill University has made a stinging attack on his colleagues for snuggling up to commercial interests to secure funding. Writing in Nature Biotechnology, Leigh Turner asks, "if bioethicists are incapable of maintaining financial and intellectual independence from the drug industry, what purpose will their social commentary serve?" He accuses the discipline of betraying its roots in social critiques of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when it criticised the conduct of biomedical research.

    Like the outspoken philosopher Carl Elliott, Turner argues that "30 years later, the independence and integrity… MORE

    Preemie tests limits of survival</b>

    An American girl who was born at 27 weeks and weighed only 280 grams has grown into a healthy 14-year-old, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. Although IVF baby Madeline Mann is small for her age -- only 136 cm, compared to an average of 163 cm -- she is in the top 20% academically. "I think her development is a miracle," says the doctor who helped deliver her, Jonathan Muraskas. Other doctors agree. They say that Madeleine's case is a rare exception and that most extremely premature and low birth- weight babies have serious… MORE

    Cloning pets goes commercial in US</b>

    Tabouli and Baba A California company which cloned the world's first cat nearly three years ago is starting to fill orders for cloned pets. Genetic Savings and Clone recently produced Bengal kittens Tabouli and Baba Ganoush. Now five customers are paying US$50,000 each for a clone of their cats, which should be ready by December. And several hundred clients are paying $150 a year plus an initial $900 to preserve tissue for future cloning. Critics say that the company is exposing animals to risks without any benefits. "The quest for immortality in ourselves and… MORE

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