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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

First 'three person baby' born using new method

Dr John Zhang with the baby boyImage copyrightNEW HOPE FERTILITY CENTRE
Image captionDr John Zhang holding the baby boy who was conceived thanks to the new technique that incorporates DNA from three people
The world's first baby has been born using a new "three person" fertility technique, New Scientist reveals.
The five-month-old boy has the usual DNA from his mum and dad, plus a tiny bit of genetic code from a donor.
US doctors took the unprecedented step to ensure the baby boy would be free of a genetic condition that his Jordanian mother carries in her genes.
Experts say the move heralds a new era in medicine and could help other families with rare genetic conditions.
But they warn that rigorous checks of this new and controversial technology, called mitochondrial donation, are needed.
It's not the first time scientists have created babies that have DNA from three people - that breakthrough began in the late 1990s - but it is an entirely new and significant method.

Three person babies

Mitochondria are tiny structures inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into usable energy.
Some women carry genetic defects in mitochondria and they can pass these on to their children.
In the case of the Jordanian family, it was a disorder called Leigh Syndrome that would have proved fatal to any baby conceived. The family had already experienced the heartache of four miscarriages as well as the death of two children - one at eight months and the other at six years of age.
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Leigh syndrome

  • A severe neurological disorder, affecting at least one in 40,000 new-born babies.
  • Usually becomes apparent during the first year of a child's life.
  • First signs include vomiting, diarrhoea and difficulty with swallowing.
  • Causes the progressive loss of movement, and deterioration of mental functions.
  • Symptoms are linked to the development of patches of damaged tissue which develop in the brain.
  • Children with the condition usually die within two to three years, usually because of respiratory failure.
  • Mutations in 75 different genes have been linked to the condition.
  • Most of those mutations occur in DNA from the nucleus, but in about one in five cases the culprit is found in mitochondrial DNA.
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Scientists have devised a number of fertility methods to help such families.
The US team, who travelled to Mexico to carry out the procedure because there are no laws there that prohibit it, used a method that takes all the vital DNA from the mother's egg plus healthy mitochondria from a donor egg to create a healthy new egg that can be fertilised with the father's sperm.
The result is a baby with 0.1% of their DNA from the donor (mitochondrial DNA) and all the genetic code for things like hair and eye colour from the mother and father.
Dr John Zhang, medical director at the New Hope Fertility Centre in New York City, and his colleagues used the method to make five embryos - only one of them developed normally.
Method two: Egg repair
Image caption1) Eggs from a mother with damaged mitochondria and a donor with healthy mitochondria are collected 2) The majority of the genetic material is removed from both eggs 3) The mother's genetic material is inserted into the donor egg, which can be fertilised by sperm.
The UK has already passed laws to allow the creation of babies from three people.
But the science does raise ethical questions, including how any child from the technique might feel about having DNA from three people.
Fertility experts say it is important to push ahead, but cautiously.
Some have questioned whether we are only now hearing the success story while failed attempts could have gone unreported.
Prof Alison Murdoch, part of the team at Newcastle University that has been at the forefront of three person IVF work in the UK, said: "The translation of mitochondrial donation to a clinical procedure is not a race but a goal to be achieved with caution to ensure both safety and reproducibility."
Critics say the work is irresponsible.
Dr David King from the pro-choice group Human Genetics Alert, said: "It is outrageous that they simply ignored the cautious approach of US regulators and went to Mexico, because they think they know better. Since when is a simplistic "to save lives is the ethical thing to do" a balanced medical ethics approach, especially when no lives were being saved?"
Dr Zhang and his team say they will answer these questions when they presents their findings at a meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in October.
Prof Darren Griffin, an expert in Genetics at the University of Kent, said: "This study heralds a new era in preimplantation genetics and represents a novel means for the treatment of families at risk of transmitting genetic disease.
"With radical new treatments like this there are always challenging ethical issues, however any concerns need to be balanced against the ramifications of not implementing such a technology when families are in need of it."
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Diagram showing structure of a cell

The structure of a cell

Nucleus: Where the majority of our DNA is held - this determines how we look and our personality
Mitochondria: Often described as the cell's factories, these create the energy to make the cell function
Cytoplasm: The jelly like substance that contains the nucleus and mitochondria

