Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Researchers Offer New Theory for Why Human Pregnancy Lasts 9 Months

NPR: Why Does Pregnancy Last 9 Months?, by Scott Hensley:

Babies are lovely but altogether helpless creatures.

Wouldn't it be better if tiny humans were born able to walk, like horses, or generally were readier for the rigors of the world, like, say, chimps? . . .

August 28, 2012 in Pregnancy & Childbirth, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Claims that "Morning-After Pill" Causes Abortion Appear Unsupported by Science

The New York Times: Abortion Qualms on Morning-After Pill May Be Unfounded, by Pam Belluck:

Labels inside every box of morning-after pills, drugs widely used to prevent pregnancy after sex, say they may work by blocking fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Respected medical authorities, including the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, have said the same thing on their Web sites.

Such descriptions have become kindling in the fiery debate over abortion and contraception. . . .

But an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. . . .

The New York Times: Drug's Nickname May Have Aided Politicization, by Pam Belluck:

Scientists say that one reason emergency contraceptives have become so politicized is that their nickname, “morning-after pills,” has given rise to misconceptions about how the drugs help preventpregnancy after sex.

“It’s not the morning after fertilization — it’s the morning after intercourse,” said Diana Blithe, program director for contraceptive development for the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health. “People think that the act of intercourse results in pregnancy immediately, within a minute after you have sex. They don’t understand how long it takes sperm to get ready to fertilize.” . . .

Slate.com: Emergency Contraception Is Not Abortion, by Amanda Marcotte:

No one is happier than I am to see the New York Times do an extensive piece debunking the myth that emergency contraception works, either primarily or secondarily, by killing fertilized eggs. The actual scientific evidence plus pre-existing knowledge of how hormones affect the body has long pointed to ovulation suppression as the only possible way that emergency contraception could work. Despite this, anti-choice activists and politicians have gone out of their way to confuse people about the difference between emergency contraception and abortion. Their excuse for why they "get" to lie to the public about this has been the packaging that states that hormonal contraception might also work by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. Even though that's not abortion—abortion terminates pregnancy, which begins at implantation—for the anti-choice crew, that was good enough to justify the lie. . . .

June 11, 2012 in Abortion, Contraception, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Informational Mandates for Abortion Based on Shaky Science

Slate Magazine: Do Abortions Cause Breast Cancer?, by Elanie Schattner:

Image1 The shaky science behind Kansas’ House Abortion Act.

In Kansas, legislators recently passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. If enacted into law, the bill would require doctors to tell pregnant women of a relationship between abortion and breast cancer. This news follows passage by the New Hampshire State House of the Women’s Right To Know Act Regarding Abortion Information. These related laws are unlikely to gain approval by the state senates. But there’s a trend: A similar measure took effect in Texas in February. Now, providers there must inform pregnant women about “the possibility of increased risk of breast cancer following an induced abortion,” the so-called ABC link. . . .

May 24, 2012 in Abortion, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Science, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Despite Debunking of Link Between Mental Trauma and Abortion, Laws Allow Misinformation to Spread

The Washington Times: Group calls study on mental health, abortion 'debunked', by Cheryl Wetzstein:

Says research shows ‘no causal link’

In the simmering battle over abortion and mental-health problems, a reproductive-health organization says a published study linking the two has been “decisively debunked,” while the lead author of the study says her findings still stand.

The mental-health issue is relevant because at least 35 states require women seeking abortions to be counseled first, and “spurious research” already is leading to misinformation being spread via some of these counseling laws, the Guttmacher Institute said Monday. . . .

March 12, 2012 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Scholarship and Research, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Komen Foundation's Defunding of Groups Associated with Stem Cell Research Has Largely Flown Under the Radar

Jezebel: Komen Halted Funding for $12 Million in Stem Cell Research Like We Wouldn't Notice, by Erin Gloria Ryan:

Now, that Susan G. Komen for the Cure has sufficiently pissed off progressives, they've changed course and reinstated existing grants to Planned Parenthood, pissing off the anti-abortion crew they'd initially been trying to appease. But before Komen was loudly defunding— and then reinstating funding for— Planned Parenthood, they were stealthily defunding organizations that associate with embryonic stem cell research. And the financial damage from this iteration of their pro-life ideology totals in the millions.

When Komen messed with Planned Parenthood, they messed with an organization with millions of vocal supporters tired of seeing the health care provider being politically stigmatized. But when Komen's newly Karen Handel flavored muscle messed with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the University of Kansas, the US National Cancer Institute, the Society for Women's Health Research, and Yale University, last fall the only people who noticed were the researchers who were no longer receiving the more than $12 million in funding Komen had provided. . . .


