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INFO/ Human Genetics Alert

November 13. 2001

2.       Panel OKs animal-human embryos
3.       Stem Cell Import Decision Put Off Until New Year
4.       Life: Brave newworld How our fat reserves could change the way we

DAILY MAIL (London) November 12, 2001 LENGTH: 879 words
BYLINE: Beezy Marsh

THE first 'perfect' baby could be created in Britain within weeks using an
embryo screening technique, following its approval by a fertility watchdog,
it emerged yesterday. A London clinic will use the controversial method to
screen out embryos with even tiny flaws to boost the chances of couples
undergoing fertility treatment having a child. Even embryos which could grow
into healthy infants may be discarded due to minute imperfections which
experts fear can lead to miscarriage.

 Others with chromosomal abnormalities which would lead to Down's syndrome
will also be weeded out. Women over 35 are at a greater risk of all forms of
embryo abnormalities and stand to benefit most from the GBP 700-a-time
screening, called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). The procedure, available in
America for several years, can go ahead at licensed clinics after the Human
Fertilisation and Embryology Authority yesterday revealed it had 'no objection'. No change in
the 1990 legislation on fertility treatment was necessary as PGD is allowed
for certain diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, which can be inherited.
 The authority simply allowed the technique to be extended to include
screening for chromosomal mutations. Screening for choice of sex or traits
such as hair and eye colour remains outlawed. Last night, however,
campaigners warned that PGD is a major step towards genetic engineering.
Paul Tully, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said:
'People are mistaken if their concerns about the designer baby scenario are
restricted to the idea of someone creating a fair-haired, blue-eyed child
with an IQ of 150. 'This is where it starts and it is a slippery slope. We
are starting to eliminate those with more manifest 'imperfections' through
this procedure and it may well move on to other conditions, such as heart
disease or breast cancer. 'These arguments are going to be very difficult
for society to go back on once they have approved the principle.'

 A spokesman for the Down's Syndrome Association said it was
'understandable' that parents would want to select the embryos most likely
to lead to a healthy baby. But she added: 'In principle, we would argue
strongly against such a test if we thought it was being carried out purely
in the search for 'the perfect baby'.'

 Professor Joy Delhanty, of University College Medical School in London, who
carries out PGD for inherited conditions, added: 'This technique is a
departure because there is no specific diagnosis involved and this is about
improving implantation rates. 'It might be appropriate for certain patients
with repeated miscarriage, but one has to remember this is an invasive
procedure for the embryo.'

 The change follows a legal challenge by fertility expert Mohammed
Taranissi, of the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Unit in London. He
expects to start preparing the first patients in a month, with the first
screening scheduled for the New Year. Dozens of women who have suffered
failures with in vitro fertilisation have inquired about the treatment.
Around 27,000 couples embark on fertility treatment every year, at a cost of
around GBP 3,000 per time, but 85 per cent of attempts fail. The PGD
technique works by taking a cell from an embryo and staining certain
chromosomes - the building blocks of life which contain genetic
information - using a special dye to show up abnormalities. The HFEA said it
would soon carry out a final inspection of Mr Taranissi's clinic after GBP
250,000 screening equipment was installed last week. 'We have no objections
to the technique being used,' said a
spokesman. 'We are minded to license it but we need to first inspect the

 Mr Taranissi said: 'In IVF, embryologists already look for the best-quality
embryos by appearance, and so this is a logical progression. 'It is designed
to help women and will benefit a large group of patients going through IVF
and give them the best chance of having a baby. 'It could mean people with
poor quality embryos will not attempt many cycles of IVF, and so could save
them emotional distress.

 'You could argue it is unethical not to do this. What is the other
scenario? To have a woman get pregnant, carry out a test for Down's and then
offer her a termination?'
Chromosomal abnormalities cause Down's syndrome and have been linked to
repeated miscarriage and 'unexplained' infertility. The aim of PGD is to
screen out less than 'perfect' embryos to increase the chances of
implantation and healthy pregnancy. Only the best embryos will be used
during IVF treatment. The risk of a woman suffering mutations in her eggs
rises steeply after the age of 35, when egg quality declines. In women over
35, up to 30 per cent of embryos may contain chromosomal abnormalities. The
rate soars to 80 per cent for those in their mid-40s.

