‘Artificial embryos’ created at the University of Michigan

Embryoids growing in the device / University of Michigan 

American scientists are creating embryo-like structures which can be used for studying embryonic development, for fertility drug testing and for genetic research. Earlier this week researchers from the University of Michigan reported in the journal Nature that they have turned induced pluripotent stem cells into models of human embryos in a micro-fluidic environment.

They are able to make hundreds of these “artificial embryos” successfully. “It’s uncanny how much it is like a human embryo,” says Alfonso Martinez Arias, a geneticist at the University of Cambridge, told MIT… MORE

Ezekiel Emanuel: intimations of mortality

Sixty-two-year-old Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s department of medical ethics and health policy, as well as a chief architect of Obamacare, spoke to the MIT Technology Review recently. The topic was “the social implications of longevity research and why he isn’t a fan of extending life spans.” He made some interesting comments about extending life expectancy, “healthspan”, and anti-ageing research.

As he had already explained in a widely-read article in The Atlantic in 2014, he believes that “living too long is a loss”, with declining health, strength and alertness in the twilight years: “I think… MORE

A new blockbuster: sperm donor reality TV?

Shipmates: another chapter in Channel 4's bioethical research 

Wanted: a bioethics consultant for Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. According to a report in The Sun, a bottomless wellspring of bioethics stories, Channel 4’s marketing boffins are considering a reality show based on sperm donation.

The idea is that women keen to have a bub, but not a hubby, can choose their own sperm donor from a line-up of candidates. A panel will help the would-be mothers to select the most suitable one. An “inside” source at Channel 4 explained the profoundly ethical thought process which… MORE

Christian hospital system in US sacks doctor over support for assisted suicide

A Christian health system in Denver has set off a firestorm of controversy by firing a geriatrician who wanted to help a patient die under Colorado’s 2016 assisted suicide legislation.

Dr Barbara Morris planned to help 64-year-old Neil Mahoney, who is suffering from terminal cancer, end his life at his home. She was fired on August 26, after she and Mahoney asked a state court to declare that Centura Health’s faith-based policy violates the law that allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to dying patients who want to end their own lives.

Centura is jointly run by Catholic and Seventh-Day… MORE

Mini-brains created from stem cells

False color image of a slice of human brain organoid from a patient with autism spectrum disorder / Alysson Muotri 

Scientists have created miniature brains from induced pluripotent stem cells that developed functional neural networks. And despite being a million times smaller than human brains, they produced brain waves resembling those of preterm babies.

The study in the journal Cell Stem Cell, could help scientists better understand human brain development.

"The level of neural activity we are seeing is unprecedented in vitro," says Alysson Muotri, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego. "We are one… MORE

73-year-old Indian woman gives birth to twins

Mangayamma Yaramati and her husband, Sitarama Rajarao, at their baby shower 

A 73-year-old woman has given birth to healthy twins in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Her 82-year-old husband had a stroke the next day and is being treated in hospital.

Mangayamma Yaramati and her husband, Sitarama Rajarao, had the misfortune of never having children and suffered from social stigma. “They would call me a childless lady,” she told the media. We tried many times and saw numerous doctors, so this is the happiest time of my life.”

The children were conceived with a donor egg… MORE

Brain-dead Czech woman gives birth after 117 days

A Czech woman has given birth 117 days after brain death. Doctors at Brno University Hospital kept the woman alive for 17 weeks so that they could save her child. A healthy girl was delivered on August 15 by Caesarean section.

The 27-year old unnamed woman was in her 16th week of pregnancy when she was found unconscious, apparently after an epileptic fit. Shortly thereafter she was declared brain dead.

According to the hospital, this pregnancy may have set a record as the longest for a brain-dead mother. About 20 similar cases have been recorded.

After the delivery, with… MORE

Demography still on the political agenda

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Population policy was in the headlines around the world this week.

US Senator Bernie Sanders, a front-runner for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential nomination, made a gaffe which was picked up and derided by conservatives.

He responded to a question about climate change in a CNN town hall debate in New York City: “in poor countries around the world where women do not necessarily want to have large numbers of babies, and where they can have the opportunity through birth control to control the number of kids… MORE

Junk food will make you blind!!!!

Photo by Miguel Andrade on Unsplash

The headline in the sober pages of the Annals of Internal Medicine was irresistible clickbait: “Blindness Caused by a Junk Food Diet”. It was only a letter reporting the plight of a single “fussy eater”, but it was reported around the world.

Since starting secondary school, a teenager had consumed a limited diet of chips, crisps, white bread, and some processed pork. By the time the patient's condition was diagnosed at the  Bristol Eye Hospital, he had permanently impaired vision. According to a press release, “Further investigation found… MORE

Who needs ‘moral bioenhancement’ most?

Photo by Rob Curran on Unsplash

“Many supporters of ’moral bioenhancement’ (MBE), the use of biomedical interventions for moral improvement, have been criticised for having unrealistic proposals.” So begins a student essay by Gregory Mark Conan, of George Fox University (Oregon) in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Whether or not he successfully argues that MBE is realistic, his proposals are certainly thought-provoking.

Moral bioenhancement has been spruiked by some bioethicists for several years now. Despairing of humanity’s tendency to well and truly screw things up, some have suggested that solutions like doctoring the water… MORE

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