Time Health & Family posted an interesting article correlating ADHD with air pollution. While I’m not surprised that air pollution seems to play a factor, I’m still skeptical about the results as the test group seems rather small. It also concerns me that they only tested children in Cincinnati. Feel free to make your own judgements.
Breathing in pollutants released into the air isn’t healthy for developing lungs, but a new study says it’s harmful for developing brains too.
Kids exposed to higher levels of traffic-related air pollution in childhood scored higher on measures of hyperactivity at age 7, according to a new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives. The researchers say it’s believed to be the most comprehensive study to date on the effect of traffic-related air pollution on children’s behavior.
“It appears that air pollution is part of the story of childhood behavior, but it’s not the whole story,” says the study’s lead author Nicholas Newman, director of the Pediatric Environmental Health and Lead Clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “We don’t know if air pollution is causing this or if it’s something else that people who live near main roads are also being exposed to.”
Researchers followed 576 children from the time they were born in the Cincinnati metro area until they reached the age of 7. The children were separated into two groups — those who lived near a major highway or bus route — defined as less than four football fields away — and those who lived more than a mile away from heavily trafficked areas. Cincinnati, it turned out was an ideal location to study the long-term effects of exposure to air pollution since it sees a relatively high amount of truck traffic and has many hills and valleys that encourage pollution to linger in the area.
Previous research suggested that the effect of traffic-related air pollution is greatest within a few hundred meters — a football field, for example — of the source of the pollution. About 11% of Americans live within a football field’s length of a four-lane highway, and 40% of U.S. children go to school within four football fields of a bustling highway.
When the children were 7, their parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their kids’ behavior, including symptoms that could indicate attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other problems with attention or conduct.
Based on the results, the scientists concluded that kids exposed to the most traffic-related air pollution before their first birthday were more likely to have hyperactivity scores that put them at risk of ADHD. They controlled for many factors that could have skewed the results, including children’s cigarette exposure and family-income levels, which can affect prevalence of ADHD symptoms. But even after adjusting for these factors, the relationship between exposure to air pollution and ADHD remained. “When we corrected for other things that we thought could influence hyperactivity, we still found that kids exposed to the highest levels of traffic-related air pollution were more likely to have symptoms high enough to warrant monitoring,” says Newman. The study was not designed to diagnose the children definitively, however, so the researchers couldn’t say whether some of the children actually developed the disorder.
How does air pollution affect brain development? Based on previous studies, it’s possible that the pollutants could have caused blood vessels to constrict or caused some level of toxic buildup in the brain. Some researchers found that children born to mothers who were exposed to higher levels of car exhaust during pregnancy were more likely to have behavior problems, and in adults, air pollution has been linked to hardening of the arteries and increased risk of heart disease.
However pollution may be influencing children’s behavior, the latest results suggest that cleaner air could be an important factor in improving health — not just for the lungs, but for our brains as well.
All of our prayers go out to everyone affected by the devastating Oklahoma tornado. Here’s a little something to give everyone some hope in such a terrible time:
If there is not a law against something, that does not mean you should attempt to do it. Our very own Andrew Vorzimer is quoted in this article, which addresses the sale of grossly mislabeled “donated eggs.”
With political dividing lines carved deep into the collective consciousness, wading through the ethical minefield of embryo creation and destruction is a challenge. A recent New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) article, “Made-to-Order Embryos for Sale — A Brave New World?” by I. Glenn Cohen and Eli Y. Adashi tackles the controversial issue of for-profit embryo creation. Possibly in an attempt to come out on a particular side of the political line, it sweeps what is truly terrifying about the practice under the rug.
The issue gained prominence last November, when the Los Angeles Times covered a Davis fertility clinic, California Conceptions, and their falsely named Donated Embryo Program. “Donated embryos” typically refer to the gift of embryos left over from a couple’s IVF procedure to another, infertile couple. The embryos belong to the people whose gametes created them, and they make the decision about whether, when and to whom they should be given.
What California Conceptions does is completely different: It creates batches of embryos from donated sperm and eggs, keeps them in an embryo bank on site, and divvies them up to sell to multiple parties for a profit. As the LA Times reporter put it, “The clinic, not the customer, controls the embryos, typically making babies for three or four patients while paying just once for the donors and the laboratory work.”
The news about California Conceptions’ program caused a surge of public outrage (well chronicled here by Dr. Craig Sweet, medical and practice director of Embryo Donation International.) Andrew Vorzimer, a Los Angeles fertility lawyer said,
“Make no mistake, this is commodification. These are not donated embryos. Rather, they are embryos created from donors hand-selected by California Conceptions. It is one step removed from a mail order catalog. The only difference is that the product being sold is nascent human life.”
