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CONTENTS Issue #530
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Welcome to BioNews by email, published by the Progress Educational Trust, providing you with news, comment and reviews on genetics, assisted conception, embryo/stem cell research and related areas. 


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The HFE Act 2008 - an end or a beginning?
16 October 2009 - by Sarah Elliston
1 October 2009 marked the second and major phase of the coming into force of the amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act 1990 made by the HFE Act 2008. The first phase, in April 2009, concerned parenthood provisions and the third and final phase (expected April 2010), will affect parental orders in surrogacy arrangements. Even from a legal perspective it is unfortunate and rather baffling that these changes have been brought about by amending the original legislation... [Read More]
'Older Mothers': a report on the '21st century motherhood’ conference held at UCL, 18 September 2009
19 October 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen
Maria Bousada, 69, once the world's oldest mother, died in July this year leaving behind two young children born following IVF only two years earlier. Her death reignited the debate surrounding 'older mothers' - or more specifically, post-menopausal women who require fertility treatment to conceive. In response to media attention surrounding Ms Bousada's death, Professor Sammy Lee, an expert in medical ethics, embryology and biomedical sciences based at University College London... [Read More]
Jawbone grown from stem cells
18 October 2009 - by Adam Fletcher
Tissue-engineers at Columbia University, New York, US, have grown a jawbone from bone stem cells in the laboratory for the first time. The team, led by Dr Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, published their work in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The result marks a milestone in the move towards bone reconstructions - from patients' own stem cells - for those affected by congenital defects, arthritis or cancer resections.... [Read More]
Nobel chemistry prize for structural biology
19 October 2009 - by Ben Jones
The 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded to three structural biologists for their work exploring the functioning of ribosomes at the atomic level. The laureates, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A Steitz and Ada E Yonath, have been recognized for the development and application of a novel X-ray technique known as X-ray crystallography in investigating the atomic level functioning of ribosomes.... [Read More]
World's largest breast cancer study will recruit 60,000 women
18 October 2009 - by Rosie Beauchamp
A research team led by Professor Gareth Evans at theNightingale Centre and Genesis Prevention Centre based in the Wythenshawe Hospital in Greater Manchester, UK, will carry out the biggest ever study to look at the causes of breast cancer with the aim of improving screening and diagnosis. One in 10 women in the UK develop breast cancer with 44,000 diagnoses a year, making it the most common cancer in British women.... [Read More]
Fetus can 'catch' mum's cancer
19 October 2009 - by Sarah Pritchard
In rare circumstances, it is possible for cancer to be passed in the womb from mother to fetus, according to international researchers. A team of British and Japanese researchers, writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, report the case of a Japanese woman who developed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) shortly after giving birth, and at 11 months, her daughter developed tumours in her cheek and fluid on her lungs.... [Read More]
Gene therapy could remedy Parkinson's
19 October 2009 - by Alison Cranage
A gene therapy for Parkinson's disease that has been tested on monkeys is showing promising early results in a small-scale trial on humans. French researchers reported their findings in the new journal Science Translational Medicine last week.... [Read More]
Revealed at last: the epigenome
19 October 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher
The first detailed map of the human epigenome has been published. The epigenome, sometimes described as the 'instruction manual' to the human genome, is a regulatory network of chemical switches that governs the activation of human genes, and is therefore ultimately responsible for how a person grows and develops. Scientists believe that this exciting work could lead to new treatments for a range of illnesses including mental conditions such as schizophrenia [Read More]
Royal blood disorder identified
19 October 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen
Scientists have discovered that the so-called 'Royal disease' that afflicted Queen Victoria's descendants was a very rare form of haemophilia. By analysing the degraded DNA taken from the bones of what are believed to be the last children of Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, scientists at the University of Massachusetts, US, discovered a mutation occurring in F9 on the X chromosome responsible for the production of Factor IX, a clotting agent. A ma... [Read More]
Australian mother adds twins to her two sets of quadruplets
19 October 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen
An Australian woman, who attracted media attention in 2005 after giving birth to a second set of quadruplets, has given birth again to a set of twins. According to the newspaper, The Australian, Mrs Chalk, 31, has had eleven children conceived using an anonymous sperm donor and artificial insemination, although there are conflicting reports that she may have undergone IVF. The treatment was given at a private clinic in Queensland.... [Read More]
US Task Force recommends free research and health care access to patented genes
18 October 2009 - by Nienke Korsten
The US Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society has accepted a new report from a dedicated Task Force, which recommends that scientists should be allowed to use any gene for research and patient treatment, even when it is patented.... [Read More]
New light cast on genetic influences on autism
18 October 2009 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy
A large genetic study has uncovered a single 'letter' change in DNA which is associated with autism. The multi-national collaborative team, who published their findings in Nature, also identified two further regions of the genome which could contain other rarer genetic changes that have an even greater influence on the condition. Coinciding with these discoveries and publishing their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by Pro... [Read More]
Study shows new screening technique to improve IVF success rates
19 October 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen
A new pre-implantation genetic screening technique may improve the chances of conception for patients undergoing IVF, a recent study reveals. At present IVF success rates are at around 30 per cent but by screening embryos prior to implantation this can be improved by avoiding common problems which can result in miscarriage or the embryo failing to implant.... [Read More]

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