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Ailsa Stevens

Ailsa Stevens was formerly Genetics Editor at BioNews and at the charity that publishes it, the Progress Educational Trust (PET). She is a Press Officer at Cancer Research UK, the world's leading independent organisation dedicated to cancer research, where her work involves securing accurate and timely press coverage in relation to the charity's multimillion pound cancer research programme. Her work for PET has included writing publications such as A Guide to Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, a booklet explaining the science and ethics of PGD for a lay readership; writing articles for Ova, the in-house magazine of the London Women's Clinic; and working with Dr Jess Buxton to secure press coverage for the annual conference of the British Society for Human Genetics. Previously, Ailsa studied Genetics at University College London and then obtained an MSc in Science Communication from Imperial College London. She went on to work as Genetics Education Executive at Jeans for Genes, a UK charity which provides funds for research and care for children with genetic disorders. She was responsible for producing interactive e-learning resources for the charity, aimed at engaging primary and secondary school children with genetics; and she ran the charity's school speaker programme, which involves leading school assemblies during the run-up to Jeans for Genes Day. Any opinions expressed by Ailsa in BioNews articles are her own, and do not represent the opinions of any organisation she may be affiliated with.

BioNews Comment articles written by Ailsa Stevens:
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Cell-free fetal DNA: testing the waters
29 September 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens
A decade ago, it was found that the blood of pregnant women contains DNA from the fetus. The discovery of this 'free fetal DNA' (ffDNA) has led to the development of non-invasive prenatal diagnosis, where genetic characteristics of the fetus can be analysed a mere few weeks into pregnancy by... [Read More]
Is the embryo sacrosanct? Multi-faith perspectives
1 September 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens
Representatives of different faiths frequently intervene in debates around fertility and assisted reproduction, with religious perspectives cited in recent months both in support of and in opposition to the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill. Last Easter, the government's proposal to allow research using inter-species human or 'admixed' embryos... [Read More]
Cousin marriage: A cause for concern?
9 June 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens
Over a billion people worldwide live in regions where 20-50 per cent of marriages are consanguineous, and first-cousin unions are especially popular. Discussion of this phenomenon is confused by the fact that its causes are social and economic, while its outcomes tend to be measured in terms of child... [Read More]
Half-Truths?: The science, politics and morality of hybrid embryos
27 May 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens
The creation of human admixed or 'hybrid' embryos - which contain both human and animal material - is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill, and is an issue on which UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown bowed to pressure for a free vote by MPs, following... [Read More]
Debating deafness and embryo selection: Are we undermining reproductive confidence in the deaf community?
21 April 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens
Clause 14 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill states that in assisted reproduction, embryos known to be at risk of developing 'serious physical or mental disability' or 'serious illness' must not be preferred to embryos where there is no such risk (1). In the official Explanatory Notes to the... [Read More]
Artificial Gametes: The What, Why and How of Creating Sperm and Eggs in the Lab
10 March 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens
Scientists in Newcastle can now produce early stage human sperm cells from stem cells in the laboratory. This research is important for furthering our understanding of human development. If human eggs could be produced using similar methods in future, then this could potentially allow babies to be created without the... [Read More]
Prospective DNA Banking: Worthwhile? Ethical? Socially Acceptable?
1 October 2007 - by Ailsa Stevens
According to one Nature columnist, 21 October 2004 marked the 'End of the beginning'; the day the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium published its 'gold standard' version of the human genome sequence (1). The Human Genome Project was set up in 1990 to read all the instructions needed to make... [Read More]

