The Development of Three Person Babies

In recent news, the UK Government just approved the making of babies from 3 people rather than the conventional and biological 2. The move has been met with an abundance of controversy and debate. The production is an advanced form of IVF and was developed by medics from Nottingham.

Research suggests that the first of these babies may be born as early as late 2017. The technique was initially developed in the 1990s in order to combat infant mortality as a result of mitochondrial defects inherited from the mother. Leigh Syndrome was rife amongst women who were predisposed to the genes’ children. Symptoms began to appear in the first year of life and many families suffered through the heart ache of multiple infant deaths, some whilst still in the womb. Leigh Syndrome affects the mitochondria as a result of a genetic mutation in the DNA of the fetus, which eventually leads to a loss of mobility and death within three years of life. 1/5 of the mutations is as a result of a mitochondrial defect whereas the others as a result of DNA mutation.

The method involves the extraction of all viable and useful DNA from the mother’s egg and the healthy mitocondria from the donor egg to produce a new egg. The new egg contains around 0.1% donor DNA. The process is called pronuclear transfer and was first tested using mice in 1983, since then the process has een refined and redevelopped for safe use in humans.

In January 2017 a baby girl was born in Ukraine using pronuclear transfer and another couple is expecting a male child in the following months.

Last year, a baby boy was born using a process known as spindle transfer. Spindle fibres and chromosomes are removed from a donor egg and replaced by those of the mother. The egg is then fertilsied by the fathers’ sperm. This method posseses a higher risk as chromosomes are suceptible to falling off the spindles when they are implanted so this can lead to a child being born, lacking vital chromosomes or too many. The boy who was born last April appeared to be in perfect health, however in many diseases, symptoms become visible in their first few years of life, so he is being monitored carefully.

Despite the UK passing laws condoning the use of this method in cases where the mother is affected by the mitochondrial disease, the doctors involved and parents have received a large backlash of criticism, regarding the ethics of the process. Proffessor Murdoch from the Newcastle team stated that: “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.” At the moment the method is almost exclusively used for parents where the mother has a mitochondrial defect so many argue that is not a violation of ethics but rather a preventitive measure against the mitochondrial disease, whereas others argue that it is simply fertility treatment. In many cases, arguments suggest that whilst these procedures increase life expectancy to over 3 years of age, they may lead to more problems as the child ages and can lead to a very poor quality of life.

In these cases, it is important to understand that there is a very fine line within medical ethics and what can be seen as a preventitive measure can cause more harm in the future. Despite this it is important to acknowledge that 3 healthy infants have been born and only time will tell how these procedures will affect this children and others like them, in the future.

 

References:

https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/how-make-three-parent-baby

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-37485263

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38648981

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38328097

 

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Vitamin D Pills in Flu Prevention

A recent study published by the British Medical Journal stated that food should be fortified with vitamin D in order to strengthen the immune system. The study was aimed at the prevention of acute respiratory tract infections but some think that this can be broadened to many other infections.

However,  Public Health England, argues that there is not enough evidence and data to prove these conclusions.

The immune system uses vitamin D to produce white blood cells, one type of white blood cell is the T cell and cytotoxic T cells are used to perforate the cell membrane of bacteria and pathogens using a substance known as perforin. This means the cell membrane is freely open to substances which leads to cell death.

The study suggested that one in every 33 people would be spared from infection if they took vitamin D supplements. Lead researcher, Professor Martineau stated that 3.25 million fewer people would get at least one acute respiratory infection a year.  However, this could be due to other factors, hence the PHE stating that the study is inconclusive.  Around 11, 321 people participated in the trial and vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of acute respiratory tract infection among all participants.

More research is needed to prove the extent of the benefits of vitamin D, however it can not be denied that an increase in vitamin D intake is beneficial in all accounts as long as it is not taken in excess, as in these cases, it would lead to kidney and heart diseases.

 

References:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38988982

http://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/study-linking-vitamin-d-to-reduced-cold-and-flu-risk-is-too-good-to-be-true/article34073839/

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/875937

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD is the name for a group of lung related diseases associated with breathlessness that include: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis.

Emphysema is when the alveoli become over inflated which is due to damage to the lung tissue. They break down and the lungs become baggy and full of holes which trap air.

Chronic Bronchitis is when the airways in the lungs are inflamed and subsequently narrowed.

Refractory asthma is when someone experiences frequent asthma attacks and low lung function.

Bronchiectasis is when the airways widen and are unable to clear themselves out. This leads to an increase in mucus which results in a build up of bacteria.

With COPD, the airways are narrowed because:

  • the lung tissue is damaged so there is less pull on the airways
  • the elastic lining of the airways flops
  • the airway lining is inflamed

Causes include:

  • Smoking
  • Occupation
  • Genetics

Symptoms:

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Increased phlegm production
  • Chest infections

A spirometer test is a frequent and easy way to diagnose COPD and patients are often given test spirometers to take home and log their readings over a course of three weeks.

Treatment:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Lung transplants
  • Inhalers
  • Medication
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation

Overall, COPD is a manageable disease that is preventable if one focus’ on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

 

References:

https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/copd

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx

http://www.copdfoundation.org/What-is-COPD/Understanding-COPD/What-is-COPD.aspx

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental health problem which results in a wide array of psychological problems. It is known as a type of psychosis. There is no exact cause of schizophrenia but research suggests that brain chemistry, genetics, birth complications and social factors such as an urban upbringing, migration and adversity play a large role in its formation.

Symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Beliefs that are not based on reality, or delusions.
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Lack of motivation
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Hearing voices

It usually starts in early adulthood, and a common misconception is that it results in multiple personalities.

There are different types of schizophrenia:

  1. Paranoid schizophrenia
  2. Hebephrenic Schizophrenia
  3. Catatonic Schizophrenia
  4. Undifferentiated Schizophrenia
  5. Residual Schizophrenia
  6. Simple Schizophrenia
  7. Cenesthopathic Schizophrenia

Treatment includes:

In most cases, medication such as antipsychotics are used as well as cognitive behaviour therapy is used.

References

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Schizophrenia/Pages/Introduction.aspx

https://www.rethink.org/diagnosis-treatment/conditions/schizophrenia