Thursday, 30 September, 2010

Rs 28,000cr Games expense sounds like wrong priority

It was 45 years back -chairman of world bank Lord Mcnnmara had said - "we need to think twice before granting aid/loan to India as India has a Rolls-Royes administration in Bullock cart country !! Read Azim Premji's thought provoking article!

Recently, the central government disclosed that its total spend on the Delhi Commonwealth Games is likely to be Rs 11,494 crore. This number is disconcerting for two reasons. One, because it is an order-of-magnitude away from its original estimate of Rs 655 crore. Two, because the real cost of the games will be much higher if we were to include:

*Rs 16,560 crore additionally spent by Delhi government on upgrading the capital's infrastructure — a new airport terminal, wider roads, new flyovers, Metro rail extensions, and so on;

*Real cost of labour — labourers got sub-minimum wages, worked in unsafe conditions, and were housed in sub-human tenements;

*The human cost of driving the poor out of streets and out of sight.

The term 'commonwealth' originally meant public welfare, things that are for the greater good of society. Do the Commonwealth Games pass this commonwealth test? Is this Rs 28,000-crore drain on public funds for the greater common good?

Before I respond to the question, let me clarify my position on the Games themselves. The desire to celebrate runs deep in our collective psyche. The teachings of a spiritual master, the creation of a nation, the birth of a child — celebrating each of them is important because they are our cultural compass; they remind us of things we value most. There are few things as uplifting as watching a sportsperson push physical and mental limits to achieve the incredible. The Commonwealth Games, like the Olympics, are a celebration of the human spirit of excellence. Therefore, in itself, the Games are a worthy endeavour.

However, given the thousands of crores being spent on the Delhi Commonwealth Games, we need to ask if this is money spent wisely. As a country, we are constantly forced to compromise on funds. For instance, India needs more schools, and the existing schools need better infrastructure and more teachers. This will require us to spend 6% of our GDP on education, but we manage just over half that figure. Similarly, the country has very little sports infrastructure on the ground. To encourage sports, our first step has to be to ensure children get access to playgrounds, good equipment and quality coaching. To not have this, and to instead spend on a grand sporting spectacle sounds like we have got our priorities wrong.

Despite the wonderful economic strides of the past two decades, the reality is that India is a poor country. A recent study by the University of Oxford measured levels of education, health and living standard in the world's poorest countries. This study shows that India continues to be predominantly poor. In fact, there are more poor people in eight Indian states than in the 26 poorest African countries combined. Delhi has amongst the lowest occurrences of poverty in India, while at the other extreme, 81% of Bihar's population is poor. No surprise then that many of the 100,000 labourers who worked for unfair wages to prepare Delhi for the Commonwealth Games were from Bihar.

The capital already boasts of some of India's best infrastructure. Instead of spending crores to widen Delhi's roads, should we not prioritize building roads and schools in Bihar where none exist in the first place? If we have Rs 500 crore to spare, should we use it to build basic sports facilities in thousands of government schools, or should we spend it all on renovating one stadium?

In real terms, such choices are not all that easy to make. For instance, it is important for our cities to have great infrastructure, and money spent on a metropolis like Delhi will in turn catalyse our national economy. Our leaders have to constantly juggle and prioritize among many equally deserving needs, and it is not as if they are uninformed or wrongly intentioned. Over the last decade, the Indian government has taken important strides in social welfare and inclusive development. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan are but two examples. However, ( THOUGH THERE IS LOTS OF CORRUPTION IN NREGA )it is not enough to have specific schemes such as the NREGA. Rather, equity and inclusion considerations must underlie each and every policy decision. Let me suggest that all public policy must recognize that GDP growth is meaningless if it does not uplift the most underprivileged of our country.

How can we forget that for Rs 28,000 crore we could have established primary schools and health centres in tens of thousands of villages? Can we ignore this splurge the next time a malnourished child looks at us in the eye?

At times like these, it will serve our leaders well to recall Gandhiji's talisman: "Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?"

Premji is chairman of Wipro.

Wednesday, 29 September, 2010

Et Tu Brutus?

Thought you might like to know about this dog and his story. I especially like the ending ......... Be sure to also read the Pet's Ten Commandments............. at the end.

The K9 on the right is Brutus, a military K9 at McChord.He's huge - part Boxer and part British Bull Mastiff and tops the scales at 200 lbs. His handler took the picture. Brutus is running toward me because he knows I have some Milk Bone treats, so he's slobbering away! I had to duck around a tree just before he got to me in case he couldn't stop, but he did. Brutus won the Congressional Medal of Honor last year from his tour in Iraq . His handler and four other soldiers were taken hostage by insurgents. Brutus and his handler communicate by sign language and he gave Brutus the signal that meant 'go away but come back and find me'. The Iraqis paid no attention to Brutus. He came back later and quietly tore the throat out of one guard at one door and another guard at another door. He then jumped against one of the doors repeatedly (the guys were being held in an old warehouse) until it opened. He went in and untied his handler and they all escaped. He's the first K9 to receive this honor. If he knows you're ok, he's a big old lug and wants to sit in your lap. Enjoys the company of cats..
Talk about animal intelligence and bonding with humans!
Remember that they can't do a lot of things for themselves and that they depend on you to make their life a quality life!

1. My life is likely to last 10-15 years. Any separation from you is likely to be painful.
2. Give me time to understand what you want of me
3. Place your trust in me. It is crucial for my well-being.
4. Don't be angry with me for long and don't lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your friends, your entertainment, but I have only you.
5. Talk to me. Even if I don't understand your words, I do understand your voice when speaking to me.
6. Be aware that however you treat me, I will never forget it.
7. Before you hit me, before you strike me, remember that I could hurt you, and yet, I choose not to bite you.
8. Before you scold me for being lazy or uncooperative, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I'm not getting the right food, I have been in the sun too long, or my heart might be getting old or weak.
9. Please take care of me when I grow old. You too, will grow old.
10 On the ultimate difficult journey, go with me please. Never say you can't bear to watch. Don't make me face this alone. Everything is easier for me if you are there, because I love you so.

Take a moment today to thank God for your pets. Enjoy and take good care of them. Life would be a much duller, less joyful experience without God's critters. We do not have to wait for Heaven, to be surrounded by hope, love, and joyfulness. It is here on earth and has four legs!

Tuesday, 28 September, 2010

Stewart used IVF

Rod Stewart and Penny Lancaster had to undergo in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) to have another child.

The couple – who already have a four-year-old son, Alastair, together – were desperate to give their little boy a sibling but after trying unsuccessfully for two years, they decided to seek help from fertility experts.

After speaking to doctors, Penny, 39, cut fish out of her diet after being told she had very high levels of mercury in her body and after third attempt of IVF, she conceived.

Penny said: "A homeopathic doctor told me my mercury levels were really high, off the scale. I do love fish, and I thought it was healthy without understanding the high mercury levels that fish like tuna, swordfish and halibut can contain.