Cohen and Adashi do not share this concern. They compare the practice of creating and selling embryos to the sale of gametes and to the use of gametes and embryos for stem cell research. They conclude that, “viewed through a legal and ethical lens, the concerns raised by this potentiality appear to be similar to those associated with widely accepted and more common reproductive technologies.”
But made-to-order embryos present a different set of questions. Reverting to the reasoning behind other technologies or practices does not address what is unethical about this.
For example, they make the argument that embryo destruction for the purpose of stem cell research raises concerns about “respect for personhood” comparable to those raised about “made-to-order” embryos. But this is only the case if you believe that embryos inherently have a claim to personhood. If you do not share this view, then the authors are leaving out the crucial difference: the embryos used for stem cell research will never become people. However, the creation of an embryo that is implanted into a woman (with a pregnancy-or-your-money-back guarantee) is about “respect for personhood” because it turns actual nascent life into a commodity, sold for a profit just like any other.
That is what is unique about this practice. But the NEJM article dismisses this and concludes that there is really only one important difference: “the lack of clear legal guidance as to the parentage of the embryos in question.”
“Parentage” is plainly not the real issue. As is the norm with gamete donation, the sperm and egg donors that were used to create the embryo would not be likely to have any claim to parenthood. The embryos will actually not have any kind of “parentage” at all. They will rather be owned by the fertility clinic, until a woman implants one into her womb.
California Conceptions markets their service as cheaper than using third-party eggs and IVF, and less time consuming than adoption. But it’s important to note that along with the heightened element of commodification, an additional imperative for “design” has seeped into their approach. To offset their costs, they have to produce embryos that multiple couples will find desirable as products. Cohen and Adashi may not find these “eugenic overtones” worrying, but acknowledging their existence is telling enough.
There is no federal law governing the sale of embryos and Cohen and Adashi note that it “appears to be legal in all but two states.” Indeed, this was the justification offered by Jennalee Ryan, who gained notoriety several years ago after advertising “the world’s First Human Embryo Bank” online. That turned out to be a failed business plan, run from her living room, but as she explained, “You know how it works? If there is no law against it, it’s legal.”
It’s one thing for eccentric business entrepreneurs to try to exploit a poorly regulated system. The fact that established scholars have made the case that we should accept selling embryos as ethical is much more troubling.
Substitute “lesbian” for “African-American” or “Jew” and imagine the outrage at this Judge’s version of “morality”:
Carolyn Compton is in a three year-old relationship with a woman. Moreover, according to Compton’s partner Page Price, Compton’s ex-husband rarely sees their two children. That same ex-husband was also once charged with stalking Compton, a felony, although he eventually plead to a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing.
And yet, thanks to a Texas judge, Compton could lose custody of her children because she has the audacity to live with the woman she loves.
According to Price, Judge John Roach, a Republican who presides over a state trial court in McKinney, Texas, placed a so-called “morality clause” in Compton’s divorce papers. This clause forbids Compton having a person that she is not related to “by blood or marriage” at her home past 9pm when her children are present. Because Texas will not allow Compton to marry her partner, this means that she effectively cannot live with her partner so long as she retains custody over her children. Invoking the “morality clause,” Judge Roach gave Price 30 days to move out of Compton’s home.
Compton can appeal Price’s decision, but her appeal will be heard by the notoriously conservative Texas court system. Ultimately, the question of whether Compton’s relationship with Price is entitled to the same dignity accorded to any other loving couple could rest with the United States Supreme Court.
Yet another reason why marriage equality needs to be the law of the land.
This morning, CBS News posted a fascinating look into the lives of three generations of married couples within the same family. Not only does this article provide an important insight on how the concept of marriage has changed over time, but it also shows just how far we have come as a nation. I highly recommend this article. Who knows what marriage holds for us in the future?
Growing up, Lindsey Dawson never pictured herself as a wife.
“I thought marriage was just an institution and that it was sexist,” said the 31-year-old public policy associate. And, although she believed same-sex marriage should be a right, Lindsey herself was “kind of disinterested.”
That was, until she met Jessica Chipoco. They met on an online dating site after Lindsey moved to Washington, D.C.
Six months later they were living together. At nine months, they were talking about getting a house, and 20 months into the relationship they were anxiously watching TV on election night to see if they could get married in their state of Maryland.
“I didn’t feel that [marriage] was something I needed for myself,” Lindsey said. “But when I met Jessica, we decided we wanted to be committed…It just became, I wanted to advance our relationship further.”
Marriage has always been evolving, but it’s changed more dramatically in the past 100 years than in the past 1,000. And not just concerning who can marry — also when people marry, and why.
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While Prof Ozkan, the doctor who performed the first successful womb transplant, clearly has an interesting method (implanting wombs from dead donors), it is still tragic that a young woman with so much hope lost her child. The Daily Mail provides a detailed look into the process and where it may have gone wrong:
A woman who was the first to have a successful womb transplant from a dead donor has had her pregnancy terminated after the embryo showed no heartbeat, doctors in Turkey have said.