I have received the following correction from a University of Kansas Medical Center official:

The information appearing on some websites is incorrect. Komen did not defund the University of Kansas Medical Center. In 2010 it granted one of our researchers $4.5 million in 2010 to study whether an estrogen found in flax seed might help prevent breast cancer -- that release is here: http://www.komenkansascity.org/about-us/news/multi-million-dollar-komen.html. The researcher, Carol Fabian, MD, has not lost any Komen funding.

February 6, 2012 in Politics, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Two Scientists Opposed to Embryonic Stem Cell Research Appeal Court Ruling Allowing U.S. Gov't Funding

Stem cell Reuters: U.S. scientists appeal on embryonic stem cell funding:

Two scientists on Monday appealed a ruling that permitted federal funding of human embryonic stem research to go forward, an effort by the U.S. government to try to find cures for deadly diseases.

Dr. James Sherley, a biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher, of Washington-based AVM Biotechnology, opposed such research and had sued to block funding. . . .

September 19, 2011 in In the Courts, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Simple Blood Test Can Determine Fetal Sex at Seven Weeks

The New York Times: Test Can Tell Fetal Sex at 7 Weeks, Study Says, by Pam Belluck:

Scientists A simple blood test that can determine a baby’s sex as early as seven weeks into pregnancy is highly accurate if used correctly, a finding that experts say is likely to lead to more widespread use by parents concerned about gender-linked diseases and those who are merely curious, as well as people considering the more ethically controversial step of selecting the sex of their children.

The appeal of the test, which analyzes fetal DNA found in the mother’s blood, is that it can establish sex weeks earlier than other options, like ultrasound, and is noninvasive, unlike amniocentesis and other procedures that carry small risks of miscarriage. . . .

August 11, 2011 in Abortion, Bioethics, Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Scholarship and Research, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 29, 2010

High BPA Exposure Among Chinese Factory Workers Linked to Low Sperm Counts

The Huffington Post: High BPA Exposure Linked to Low Sperm Count, by Lindsey Tanner:

Sperm Chinese factory workers exposed to high levels of the plastics chemical BPA had low sperm counts, according to the first human study to tie it to poor semen quality.

The study is the latest to raise health questions about bisphenol-A and comes two weeks after Canada published a final order adding the chemical to its list of toxic substances.

Whether the relatively low sperm counts and other signs of poor semen quality translate to reduced fertility is not known. Study author Dr. De-Kun Li, a scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., noted that even men with extremely low sperm counts can father children.

October 29, 2010 in Fertility, Men and Reproduction, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Babies Conceived via IVF Perform Better Than Peers on Some Educational Development Tests

Time Magazine: Building a Brighter Kid: Consider IVF, by Bonnie Rochman:

Most parents-in-waiting like to daydream that their unborn child might develop a cure for cancer or improve upon the theory of relativity — in short, save the world. Now, new research indicates that your best shot of birthing a brainy baby might be to first conceive via in vitro fertilization (IVF).

According to a University of Iowa (UI) study published in the October issue of the journal Human Reproduction, IVF babies scored better than age- and gender-matched peers on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills – a widely used test that evaluates students' abilities — and the Iowa Test for Educational Development (ITBS/ED), which is generally considered an objective measure of educational outcomes. . . .

October 5, 2010 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Scholarship and Research, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scientists May Have Found Technique to Predict IVF Embryo Success

BBC News: Checks 'predict embryo success':

In vitro US scientists say they have developed a technique to accurately predict which IVF embryos have the best chance of success.

The Stanford University team looked at cell division speed in the first days of embryonic development.

Those developing at a certain rate were more likely to mature into "blastocysts", ready for implantation.

The Nature Biotechnology paper could help shed light on why some couples do not produce viable embryos. . . .

October 5, 2010 in Assisted Reproduction, Fertility, Medical News, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pioneer of IVF Technique Receives Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Nobelprize.org press release: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2010: Robert G. Edwards:

Nobel prize Robert Edwards is awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for the development of human in vitro fertilization (IVF) therapy. His achievements have made it possible to treat infertility, a medical condition afflicting a large proportion of humanity including more than 10% of all couples worldwide.

As early as the 1950s, Edwards had the vision that IVF could be useful as a treatment for infertility. He worked systematically to realize his goal, discovered important principles for human fertilization, and succeeded in accomplishing fertilization of human egg cells in test tubes (or more precisely, cell culture dishes). His efforts were finally crowned by success on 25 July, 1978, when the world's first "test tube baby" was born. During the following years, Edwards and his co-workers refined IVF technology and shared it with colleagues around the world.

Approximately four million individuals have so far been born following IVF. . . .

