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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 15 July 2003

15 July 2003

15 July 2003 Researchers at Tommy's Hospital in London are to carry out a study into the possible benefits of giving vitamin supplements to pregnant women who are at risk of pre-eclampsia. The condition causes a pregnant woman's blood pressure to rise to dangerous levels and is thought to affect up to 25 thousand women in the UK each year. According to a BBC report, pre-eclampsia killed 50 babies in England and Wales in 2001 and caused 119 stillbirths. However, an initial study found that taking vitamin supplements early in pregnancy halved the rates of pre-eclampsia in high-risk women. Professor Lucilla Poston, one of the researchers, said: "Finding a way of preventing pre-eclampsia could save many lives, both of babies and mothers, as well as dramatically reducing health costs." [BBC, 15 July ] Research published in this month's edition of Stem Cells has found that brain stem cells are immune privileged, meaning that they do not trigger an immune response from the recipient, alleviating the need for tissue typing in transplants of stem cells from the central nervous system. Ultimately, this could mean improving transplants to treat diseases of the eye, brain and spinal cord. "These findings are very exciting," said Michael Young, the author of the study and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. "Though we suspected brain stem cells might be protected in this way, this is the first documented evidence." [Science Blog, 15 July ] Immature frog eggs could be used to rejuvenate adult stem cells, according to a report in Nature. John Gurdon and his team at Cambridge University, hope to isolate molecules in the amphibian nucleus and use them to re-programme adult cells so as to yield a limitless supply of donor-matched stem cells that could then be used to treat diseases such as multiple sclerosis. [Nature, 15 July ] The family of a Florida woman, who has been reliant on tube feeding for 13 years, has appealed to state governor Jeb Bush to prevent her from being starved to death. Terri Schiavo collapsed at her home with what was initially thought to be a potassium imbalance. She is able to breathe unaided but needs artificial nutrition to stay alive. According to her family, she responds to them through head movements, smiles and tears, but her husband and guardian argued that she would not want to be kept on life support. The courts have ruled in his favour, but the family claims that he is motivated by a $700,000 medical insurance policy and the desire to marry another woman. They have also requested that an investigation be held into the reasons for Terri's collapse. [LifeNews.com, 14 July ] Church officials have urged the Slovak president to veto the recently passed legislation liberalising the abortion law. The coalition government is divided over the new law and a cabinet crisis has been declared, with the Christian Democrats (KDH) accusing the New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) of breaking the coalition agreement under which none of the four ruling partners are permitted to unite in opposition against another. If President Schuster vetoes the law, another vote will have to be held and an absolute majority reached for it to be passed. [The Slovak Spectator, 14 July ] In an article published in The Scotsman, a woman who has undergone six IVF treatments at the controversial London Fertility Centre has criticised the way she was treated, in particular by Professor Ian Craft. Slavica Dmitrasinovic claims that they lost embryos, threatened to confiscate her passport when payment was slow and failed to notice a serious fertility problem which resulted in her being put through three treatment cycles that were costly and useless. She says that the experience made her suicidal and has brought her marriage to the verge of collapse. "I will never get over how appallingly I have treated," she said. "I hope no one else suffers as I have." [The Scotsman, 14 July ] Scientists at Aberdeen University have warned that men who smoke cannabis could be damaging their fertility by reducing the amount of testosterone produced by the body. [Metro, 15 July]

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