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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Experiments show hope for ethical production of embryonic stem cells

15 December 2006

Experiments with mice have shown that embryos created by parthenogenesis, a process by which an unfertilised egg starts dividing, can be a source of stem cells. The leader of the study, Dr George Daley of Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, US, said "We are aggressively trying to produce human parthenogenetic embryonic stem cells." These parthenote cells, as they are called, can provide a tissue match for the recipient, according to Daley. and the method is preferable to cloning. The team is trying to use the same method to produce human embryonic stem cells, but it would require a large number of eggs to be donated by women. [Reuters 14 December]

The shortage of egg donors has caused many British women to either find their own donors or to go abroad for IVF treatment, particularly to Spain. It has been suggested that a change in the law, which allows children born through gamete donation the right to trace their biological parents, has led to the shortage. The National Gamete Donation Trust is calling for a nationwide scheme to campaign for donors. [BBC 14 December] Paul Tully, General Secretary of SPUC commented: "Donated eggs have always been in short supply in the UK, apparently for a combination of reasons: women are reluctant, financial incentives are barred, and there is demand from research laboratories as well as infertile women.

The Government of the Australian Capital Territory has introduced a bill that would enable care services to report concerns about pregnant women, especially those who are drug users, and to provide assistance. The opposition has welcomed the move. [ABC 13 December]

At a seminar on population and development, held in Lahore, Pakistan, the governor of the Punjab province said that one of the country's four major problems was rapid population growth. Mr Khalid Maqbool called on the Population Welfare Department and NGOs to expand their population control programmes. Researcher Peter Miller of Gujerat University and other speakers addressed the same theme. [Daily Times 14 December]

Home kits have been made available over the internet which claim to determine the sex of an unborn baby within the first 8 weeks of pregnancy. There are concerns in India that the kits could be used to get around the law prohibiting sex-selection, as online companies are hard to prosecute. So far they have not proved very popular. The sex imbalance in India is worsening, and is no longer confined to rural areas. [NDTV 14 December]

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