March 3, 2014
Why men are more likely to have autism: Their brains are more prone to genetic flaws, study finds
(Daily Mail) – Researchers claim to have discovered why autism is more common in boys than girls. A study, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, suggests girls require more extreme genetic mutations than boys to develop the condition. As a result, it is less likely that they will be pushed over the diagnostic threshold for autism. Study author Dr Sébastien Jacquemont, of the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland, said: ‘This is the first study that convincingly demonstrates a difference at the molecular level between boys and girls referred to the clinic for a developmental disability.
February 27, 2014
Study calls DNA test reliable in discovering fetal disorders
(Los Angeles Times) – It’s billed as a faster, safer and more accurate way of screening expectant mothers for fetal abnormalities like Down syndrome, and proponents say it has already become the standard for prenatal care. But as a handful of California companies market their DNA-testing services to a growing number of pregnant women, some experts complain that the tests have not been proven effective in the kind of rigorous clinical trials that are required of new drugs.
FDA weighs evidence on producing ’3-parent’ embryos
(Fox News) – U.S. medical advisers are considering whether there is scientific justification for allowing human studies of a controversial procedure known as “three-parent in vitro fertilization (IVF),” a technique supporters say could prevent horrific genetic defects but that critics believe could lead to designer babies. During two days of public hearings starting on Tuesday, scientists were scheduled to present their research to outside advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
February 24, 2014
Is genetic testing humans playing God?
(CNN) – “It’s a miracle,” she told me. “We can now have a baby that won’t have Huntington’s disease. I thought I’d never be able to have any kids — because of the disease.” Her father had died from this disorder, which results from a gene mutation. She feared that she might have the mutation, too. But she was too scared to undergo testing for it. She also worried that if she had it, she might pass it on to her children.
February 19, 2014
Breeding out breast cancer risk: A step too far?
(ABC News) – Breast cancer is the latest disease being bred out of families through preimplantation genetic diagnosis – an embryo screening test once reserved for fatal genetic disorders. The test, dubbed PGD, uses a single cell to scour the DNA for genetic typos during the in vitro fertilization process. Embryos with disease-causing mutations are then discarded in favor of their genetically superior siblings.
February 17, 2014
Scientific racism’s long history mandates caution
(Phys.org) – Racism as a social and scientific concept is reshaped and reborn periodically through the ages and according to a Penn State anthropologist, both medical and scientific researchers need to be careful that the growth of genomics does not bring about another resurgence of scientific racism. “What we are facing is a time when genomic knowledge widens and gene engineering will be possible and widespread,” said Nina Jablonski, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology. “We must constantly monitor how this information on human gene diversity is used and interpreted. Any belief system that seeks to separate people on the basis of genetic endowment or different physical or intellectual features is simply inadmissible in human society.”
DNA sequencing of IVF embryos
(MIT Technology Review) – A reproductive clinic in New Jersey is testing whether DNA sequencing can help make in vitro fertilization less risky. In the trial, researchers will use DNA sequencing to count the number of chromosomes in each of the embryos they create by fertilizing a woman’s eggs in a dish. An abnormal number of chromosomes is the most common reason for IVF to fail, experts say, and as many as 30 percent of fertilized human eggs have such abnormalities. By selecting only those embryos with the normal number of chromosomes to transfer into the uterus, doctors hope to improve the success rate of IVF.
February 14, 2014
Abortion clinics warned over gender selection
(The Telegraph) – Abortion clinics are to be issued with new guidance making it “abundantly clear that gender selection is illegal” in the wake of a series of scandals. Lord Howe, health minister said the rules would be distributed to all providers, while the General Medical Council has been asked to publish guidance on the same matter for all doctors.
February 10, 2014
The cost of IVF: 4 things I learned while battling infertility
(Forbes) – That’s when I found out I would be one of more than 85,000 women in the U.S. annually who undergo in-vitro fertilization, or IVF, as a way to create a family. Utilizing IVF and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or PGD, the team of doctors and embryologists at our infertility practice would be able to create embryos, and then biopsy those embryos to ensure that only those not affected by Tay-Sachs were among those selected to create a pregnancy. As I began researching IVF, I also dove into the financial details of the treatment.
February 5, 2014
Case report on genetic diagnosis of fatal disorder in embryos before pregnancy
(Medical Xpress) – Genetic testing of embryos for a fatal inherited neurodegenerative disorder allowed a woman to selectively implant two mutation-free embryos and conceive healthy twins, what researchers call the first case of in vitro fertilization (IVF) with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to prevent genetic prion disease in children, according to a case report in JAMA Neurology by Alice Uflacker, M.D., of Duke University, Durham, N.C., and colleagues.
February 4, 2014
Ethics questions arise as genetic testing of embryos increases
(New York Times) – Genetic testing of embryos has been around for more than a decade, but its use has soared in recent years as methods have improved and more disease-causing genes have been discovered. The in vitro fertilization and testing are expensive — typically about $20,000 — but they make it possible for couples to ensure that their children will not inherit a faulty gene and to avoid the difficult choice of whether to abort a pregnancy if testing of a fetus detects a genetic problem.