Chemical weapon wasn't used near U.S. troops in Iraq


A rocket fired last week at an Iraqi base where American troops are present did not contain a chemical agent despite earlier suspicions, the U.S. military reported Tuesday.
Extensive laboratory tests concluded that the munition did not contain mustard agent, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a U.S. military spokesman, said.
No one was killed or injured in the Sept. 20 attack. The shell landed several hundred yards from the nearest U.S. troops.
The improvised weapon appeared to have been crudely made and fired from a rocket launcher, the military said. It was one of a small number of shells that fell on the base, according to the U.S. military.
One initial field test proved inconclusive but another test uncovered traces of sulfur mustard, a dangerous and banned substance that can cause painful burns on skin and lungs if breathed in.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress last week the military assessed the munition contained sulfur mustard agent. His assessment was based on the information available at that time, the Pentagon said.
The substance was sent to labs for more extensive tests, a process that can take days.
The munition landed on Qayara West, an air base that was seized from the Islamic State recently and is serving as a staging area for the upcoming offensive to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
The Islamic State, which is battling U.S.-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces, has used chemical weapons, and coalition aircraft have targeted a number of facilities where the militants have manufactured such munitions, including a large pharmaceutical facility in Mosul.
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, "continues to try and develop a chemical weapons capability," Dorrian said.
Islamic State militants will likely try to use chemical weapons as Iraqi forces launch an offensive to retake Mosul, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said.
"They're dead set on it. They would love to be able to use chemical weapons against us, against the Iraqis, as they move forward," he said.
Militants there are building elaborate defenses, which include tunnels and moats filled with oil, which can be set ablaze. The Pentagon has estimated there are thousands of militants defending the city, which is considered an important part of the Islamic State's caliphate.
The Pentagon has said U.S. troops are trained and equipped to deal with chemical weapons. The U.S. military said it has also provided Iraqi and Kurdish forces with thousands of gas masks.

Sexism row grips German politics and shakes CDU

Jenna Behrends - FacebookImage copyrightJENNA BEHRENDS
Image captionJenna Behrends set off an avalanche of comments with her attack on sexism in politics
A young woman politician who attacked sexism in Germany's governing Christian Democrat (CDU) party has won praise from many fellow politicians but some have also questioned her motives.
In an open letter Jenna Behrends, a newly elected CDU politician in Berlin, complained that sexism was rife in the party. She felt insulted when a senator called her a "sweet mouse".
Minister for Families Manuela Schwesig said sexist jokes were "unacceptable".
A Green MP also backed Ms Behrends.
Gesine Agena, the Greens' spokesperson on women's issues, said she had also heard "daft language" from male politicians. Sexism "is experienced by many women politicians", she said - though the Greens, unlike the CDU, have a 50-50 quota rule for men and women on their party lists.

Backlash from women

Ms Behrends, a 26-year-old lawyer, said she had experienced "party-wide solidarity" since publishing her "Dear Party" letter on the Edition F website (in German) on 23 September.
Dear party, we need to talk... about how you treat women and how you're gambling away your future
Jenna Behrends
Getty Images
However, she lashed out at the CDU's Women's Union for "shutting itself off" and addressing her complaint "internally, at senior level". The union deals with women's issues in the party.
According to Ms Behrends, some of the CDU women members characterised her as "hungry for promotion" and "ambitious to get elected to chair the Women's Union herself".
The union's leader, Sandra Cegla, was quoted as saying Ms Behrends was intimate with Peter Tauber, the CDU's Secretary General and a top aide to Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Quoted by German news website Der Spiegel, Mr Tauber said "I got acquainted with Jenna Behrends and we flirted, but quickly I realised that we would remain friends, no more than that".
Chancellor Merkel (right) with CDU's Ursula von der Leyen, Dec 2013Image copyrightAFP
Image captionPowerful women in the CDU: Chancellor Merkel (R) and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen
Several commentators say Ms Behrends has revived a sexism debate triggered in 2013 by journalist Laura Himmelreich, who complained of harassment by a senior Free Democrat (FDP) politician at the time, Rainer Bruederle.

CDU 'internal' matter

Ms Behrends criticised a party which "enjoys malicious gossip over a few beers". "Women willing to sleep their way to a top local position exist only in your dirty fantasies," she added, in her open letter.
The senator at the centre of Ms Behrends' complaint has been identified as Frank Henkel, a Berlin CDU politician.
He allegedly called Ms Behrends "sweet big mouse" after calling her daughter "a sweet little mouse". And he was said to have inquired about Jenna Behrends' sex life.
The CDU's local mayoral candidate in Berlin-Mitte district, Carsten Spallek, said those involved in the sexism row had had a "frank discussion" on Monday night and agreed that the issue "should henceforth be discussed calmly, in various forums, and only inside the party".
Ms Behrends endorsed that statement, posting it on her Facebook page.
Ex-FDP parliamentary leader Rainer Bruederle, 2012 file picImage copyrightAFP
Image captionIn January 2013 a sexism row centred on FDP parliamentary leader Rainer Bruederle
The conservative CDU rules Germany in coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).