"My doctor said it was unhealthy to have so much mercury in my body, and also for conceiving babies.

"After two months of not eating fish, my mercury levels dropped by half, which is scary - I had no idea what the fish had been doing to my body."

Speaking about the moment she discovered she was pregnant, Penny admitted both she and the Maggie May hitmaker broke down in tears.

She recalled: "I couldn't believe it. I burst into tears. I called Rod when I was still sobbing. Rod said, 'I'm in the middle of a restaurant in Russia, crying.' I kept pinching myself. Neither of us could believe it."

Despite the gruelling IVF battle, Penny says seeing the joy on Alastair's face when he was told he was going to be a big brother made it all worthwhile.

She told Britain's Hello! magazine: "Our son's happiness made all the IVF treatments worthwhile."

Rod – who has six other children from previous relationships – admitted the process was quite stressful but they were determined to conceive.

The 65-year-old rocker said: "IVF can be stressful, especially for the woman with all the hormone injections and procedures. I said to Penny, 'Don't worry, we'll just keep trying.' "

Monday, 27 September, 2010

First US “Test Tube Baby” Gives Birth to Child

29-year-old Elizabeth Comeau is the first person to have been born in the U.S. as a result of in-vitro fertilization. Yesterday, she gave birth herself to a 7-pound-12-ounce boy.

“He’s wonderful,” she told her hometown paper, the Virginian-Pilot, today via telephone.

Comeau doesn’t mind sharing her life with the public; she’s chronicled her journey from wonder baby to “regular mom” for the Boston Globe. She says, “I had a normal conception and pregnancy despite my abnormal childhood. And early yesterday, my husband and I had a baby boy “the normal way,’’ proving (I hope) that I’m just like everyone else.”

Comeau chose to write about her pregnancy and the birth of her son because if she didn’t do it, she knew someone else would. Comeau notes she no longer minds the constant attention, adding, “If my story helps couples or families learn about in-vitro fertilization, then the loss of privacy is worthwhile. People who have fertility issues deserve to know they can have healthy, normal babies.”

Sunday, 26 September, 2010

Inside the Popemobile: Glimpse of the holy customised Merc that will transport Benedict XVI around the UK

No papal tour would be complete without the sight of a Popemobile.

Yesterday saw the unveiling of the official vehicle to be used on Pope Benedict XVI's first official visit to the UK.

The Popemobile is a media-coined nickname for the specially customised motor vehicles used by the Pope during outdoor public appearances.

Before the advent of the Popemobile, popes were often carried by teams of bearers on an elaborate variant of sedan chair called the sedia gestatoria.

The Popemobile was designed to allow the Pope to be more visible when appearing before large crowds. There have been many different designs for Popemobile since Pope John Paul II first used a modified truck to greet the crowds on his first trip to Poland as Pope.

In 2002, Pope John Paul II requested that the media stop referring to the car as the Popemobile, saying that the term was 'undignified.'

Some Popemobile were open topped but the possibility of an assassination attempt led Vatican officials to adopt a new design with a bulletproof glass enclosure for the pontiff.

There are a variety of subtly different Popemobiles based in different territories but they all traditionally carry the papal numberplate SCV 1. SCV stands for either Stato della Città del Vaticano or Status Civitatis Vaticanae, depending on which cardinal you ask.

The Popemobile. which will be used during the British visit is a modified Mercedes-Benz M-Class 'green petrol' SUV with a special glass-enclosed cabin that has been built into the back of the vehicle.

Two have been flown in. Each costing more than £200,000, they are believed to have been donated to the Vatican by the manufacturer.

The Pope enters through a rear door and climbs several steps. After the Pope sits in his chair, it is elevated up into the glass 'turret' by a hydraulic lift, allowing the Pope to be more easily seen.

In addition to the driver, there is room for one passenger (usually a security agent) in the front of the vehicle. The glass-enclosed rear of the vehicle also has room for two papal aides who can sit in the area in front of the Pope's elevated chair.

The vehicle's security features include bulletproof glass windows and roof and reinforced, armoured side panels and chassis and it has a top speed of 160mph but while in on papal business in Britain the Popemobile. is expected to travel at a more sedate 6mph.

Dr Alberto Gasbarri, who is in charge of organising all the Pope's trips, said: 'The Holy See has two Popemobile but there are others scattered around the world.'

'The two for this trip were sent to Britain in a secure container by road and are currently in a secret location. '

'Both of them use green petrol and the driver will be British and chosen by the local authorities in Britain. He will have to be a competent driver and he will get a chance to accustom himself to the Popemobile.'

'Each Popemobile has about 5,000km on the clock which for an eight-year-old car is not bad at all and they are in perfect pristine condition and are serviced regularly.'

Saturday, 25 September, 2010

Drink Fresh and New Swiss Milk!

Due to fewer men drinking milk while drinking more beer; the Swiss government has introduced
A new packaging for Men. Naturally, it is a big hit!

Friday, 24 September, 2010

The End of Privacy: Entire City to Track People With Public Eye Scanners

Imagine a public eye scanner that can identify 50 people per minute, in motion. Now imagine that the government install these scanner systems all across an entire city. Or don't imagine it, because it's already happening, right now.

The City of Leon, Mexico, is doing exactly that, installing real time iris scanners from biometrics R&D firm Global Rainmakers Inc. These scanners don't require people to stop and put their eyes in front of a camera. They work in real time, as people walk, like this:

There are different kinds of machines being installed across Leon, from large scanners—capable of identifying 50 people per minute in motion— to smaller ones—like the EyeSwipe in the hollywood video below—that range from 15 to 30 people per minute. These devices are being installed in public places, like train and bus stations, and connected to a database that will track people across the city.This is a scene from the movie Minority Report. Tom Cruise walks in the mall while his eyes are getting scanned by 3D screens. The screens call him directly by his name to get his attention.

City officials and proponents of the system are hoping that public retinal scans will stop crime and fraud. According to Jeff Carter, CDO of Global Rainmakers:

If you've been convicted of a crime, in essence, this will act as a digital scarlet letter. If you're a known shoplifter, for example, you won't be able to go into a store without being flagged. Certainly for others, boarding a plane will be impossible.
The retinal scanning of Leon's one million population has started already with its convicted criminals. Citizens with no criminal records have been offered the opportunity to "voluntarily" scan their eyes. This, however, is just the beginning. According to Carter, everyone in the planet should be connected to the iris tracking system in 10 years.

In the future, whether it's entering your home, opening your car, entering your workspace, getting a pharmacy prescription refilled, or having your medical records pulled up, everything will come off that unique key that is your iris. Every person, place, and thing on this planet will be connected within the next 10 years.

Of course, that would be good for Carter's business. For the best of the rest of us, I hope this never happens.

