April 16, 2014
China Bans Genetic Testing
(Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) – For nearly a half-century, interrupted only by the Cultural Revolution, China promoted the growth of genetic testing to prevent and address birth defects through state-run hospitals, as well as charities and increasingly in recent years, private enterprises. Then in February, China reversed course. The China Food and Drug Administration posted a new regulation that immediately banned genetic testing—even previously approved services “including prenatal genetic testing, gene sequencing technology-related products, and cutting-edge products and technologies.”
April 7, 2014
Minister Orders Investigation into Abortion of Girls
(The Telegraph) – A new survey of birth ratios in Britain has been ordered by the Government, amid fears that sex-selective abortions are taking place in Britain. Earl Howe, a health minister, said the Government wants to “monitor the situation” and “remain vigilant” following evidence that some doctors in the UK are carrying out selective abortions.
March 31, 2014
Genetic Screening to Enhance IQ Should Be Embraced
(The Conversation) – There could be a way of predicting – and preventing – which children will go on to have low intelligence, according to the findings of a study researchers at Cardiff University presented on Monday. They discovered that children with two copies of a common gene (Thr92Ala), together with low levels of thyroid hormone are four times more likely to have a low IQ. This combination occurs in about 4% of the UK population.
March 27, 2014
What’s Next in Prenatal Genetic Testing?
(Medscape) – At the Future of Genomic Medicine VII conference in March 2014, leading experts in genomic research and clinical application discussed the expanding influence of genomics on the practice of medicine. Medscape asked Jay A. Shendure, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, to offer insight on how the advent of noninvasive genetic testing has influenced prenatal assessments and what might be next on the horizon in the field of reproductive medicine.
March 26, 2014
Hitler’s favorite American: “Biological Fascism” in the Shadow of New York City
(Salon) – Excerpted from ”Villains, Scoundrels, and Rogue: Incredible True Tales of Mischief and Mayhem.” Growing up in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the early 1900s, young Carrie Buck impressed those she met as serious and self-possessed, someone whose quiet demeanor hinted at a life filled with challenges. Of humble origins—her widowed mother had given her up to foster care as a child—the stocky, darkhaired girl didn’t let her difficulties get her down. She enjoyed reading the newspaper, liked to fiddle with crossword puzzles, and always made herself useful around the house. She was a bit awkward in social situations, but otherwise she was a thoroughly average teenager. No one had any reason to think differently of her. Then something terrible occurred that changed Carrie’s life forever.
March 19, 2014
Mom Sues for Wrongful Pregnancy after Failed Sterilization
(ABC News) – An Illinois woman is suing her doctor for “wrongful pregnancy,” claiming a botched tubal ligation led to the birth of a daughter with sickle cell disease. Cynthia Williams, a 40-year-old mother of three, only had one ovary and believed she couldn’t get pregnant because the tube tethering it to her womb had been tied –- or so she thought.
Researcher Discovers Genetic Mutation in Moroccan Jews
(Sun Sentinel) – This phenomenon, known as Progressive Cerebro-Cerebellar Atrophy (PCCA), affects dozens of Israeli families of Iraqi and Moroccan-Jewish descent. But thanks to the team of Dr. Ohad Birk, head of the Genetics Institute at Soroka Medical Center in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva and The Morris Kahn Lab of Human Genetics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), that number may soon be reduced.
March 18, 2014
China Bans Genetic Testing
(Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) – For nearly a half-century, interrupted only by the Cultural Revolution, China promoted the growth of genetic testing to prevent and address birth defects through state-run hospitals, as well as charities and increasingly in recent years, private enterprises. Then last month, China reversed course. The China Food and Drug Administration posted a new regulation that immediately banned genetic testing—even previously approved services “including prenatal genetic testing, gene sequencing technology-related products, and cutting-edge products and technologies.”
March 17, 2014
Stirring the Simmering ‘Designer Baby’ Pot
(Medical Xpress) – From genetic and genomic testing to new techniques in human assisted reproduction, various technologies are providing parents with more of a say about the children they have and “stirring the pot of ‘designer baby’ concerns,” writes Thomas H. Murray, President Emeritus of The Hastings Center, in a commentary in Science. Murray calls for a national conversation about how much discretion would-be parents should have.
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