 Experts believe such mutations are to blame for 60 per cent of miscarriages
occuring in the first three months of pregnancy. Until now, women have been
offered screening for Down's during pregnancy only if they are considered a
high risk. The method, called an amniocentisis, involves inserting a needle
into the womb and can cause a
miscarriage. <>
The Observer November 11, 2001
SECTION: Observer Life

The  Japan Times: Nov. 8, 2001
Panel OKs animal-human embryos
A government panel will allow scientists to create animal-human embryos by
planting human cells in animal eggs.
The decision, made Tuesday by a bioethics panel of the Council for Science
and Technology Policy, says that an animal-human embryo could be created
solely for research on replacement tissues for the heart, liver and other
human organs.
The panel, headed by Hiroo Imura, professor emeritus at Kyoto University,
said that human cells to be implanted into animal eggs must not include
human embryos and unfertilized eggs.
Scientists will only be allowed to handle the hybrid embryos in
laboratories. Implantation of such embryos into the womb of either an animal
or human will be banned for fear that it could grow into a "chimera" that
looks like an animal but has human cells.
The decision will be passed on to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science
and Technology Ministry, which will incorporate it into regulations under
the law banning human cloning by Dec. 5.
Researchers who fail to comply with the regulation may be imprisoned for up
to one year or fined up to 1 million yen.

Stem Cell Import Decision Put Off Until New Year
F.A.Z. BERLIN. The premier of North Rhein-Westphalia says a decision on
whether embryonic stem cells can be imported into Germany has been postponed
until early next year.
Wolfgang Clement said on Tuesday night Chancellor Gerhard Schrvder had
approved the new timetable, by which the German parliament will debate the
ethically, legally and politically controversial issue on Jan. 23 or 24;
only on Feb. 1 would the DFG, Germany's leading academic funding agency,
decide on the stipulations and size of grants. The decision had initially
been set for December. The DFG did not confirm the postponement, but a
spokeswoman said on Wednesday it had been discussed.
The creation of human embryonic stem cells for research purposes is
prohibited by German law, but the import of embryonic stem cells through a
legal loophole may allow German scientists to pursue research. As stem cells
can develop into every sort of tissue in the body, many scientists believe
the cells hold the key to groundbreaking cures.Nov. 7, 2001


Pages, Pg. 37 LENGTH: 575 words
HEADLINE: Life: Brave newworld How our fat reserves could change the way we
The technique with which William Futrell hopes to engrave his name on the
medical honours board is a patented invention snappily titled
'Adipose-derived Stem Cells and Lattices.' Stem cells are the potent and versatile undifferentiated cells from which specialised cells are developed. They are found in bone marrow and periosteum (a membrane that envelopes the bone). Bone- marrow derived stem cells can be used to repair tissues such as cartilage, fat and bone, and also have
potential for use in genetic modification. They are the primordial raw material from which tissue will be created in the laboratory. Stem cells were not isolated and fully understood
until 1998, and the science is still in its infancy. It has nevertheless galvanised the American
medical community, and research and development is proceeding at speed.
There have been serious ethical problems with using the human foetus as a

 Extracting the cells from bone marrow provides a pitifully small harvest
and is a painful process. But Futrell's method provides the cells in large
numbers from a substance freely available from nearly everyone in the United
States: fat.The removal of fat, or lipoplasty, was the most popular cosmetic
operation carried out in the US last year, according to the American Society
of Plastic Surgeons. Two million Americans underwent cosmetic surgery
operations, of which around 300,000 were to remove fat. A gallon of fat
removed from an obese abdomen has the potential to be a
rich source of stem cells which can be used, for instance, in bone-marrow
transplants or to treat Parkinson's disease. 'Obesity is the world's number
one health problem, according to the World Health Organisation,' says Futrell.  The idea is that when a patient visits him in Pittsburgh and undergoes liposuction, he will
store a set of their own stem cells just in case of trouble in the future.
Futrell is adept at explaining technical terms in lay language: 'Stem cells
are the building blocks of regeneration and there are medical teams who have
already started to use the science on their patients. The Scandinavians have
been able to replace damaged cartilage with new tissue grown from stem-cell
cultures. And surgeons in the US have started to inject new brain cells into patients suffering from Parkinson's disease. A report in Nature describes the treatment of a diseased heart in a mouse treated with cells which develop into new heart muscle. This is a significant development because it is inexpensive and will generate a plentiful supply of cells.
'There will come a time, Futrell believes, when stem cells will change the
world. They are a plastic surgeon's dream, because they can be cultured to
come uncluttered by the genetic baggage which leads to problems of
rejection. They could even provide the key to longevity and perpetual youth. Futrell dreams of the creation of a stem-cell institute, the funding of research and the storage of cells that can be engineered, shaped and harvested. He looks forward to the time when a surgeon will be able to clone new organs and tissues for patients, to replace body parts that become worn
out or go missing. If you have lost a leg, the hospital will grow a new one
and attach it to the stump, or remove your cancerous breast and grow an
alternative in its place. You'll be able to choose from the catalogue. It's
just a matter of time. Remember that mouse with the human ear on its back?


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