Women in the CDU

Despite the current row, the CDU has appointed women to some prominent posts, not least Mrs Merkel, who overturned decades of tradition by becoming leader in 2000.
The CDU's Ursula von der Leyen is defence minister, Nadine Schoen is deputy head of the CDU group in parliament and Julia Kloeckner has been tipped as a possible successor to Chancellor Merkel.
Mrs Merkel said recently that Germany had to act more resolutely to tackle sexism.
"It is deplorable that in more than 65 years of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Dax-30 companies haven't managed to get a few more women on to supervisory boards on a voluntary basis," she complained.
"For a long time I opposed statutory quotas. But at times we heard so many hollow promises that it was clear - this isn't working."

Presidential debate: Trump says he might 'hit Hillary harder'

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump points toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, 26 September 2016.

US Republican candidate Donald Trump has said he may hit his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton harder in the next presidential debate, following their first encounter on Monday.
Mr Trump said he held back "because he didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings".
In a Fox News interview, he also accused moderator Lester Holt of being tougher on him than on Mrs Clinton.
Overnight polls with small samples were split on who won, but more rigorous surveys are due in the coming days.
Research firm Nielsen estimates 81.4 million Americans watched Monday's debate at home.
This would topple the previous record of 80.6 million viewers who tuned in for the 1980 presidential debate between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
Asked how he felt about the debate on the television news programme Fox and Friends on Tuesday, Mr Trump said it had gone well, but complained that Mr Holt had not pressed Mrs Clinton on her "scandals".
"He didn't ask her about the emails, he didn't ask her about the scandals, he didn't ask her about the Benghazi deal. He didn't ask her about a lot of things he should have asked her about. Why? I don't know," he said.
He said he felt tempted to bring up "the many affairs that Bill Clinton had", but held back because the Clintons' daughter Chelsea was in the audience.
"I may hit her harder in certain ways. I really eased up because I didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings," he added.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump points toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, 26 September 2016.Image copyrightAP
Asked whether Hillary Clinton had got under his skin, Mr Trump said "at the end maybe, at the very last question".
Mrs Clinton had brought up the case of Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe, saying Mr Trump called her "Miss Piggy" after she gained weight.
But Mr Trump brushed away her accusation said Ms Machado had "gained a massive amount of weight" making it a problem for the Miss Universe pageants, of which he was the owner.
After the debate, Mrs Clinton posted a campaign video in which Ms Machado describes how she had been treated by Mr Trump.
Screen grab of tweet posted by Hillary Clinton with a video in which Alicia Machado claims she was called Image copyrightTWITTER - @HILLARYCLINTON

Lay off our size - Katty Kay, BBC News, New York

I don't subscribe to the theory that Mr Trump overwhelming lost the debate last night. But he may well have lost it this morning. Mr Trump should sue his campaign for political malpractice.
Why on earth was he allowed to go on morning TV and say former beauty pageant winner Alicia Machado had "gained a massive amount of weight. It was a real problem."
That, or, better, he should look in the mirror and have a long hard think about his obsession with the way women look.
No woman likes to be told her own weight is a problem and most women don't really like men telling other women that their weight is a problem either.
Weight is an intensely personal, sensitive and often tricky issue for women and it is something women talk about a lot among themselves, usually with empathy and support.
So we circle the wagons when a man talks disparagingly about a girlfriend's weight. "Miss Piggy" is about as bad as it gets.

Mr Trump also said his microphone was "terrible" and crackled, and that his volume was lower than Hillary Clinton's microphone. He blamed this for what some listeners thought were sniffles by Mr Trump during the debate.

Debate highlights

Much of the debate centred on personal issues and attacks, with both candidates saying the other did not have the right character or temperament to become president of the United States.
  • Mrs Clinton said her rival was the kind of man who can be provoked by a tweet and should not have his fingers anywhere near America's nuclear codes
  • Mr Trump said Mrs Clinton did not have the stamina to be president
  • He promised he would release his tax returns if she released 33,000 deleted emails from her private email set-up while secretary of state
  • She said there were no excuses for her "mistake" in the private e-mail server, and that she takes responsibility for it
  • African-Americans are living "in hell" in the US due to gun violence, Mr Trump said
  • Mrs Clinton criticised him for saying climate change was a Chinese hoax
  • He attacked her for being weak on Islamic State militants: "You've been fighting Isis your entire adult life.''
  • Mrs Clinton attacked Mr Trump's long-held belief that President Obama was born outside the US, accusing Mr Trump of having "a long record of engaging in racist behaviour".
  • In a wider assault on his treatment of women, she said he had called women "pigs, slobs and dogs".
  • What do the polls say?
  • A CNN/ORC poll taken after the debate found that 62% of voters who had watched the head-to-head thought that Mrs Clinton came out on top, with just 27% giving it to Mr Trump.
    This is based on interviews with 521 registered voters chosen as part of a random national sample. But only 26% identified themselves as Republicans while 41% identified themselves as Democrats.
    An informal CNBC poll on its website found that 61% of people thought that Mr Trump won while 39% went for Mrs Clinton, but as CNBC itself points out, the poll is not scientific - anyone, including people outside the US, appears to be able to vote.
    A post-debate survey by Public Policy Polling of 1,002 debate-watchers found that 51% of national voters thought Mrs Clinton had won, with 40% choosing Mr Trump and 9% undecided.

