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What were you reading in 2021?

17 January 2022
By Sarah Norcross
Sarah Norcross is director of the Progress Educational Trust and commissioning editor of its flagship publication BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 1128

In 2021 we published 99 comment pieces, 334 news articles and 74 reviews in BioNews. An amazing amount of work and many thanks to our fabulous volunteer writers and our three editors – whose time worked each week equates to just one fulltime employee.

Here at the Progress Educational Trust (PET), the charity which publishes BioNews, we have been looking back at what you read during 2021 and as well as reading the fresh content we published every week we found that some articles from the archive have had a resurgence in popularity and others have continued to be popular.

The most read article in 2021 was one from 2015 Bipolar disorder linked to high intelligence – written by Julianna Photopoulos. Why that one would suddenly be popular in 2021 is unclear, but its popularity had begun to increase in 2020 after there was news about rap artist Kayne West's bipolar disorder perhaps being responsible for some of his erratic behaviour and Twitter rants. 

Another article from 2015 was also in the top ten Can donor egg recipients 'pass on DNA' to their children? written by Dr Jess Buxton (one of BioNews' former editors). It came as no surprise that this was a popular comment piece, as there is always a great deal of interest in epigenetics in the donor conceived community and we plan to do a follow up piece on this later in 2022.

Of course, we expected COVID to feature, there were two comment pieces in the top ten. The first from 2020 written by Annabel Slater, reported on a session from PET's 2020 Annual Conference entitled Examining the Evidence: Can COVID-19 Affect Fertility? Can It Affect the Fetus? in which PET trustee Professor Allan Pacey, Dr Rita Vassena and Professor Ashley Moffet all spoke.

PET trustee Professor Frances Flinter penned Will a COVID-19 vaccine change my DNA? in February 2021 when there was a great deal of mis-information and concern circulating about RNA vaccines. We are delighted that her explainer piece, which was extremely informative, was so popular.

Separate research conducted independently by Professor Kathy Niakan in the UK and Dr Dieter Egli in the USA, and Dr Shoukhrat Mitalipo, also based in the USA, demonstrated that Genome editing in human embryos has unintended side-effects. These three important studies were covered in one article by Dr Jennifer Frosch. We are intrigued as to why this particular article was more popular than any of the others we have published on genome editing and CRISPR.

There has been an increased interest in male fertility in 2021 as more men have come forward to talk about infertility which may be why an article by Eleanor Taylor entitled Scientists pinpoint best time and season for sperm proved so popular.

The Health of IVF Babies: What Do We Know? What Do We Need to Find Out? – a synopsis of an event we held in February 2021 also featured in the top ten. One of the key messages we took away from the event was that research priorities need to be established for the long-term follow up of children born following IVF, and such multi-disciplinary research needs to be properly funded. It is a topic we hope to return too.

A popular story which was of particular interest to me was Jamie Rickman's Why single embryo transfers in IVF sometimes result in twins – because this phenomenon happened in my own family, when, after a single blastocyst transfer, my nephew and his wife found they were expecting twins. A shout out to those mischievous girls as they turned five last week!

There were human-interest news articles in the list too. This one from 2019 Native American man's DNA traced back 17,000 years written by Dr Sam Sherratt – which had a very arresting first sentence 'A Native American man in Montana has the 'oldest' human DNA in the USA according to news reports.'

The final one was written way back in 2010 by Harriet Vickers and it has featured in the top ten almost every year and is Birth of white baby to black parents, geneticists intrigued – this unusual case caused speculation among geneticists and has obviously captured readers' imaginations.

We look forward to seeing what you will read most in 2022 – will it be articles around the reform of the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act or will the stories have a more international focus? 

Whatever your interest in the area we cover we hope that you will continue to read and enjoy BioNews in 2022. 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
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