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CONTENTS Issue #533
COMMENT
Secrecy and the problems of nostalgia
The new epigenetics
NEWS DIGEST
REVIEWS
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Secrecy and the problems of nostalgia
9 November 2009 - by Dr Jennifer Speirs
Professor Lisa Jardine sounded tired. Contributing to a BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme on 26 October, the chair of the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) declared that she was 'positively nostalgic' for secrecy and discretion.... [Read More]
The new epigenetics
9 November 2009 - by Professor Marilyn Monk
All cells in the body have the same complement of 25000 genes, yet different cells in different specific tissues - such as nerve, muscle or gut - have different characteristics phenotype. It follows that different subpopulations of genes within cells of differing function must be active or silenced depending on requirements for function in a particular tissue. Obviously, there will be genes concerned with metabolism, growth, and cell division - the so-cal [Read More]
US company selling IVF vacations
4 November 2009 - by Ben Jones
US company 'The World Egg Bank' has signed a deal with IVI fertility clinics in Spain to provide US consumers with 'IVF vacations' to Spain. The company, which provides the world largest online registry of egg donors, specialises in services involving the extraction, storage and sale of cryopreserved eggs. The company touts the tours as costing the same or less than the price of IVF in the US but with the added benefit of a vacation in Alic... [Read More]
New guidelines on egg freezing issued in UK
4 November 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen
The British Fertility Society (BFS) and Association of Clinical Embryologists (ACE) have issued new guidelines on egg freezing, also known as cryopreservation, after a review of the technology to ensure that patients have access to accurate information on the benefits and drawbacks of egg freezing as a fertility option. The guidelines, published in the journal Human Fertility, recognised that although egg freezing is a promising technology it is nevertheless still in its infancy... [Read More]
Concerns over lung cancer risk test aimed at smokers
9 November 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens
A UK company has launched a genetic test aimed at predicting the risk of smokers developing lung cancer. The test, known as Respirigene, assesses 20 different genetic markers which have previously been linked to lung cancer in combination with other known risk factors for the disease, such as age, any prior medical history of chronic lung disease, and family history of lung cancer, to decide whether an individual is in a high, moderate or low risk category for lung cancer.... [Read More]
Bid to block new US stem cell guidelines rejected by judge
9 November 2009 - by Nishat Hyder
A District Court Judge in the US has dismissed a lawsuit brought by an embryo adoption agency, Nightlight Christian Adoptions ('Nightlight'), and the Christian Medical Association ('CMA'). The lawsuit sought to prevent the implementation of the Obama Administration's new National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines on federal funding for embryonic stem (ES) cell research.... [Read More]
Gene test aims to predict reproductive lifespan
9 November 2009 - by Rosie Beauchamp
The discovery that variations in a gene called FMR1 could indicate the length of a woman's fertility by indicating the rate at which her egg supply will diminish may enable some women to find out how long they are likely to remain fertile. It is currently difficult to predict which women will experience premature ageing of their ovaries, but Norbert Gleicher at the Center of Human Reproduction in New York believes he will be able to study variations in a gene known as FMR1 - mutations in whic... [Read More]
Gene therapy halts deadly hereditary brain disease in two boys
8 November 2009 - by Dr Rebecca Robey
Gene therapy has been used to treat two young boys with a devastating and fatal brain disease called adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). Two years after treatment, both boys showed signs that the disease had stopped progressing and that there were no serious side effects from the gene therapy. These results, published in the journal Science, show huge promise, both for the future treatment of ALD and for the revival of investigations into the use of gene therapy to treat a wide variety ... [Read More]
UK considers plans to expand newborn screening programme
9 November 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher
The UK National Screening Committee is considering plans to screen newborn babies for a greater number of rare conditions. Currently, on a newborn's fifth day, a single spot of blood is taken from their heel, and they are screened for five conditions including sickle-cell disorders (SCD) and cystic fibrosis (CF). Parents then receive the results of the tests around eight weeks later. This lags behind some areas of Europe where they test for 10 or more conditions, and some American states that... [Read More]
Twins are healthier at birth if they shared with a sister
8 November 2009 - by Sarah Pritchard
Twins who have shared the womb with a sister are healthier at birth than those who shared with a brother. Newborn twins with a sister are less likely to be pre-term, have a low birth weight, and have fewer respiratory problems, a new study suggests.... [Read More]
US lawsuit against gene patents to go ahead
8 November 2009 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy
A lawsuit challenging the patents relating to two genes linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer will proceed, a US federal judge ruled last week.... [Read More]
Reduced sentence for murderer with 'genetic predisposition' to aggression
8 November 2009 - by Nienke Korsten
An Italian court has reduced the sentence of a convicted murderer by a year based on evidence that he carries genetic mutations linked to aggressive behaviour. This is the first time that genetics have been considered a mitigating factor in a European court sentencing.... [Read More]
Spinal stem cell treatment gets go ahead from the FDA
8 November 2009 - by Dr Jay Stone
American company Geron Corporation (GC) has been given permission to resume its clinical trials testing the embryonic stem cell treatment GRNPOC1.... [Read More]

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