Thursday, 23 September, 2010

Human egg harvesting ring broken

Police in Attica on Saturday arrested five suspects, one of them a Greek doctor, in connection with a cross-border ring believed to have been exploiting immigrant women by harvesting eggs from their ovaries to give to Greek women interested in in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Two Bulgarian men, a Bulgarian woman and two Romanian men were detained as suspected members of the gang, according to Greek police who said they were assisted by their counterparts in Romania and Bulgaria.

The 47-year-old doctor was arrested at an Athens fertility clinic late on Friday as he was about to remove eggs from the ovaries of a 20-year-old Romanian woman, police said. Most of the women alleged to have been exploited by the gang had been brought to Greece, ostensibly for legitimate jobs, before being sold into prostitution and then being forced to agree to the removal of their eggs. One of the Romanian suspects, a 37-year-old woman, allegedly underwent the same procedure herself several times before bringing six of her compatriots into contact with the gang, police said.

The suspects face long jail terms if convicted.

Wednesday, 22 September, 2010

Early puberty in girls may be linked to absent fathers in higher-income families

Girls are starting puberty earlier, studies show, and some researchers speculate that rising obesity rates might be a factor. A new study finds there may be a link between early puberty and girls living in higher-income households without a biological father.

The study, published this week in the Journal of Adolescent Health, looked at data on 444 ethnically diverse girls age 6 to 8, 80 of whom had no biological father living at home at the time of the study. Researchers noted the girls' onset of puberty (breast and pubic hair development), body mass index, ethnicity and income. Among the 80 participants, 21% had other men living at home, including stepfathers.

Not having a biological father at home was associated with earlier breast development, but only for girls who lived in families with incomes over $50,000. Not having a father at home was linked with earlier development of pubic hair among African American girls living in higher income homes. Factoring in BMI did not change the results.

The study offered some reasons for the link: higher-income families may have weaker support systems than lower-income families; mothers working outside of the home may put extra stress on family life and relationships; and having fathers leave while kids are young may indicate early familiarity with marital discord; and children living in higher-income households may have more exposure to environmental toxins that may have an effect on puberty.

"The hunt for an explanation to this trend is significant since girls who enter puberty earlier than their peers are not only at greater risk for reproductive cancers, they are also more likely to develop asthma and engage in higher risk sexual behaviors and substance abuse, so these studies have broader relevance to women's health," said senior author Dr. Robert Hiatt, professor and co-chair of epidemiology and biostatistics at UC San Francisco, in a news release.

Tuesday, 21 September, 2010

Artificial ovary is a world first

The breakthrough could help preserve fertility for women having chemotherapy or other invasive treatments.
Using a honeycomb-shaped cell structure, US researchers placed human egg cells into the individual pods. Within a couple of days, the cells enveloped the eggs, mimicking a real ovary.
The 3D tissue structure was a first, said Sandra Carson, who led the team at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Rhode Island.
‘This is really very, very new and is the first success in using 3D tissue engineering principles for in vitro oocyte maturation,’ she said.
The scientists believe the structure could answer fundamental questions about how healthy ovaries work but could also act as a testbed for seeing how problems can disrupt egg maturation and health. They also say the artificial ovary could play a role in preserving the fertility of women facing cancer treatment in the future.
Immature eggs could be salvaged and frozen before the onset of chemotherapy or radiation and then matured outside the patient in the artificial ovary.
Meanwhile, in another fertility breakthrough, stem cells have been used to cure faulty ovaries.
About one in 100 women under the age of 40 suffer premature ovary failure ahead of the menopause.
Egyptian researchers repaired faulty ovaries in rats using stem cells.
‘We have not yet reached the stage of producing offspring, and so we will need to understand if the baby rats will be genetically related to the mother, or to the donor of the stem cells,’ said Prof Osama Azmy of Cairo’s National Research Centre.

Monday, 20 September, 2010

Cyprus clinic at centre of human egg trafficking probe

Police are waiting for the green light from Ukrainian authorities in order to begin an investigation into claims of human eggs trafficking at a fertility clinic near the village of Zygi.
The clinic was run by a staff comprised mostly by Russians, with donors being mainly women from Eastern Europe.
Suspicion of illegal trade in human eggs came about after the testimonies of three Ukrainian women in their thirties, all of whom were working in Cyprus legally. According to police, these women sold their eggs illegally - in violation of Cypriot and European law which says that donors should only have their expenses covered.
Officially, the clinic is under investigation for failing to provide full data for the tracing of embryos and gametes. According to a police spokesperson, the clinic closed in May this year after an edict from the health ministry.
Health Ministry Inspector Pampos Charilaou said the clinic was forced to close as it failed to present an archive listing the origins of ovules, who owned them and the conditions under which they were kept.
“Without traceability of the ovules and sperm, I could not, as an inspector, give permission to this clinic to continue with the procedures they were implementing. You have to understand that we need that sort of detail in order to safeguard the safety and health of the recipients,” Charilaou said.
After the clinic closed, all of its biological material was transferred to the Health Ministry where it is now stored. “Although the law allows us to destroy the tissues and cells we have acquired from the clinic, we are storing them in good condition, but we don’t know where they come from, nor who owns them,” said Charilaou.
He also added that the Ministry’s Inspectors were only responsible for monitoring the traceability of ovules and gametes, and that issues regarding egg trafficking were a police concern.
A group of Italian patients of the clinic are demanding their embryos back so that they can continue with the fertilisation process in their own country. “I promised to my eight Cypriot embryos that have been confiscated that I will fight to the end,” said Maria, an Italian who came to Cyprus for treatment, speaking to French news agency AFP. She would not give her real name because of the investigation still in process, while she also condemned the Cypriot authorities for their “lack of control” in the case.
According to AFP, shortly after the clinic closed, the Italian and Israeli embassies – whose nationals made up many of the clinic’s patients – were flooded with calls from distressed couples who were worried about their embryos.
Many couples are working around restrictive laws on fertility treatment in their own countries by coming to Cyprus, a favoured destination for ‘fertility tourism’. Swift processes, lower prices and the anonymity of the gamete donors all help to attract patients to the island.

Sunday, 19 September, 2010

Placebo pills may help women with sexual dysfunction, study finds

Women with low sexual arousal who took a placebo drug showed an improvement in symtpoms, a new study finds.

The 12-week double-blind study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, followed 50 women who were diagnosed with female sexual arousal disorder and randomly given a placebo as part of a pharmaceutical trial sponsored by Eli Lilly/ICOS (the company agreed to release the results of those who took the placebo).

The women in the study reported 1,292 sexual events during the 12-week trial. Sexual events went up during the first eight weeks, but when down during the last four weeks to levels similar to the start of the study.

But researchers also discovered that the proportion of sexual activities that the women considered satisfying went from 23% at the beginning of the study to 50.7% during the last four weeks.

They determined that more than 50% of participants showed improvement that wouldn't likely be chalked up to statistical error, and about 33% showed clinically significant change.

The best forecaster of improvement was having more satisfying sexual encounters during the study.