BioNews Review articles written by Ailsa Stevens:
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Animation Review: Gene Therapy Explained – Changing our body's recipe to treat disease
8 March 2021 - by Ailsa Stevens
The pandemic has created huge demand for high quality home learning materials. One such resource is Great Ormond Street Hospital's new short film on gene therapy... [Read More]
Comic Review: How to Have a Baby - The Comic Book for Infertile Couples
7 October 2011 - by Ailsa Stevens
The 744-page book covers the causes of infertility, imaging techniques, assisted reproductive techniques, surrogacy, donor gametes and adoption... [Read More]
Comic Review: Unique Tales - All in the Mind
21 March 2011 - by Ailsa Stevens
When Tim is stuck on his biology homework, his brilliant scientist and inventor uncle has the perfect solution: an invention that allows a teacher to project their thoughts directly into the brain of their pupil. 'Oh, if only' I hear every teacher and science communicator gasp. Wouldn't projecting science messages into children's minds make our lives a whole lot easier?... [Read More]
Book Review: Generosity
20 September 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens
Scientists have pinpointed a handful of genes that contribute small, but significant, amounts to the happiness of some individuals. So is there some truth in the idea that our genes somehow limit our capacity for happiness? This is the backdrop for American author Richard Powers' latest novel Generosity... [Read More]
Comic Review: Alisa's Tale - A Short Story
10 May 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens
I'm going to come clean from the start. My experience of comics is limited to precisely one example: 'Preacher' by Gareth Ennis and Steven Dillon - the story of Reverend Jesse Custer, a beatnik Texan cleric who is accidentally possessed by a supernatural deity during a freak accident. Needless to say, the storyline bears little resemblance to 'Alisa's Tale' - the story of a young woman with a restricted growth condition known as achondroplasia... [Read More]
Exhibition Review: Centre of the Cell
26 April 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens
As the first science education centre inside a working laboratory, the Centre of the Cell is undoubtedly unique. Situated inside the RIBA award-winning glass Blizard Building, it aims to gets children excited about the work of cellular scientists and its real world applications... [Read More]

BioNews News articles written by Ailsa Stevens:
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Good teachers help kids reach their genetic potential
26 April 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens
Genetic influences are estimated to account for up to 82 per cent of a child's reading ability, but children can only make the most of their natural abilities if this is combined with excellent teaching, a study published in the journal Science last week has found...
Genes linked to brain aneurysm risk found
12 April 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens
Three new gene variants have been linked to increased risk of brain aneurysms in the largest ever genome-wide study of its kind. The discovery brings the total number of gene variants linked to the condition up to five and paves the way for more targeted drug treatments and early screening tests... [Read More]
Cell division genes published
6 April 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens
The results of a huge multinational project to pinpoint all the genes and related proteins essential for cell division are to be made publically available for other researchers to use... [Read More]
Clarification: Change to UK law allows same-sex couples to become legal parents
6 April 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens
Last week BioNews reported on the coming into force of new legislation allowing same-sex couples to become the legal parents of children born following IVF or surrogacy.... [Read More]
Change to UK law allows same-sex couples to become legal parents
29 March 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens
New legislation allowing same-sex couples to become the legal parents of children born following surrogacy will come into force next week. The change to the law means that couples using surrogacy no longer need to be married to be named on their child's birth certificate and is intended to afford unmarried and same-sex couples using any form of assisted reproduction the same rights to legal parenthood. It forms the final stage of the implementation of the UK's Human Fertilisati... [Read More]
UK clinic launches overseas egg donation service
15 March 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens
A donated human egg will be raffled on Wednesday to mark the launch of a new IVF service which helps UK women to access egg donation services in America. The new service, offered by the Bridge Centre in London, will allow patients to select egg donors on the basis of characteristics such as racial background, health, education and appearance.... [Read More]
HFEA publishes a Grade A Incident report
25 January 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens
The UK's Human Fertilisation Authority (HFEA) has for the first time released internal documents from an investigation. These reveal the fertility watchdog's findings about two IVF Grade A incidents at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust. In one, the wrong patient's sperm were used for micro-injection, although none of these eggs were allowed to proceed to fertilisation, and the patients involved were informed immediately; and in the other, four embryos were rendered unusable following PGD treatment
IVF children may have altered gene activity, study finds
11 January 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens
Differences in the pattern of gene activity between children conceived naturally and those conceived following IVF (in vitro fertilisation) have been identified, the Sunday Times newspaper resported last week... [Read More]
Gentler bone marrow transplants treat adults with sickle cell
14 December 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens
Adults with the inherited blood disorder 'sickle cell anaemia' may be treated using blood stem cells transplanted from a healthy tissue-matched donor, scientists based at the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, have shown. The treatment successfully boosted levels of normal red blood cells in nine out of 10 of the adults who have so far been given the experimental therapy, according to a study published in the New England J... [Read More]
London clinic calls for end to IVF 'postcode lottery', offers 21 free IVF cycles
23 November 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens
The Lister Fertility Clinic in London is offering free fertility treatment to 21 couples to mark its 21st birthday and the opening of their newly expanded clinic. Mr Sam Abdalla, Medical Director of the clinic, said that the gesture was part of the clinic's 'duty to make treatment more accessible' and an ongoing commitment to offer a number of free cycles each year as part of the clinic's 'community programme.'... [Read More]