January 31, 2014
A New Edition of Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy is Available
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy (Volume 17, No. 1, February 2014) is now available online by subscription only.
- “The enhancement debate” by Bert Gordijn and Henk ten Have
- “Moderate eugenics and human enhancement” by Michael J. Selgelid
- “Human freedom and enhancement” by Jan-Christoph Heilinger & Katja Crone
- “Pharmaceutical enhancement and medical professionals” by Gavin G. Enck
- “Authenticity and psychiatric disorder: does autonomy of personal preferences matter?” by Manne Sjöstrand and Niklas Juth
January 10, 2014
Forced abortion highlights abuses in China policy
Since the abortion more than two years ago, Gong has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She traveled with her husband to the capital to demand help paying for her treatment, but she ended up being hauled away in her pajamas by police, a detention recorded on video by The Associated Press. Forced abortions are considered an acceptable way of enforcing China’s population limits, but they are banned when the woman is more than five months pregnant. Yet no one has been held accountable for Gong’s late-term abortion, and other women in similar cases also struggle to get justice and compensation. (Washington Post)
January 7, 2014
Will U.S. kill kids in name of compassion?
Belgium is on its way to allowing doctors, with parental consent, to kill children deemed to be afflicted with “constant and unbearable physical suffering.” The kids must also sign off on this, as if a child has the capacity to reason like an adult. We are on the malignantly slippery slope to becoming a society like that envisioned by Nazi Germany, one in which “undesirables” are disposed of like used tissue. (Forbes)
December 26, 2013
Why IVF parents are choosing girls over boys
Parents are increasingly asking to choose the sex of their children in an attempt to lower their baby’s risk of diseases and disorders ranging from cancer to autism, IVF doctors say. Figures from one of Sydney’s top IVF clinics show about one in 20 parents seeking embryo screening are looking to have a female baby to reduce their risk of autism. Fertility experts say the issue is the tip of the iceberg with a huge range of tests becoming available. Some clinics in the US now offer testing for up to 600 different genetic markers. (Sydney Morning Herald)
December 20, 2013
Non-invasive method devised to sequence DNA of human eggs
Researchers have for the first time determined the genome sequence of human egg cells without destroying them. The feat, reported today in Cell1, could help couples who undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) by allowing them to choose a genetically healthy embryo to implant into the mother without disturbing the embryo’s growth. (Nature)
December 18, 2013
Too much information
Several companies have introduced genetic tests that use blood drawn from the mother. These tests can be performed earlier in pregnancy than amniocentesis is usually done, which means that if the results suggest an abnormality, women and their partners have more time to grapple with whether to have an abortion or prepare for a child with special needs. If the results are reassuring, the cloud of anxiety dissipates sooner. (MIT Technology Review)
December 17, 2013
New study demonstrates IVF success rates for women at any age when used with newer chromosome testing methods
A groundbreaking study examining chromosomal testing of embryos during IVF has shown that older women are just as likely to become pregnant as younger women if a genetically normal embryo is transferred. Without this test, the chance of implantation decreases with advancing maternal age. Researchers at Reprogenetics have found that the rate at which embryos implant is the same regardless of maternal age in women 42 or younger when newer genetic screening techniques are used to screen and selectively transfer normal embryos during IVF. (Market Wired)
December 13, 2013
The lobotomy files: Part one forgotten Soldiers
The U.S. government lobotomized roughly 2,000 mentally ill veterans—and likely hundreds more—during and after World War II, according to a cache of forgotten memos, letters and government reports unearthed by The Wall Street Journal. Besieged by psychologically damaged troops returning from the battlefields of North Africa, Europe and the Pacific, the Veterans Administration performed the brain-altering operation on former servicemen it diagnosed as depressives, psychotics and schizophrenics, and occasionally on people identified as homosexuals. (The Wall Street Journal)
December 10, 2013
Virginia under renewed pressure to give reparations for those sterilized under state law
Growing national attention to the 20th-century practice of forcibly sterilizing thousands of Americans has put new pressure on Virginia lawmakers to compensate survivors. A drumbeat from both the left and the right of the political spectrum has revived outrage over eugenics, a practice designed to create an American master race by preventing people with mental illness, developmental disabilities or epilepsy from having children. State officials estimate that Virginia sterilized 7,325 people under a 1924 state law that remained on the books until 1979. (Washington Post)
November 26, 2013
A New Edition of Nature Medicine is Available
Nature Medicine (Volume 19, No. 11, November 2013) is now available online by subscription only.
- “Small nanobody drugs win big backing from pharma” by Sarah CP Williams
- “Straight talk with…Ricardo Dolmetsch”
- “Telltale hearts” by Jeanne Erdmann
- “A new value proposition” by Michael Kolodziej, et al.
- “Eugenics to medical genetics”: Wylie Burke reviews “The Science of Human Perfection: How Genes Became the Heart of American Medicine” by Nathaniel Comfort