"It's important to note that, even though these women received placebo, they all had an opportunity to talk to a health provider about their difficulties and were asked to closely monitor their sexual behavior and feelings over a 12-week period," said study coauthor Andrea Bradford in a news release. "Just taking part in this study probably started some meaningful conversations. Our study shows that even a limited intervention can have a positive effect in many women with sexual dysfunction." Bradford, a psychologist at Baylor College of Medicinein Houston, wrote the study with Cindy Meston, in the department of psychology of the University of Texas at Austin.

Saturday, 18 September, 2010

Endocrinologists speak out about two 'Internet diseases': adrenal fatigue and Wilson's temperature syndrome

Everyone knows there is a lot of garbage on the Internet, particularly medical information that is distorted, misleading or flat-out wrong. The Hormone Foundation, the public-education affiliate of the Endocrine Society, on Wednesday issued fact sheets about two "Internet diseases": diseases that exist only in the minds of people who post about them on the Internet. The so-called diseases in question are adrenal fatigue and Wilson's temperature syndrome, diseases apparently conceived only in an effort to sell products promoted to treat them.

Adrenal fatigue, whose symptoms are said to include tiredness, trouble falling asleep at night or waking up in the morning, salt and sugar craving and needing stimulants such as coffee to get through the day, is said to be caused by overstimulation of the adrenal glands. Long-term life stresses, the theory goes, wear out the adrenal gland so that it can no longer keep up with the body's daily needs for stress hormones such as cortisol.

Those symptoms, the foundation said, may be produced by other diseases and can also occur as part of a normal, busy life.

Adrenal fatigue "is not a real medical condition," the foundation said. There are no scientific facts to support its existence, and it cannot be diagnosed through blood tests -- which would reveal a shortage of adrenal hormones.

Vitamins and supplements promoted to treat this "disease" often include extracts from human adrenal glands and hypothalamus that could be dangerous, and none of them have been tested for safety. Unfortunately, Congress has not given the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate nutritional supplements such as those marketed for adrenal fatigue.

The foundation noted, however, that there is a very real disease called adrenal insufficiency. It is not caused by stress, but by physical damage to the adrenal glands or by tumors growing on them. Its symptoms include dehydration, confusion, weight loss, weakness, dizziness and low blood pressure. Other symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It can be diagnosed through blood tests and is treated with medications that replace the hormones the adrenal glands would normally make.

Wilson's temperature syndrome was supposedly identified in 1990 by "E. Denis Wilson M.D." of Longwood, Fla. He said that stress and illness result in a hormone imbalance that causes a lack of the thyroid hormone T3, resulting in low body temperature and slow metabolism. He promotes a product called WT3 that is supposedly a time-released version of the hormone T3, as well as special herbal and nutritional supplements. Such treatments are dangerous because too much T3 can stress the heart and damage bones.

Again, there is no medical evidence to support the existence of Wilson's temperature syndrome, no medical test can diagnose it, and there's no clinical evidence that the drugs and supplements promoted by Wilson offer any benefit.

"Doctors urge you not to accept an unproven diagnosis like Wilson's syndrome," the foundation said. "Your symptoms could be caused by a serious health problem. To take care of your health, it is important to get a correct diagnosis and proper medical treatment."

Wilson's temperature syndrome is also discussed at Quackwatch along with other "fad diagnoses."

Neither Medicare nor insurance companies will pay for treatments for either disease because they are not considered real conditions.

Friday, 17 September, 2010

Infertile men 2.6 times as likely to have aggressive prostate cancer

Men who have difficulty conceiving children are 2.6 times as likely to have highly aggressive prostate cancer and 60% more likely to have slow-growing tumors, researchers reported Monday. Although the absolute risk of developing prostate cancer was still low in these men, the findings suggest that such men should be screened for prostate cancer at an earlier age, said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

Previous studies have looked at the relationship between prostate cancer and the number of children a man has, but they have produced differing results. Some suggested that fatherhood was protective, while others suggested that it increased risk. Because the number of children a man has may not be an accurate reflector of his fertility, Dr. Thomas J. Walsh of the University of Washington School of Medicine and his colleagues decided to study men who had been evaluated for infertility.

The team studied 22,562 men who had been evaluated from 1967 to 1998 at 15 California infertility centers, comparing them with a similar group of healthy men from the general population. They reported in the journal Cancer that they identified 168 cases of prostate cancer among the men, about the same as the 185 cases that would be expected in a group that size. That suggests that simply being evaluated for infertility does not affect the incidence of prostate cancer.

Overall, 0.4% of the fertile men developed prostate cancer during the decade of follow-up, compared with 1.2% of those diagnosed as infertile. Taking age into account, that translated to a 160% increased risk of developing aggressive tumors and a 60% increased risk of developing slow-growing tumors, the team reported.

It is not clear why infertile men have a higher risk. Walsh speculated that the risk might result from exposure to environmental toxins in the womb that cause damage to the male chromosome, but argued that more research needs to be done, both to confirm their findings and to explore potential mechanisms.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men after skin cancer, striking 192,000 American men each year and killing 27,000. Other risk factors include older age, a family history of the disease, obesity and being African American. Most national organizations now recommend that men be offered screening beginning at age 50, but there is a widespread controversy about this. Some critics argue that the screening leads to an unacceptably high rate of invasive procedures in men who do not have cancer, leading to impotence, urinary incontinence and other problems

Thursday, 16 September, 2010

Rise in male infertility linked to plastic food and drink cartons

Men with the highest levels of Bisphenol A (BPA) in their bodies had sperm counts which were 23 per cent lower on average than men with the least exposure, a study showed.
There was also a ten per cent increase in their sperm DNA damage.
BPA is used to harden plastics and is found in the linings of food and drink cans, reusable water bottles, CD cases, plastic cutlery and baby bottles.
Despite being banned in Canada, three US states and Denmark, British authorities insist the controversial compound is safe.
Damaged sperm are more likely to lead to infertility and a greater likelihood of miscarried foetuses and even birth defects.
BPA was found in 90 per cent of urine samples given by 190 men recruited at a fertility clinic for the Harvard University study.
They found a ten per cent rise in sperm DNA damage between those with the highest levels of BPA compared with those with the lowest.
Previous studies have shown adverse effects of the chemical on semen in rodents but none is thought to have reported a similar relationship in humans.
Dr Allan Pacey, a fertility expert at Sheffield University, said: ‘This survey needs to be followed up. The inference is it’s not good for fertility but it’s also not good for any foetus.
'In extreme cases it could lead to disabilities but it’s more likely the pregnancy will end in a miscarriage.’
The Food Standards Agency said human exposure to the chemical via plastics is ‘well below levels considered harmful’.

