Can it be ethical to give girl fetuses a drug to prevent ambiguous genitalia when the drug may also influence their sexual preferences in later life? The US researchers involved reject the idea of using the drug to “treat” homosexuality.
New Scientist explores what’s behind the story.
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A GENE has been discovered that appears to dictate the sexual preferences of female mice. Delete the gene and the modified mice reject the advances of the males and attempt to mate with other females instead.
While it is impossible to say whether the finding has any relevance for human sexuality, it provides a clue as to how sexuality develops in mammals.
SYMPTOMS of Alzheimer’s disease in mice have been eased by extra supplies of “heat shock” proteins, which re-fold or dispose of proteins implicated in the disease.
Tohru Mizushima of Kumamoto University, Japan, and his colleagues used mice bred to mimic symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Half the mice were also engineered to make extra supplies of heat shock protein (HSP) 70 in their brains.
The HSP70-boosted mice were much better than the others at finding their way around mazes, and post-mortems showed their brains to be free of the characteristic beta-amyloid plaques that clog the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
“LEARNING and memory problems have been reversed in mice with a syndrome that mimics Down’s.
Catherine Spong and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, found they could prevent developmental problems in mice engineered to have Down’s syndrome by injecting their mothers with two proteins, called NAP and SAL, while they were still in the womb. This treatment would carry many risks for humans, so the team wondered whether the proteins might also help adult mice…..”
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“MICE with a beak-like nose have been engineered to help explain how the human face might form in the womb. The hope is that this could lead to the development of therapies for babies born with facial defects, and adult facial reconstruction.
Trevor Williams at the University of Colorado Denver in Aurora and colleagues genetically modified mouse embryos to boost or inhibit the activity of a gene that produces a protein called beta-catenin in the outermost cell layer, or ectoderm, of the embryo - destined to form the skin and face.”
The most basic objection to human embryonic stem (ES) cell research is rooted in the fact that ES cell derivation deprives embryos of any further potential to develop into a complete human being1, 2. ES cell lines are conventionally isolated from the inner cell mass of blastocysts3, 4, 5 and, in a few instances, from cleavage stage embryos6, 7, 8, 9. So far, there have been no reports in the literature of stem cell lines derived using an approach that does not require embryo destruction. Here we report an alternative method of establishing ES cell lines—using a technique of single-cell embryo biopsy similar to that used in pre-implantation genetic diagnosis of genetic defects10—that does not interfere with the developmental potential of embryos. Five putative ES and seven trophoblast stem (TS) cell lines were produced from single blastomeres, which maintained normal karyotype and markers of pluripotency or TS cells for up to more than 50 passages. The ES cells differentiated into derivatives of all three germ layers in vitro and in teratomas, and showed germ line transmission. Single-blastomere-biopsied embryos developed to term without a reduction in their developmental capacity. The ability to generate human ES cells without the destruction of ex utero embryos would reduce or eliminate the ethical concerns of many.