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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 18 September 2001

18 September 2001

18 September 2001 A three-year-old boy has been cured of a fatal disease by the use of stem cells extracted from his sister's placenta. Tom Stretch suffered from chronic granulomatous, an inherited defect of the white blood cells which would probably have led to his death in his 20s. No suitable bone marrow donor could be found, so doctors at Newcastle-upon-Tyne general hospital in England took stem cells from the placenta of his sister Hanna, who was free from the condition, after she was born last November and transplanted them into Tom. Tom's parents were due to take him home from hospital today. [Daily Telegraph, 18 September ] This news provides yet more evidence of the potential of stem cells derived in an ethical fashion, in contrast to the destructive extraction of stem cells from embryos and so-called therapeutic cloning. Legislators in California have voted to make the abortifacient morning-after pill available from pharmacists without a doctor's prescription. The state senate passed the legislation by 23 votes to 8 last week, and Governor Gray Davis is now expected to sign the measure into law. California will join Washington as the only American states to have reclassified the drug. [Los Angeles Times, 14 September ] Scientists in England have identified the gene that causes inherited cases of cleft palate. The research was carried out by a team led by Dr Philip Stanier at Imperial College, London, with funds provided by the Birth Defects Foundation (BDF). Professor Michael Patton, medical director of BDF, said that the discovery would now make it possible to make a prenatal diagnosis of the condition. [BBC News online, 16 September ] Discovery of a cleft palate in an unborn child can be used as a ground for eugenic abortion up to birth in Britain. The US National Academy of Sciences has said that the "unprecedented opportunities" afforded by human embryonic stem cell research could be lost as a result of President Bush's decision to block federal funding for research which entails the loss of any more lives. In its report, the academy warned that the restriction would mean that research could only be conducted on "inferior materials". [USA Today/The Detroit News, 11 September ]

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