March 11, 2014
Cambridge scientists film embryo implantation for the first time
(Reuters) – Cambridge University biologists have cracked the so-called ‘black box’ of embryonic development, a mystery which has long puzzled scientists. The researchers have found a way to record the earliest stages of an embryo’s growth and have filmed for the first time ever, the moment of implantation, opening new possibilities for improved methods of IVF treatment and regenerative medicine.
March 10, 2014
The ‘cursed’ women living in shame
(BBC) – In a rural central Ugandan village, 17-year-old Sulaina sits on the mud floor of the tiny home she shares with her mother and younger brother and sister. She wants to help provide for her family. But she can’t. She can barely leave her house. Wherever she goes, a sickly smell follows her. That’s because she is constantly leaking urine. The rags she has stuffed in her underwear are drenched quickly, and then the urine starts running down her legs. She has sores all over her thighs where the urine has burned her. Sulaina has a condition called obstetric fistula. She developed it after giving birth to a baby girl last year.
The start of life as seen on smartphones
(The Irish Examiner) – The Instituto Marques in Barcelona, which has treated more than 1,000 Irish patients, has a hi-tech incubator called the Embryoscope, which allows couples to watch the embryos in the first days and weeks live on the internet before they are transferred to the womb. Dr Hans Arce, assisted reproduction consultant at the clinic which specialises in long-standing and unexplained infertility, said Irish patients feel closer to the process of conceiving their baby through the webcam images which were only previously seen by the embryologists working in the laboratory.
Movement in the womb sparks specific genes to build a healthy skeleton
(Phys.org) – Zoologists and bioengineers from Trinity College Dublin have identified over 1,000 genes whose responses change markedly when embryos are not able to move freely in the womb. The discovery will help scientists better understand how important tissues are programmed to develop in our bodies, which could in turn suggest how stem cells can be primed for use in tissue engineering and regenerative therapies.
March 7, 2014
‘Do it yourself’ surrogate pregnancy ends in legal chaos with three-year-old boy effectively having two mothers
(Daily Mail) – A judge has warned of the dangers of informal surrogacy agreements after a woman found she had no parental rights to the baby she had asked her friend to conceive with her husband. The ‘do it yourself’-style surrogate pregnancy ended in the High Court after the boy, now three, was effectively left with two mothers. Unable to have children of her own, a woman asked a close friend to be artificially inseminated at home with her husband’s sperm.
Wombs for rent: The Indian baby farms transforming the lives of poverty-stricken women who are paid to carry babies for wealthy foreigners
(Daily Mail) – Indian ‘baby farms’ are thriving as demand from couples from developed countries, including the UK, soars. Infertile couples are turning to women in India to carry and give birth to their children, as commercial surrogacy is not legal in certain countries, or if it is legal, can be prohibitively expensive. The money these women are earn – as much as £4,700 per pregnancy – is transforming communities.
March 6, 2014
Widow wins frozen sperm legal fight
(BBC) – Beth Warren’s husband had sperm frozen before starting cancer treatment and signed paperwork saying his wife could use the sperm after his death. He died from a brain tumour two years ago, but regulations meant his sperm were due to be destroyed in April 2015. Mrs Warren, 28, said this defied common sense and the High Court has now backed her case.
Study comparing injectable contraceptives DMPA and NET-EN finds HIV risk higher with DMPA
(Medical Xpress) – Women who used an injectable contraceptive called DMPA were more likely to acquire HIV than women using a similar product called NET-EN, according to a secondary analysis of data from a large HIV prevention trial called VOICE, researchers from the National Institutes of Health-funded Microbicide Trials Network (MTN) reported today at the 21st Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston. An unexpected finding in the study was that the combination of being positive for herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) and using DMPA for contraception was associated with a higher risk of HIV compared to women using NET-EN and who were also HSV-2 positive.
March 4, 2014
Female fertility: What’s testosterone got to do with it?