See also: NY Times Op-Ed: In Vitro Revelation, by Robin Marantz Henig:

YESTERDAY, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to a man who was reviled, in his time, as doing work that was considered the greatest threat to humanity since the atomic bomb. Sweet vindication it must be for Robert Edwards, the British biologist who developed the in vitro fertilization procedure that led to the birth of Louise Brown, the first so-called test-tube baby.

It’s hard to believe today, now that I.V.F. has become mainstream, that when Ms. Brown’s imminent birth was announced in 1978, even serious scientists suspected she might be born with monstrous birth defects. . . .

IrishTimes.com:Vatican reacts negatively to IVF pioneer's prize, by Paddy Agnew:

SENIOR HOLY See and Catholic Church figures reacted negatively this week to the awarding of a Nobel Prize for medicine to Cambridge-based researcher Robert Edwards, the pioneer of the in-vitro fertilisation process.

Although church critics acknowledged that Prof Roberts had opened a “new chapter” in the whole field of human reproduction, many commentators expressed reservations about the “ambiguous ethical” implications of his work. . . .

October 5, 2010 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Fertility, Medical News, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Research Suggests Menstrual Cramps May Alter Women's Brains

USA Today: Menstrual cramps may alter women's brains, by Jennifer Goodwin:

Menstrual cramps are often dismissed as a mere nuisance, but new research suggests the monthly misery may be altering women's brains.

Researchers in Taiwan used a type of brain scan known as optimized voxel-based morphometry to analyze the anatomy of the brains of 32 young women who reported experiencing moderate to severe menstrual cramps on a regular basis for several years, and 32 young women who did not experience much menstrual pain.

Even when they weren't experiencing pain, women who had reported having bad cramps had abnormalities in their gray matter (a type of brain tissue), said study author Dr. Jen-Chuen Hsieh, a professor of neuroscience at the Institute of Brain Science at National Yang-Ming University in Taipei, Taiwan. . . .

August 15, 2010 in Medical News, Science, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

5-Day Emergency Contraceptive Approved by F.D.A. for Prescription Only

NY Times: F.D.A. Approves 5-Day Emergency Contraceptive, by Gardiner Harris:

Pills WASHINGTON — Federal drug regulators on Friday approved a new form of emergency contraceptive pill that prevents pregnancies if taken as many as five days after unprotected intercourse.

The pill, called ella, will be available by prescription only. Developed in government laboratories, it is more effective than Plan B, the morning-after pill now available over the counter to women 17 and older.

That pill gradually loses efficacy and can be taken at most three days after sex. Ella, by contrast, works just as well on the fifth day as the first after sex. . . .

August 14, 2010 in Contraception, Medical News, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Developments in Contraception Research

Slate Magazine: The Contraception Pioneers, by Jennifer Austin:

It's time to give these researchers their due.

Birth Control (2) It doesn't take a scientist to figure out that unprotected sex leads to babies. It does, however, take one to figure out how hormones in a 3-inch adhesive patch will cross layers of skin, muscle, and blood vessels before tweaking chemicals in the brain and ovaries to prevent pregnancy. For these contraceptive researchers, there's no real fame to be had, and the pay is just so-so. But after decades of struggling to win support from the scientific community, they've re-established themselves as dedicated to a deserving craft with impressive developments that redefine conventional birth control.

The creators of contraceptives are a rarely recognized class of inventors. They've produced birth-controlling breakthroughs like implantable hormonal rods, through-the-skin hormone patches, and T-shaped copper devices that prevent pregnancy from the uterus out. Their goal is not original—a second-century diaphragm made of hardened elephant and crocodile dung is on display at the Toronto Museum of Contraception. But with innovative devices in the works, like a translucent body gel that suppresses ovulation through an estradiol and progestin (Nestorone) mix, their golden age is now.

Their research is focused on the cleverly inconspicuous—novel, even invisible methods that make the pill look as outdated as the eight-track. One method in development is a spray-on hormone that looks like a cross between Neutrogena's Wave facial cleanser and a Star Trek laser pistol. The hormones are delivered transdermally. . . . 

March 15, 2010 in Contraception, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NPR Reflects on a Decade of Stem Cell Research

NPR: Reflecting on a Decade of Stem Cell Research, by Joe Palca:

Stem cell Some say they hold the potential for medical miracles. Others claim they are a moral abomination. Either way, human embryonic stem cells captured headlines during the past decade in a way few areas of scientific research have before. . . .

So where does the science of embryonic stem cells stand after a decade of political wrangling? A lot of exciting basic research is being done with embryonic stem cells, says Len Zon, a stem cell researcher at Children's Hospital in Boston. But using stem cells for therapy? . . .