    The US media view

    New York Times - The editorial board was unimpressed with the debate, saying "when just one candidate is serious and the other is a vacuous bully, the term loses all meaning". Opinion writer Nick Kristof said Trump had "hurt himself", others said Mrs Clinton had "crushed" her opponent.
    Fox News - Pundits said Mr Trump had "struggled", "never took control" and "failed to exploit" the issue around Mrs Clinton's emails. "It helps to be prepared," one writer told the Republican candidate.
    Breitbart - Writers at the hard-right news website said Mr Trump had "bludgeoned" Mrs Clinton on trade and accused Lester Holt of "shilling" for Mrs Clinton. Some 75% of readers said Mr Trump had won.
    New York Daily News - The tabloid's verdict: "A grumpy loser! Trump pesters, interrupts Hillary throughout debate - but Clinton gets the last laugh."

    And the fact-checkers?

    The much-vaunted role of fact-checkers in this debate was perhaps not as central as many expected it to be.
    Mrs Clinton's denial that she had called the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership the "gold standard" of trade agreements was called out by fact-checkers, as was Mr Trump's denial that he had called climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese.

Dubai Parks & Resorts Partners Nigerian Firms

To attract visitors from Nigeria and West Africa, Dubai Parks and Resorts has signed a partnership agreement with four leading travel management companies in the country.
The firms, Tour Brokers International, Wakanow, Quantum-Ajala, based in Lagos, and All States Travels based in Abuja are to provide exclusive information and marketing support services on behalf of Dubai Parks and Resorts to the teeming Nigerian and West African visitors.
According to the management, Dubai Parks and Resorts showcased the full range of the themed park experiences to specially invited partners and other travel trade at a dedicated event held at the Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos.
The park, however, is set to bring unprecedented amazing themed park experiences to millions of visitors across the world, including Nigeria, beginning from October 31, 2016, when it officially opens the new ‘Wonderland’.

‘People With AA Genotype Can Still Suffer From Sickle Cell’ Sickle Cell

Sickle Cell

Awka – Experts have warned that people with AA genotype can still be treated of Sickle Cell disease type if they have thalassemia trait in their blood cell.
Dr. Mrs. Victoria Fumilayo Odesanya of Global Sickle Cell Alliance Incorporated, United States of America, handed this warning at the flagg-off of a pilot training programme for doctors and nurses in Anambra State on the screening of newborn for sickle cell disease.
Dr. Odesanya said at the training which took place at Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Amaku Awka, that emphasis had been shifted to training of medical practitioners in the management of the newborn babies because of the over 150,000 babies born in Nigeria with Sickle Cell disease every year, many of who die before age one.
She said the treatment of the disease was inadequate but that if nurses and doctors are trained on the management of the patients and educate their parents to take proper care from their infancy, the patients would live to adult age.
Dr. Odesanya emphasised that early treatment of the patients to help them prevent infection is the key to saving the child Sickle Cell patient.
She also listed the number of infections that must be tackled and managed in a Sickle Cell patient to include the pain episode – the crisis, the fever, malaria, pneumonia and stroke all of whose consequences are death.
Most importantly, she said, management is the key because of the stigmatisation.
While declaring the training open, Dr. Lawrence Ikeako, the Chief Medical Director of Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, who was represented by the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Joe Akabuike, said the partnership with the American experts was consummated in 2013.
He lamented however that the state has not quite provided as much logistics as it could but that he, as the then Commissioner of Health who represented the state at the time of the agreement would rather use his own money to provide them.
Ikeako said that the state would do all it can to like genetic counseling to prevent deaths from Sickle Cell disease.
Asked the number of people living with Sickle Cell in Anambra State, Ikeako said that statistics obtained in the last seven months shows that 50 children were born with the disease during
that period.
Dr. Azubuike Nweje, Director of Medical Services in Anambra State, described Sickle Cell as black man’s burden, saying it was the first time the ministry was screening newborn babies.
He said that the state does not screen for the sake of screening but finds solution to the problem.