(University of Rochester) – Several fertility clinics across the country are beginning to administer testosterone, either through a patch or a gel on the skin, to increase the number of eggs produced by certain women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). Women are also purchasing the over-the-counter supplement DHEA, which is converted by the body into testosterone, to boost their chances of pregnancy with IVF. A few clinical trials support the use of testosterone given through the skin, while others have shown no benefit of DHEA – also used in attempts to slow aging and enhance muscle mass – in increasing pregnancy and birth rates in women who don’t respond well to IVF therapy.
March 3, 2014
Revealed: Surrogate births hit record high as couples flock abroad
(The Independent) – Record numbers of British children are being conceived through surrogacy, according to official figures seen by The Independent on Sunday. The number of babies registered in Britain after being born to a surrogate parent has risen by 255 per cent in the past six years, amid mounting concerns that legislation has not kept up with demand.
The rent-a-womb boom
(The Daily Beast) – They’ve been called “baby factories,” conjuring up images of poor, illiterate women packed into bunks and forced by their husbands to bear surrogate children for Westerners. And they make up a vital industry in India—since 2002, when surrogacy was legalized in the country, a U.N.-backed study estimates that the surrogacy business has raked in more than $400 million a year.
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.
Should transhumanists have children?
(Huffington Post) – Transhumanists are people who desire to use science and technology to improve the human being. While the international movement of transhumanism is rapidly growing and diversifying, its most important goal remains the same: overcoming human mortality. Many experts believe some sort of indefinite sentience for individual human beings, whether via age reversal or by mind uploading into computers, will be achieved around 2045. Such incredible advances will change the way the species views itself. Procreation, the foundation of human civilization, will be one activity that is dramatically affected.
UK drafts rules for three-parent IVF babies
(Medical News Today) – The UK government have drafted and published, for public consultation, how the creation of three-person babies using new IVF techniques – called mitochondrial replacement – will be regulated. The new techniques are intended to prevent mothers passing on serious inherited diseases caused by flaws in mitochondrial DNA to their children.
Multiple sclerosis linked to contraceptive pill: Risk could be up to 50% higher in women who take it
(Daily Mail) – Taking the contraceptive Pill may increase a woman’s chance of developing multiple sclerosis, researchers warn. The risk of MS could be up to 50 per cent higher among women on the Pill, according to a new US study. The findings also show young obese women are at greater risk of the disease, probably because they produce higher levels of a hormone known to regulate appetite. Previous research had suggested that oral contraception could cut MS risk, or delay its onset.
Generic versions of emergency contraception to be sold
(Boston Globe) – Consumers will soon see generic versions of Plan B One-Step on drugstore shelves that will be sold to women and girls of all ages. The US Food and Drug Administration sent letters on Tuesday to two generic manufacturers of the one-pill form of emergency contraception, telling them that they would be allowed to sell their products over-the-counter without a requirement that purchasers show proof of their age.
February 28, 2014
UK moves to legalize controversial IVF technique
(Nature News) – The United Kingdom today inched closer to legalizing a controversial method of reproduction, known as mitochondrial replacement, or ‘three-parent IVF’. The Department of Health announced a public consultation of draft legislation that would allow the procedures, which are intended to prevent children from inheriting diseases caused by faulty mitochondria. The consultation, which runs until 21 May, is an early step toward amending the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which would allow the mitochondrial replacement procedures.
February 27, 2014
Child health problems ‘linked to father’s age’
(BBC) – A wide range of disorders and problems in school-age children have been linked to delayed fatherhood in a major study involving millions of people. Increased rates of autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, suicide attempts and substance abuse problems were all reported. The study, in JAMA Psychiatry, suggests mutated sperm were to blame.
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.
Reproductive coercion, intimate partner violence prevalent
(Medical Xpress) – Enough women experience reproductive coercion – male behavior to control contraception and pregnancy outcomes – that a research team now recommends health care providers address the subjects with their patients and tailor family planning discussions and recommendations accordingly. Researchers from Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island were part of a team that published “Reproductive coercion and co-occurring intimate partner violence in obstetrics and gynecology patients” in a recent issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.