December 29, 2009 in Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Study Suggests Why Babies Born in Winter Months Face Greater Challenges

Wall St. Journal: New Light on the Plight of Winter Babies, by Justin Lahart:

Researchers Stumble Upon Alternative Explanation for the Lifelong Challenges Faced by Children Born in Colder Months


Children born in the winter months already have a few strikes against them. Study after study has shown that they test poorly, don't get as far in school, earn less, are less healthy, and don't live as long as children born at other times of year. Researchers have spent years documenting the effect and trying to understand it.

But economists Kasey Buckles and Daniel Hungerman at the University of Notre Dame may have uncovered an overlooked explanation for why season of birth matters.

Their discovery challenges the validity of past research and highlights how seemingly safe assumptions economists make may overlook key causes of curious effects. And they came across it by accident. . . . 

September 25, 2009 in Medical News, Poverty, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

President Obama Approves New Guidelines on Stem Cell Research

NY Times/Reuters (7/30): Obama Enacts New U.S. Stem Cell Research Rules:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama directed federal agencies on Thursday to enact new rules governing federally funded research on human embryonic stem cells.

The rules, issued earlier this year by the National Institutes of Health, loosened some ethical requirements that scientists said could have cost them a decade of work....

August 6, 2009 in President/Executive Branch, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Substitute for Embryonic Stem Cells Shows Promise

ScienceNow: Embryonic Stem Cell Substitute Passes Acid Test, by Gretchen Vogel:

Stem cell Scientists have for the first time demonstrated that a possible alternative to controversial embryonic stem (ES) cells shares one of their key abilities. So-called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells can generate a live mouse in an experiment scientists say is the gold standard for pluripotency, the ability to become any cell type in the body. The feat, performed by two independent groups, suggests that iPS cells may be as powerful as ES cells, which many scientists hope will someday help cure a variety of diseases.

ES cells are prized by scientists for their flexibility. Taken from early embryos, they can in theory develop into all the tissues of the body. This talent makes them useful for studying--and perhaps someday treating--diseases. But because isolating ES cells involves destroying an embryo, they have proved ethically and politically controversial.

Many researchers believe iPS cells offer the best hope as an alternative....

July 24, 2009 in Bioethics, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Scientists Report Creating Human Sperm from Stem Cells

Time Magazine: Scientists Create Human Sperm from Stem Cells, by Alice Park:

Sperm Researchers at Newcastle University in England report they have coaxed the first human sperm cells from embryonic stem cells, in a remarkable demonstration of how quickly the field of stem-cell science is moving.

The achievement, described in the journal Stem Cells and Development, comes just 11 years after the first human-embryonic-stem-cell line was created — an eyeblink in scientific terms — in the lab of James Thomson at the University of Wisconsin. (See the top 10 scientific discoveries of 2008.)

Although the development once again raises the specter of creating humans in a petri dish or custom-designing egg and sperm cells for reproduction, lead author Karim Nayernia says that was not his team's intention. Rather, the experiment was a proof of concept that stem cells can generate any cell in the body — not only the dozens of tissues that make up the human body but also those egg and sperm cells that may give rise to altogether new bodies.

July 9, 2009 in Bioethics, Men and Reproduction, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Researchers Say Children Who Are Exposed to Smoking Prenatally or at Young Ages Are More Likely to Become Smokers

It annoys me that this headline is so exclusively focused on pregnant women.  It seems the data shows not just that pregnant women should avoid smoking but that all parents of young children, regardless of gender, should not smoke near their children.

USA Today/HealthDay: Scientists believe kids more apt to smoke if mom did while pregnant, by Steven Reinberg:

Cigarette butt Smoking while pregnant "biologically primes" the unborn child to become a regular smoker as a teen and young adult, according to a theory put forth by University of Arizona researchers.

"Somehow smoke is changing the brain chemistry," said the lead researcher, Dr. Roni Grad, an associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the university.

"If you are exposed to smoking prenatally or in the early years of life, you are much more likely to be a chronic smoker at the age of 22," Grad said.

In fact, these children are four times more likely to become regular smokers, according to the research, which was to be presented May 19 at the American Thoracic Society's international conference in San Diego.

Why the obsessive focus on mothers, when the inconclusiveness of the study clearly indicates that no one should smoke around young children?

"Nobody should smoke," Grad said. "I would definitely discourage any mother from smoking around her child. If children have been exposed in early life to smoke, I would really go the extra mile to try to keep them from experimenting, because they may be at higher risk of becoming nicotine dependent very quickly."... (emphasis added)

Edelman said that the researchers seem to favor a biologic explanation, such as an alteration of brain neurochemistry during pregnancy. "However, the study does not include enough information to rule out social factors, such as increased smoking of others in the household even though the mother stops after childbirth."

May 21, 2009 in Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)