Wednesday, 15 September, 2010

Gym fanatics risk fertility problems

Researchers found that exercising daily or to the point of exhaustion made fertility problems three times more likely.
While experts agree that a certain amount of physical exercise has obvious health benefits, it is believed that too much saps the body of the energy it needs for a successful pregnancy. The findings were made by Norwegian University of Science and Technology after a study of 3,000 women.
Although it is known that some elite female athletes have problems starting a family, other women who push themselves to the limit also appear to be affected.
In a survey, the women were questioned about the frequency, duration and intensity of their fitness regimes between 1984 and 1986. In a follow-up 10 years later, they were asked about their pregnancies.
Sigridur Lara Gudmundsdottir, who led the study, said: "Among all these women, we found two groups who experienced an increased risk of infertility. There were those who trained almost every day, and there were those who trained until they were completely exhausted. Those who did both had the highest risk of infertility."
Even after taking other factors such as age, weight, marital status and smoking into account, figures showed those who trained the hardest were three times more likely to have fertility problems than those who exercised moderately.
Younger women appeared to be more vulnerable to the risk. Among the under-30s who exercised the most, a quarter were unable to conceive during their first year of trying, compared to the national average of roughly seven per cent.
However, the negative effects of a punishing routine did not appear to be permanent. "The vast majority of women in the study had children in the end," Gudmundsdottir said.
"And those who trained the hardest in the middle of the 1980s were actually among those who had the most children in the 1990s," she added.
It was not known whether this was because the women had simply changed their activity levels or because their hormone profile improved with time. There was no evidence of impaired fertility through moderate amounts of exercise.
Gudmundsdottir advised that women who want babies should still maintain their fitness - but "ease off a bit" and avoid extremes. "We believe it is likely that physical activity at a very high or very low level has a negative effect on fertility, while moderate activity is beneficial," she said.

Tuesday, 14 September, 2010

Decoding of DNA may unlock the hidden medical histories of Irish lives

The decoding of the first Irish genome represents a significant advance in the quest to understand the link between genetic variation and disease susceptibility on this island.

This places the Irish genetic code in the public domain for the first time and permits it to be compared with mappings of the codes of other population groups.

This is important as it is only by comparing the genome with other sequences that scientists can hope to isolate a specific “Irish genetic signature”, and to understand the genetic basis of our susceptibility to certain diseases.

A principal reason for sequencing Irish DNA was that it was not represented in any of the large genomic studies under way, explained the Irish project’s originator Prof Brendan Loftus of University College Dublin’s Conway Institute.

“Certain gene variants can become locked in a population due to factors like geography. Irish people’s genes mirror the island’s peripheral location in Europe, which makes it an interesting subgroup to sequence,” Prof Loftus said.

“Some 13 per cent of the variation we uncovered has not been seen before. It’s likely that some of that variation is specific to the individual and some is more diagnostic of him being Irish. We will only find out which is which over time.”

A Mayo-born graduate of Dublin City University, Prof Loftus spent the 1990s working in the US under the well-known Craig Venter, collaborator on the first human genome sequencing project completed in 2003 at a cost of €2.7 billion.

In contrast with the original human genome project, the Irish project was carried out with the resources of a small lab over about 13 months and at a cost of €30,000.

Prof Loftus said the project illustrated how rapidly the accumulation of genomic information on a population level can be generated.

But he acknowledged that while the capacity to generate the sequence data is proceeding at pace, the rate at which the data can be reliably interpreted has lagged behind.

One area where genetic sequencing is likely to play a major role is in patient response to medication.

“The majority of blockbuster drugs, from aspirin to cancer medication, don’t appear to work on significant sections of the population,” said Prof Loftus.

“There is a big thrust in the medical community towards personalising medicine and nutrition because people respond in different ways to the same product.

“And one of the most likely reasons for this is their genetic background. The drug companies are interested to see who these people are, and to find out if they will respond to variations of the existing drug compounds.”

Since the first human sequence was generated in the US in 2003, between 20 and 30 full human genome sequences have been published.

However, the rapid acceleration in DNA sequencing technology in recent years has seen a proliferation of projects, with more than 100 separate projects in progress.With the cost of sequencing dropping all the time, experts maintain it won’t be long before people will be carrying around parts of their genome on a USB key.

US company 23andMe, established by Anne Wojcicki – wife of Google founder Sergey Brin – already offers to sequence portions of the genome using a sample of saliva, for as little as $350.

Dr Gerard Cagney, principal investigator in functional genomics at the Conway Institute, said representative species from all branches of the tree of life – bacteria, fungi and plants, along with animals ranging from worms to insects and from fish to monkeys – are now being sequenced daily.

“Nevertheless, the technical difficulty associated with sequencing a small virus like HIV, containing some 9,000 units of DNA, pales in significance next to the challenge of sequencing a human genome, composed of more than three billion units.

“The problem is compounded by the fact that the entire sequence is assembled from short individual sequence fragments – typically less than 200 units – so the final product is similar to piecing together a huge jigsaw puzzle, and requires the work of computer scientists and statisticians,” Dr Cagney said.

“There are also large regions of repeated sequence in human genomes and their biological significance is still not fully understood.

“The sequencing process therefore relies partly on comparison with other known sequences, and it is for this reason that reading an Irish genome is significant.

“It can be used to place Irish genes in the context of worldwide human genome diversity.”

Monday, 13 September, 2010

Genetic factors in breast cancer risk prediction

Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK (see CRUK website). However, thanks to extensive research and improved management, survival rates for breast cancer have been improving for thirty years. Ongoing research is aiming to identify ways of reducing the incidence of breast cancer by improved prevention, as well as to understand the complex biological disease pathways in order to develop new treatments. Sporadic breast cancer is a complex disease associated with both genetic and environmental risk factors. There are now about 20 genetic variants known to be linked to disease susceptibility and more are being identified. Whilst the risk conferred by each is typically small, in combination there may be potential to use these markers to improve risk prediction.

A new study evaluates risk associated with 14 breast cancer risk variants (SNPs), alone or in combination, for half a dozen cancer subtypes [Reeves et al. (2010) JAMA 304(4):426-434], to look at how individual variants and polygenetic risk models correspond to breast cancer risk and subtype. This large prospective study used more than ten thousand women with breast cancer and about as many healthy controls without breast cancer. The scientists used meta-analysis of results from the study as well as of other studies. The analyses of the results suggested that SNPs in the FGFR1 and TNRC9 genes, as well as a third SNP on chromosome 2, were most closely tied to overall breast cancer risk, and that risk prediction was most reliable for oestrogen receptor (ER) positive cancers and lower grade tumours.

The researchers also developed polygenic risk models using combined data on four, seven, or 10 of the SNPs that were most strongly associated with breast cancer. They concluded that women under 70 years of age with the highest polygenic risk scores have an estimated breast cancer risk of 8.8% compared with a risk of 4.4% in women with the lowest polygenic scores. They also found that the polygenic risk score was substantially more predictive for ER-positive cancers (ranging from a high of 7.4% to a low of 3.4%) than ER-negative breast cancers (a range of just 1.4% to 1.0%).