Derya Sert, 22, who was born without a womb, had been receiving in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment after the transplant in August 2011.
Her pregnancy was announced in April.
But in a statement released today by Akdeniz University Hospital in Turkey’s Mediterranean city of Antalya, it read: ‘Derya Sert’s pregnancy was terminated after her end of eight weeks examination showed no embryo heartbeat.
‘The general health status of the patient is fine.
‘IVF will be continued when she is ready, in appropriate conditions.’
Thousands of British women born without a womb were given hope if the breakthrough treatment succeeded.
But some British experts, including Lord Winston, claim that a pregnancy could cause potentially fatal complications.
The baby would have to be born by caesarean, which carries the risks of surgery.
Prof Ozkan performed the pioneering transplant on 22-year-old Derya Sert in August 2011.
Time Health reports on a significant leap in science making headlines this morning.
After the article, guest blogger (and my father), Dr. Philip H. Schwartz, PhD, adds his response about the results of this study.
It’s been 17 years since Dolly the sheep was cloned from a mammary cell. And now scientists applied the same technique to make the first embryonic stem cell lines from human skin cells.
Ever since Ian Wilmut, an unassuming embryologist working at the Roslin Institute just outside of Edinburgh stunned the world by cloning the first mammal, Dolly, scientists have been asking – could humans be cloned in the same way? Putting aside the ethical challenges the question raised, the query turned out to involve more wishful thinking than scientific success. Despite the fact that dozens of other species have been cloned using the technique, called nuclear transfer, human cells have remained stubbornly resistant to the process.
Until now. Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a professor at Oregon Health & Science University and his colleagues report in the journal Cell that they have successfully reprogrammed human skin cells back to their embryonic state. The purpose of the study, however, was not to generate human clones but to produce lines of embryonic stem cells. These can develop into muscle, nerve, or other cells that make up the body’s tissues. The process, he says, took only a few months, a surprisingly short period to reach such an important milestone.
Nuclear transfer involves inserting a fully developed cell – in Mitalipov’s study, the cells came from the skin of fetuses – into the nucleus of an egg, and then manipulating the egg to start dividing, a process that normally only occurs after it has been fertilized by a sperm. After several days, the ball of cells that results contains a blanket of embryonic stem cells endowed with the genetic material of the donor skin cell, which have the ability to generate every cell type from that donor. In Dolly’s case, those cells were allowed to continue developing into an embryo that was then transferred to a ewe to produce a cloned sheep. But Mitalipov says his process with the human cells isn’t designed to generate a human clone, but rather just to create the embryonic stem cells. These could then be manipulated to create heart, nerve or other cells that can repair or treat disease.
“I think this is a really important advance,” says Dieter Egli, an investigator at the New York Stem Cell Foundation. “I have a very high confidence that versions of this technique will work very well; it’s something that the field has been waiting for.” Egli is among the handful of scientists who have been working to perfect the technique with human cells and in 2011, succeeded in producing human stem cells, but with double the number of chromosomes. In 2004, Woo Suk Hwang, a veterinary scientist at Seoul National University, claimed to have succeeded in achieving the feat, but later admitted to faking the data. Instead of generating embryonic stem cell lines via nuclear transfer, Hwang’s group produced the stem cells from days-old embryos, a technique that had already been established by James Thomson at University of Wisconsin in 1998.
That scandal, as well as ethical concerns about the dangers of encouraging work that could lead to human cloning, dried up interest in getting the process to work with human cells. Then came a breakthrough in 2007, when Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University succeeded in reprogramming adult skin cells back to their embryonic state simply by dousing them in a concoction of four genetic factors and some growth media. That technique for generating embryonic-like stem cells (called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells) bypassed the need for transferring the cells into eggs, as Wilmut had done, and also averted the ethical issues attached to extracting stem cells from embryos as Thomson had done. Plus, the iPS cells had the advantage that patients could generate their own stem cells and potentially grow new cells they might need to treat or avert diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s or heart problems.
Except that researchers still couldn’t prove that the heart, nerve, muscle and other cells they made from the iPS cells were exactly like the ones generated from the embryonic stem cells. The gold standard embryonic stem cells still came from embryos themselves, including ones that were made through nuclear transfer.
Now that the technique appears to work with human cells, the process could be another source of generating stem cells that may ultimately treat patients, says Mitalipov. His group is especially interested in promoting the technique for treating mitochondrial diseases – these organelles posses a different set of DNA than that contained in the nucleus of cells, and are responsible for generating the energy needed for cells to function. But because they lie outside of the nucleus, transferring cells from a patient with mitochondrial diseases into a donor egg that has a healthy set of mitochondrial DNA would generate populations of cells that are free of disease.
