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CONTENTS Issue #519
Book Review: Fertility and Infertility for Dummies
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What role might epigenetics have in shaping a person's development?
2 August 2009 - by Professor Marcus Pembrey
Epigenetics is about the when and where of gene activity and about shaping development in response to early experience - from internal cues in the growing embryo to the prevailing physical and the social environment. So it is not surprising that discoveries in epigenetics are being enthusiastically embraced by those who find the fatalism often associated with classical genetics rather soul-destroying. But it is important not to overstate the case for epigenetics. DNA sequence, its vari [Read More]
Not your child's biological parent? You may still have an influence on their genes
3 August 2009 - by Olivia Montuschi
I am not a scientist. My life-long field of interest has always been human development and relationships. But, as a parent of two donor-conceived young adults and Manager of the Donor Conception Network (DC Network), I also have more than a passing curiosity about the extent of the influence of genetic inheritance on an individual's way of being in the world. Having met adult half-siblings of one of the earliest sperm donors I have been shocked by the likeness of intelligence and speec [Read More]
Brain tissue transplants not effective for treating Huntington's
2 August 2009 - by Rosie Beauchamp
A paper published in the 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' has outlined disappointing conclusions surrounding the use of brain tissue transplants to treat Huntington's disease. Thomas Freedman and colleagues at the University of South Florida in Tampa, US, report that transplanting portions of fetal brain tissue is not as successful as was previously believed.... [Read More]
Consumers don't necessarily know genetic risk can change
3 August 2009 - by Dr Charlotte Maden
People who have had their genome scanned to find the relative risks of them developing common genetic disorders may find themselves more or less at risk now than when they had the test done, even if thier lifestyle hasn't changed. This is due to more discoveries being made in the genetics field, and since it is often not understood by the individual, has resulted in calls for tighter regulations for the testing.... [Read More]
Nanoparticles act as bait to deliver 'suicide gene' into cancer cells
3 August 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher
Nanoparticle delivery of a payload of toxin, straight to the tumour location, without damaging healthy cells, is as effective as chemotherapy at killing ovarian cancer in mice - but without the nasty side effects. This new method, pioneered at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, Pennsylvania, US, is expected to be tested in humans within 18-24 months according to a report in the journal Cancer Research.... [Read More]
NHS scientists will be trained to give genetics advice
3 August 2009 - by Adam Fletcher
The UK's Department of Health is to invest £4.5 million into a new scheme aimed at improving NHS scientists' training in genetics. By giving scientists a ‘broader' schooling, they will be better placed to advise doctors on which DNA tests might be suitable, and what to make of the results. Part of the process may include sitting in on doctor-patient consultations.... [Read More]
Human egg-trafficking scam uncovered in Romania
3 August 2009 - by Ben Jones
Two Israeli doctors and one Romanian are being detained by a special Romanian investigative police unit after raids on a Romanian IVF clinic suspected to be involved in international human egg and stem-cell trafficking. The Romanian department for fighting organized crime (DIICOT) announced in a statement that 'the group was focusing on identifying foreign couples eager to resort to assisted reproduction techniques and on grabbing Romanian (women) aged 18-30 to donate ova for 800 to 1,000 lei... [Read More]
Paper announcing creation of sperm retracted for plagiarism
3 August 2009 - by Sarah Pritchard
A paper published in the journal Stem Cells and Development announcing the creation of human sperm cells from embryonic stem cells has been withdrawn because it contains plagiarised material.... [Read More]
Major league baseball involved in DNA testing
3 August 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen
A number of players in the Major Legal Baseball in the United States are being asked to provide samples for genetic testing to help clubs confirm their age and identity. It has been reported that some players from Latin America have provided false details regarding their age to secure lucrative baseball contracts and clubs have turned to DNA testing in an effort to combat the problem. But the tactic has been criticised by some bioethics commentators as posing a potential risk to liberty and i... [Read More]
World-famous PGD expert dies, aged 65
3 August 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens
Renowned fertility expert Dr. Yury Verlinsky died from colon cancer at the age of 65 on 16th July 2009. He was famous for pioneering the development preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in the 90's, a technique which allows couples with a serious inherited disease in the family to screen their embryos against the condition. The technique has been used by families at risk of some 200 genetic disorders, including haemophilia, sickle cell anaemia, muscular dystrophy, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic... [Read More]
HFEA publishes new sperm and egg donor figures
3 August 2009 - by Sarah Norcross
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) published new figures showing the number of new egg and sperm donors registered in 2008. The figures published on 31 July 2009 show that the number of both sperm and egg donors has increased.... [Read More]
Book Review: Fertility and Infertility for Dummies
3 August 2009 - by Caroline Gallup
According to the blurb, this book from the well known ‘…for Dummies’ series claims to provide: ‘explanations in plain English; ‘get in, get out’ information; top ten lists and a dash of humour and fun’. By and large it does what it says on the tin. A comprehensive reference book, it is overall well written and carefully thought through. The mix of scientific information, personal experiences and ‘Tips’ - all indicated by easy to identify symbols - make it easy to use... [Read More]

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