This is an important study which evaluates the predictive value of selected genetic markers identified by different studies and finds that it varies for different tumour subtypes. However, the authors caution that whilst their findings are potentially useful for understanding disease mechanisms, they would not be useful for individual breast cancer risk prediction or population stratification as known risk factors for breast cancer such as family history are more predictive. Nevertheless, this is an interesting line of enquiry and it may be that ultimately the combination of established and novel environmental and genetic risk factors could refine risk prediction for targeted population screening.

Sunday, 12 September, 2010

Ancient iceman's gene map underway

Otzi, the 5,000-year-old frozen mummy, undergoes modern genetic mapping this year, an international team announced Tuesday.

Members of the team that recently completed gene maps of Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun's family will join with gene sequencing expert Andreas Keller to create a biomedical gene map of the famous iceman, discovered by Alpine hikers in 1991, linking his lineage to diseases and cell biology.

"We are dealing here with old DNA which in addition is heavily fragmented", says Albert Zink of the EURAC Institute for Mummies, in a statement. "It was only by using the very latest technology with its low failure rate that we scientists were able to decode Ötzi's DNA in its entirety within this short space of time."

A look at Otzi's maternal DNA in a 2008 Current Biology report found no links between the iceman, killed by flint arrowhead fired into his back, and modern Europeans. The team hopes to find more about possible living relatives from the enhanced genetic map and look for signs of changes in human genes since Otzi's death.

Saturday, 11 September, 2010

Colonoscopy Humor

A physician claimed that the following are actual comments made by his patients (predominately male) while he was performing their colonoscopies:

1. Take it easy, Doc . You're boldly going where no man has gone before!

2. Find Amelia Earhart yet?

3. Can you hear me NOW?

4. Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

5. You know, in Arkansas , we're now legally married.

6. Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?'

7. You put your left hand in; you take your left hand out...

8. Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!

9. If your hand doesn't fit, you must quit!

10. Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity.

11. You used to work for the Inland Revenue Service bad payers division, didn't you?

12. God, now I know why I am not gay.

And the best one of all...

13. Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?

Friday, 10 September, 2010

Prox1 gene linked to memory

Scientists have found that a gene named Prox1 is a key player in normal development of a brain structure crucial for learning and memory and remains active throughout life, nurturing the cells vital for making new memories. The study by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital focused on a small region of the hippocampus known as the dentate gyrus, a brain structure needed for memory and learning that is home to the subgranular zone where the neural stem cells destined to become granule cells are housed.

The dentate gyrus is one of two regions of the adult brain where neural stem cells continue to produce the precursor cells that ultimately differentiate into neurons.

Although investigators knew Prox1 was expressed during development of the dentate gyrus, this is the first report detailing the gene's function in this region of the brain. Prox1 is a transcription factor that functions like an on-off switch for genes.

Researchers showed that by removing Prox1 at different stages of mouse development, the dentate gyrus fails to develop properly. Investigators also demonstrated that Prox1 remains important throughout mammalian life to ensure production of new granule cells, which are needed to form new memories.

The findings raise the possibility that subtle mutations in Prox1 might be linked to memory and learning problems, said the paper's senior author Guillermo Oliver, member of the St. Jude Department of Genetics.

"The more we understand about how signaling pathways work in the brain, the more we will eventually be able to manipulate the system to promote or block the differentiation process," he said.

Thursday, 9 September, 2010

More evidence ties smoking, decreased fertility

If you're looking to make a baby, you might want to put out your cigarette before getting down to business: There's now more evidence linking smoking with decreased fertility in men and women — and their offspring.
A new study shows smoking by women during early pregnancy reduces the number of germ cells in the embryo. Germ cells later develop into eggs or sperm, so this reduction has the potential to reduce the baby's future fertility.
And men who smoke develop an imbalance in their levels of a protein, called protamine, that is vital to sperm fertility, another new study suggests.
The findings fall in line with past studies on the effects of smoking and secondhand smoke on fertility, researchers say. Research from the University of Buffalo in 2005 showed male smokers' sperm had a more difficult time binding to an egg than non-smokers' sperm. And research from the University of Rochester in 2008 showed that women who had been exposed to secondhand smoke as children or young adults were more likely to have trouble getting pregnant.
Germ cell study researcher Claus Yding Andersen of the University Hospital of Copenhagen said more research is needed to demonstrate whether the reductions in germ cells are permanent or are compensated for later in the pregnancy. Either way, he told MyHealthNewsDaily, "If women plan to get pregnant, this should be an incentive to quit smoking."
For male embryos, the number of germ cells was reduced by more than half when their mothers smoked during the first trimester of pregnancy, compared with mothers who didn't smoke at all, said Andersen. For all embryos, the reduction in germ cells averaged 41 percent.
And the more a mother smoked, the greater the reduction in the germ cells of her embryo, he said.

Wednesday, 8 September, 2010

NHS buys porn for sperm donors

The hard-up NHS is blowing taxpayers' cash on porn for sperm donors, a report reveals today.
A health think-tank discovered one in three hospitals with fertility services lays on dirty mags. Some also offer blue movies.

Last night the smut was slammed as an affront to the three-quarters of NHS staff who are women - many of whom fear for their jobs. Seventeen hospitals admitted buying in porn when contacted by the think-tank, which campaigns against NHS waste.

Most top-shelf mags were purchased from newsagents.

But two hospitals confessed they bought porn direct from publishers.

Others said stashes were donated by staff, patients and visitors. One was given material by a top consultant.

The think-tank's director Julia Manning said: "We know of no government authorisation that sanctioned this.

"The reality of porn today is that it increasingly uses younger girls and is more violent and extreme. Seventy-seven per cent of the NHS workforce is female and they should never have to work in an environment that endorses pornography."

She pointed out that only 33 out of 92 hospitals in the investigation used porn as a helping hand for donors.

The Sun revealed earlier this year how Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust splashed out £7,500 on computers, flat-screen TVs, a DVD unit and blue movies for hospital sperm donors.

Tuesday, 7 September, 2010

Blood disorder cured – a first for gene therapy

A 21-YEAR-OLD Frenchman is the first person in the world to be cured of the blood disorder beta-thalassaemia through gene therapy. But there is some confusion over what made the treatment work.

Before gene therapy he needed monthly blood transfusions to provide him with beta-globin, a key component of the haemoglobin molecule that carries oxygen around the body. He has now been transfusion-free for over two years.

Philippe Leboulch of the University of Paris, France, and Harvard Medical School in Boston, infected stem cells from the man's bone marrow with a harmless virus, which transferred perfect copies of the beta-globin gene into the DNA of the extracted cells.

Returned to the patient, these cells now contribute about a third of his beta-globin, with his body producing the rest. Although the treatment had the desired effect, the proliferation of the altered cells could be down to the activation of a different gene, HMGA2, switched on by accident during the DNA transfer.

One worry throughout the history of gene therapy is that viruses transferring beneficial genes will accidentally activate other genes that could trigger cancer. This happened in four French boys treated for the immune deficiency, X-SCID, who developed leukaemia. One died and the others recovered after treatment.