In order to make the process work, Mitalipov says he modified more than a dozen steps in the process that proved successful with sheep and other species. His group had the advantage of working first with monkey eggs; the knowledge about what stimulated the eggs to start dividing helped him to make the appropriate changes in the human eggs that contributed to his success. (more…)
This sentencing, while welcome news to many, in no way remedies the damage that was wrought by Tonya Collins. That harm was irreparable, the damage caused largely indiscernible and no prison sentence will ever make her victims whole again.
This case has struck a personal chord with me since early 2009 when the first victims approached me about irregularities at SurroGenesis. I was blessed to get to know many of the victims in the course of our representation. Several have become dear friends. I know the pain they felt. It was palpable. Not at the loss of their money, but rather the realization that they will likely never get the chance to become parents. All because of the depraved behavior of Tonya Collins.
I recognize that under our criminal justice system, yesterday’s sentence was a watershed moment in our industry as it represented the stiffest sentence ever handed down in a surrogacy scandal. But before we pat ourselves on the back and consider that justice has been served, we need to step back and remember that many of the victims will never get to see their baby take its first step, hear their toddler utter the words “mommy” or “daddy”, get a chance to walk their young adult down the aisle or have the unadulterated joy of being grandparents. The money that was embezzled was tangential, even superficial to the real story. Instead, it was merely a means to an end. It represented the chance to have a child. And sadly that is the untold story that will haunt these clients and friends forever.
No matter how much time Tonya Collins serves in prison, many of our clients and now my friends, have forever lost their chance at becoming parents. Tonya Collins did not just steal money. She stole the dreams of decent, caring and trusting people who had already been victimized by being unable to have a child without the help of an egg donor or surrogate. She preyed upon the most vulnerable, the most in need and the most hopeful.
So yes, our imperfect criminal justice system functioned as designed yesterday. Perhaps the sentencing will be a clarion call to the industry and will serve to deter similar malevolent conduct in the future. That would be a worthy legacy to this heinous scandal, I guess.
Yet I cannot feel good about the outcome. I cannot help but feel bad for Tonya Colllins’ young children who will be losing their mother for years. But at least Tonya Collins got to hold her children. One day, relatively soon, Tonya Collins will be reunited with her family. The cruel irony, just twenty-four hours after Mother’s Day, is that while Collins will be able to continue to enjoy this holiday with her children, many of her victims will never get that chance. And no amount of jail time or statements of remorse can change that.
ABC Local News reports on a case that we have followed before. Although I know this sentence will not make up for Tonya Collins’ horrific actions, hopefully the clients scammed out of their money and their dream to either help a couple in need or to have a family of their own feel some form of justice. And here’s to hoping that this will never happen again.
The owner of a Modesto surrogate agency accused of a $2 million fraud scheme was sentenced in federal court Monday morning. Tonya Collins, 37, was sentenced to prison on four counts of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud more than 50 clients located throughout the country.
The prosecution argued Collins financially and emotionally preyed on couples’ attempts to have children and those who wanted to help.
Collins refused to answer any questions as she walked out of the federal courthouse in downtown Fresno — her family by her side. The 37-year-old was sentenced to 5 years, 3 months in federal prison for her involvement in a $2 million surrogacy scam. “It’s just not fair that one person can rob that from so many. That just breaks my heart,” said Beth Mardones of Chicago.
Mardones was one of those who fell victim. More than $20,000 she and her husband placed in an account through Collins’ surrogate agency, SurroGenesis USA, disappeared. “Devastated. I thought this just couldn’t be right because we had signed a contract. We did everything the right way,” said Mardones. “I just felt that all of our hopes of having our own biological child were shattered.”
According to court documents, Collins carried out the scheme from her Modesto-based surrogate agency between 2006 and 2009. Collins created a fake financial firm to hold clients’ funds but instead used the trust to pay for personal expenses — including vacations, cars and a home.
“She used false names, false identities to make it appear that they were really independent, separate employees working for this company when in fact it was her and others at her direction,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney, Kirk Sherriff.
Before sentencing, Collins did express remorse, telling the judge she was sorry for the pain she caused her victims. “I’m glad she was given some jail time to think about what was done,” said Mardones.
Mardones and her husband were fortunate to be able to have a child through another surrogate. But the same could not be said for other victims. “They only suffered monetary lost but for some victims, it was more than that. They lost in some cases their last chance to have a child,” said Sherriff.
Collins will have to pay restitution fees to the victims she defrauded. She will begin serving her 5-year sentence June 27th.
Not my thesis but the argument of two prominent bioethicists in addressing the issue of organ donation: Is it morally wrong to kill people? Not really, argue two eminent American bioethicists in an early online article in the Journal of Medical Ethics. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, of Duke University, and Franklin G. Miller, of the National Institutes [...]
Blogging about the legal, social and political issues of the day with an emphasis on reproductive rights and bioethics.