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CONTENTS Issue #539
The Government's response 'largely restates past achievements'
Mental health needs more research
Book Review: Reproductive Ageing
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The Government's response 'largely restates past achievements'
21 December 2009 - by Dr Rob Elles, Dr Frances Flinter and Dr Christine Patch
The report from the UK House of Lords' Science and Technology Committee Inquiry into Genomic Medicine argued that rapid developments in genetic science require a new strategy for its delivery within health services and research. The Government's response to the Report largely restates past achievements and seems to suggest that minor modifications of current processes will allow delivery of the benefits of advances in knowledge.... [Read More]
Mental health needs more research
21 December 2009 - by Fenno Outen
Useful research in mental health care has historically been in short supply. Whether the issue is accurate diagnosis of problems, understanding their causes or the delivery of reliable treatment, there remains plenty of room for progress. For example, it is common for clinicians to disagree about diagnoses or for them to be changed on a regular basis. Furthermore a diagnosis provides a relatively poor guide to effective treatment.... [Read More]
MRC launches online stem cell regulation
21 December 2009 - by Ben Jones
The UK's Department of Health (DH) has made public a new website to help stem cell researchers in adhering to statutory, regulatory and best practice requirements. The UK Stem Cell Tool Kit, (accessible at, provides an online questionnaire covering the source of the stem cells to be used, whether genetic modification of the cells will occur and the extent of human contact with the materials generated. Answering these questions - which can be completed eith... [Read More]
Gene's 'parent' link to disease risk
18 December 2009 - by Dr Jay Stone
Non-profit Icelandic company deCODE genetics has published an article in Nature reporting that our chance of developing genetic disease can be different depending on whether we inherited the genes from our mother or father.... [Read More]
First non-embryonic stem cell product launched
21 December 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher
A commercial product claiming to be the first to make use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) has been launched, albeit not a product that can be directly used on humans. Cellular Dynamics International (CDI), a biotech company based in Madison, Wisconsin, US, has recently announced that it has released human heart cells derived from iPS cells for commercial use. CDI intends its trademarked iCell Cardiomyocytes to be used by pharmaceutical companies to aid in the drug... [Read More]
Red tape hampers US embryonic stem-cell research funding
21 December 2009 - by Nishat Hyder
The scientific research community in the US has had much cause to celebrate this past year following President Obama taking office and swiftly implementing a decidedly more liberal policy towards human embryonic stem cell (ES) research than was hitherto in place. Earlier this month the National Institutes of Health (NIH) approved 13 new ES cell lines under the new ethical standards. However, the granting of federal funding for research projects on ES cell lines - a key policy c... [Read More]
Tumour genes mapped in major milestone for cancer treatment
21 December 2009 - by Alison Cranage
Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have sequenced the genomes of two cancers - malignant melanoma skin cancer and an aggressive form of lung cancer. Their findings were published in Nature last week and could transform cancer treatments.... [Read More]
First synthetic biology code of conduct launched
21 December 2009 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo
There is a risk that advances in synthetic biology and low-cost DNA sequencing and synthesis could lead to the misuse of genetic technologies for bioterrorism purposes, where sequences of DNA could be ordered from a commercial gene synthesis provider and genetically engineered into a biological warfare agent.... [Read More]
Stem-cell lines neglect ethnic minorities
21 December 2009 - by Dr Aarathi Prasad
A recent letter to the New England Journal of Medicine has investigated the genetic ancestry of the most commonly used and widely distributed embryonic stem cell (ES cell) lines currently used in research, and highlighted the dearth of lines that originate from non-European populations.... [Read More]
Frozen embryo court appeal lost
21 December 2009 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh
The Supreme Court of the Republic of Ireland has ruled that a woman may not use her frozen embryos after her estranged husband, whose sperm was used to create them, refused consent. Mary Roche, 43, and her husband Thomas had one child in 1997. They then turned to IVF treatment at the SIMS Fertility Clinic in Rathgar, Dublin, which produced six embryos. Three of the embryos were implanted, resulting in the birth of one child. The other thr... [Read More]
NHS must improve access to IVF, say nursing leaders
21 December 2009 - by Dr Vivienne Raper
The NHS must improve access to IVF, according to a new policy briefing from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN)... [Read More]
Study shows preimplantation screening is safe for singletons
21 December 2009 - by Dr Vivienne Raper
The first large-scale study of genetic screening of embryos before implantation, published in January's issue of the journal Human Reproduction, has shown that the procedures used are safe for children born in single pregnancies.... [Read More]
Book Review: Reproductive Ageing
21 December 2009 - by Sarah Norcross
The first question I asked when picking up this book was: What is the image on the cover? Closer inspection and the power of Google revealed it is a dried poppy head (somniferum papaver) not, as I first thought, the egg from Alien - the science fiction horror film. What message does this convey? [Read More]

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