Human Eggs Grown in Lab to Maturity for First Time

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Human eggs have been grown to full maturity in a laboratory for the first time — a scientific step that had previously been taken in mice.

Publishing their result in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction on Friday, scientists from Britain and the United States said it could one day help in developing regenerative medicine therapies and new infertility treatments.

In previous studies, scientists had developed mouse eggs in a laboratory to the stage where they produced live offspring, and had also matured human eggs from a relatively late stage of development.

This latest work, by scientists at two research hospitals in Edinburgh and the Center for Human Reproduction in New York, is the first time human eggs have been developed outside the human body from their earliest stage to full maturity.

“Being able to fully develop human eggs in the lab could widen the scope of available fertility treatments. We are now working on optimising the conditions that support egg development in this way and studying how healthy they are,” said Evelyn Telfer, who co-led the work.

Independent experts not directly involved in this work praised it as important, but also cautioned that there is much more to do before lab-grown human eggs could be safely be made ready for fertilisation with sperm.

“This early data suggests this may well be feasible in the future,” said Ali Abbara, a senior clinical lecturer in Endocrinology at Imperial College London.

“(But) the technology remains at an early stage, and much more work is needed to make sure that the technique is safe and optimised before we ascertain whether these eggs remain normal during the process, and can be fertilised to form embryos that could lead to healthy babies.”

Darren Griffin, a genetics professor at Kent University in the UK, said the work was “an impressive technical achievement”.

If success and safety rates were improved, he said, it could in future help cancer patients wishing to preserve their fertility while undergoing chemotherapy treatment, improve fertility treatments, and deepen scientific understanding of the biology of the earliest stages of human life.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

© 2018 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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European experts advise against epilepsy drug in pregnancy

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Valproate medicines are licenced under different names by national drugs authorities.
Valproate medicines are licenced under different names by national drugs authorities.

Paris, Feb 9, 2018 –

An expert committee of Europe’s medicines watchdog recommended Friday that a drug used to treat epilepsy and linked to malformations in children not be used in pregnancy.

The compound, valproate, is also used for migraine and bipolar disorder, and doctors already advised against prescribing the medicine for pregnant women in France.

France’s medicines regulator, known by the acronym ANSM, asked the London-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) to conduct a risk review.

The EMA’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) said in a statement Friday it was recommending that valproate not be used by pregnant women for any of the three medical conditions.

For women suffering from epilepsy, however, it may be impossible for some to stop after becoming pregnant, it said. These may have to continue treatment, though with “appropriate specialist care”.

The experts also advised against prescribing the drug for women “from the time they become able to have children”, unless using contraception.

Valproate medicines are licenced under different names by national drugs authorities.

The committee recommendations will now go to another body of the EMA, which deals with concerns over drugs that are not centrally authorised in the EU.

Last April, a preliminary study showed that valproate caused “severe malformations” in as many as 4,100 children in France since the drug was first marketed in the country in 1967.

Women who took the drug during pregnancy to treat epilepsy were four times more likely to give birth to babies with congenital malformations, said a report of the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines (ANSM) and the national health insurance administration.

Birth defects included spina bifida — a condition in which the spinal cord does not form properly and can protrude through the skin — as well as defects of the heart and genital organs.

The risk of autism and developmental problems was also found to be higher.


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Can Virtual Reality Reduce Paranoia in Psychotics?

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Virtual reality-based therapy combined with standard treatment reduced paranoia and anxiety in people with psychotic disorders, scientists reported Friday.

In clinical trials involving 116 patients in the Netherlands, virtual reality exercises led to less fraught social interactions, a team wrote in The Lancet Psychiatry.

More research is needed to confirm the long-term benefits of such technology, which gave the impression of being in an alternate reality populated by life-like avatars.

Up to 90 percent of people with psychosis suffer from paranoid thoughts, leading them to perceive threats where there are none.

As a result, many psychotics avoid public places and contact with people, spending a lot of time alone.

So-called cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) — in which therapists help patients break down seemingly overwhelming problems to render them less threatening — helps reduce anxiety, but does little to quell paranoia.

Researchers led by Roos Pot-Kolder of VU University in the Netherlands extended this method into a virtual environment.

For the trial, the 116 participants — all receiving standard treatment, including antipsychotic medication and regular psychiatric consultations — were divided into two groups of 58.

Only one group practised social interactions in a virtual environment.