"We must be very cautious, but the signs are that the impact of the HMGA2 gene will be benign," says Leboulch.

After more detailed analysis, the team found other cells producing beta-globin that do not have the HMGA2 gene switched on. Leboulch concludes that it is unlikely the HMGA2 gene by itself is responsible for the survival of the beta-globin-producing cells.

Monday, 6 September, 2010

Doctor sued over allegedly mixing up sperm samples

An Ottawa fertility doctor is being sued for allegedly mixing up sperm samples and inseminating the wrong one into two of his patients.

Trudy Moore launched a civil lawsuit against Bernard Norman Barwin last year after she learned that her daughter, Samantha, is not a genetic match to her husband, Matthew Guest, the statement of claim said.

Recently, another woman also came forward and filed a statement of claim against Dr. Barwin. Jacqueline Slinn found out in April that her five-year-old daughter Bridget is not a genetic match to her intended sperm donor, the statement said.

Both women are seeking more than $1-million in damages and an order requiring Dr. Barwin to identify their children’s father. No mediation or court dates have been set.

“We are currently investigating how widespread this problem may be,” said Pam MacEachern, lawyer for Ms. Moore and Ms. Slinn. “We would be pleased to speak with anyone else who has had a similar experience.”

In a statement of defence filed by Dr. Barwin in response to Ms. Moore’s lawsuit, he denied any allegations of negligent care or wrongdoing. The claim states that all medical care and treatments provided were carried out in a careful, competent and diligent manner and in accordance with the applicable standard of care.

Dr. Barwin and his lawyer could not be reached for comment.

According to Ms. Slinn’s statement of claim, Bridget’s father was supposed to be sperm donor number 3168. After Ms. Slinn learned that her daughter did not match him, she tested the vial of sperm that was used to inseminate her from Dr. Barwin’s clinic. The results showed that the vial from his clinic was contaminated with unidentified male DNA, the statement said.

In an interview, Ms. Slinn said she had no idea that there was even a risk of that kind of mistake when she went into her procedure nearly six years ago. “I carried on merrily thinking it was 3168,” she said.

Ms. Moore’s story is more complex. Now two-year-old Samantha was conceived through a surrogate, and the man she calls “daddy” is supposed to be her biological father. But due to the mix-up at Dr. Barwin’s clinic, her parents still don’t know who Samantha’s biological father is, the statement said.

“From Samantha’s perspective, we don’t know her medical history,” Ms. Moore said in an interview. “She may never care, but if she does I can’t fix that. As a parent we want the best for our children, we want to protect our children, we want to fix things for our children. This is something I will never be able to give her.”

DNA tests have ruled out the surrogate’s husband and other potential sperm donors.

Dr. Barwin is a member in good standing with the College of Physicians and Surgeons and is certified to practice as a general physician. He specializes in reproduction and has nearly 30 years of experience. In 1997, he received the Order of Canada for his contributions to women’s reproductive health.

Sunday, 5 September, 2010

Hull IVF unit innovation is to be rolled out across UK

Technology used in fertility treatment which has been adopted by Hull's IVF unit is being rolled out across the rest of the UK.

The unit has also been nominated for a national award for use of the technology.

The technology lessens the risk of a mix up when the sperm and egg are put together by activating an alarm.

It was designed following highly publicised adverse incidents across the UK.

The unit said IVF mix-ups were rare but in recent years there had been four "highly publicised serious adverse incidents" in UK clinics.

It said two involved incorrect identification of sperm samples and resulted in the live birth of twins.

As a consequence the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA) - the UK's independent regulator overseeing the use of gametes and embryos in fertility treatment and research - introduced a requirement for all movement of sperm, eggs and embryos during any clinical or laboratory process to be witnessed to prevent mismatches.

The technology works through a tracking process ensuring that the resulting embryo is transferred to the correct patient.

If at any time the wrong samples are introduced, the system warns the laboratory personnel both visually and audibly.

A spokeswoman for the unit said: "The system provides an invaluable reassurance for patient's nurses and embryologists alike."

The clinic, which is based at Hull Royal Infirmary, has been nominated for the Best Use of Technology category at the the Independent Health Care Awards. The winners will be announced on 14 September.

According to the Hull IVF Unit 37,000 women undergo fertility treatments in the UK every year.

Saturday, 4 September, 2010

Chemical patterns on DNA mark out obesity genes

Your genes play a big part in determining your body shape, but that role may not have been set in stone when your parents' egg and sperm got together. It now looks like chemical changes that happen to genes over a person's lifetime may influence how fat they become, without altering their inherited DNA sequences.

This is the first time that prolonged chemical changes to genes during life have been implicated in obesity and body weight.

The findings add to the mounting evidence that it's not only genes that dictate important bodily traits – environmental cues and conditions may also affect such traits by altering gene activity. These "epigenetic" changes influence whether genes are on or off, but do not change the DNA sequence.

The latest findings relate to epigenetic changes which involve methylation, the process by which the addition of chemicals called methyl groups to DNA can turn genes on or off, or moderate a gene's activity by changing the way it is read.

Icelandic obesity

A team led by Andrew Feinberg of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, and Daniele Fallin of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, also in Baltimore, mapped methylation in the DNA of 74 adults with a range of body types, looking for patterns that seemed likely to have been prolonged and set early in life, or even in the womb.

To do this, they first screened the volunteers' DNA in 1991, and picked out 227 regions with methylation patterns that varied between the individual members of the group by an unusually large amount. They then screened the same people in 2002 to distinguish which methylation patterns had not changed over the 11 years, reasoning that the variation in these patterns must have occurred early in life, then become fixed, having a persistent effect on traits such as body weight or intelligence.

Of the 227 methylated sites, 119 were found to be the same in 2002 as they had been 11 years earlier. Feinberg and Fallin then matched these groups to the body type of the individual. They found 13 methylated genes that were more likely to be present in the participants who were overweight or obese.

These chemical changes could have arisen in response to environmental conditions, such as the childhood diet of the individual or even of their mother during pregnancy.

"We don't know yet the degree to which genes and environment add up to give these stable methylation changes, but we believe both are important," says Feinberg.

Usual suspects

The 13 methylated genes include those that make metalloproteinase enzymes, which have already been implicated in obesity through studies on mice. Another, called PRKG1, plays a role when insects and nematodes forage for food.

The researchers caution that it is not yet possible to say whether the methylation changes are a result of environment influence, perhaps in the diet, or whether they are ultimately genetic because they are orchestrated by other genes.

But if specific methylated genes linked with obesity can be identified, they may provide new ways to screen people for risk of becoming overweight or obese. "The results do suggest the importance of including epigenetic analysis with genetic analysis in personalised medicine research to predict risk," says Feinberg.

"Relationships between epigenetic markers such as methylation patterns and particular disease or body states are hard to establish with confidence," says Bryan Turner, a geneticist at the University of Birmingham, UK.

Friday, 3 September, 2010

Is spring the secret of success for struggling IVF couples?

In the animal kingdom, spring is the mating season. Now scientists claim the same is true for humans.
They have discovered that couples trying for babies with IVF are more likely to conceive in spring than at any other time of year.
Those who had treatment in March, April or May were one-and-a-half times more likely to be successful than those trying during other months.Experts believe that the increase in light in spring could trigger women’s bodies to produce greater amounts of the sex hormone estradiol, crucial for the fertilisation of the egg and development of the embryo.
Scientists from the Assisted Fertilization Center in Sao Paulo, Brazil looked at almost 2,000 women undergoing IVF treatment during all four seasons of the year.
They found that rates of fertilisation – when the egg and sperm join together to make an embryo – and levels of estradiol in the women’s blood were significantly higher in spring.
Dr Daniela Braga, who led the study, suggested that changing light levels caused neurons in women’s brains to produce certain hormones which in turn increased the amount of estradiol produced by the ovaries.
‘This work shows that IVF cycles may have a better outcome during the spring,’ she said.
‘Our results show a significant difference in spring fertilization rate, with the fertilization
rate in the spring being almost one-and-a-half-times that of other seasons.
‘In practical terms this may mean that if you are having real difficulty in conceiving, it may be better to have an assisted reproduction cycle during this season.
‘We found higher estradiol levels in the spring. In assisted reproduction, adequate estradiol levels are important for egg maturation and other reproductive processes including fertilization and embryo development.’
The scientists now want to test if women are more likely to conceive in areas of Brazil nearer the equator, where there is more light.
Their findings back up work carried out by British scientists that showed that fertility treatment was more likely to be successful in spring or summer.
A team from Countess of Chester Hospital and Liverpool Women’s Hospital found that 20 per cent of IVF cycles from May to September resulted in a successful pregnancy, compared with 16 per cent for the remainder of the year.
These researchers suggested that this was down to humans showing the same biological processes as those that occur in birds and mammals.

Thursday, 2 September, 2010

Hormone melatonin improves egg quality in IVF

Women with poor egg (or oocyte) quality could double their chance of becoming pregnant through IVF if given melatonin, researchers have found.

'Despite great advances in assisted reproductive technology, poor oocyte quality remains a serious problem for female infertility', said Professor Hiroshi Tamura from the Yamaguchi University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan, who led the research. 'So far no practical and effective treatment for improving oocyte quality has been established'.

High levels of oxidising agents - a type of chemical compound - in the follicular fluids surrounding the egg indicate if a woman has low quality oocytes. These can 'stress' and damage the oocyte. The team took one of these agents known as8-OHdG and measured its levels in follicular fluid samples. Levels of melatonin, which is known to have anti-oxidising effects, were also measured.

The team found that, as melatonin concentration in the follicular fluids naturally increased, the level of 8-OHdG decreased, leading them to believe melatonin was linked to the reduction of the oxidising agents. They confirmed this finding in mice, and discovered that adding melatonin seemed to reduce the damage to the egg caused by the agents.

Next, the group set up a trial with women coming for IVF treatment at the Yamaguchi University Graduate School of Medicine to see if these findings could have real-world effects on IVF. Women who had failed to become pregnant because of poor oocyte quality after one cycle of IVF were split into two groups - 56 women were given three milligrams of melatonin before the next IVF cycle, and 59 just received a standard IVF cycle without melatonin.

The team found that melatonin treatment significantly increased melatonin concentrations in the women's follicles and significantly decreased concentrations of the damaging 8-OhdG. Their results showed 50 per cent of the eggs from women who taken melatonin could be successfully fertilised, as opposed to 22.8 per cent in the control group. When the eggs were transplanted into the womb, 19 per cent (11 out of the total 56) of the women became pregnant, as opposed to 10.2 per cent (six out of total 59) in the control group. The work was published in the Journal of Pineal Research.

'This work needs to be confirmed, but we believe that melatonin treatment is likely to become a significant option for improving oocyte quality in women who cannot become pregnant because of poor oocyte quality', said Professor Tamura. 'Our next step is to analyze exactly how reactive oxygen species harm the oocyte, and how melatonin reduces oxidative stress in the oocyte'.

Professor Russel Reiter from the UT Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas, who co-authored the paper, agreed. 'it is important that this work be independently confirmed on larger numbers of subjects'. But he added that the findings 'make perfect sense', as melatonin has been shown to protect many different cells and tissues from oxidative damage - the same type of damage known to occur to oocytes.

Wednesday, 1 September, 2010

Pair guilty over illegal internet sperm company

Two men have been found guilty of illegally making sperm available over the internet.

Ricky Gage, 49, and Nigel Woodforth, 43, from Reading, operated Fertility 1st which made sperm available from anonymous donors without a licence.

The men had denied three counts of procuring sperm illegally under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

They were granted conditional bail but the judge warned them she was considering a prison sentence and fine.

The men will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 24 September.

At the start of the trial the pair had argued that their company was simply an information site which acted as an introduction database, meaning they were not procuring or making sperm available.

But jurors heard a list showed 792 deliveries had been made by the company, which helped make the men an estimated income of £250,000 between October 2007 and November 2008.

It is the first time anyone has been prosecuted under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

Long waiting lists, shortages of sperm and restrictions on who can obtain treatment may be some of the reasons why women have opted to use unlicensed fertility clinics, also the impression that it might be easier to seek treatment online.

But anyone using fresh sperm from an unlicensed clinic is taking a potentially serious risk because they cannot be sure of the quality of the donation or whether it is free of sexually transmitted diseases.

At licensed clinics donors are given a blood test on the day of donation, repeated six months later because HIV can take this long to show up.

Sperm is frozen during this quarantine period and is only made available once the screening has been done and it has been checked for quality.

The men were reported to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) after one of their clients complained about their unprofessional standards.

Melissa Bhalla-Pentley was hoping to have a baby with her partner when she ordered the sperm through the Fertility 1st website set up by Gage and Woodforth.

Ms Bhalla-Pentley paid the men £380 in total and another £150 for courier delivery and the sperm donor's expenses.

However, she contacted the company when a copy of the donor's medical tests was sent to her with his name visible.

Under the HFEA's Act, the firm should have had a licence.

The law was brought in to ensure that both donors and women wanting to conceive had access to information and counselling, and to help protect against the risks of diseases including HIV.

The website run by Gage and Woodforth, which promised women a "life-changing opportunity towards motherhood", boasted of having more than 300 donors nationwide and a 37% success rate.

Clients were allowed to choose the ethnicity, height, hair colour, education and even hobbies of the sperm donor.

Following the verdict, Professor Lisa Jardine, chair of the HFEA, said: "Getting access to fertility services can be difficult and there can be some very strong emotional pressures when trying to start a family.

"But unlicensed internet sites like these are exploiting women.

"This is a victory for those women."