The treatment consisted of 16 one-hour sessions over 8-12 weeks in which the participants were exposed, via avatars, to social cues that triggered fear and paranoia in four virtual settings: a street, a bus, a café and a supermarket.

Therapists could alter the number of avatars, their appearance, and whether pre-recorded responses to the patient were neutral or hostile.

The therapists also coached participants, helping them to explore and challenge their own feelings in different situations, and to resist common “safety behaviours” such as avoiding eye contact.

Participants were assessed at the start of the trial, as well as three and six months afterwards.

Exposure to virtual reality did not increase the time participants subsequently spent with other people, the study found.

But it did affect the quality of their interactions.

“The addition of virtual reality CBT to standard treatment reduced paranoid feelings, anxiety, and use of safety behaviours in social situations, compared with standard treatment alone,” said lead author, Roos Pot-Kolder, a researcher at VU University, Netherlands.

The virtual reality CBT group — which showed no adverse effects — went on to use fewer “safety behaviours”.

“With the development of virtual reality and mobile technology, the range of tools available in psychotherapy is expanding,” Kristiina Kompus of Bergen University said in a comment also carried by the journal.

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Sample medicines worth crores seized, 2 held

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According to the officials, 50 sacks of drugs valued in crores were seized from the house.
According to the officials, 50 sacks of drugs valued in crores were seized from the house.

Bijnor: In a major haul, a joint team of the drug department and police raided a house in Sambhal district on Friday morning and seized a huge quantity of sample medicines that was to be sold to quacks in rural areas. According to the officials, 50 sacks of drugs valued in crores were seized from the house.

Addressing a press conference, Sudhir Kumar Singh, superintendent of police, Amroha, said, “Police were checking vehicles in Hasanpur on February 7 and intercepted a car. They seized three sacks of medicines. When asked for bills of the medicine, car driver Waseem failed to show any document.”

The driver was detained and car seized. Police informed drug inspector of Amroha, Piyush Kumar, and drug inspector of Moradabad, Naresh Mohan Deepak, about the matter. They reached Hasanpur police station on February 8 and examined the medicines. They found that all the medicines were labelled “physician sample” and “not for sale”.

The SP said, “When police grilled Waseem, he said he is a resident of Chaudhary Saray Kotwali of Sambhal district and had brought these medicine from Delhi to sell to quacks in rural areas. He also runs a medical store. He revealed that another person, Mohammad Raes, a resident of Turtipur Illaha under Nakhasa police station of Sambhal district, was his business partner.”

Thereafter, the Amroha police with a team of drugs department comprising drugs inspectors of Moradabad, Bijnor, Amroha, Rampur and Sambhal raided the house of both Raes and Waseem and recovered 33 sacks of medicine from Raes’ house and 14 from Waseem’s house. The samples have been sent to the forensic laboratory,” the SP said. A case has been registered against the duo.

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"Very intense" flu season on track to break records, CDC says

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  1. “Very intense” flu season on track to break records, CDC says  CBS News
  2. This flu season is the worst in nearly a decade — and it’s not getting better  USA TODAY
  3. 10 More Kids Have Died This Flu Season — And We May Not Have Reached the Peak, CDC Says  TIME
  4. This Year’s Flu Season Is The Worst Since The Swine Flu  ValueWalk
  5. Don’t Believe Flu Myths  U.S. News & World Report
  6. Full coverage

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Half-Day-Old Snow Safe to Eat: Study

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How safe is it to eat snow? A Romanian university has published the results of just such a study.

The 2017 experiment showed it was safe to eat snow that was a half-day old, and safer to eat it in the colder months. But by two days old, the snow is not safe to eat, Istvan Mathe, a professor at the Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, told The Associated Press.

Scientists collected snow from a park and from a roundabout in Miercurea Ciuc, central Romania, in January and February and placed it in hermetically-sealed sterile containers. They then tried to grow bacteria and mold in them.

The study took place in temperatures ranging from minus 1.1 degrees Celsius to minus 17.4 C (30 degrees to 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in the city, one of the coldest in Romania.

After one day, there were five bacteria per millimeter in January, while in February that number quadrupled.

“Very fresh snow has very little bacteria,” Mathe said Thursday. “After two days, however, there are dozens of bacteria.”

He said the microorganisms increase because of impurities in the air.

Mathe first had the idea for the study when he saw his children eating snow.

“I am not recommending anyone eats snow. Just saying you won’t get ill if you eat a bit,” he said.

© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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