Friday, March 30, 2012

Bringing forth... or not.

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Male birth control pill 

soon a reality

Image via Whosright 
By John Schieszer - contributor

Forty-year-old Scott Hardin says he’s glad that men may soon have a new choice when it comes to birth control. But, he adds, he would not even consider taking a male hormonal contraceptive. Hardin is like many men who are pleased to hear they may have a new option but are wary of taking any type of hormones.
For the first time, a safe, effective and reversible hormonal male contraceptive appears to be within reach. Several formulations are expected to become commercially available within the near future. Men may soon have the options of a daily pill to be taken orally, a patch or gel to be applied to the skin, an injection given every three months or an implant placed under the skin every 12 months, according to Seattle researchers.“I would rather rely on a solution that doesn’t involving medicating myself and the problems women have had with hormone therapy doesn’t make me anxious to want to sign on to taking a hormone-type therapy,” says Hardin, who is single and a college administrator.
It largely depends on how funding continues. The technology is there. We know how it would work,” says Dr. Andrea Coviello, who is helping to test several male contraceptives at the Population Center for Research in Reproduction at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Coviello and her colleagues have found that a male contraceptive that releases testosterone over three months is potentially a safe and practical method of contraception. The Seattle researchers have been testing a sustained-released, testosterone micro-capsule, which consists of a thick liquid administered by injection under the skin.
I never had any real noticeable side effects. I didn’t notice any mood changes. I may have put on a little weight,” says Larry Setlow, a 39-year-old computer programmer with a small software company in Seattle. He has taken part in three male hormonal contraceptive clinical trials at the University of Washington and has received both pills and injections.
They all worked really well and I was able to look at my lab results and see my sperm count drop to zero,” says Setlow. Finally, it is the man's turn 
Women have had the option of a safe, effective and reversible form of contraception since the development of the female oral contraceptive pill in the 1960s.
Female contraceptives use hormones, estrogens and progestins, to shut off the release of eggs to prevent pregnancy. Male hormonal contraceptives work pretty much the same way: hormones, such as testosterone and progestins, are used to turn off sperm production.
It seemed like I was getting headaches and then there were times when I woke up sweating at night and I had to change my shirt. Other than that, I didn’t have any side effects,” says 45-year-old Quentin Brown, who lives in Los Angeles and has been a volunteer in a study of MHCs at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Calif.
Brown has been taking hormonal contraceptives for more than a year. He reports no problems with weight gain or acne, two side effects that occurred in earlier versions of MHCs tested in the 1990s.
Brown, who is married and has three children, hopes his kids will one day be able to benefit from the new technology. His would like his son, who is now 17, to one day have the option of taking a male birth control pill. Brown believes many men will see “their pill” as a good idea and will want to use it.
It is time for men to have some control. I think it would empower men and deter some women out there from their nefarious plans,” says Brown. “Some women are out there to use men to get pregnant. This could deter women from doing this. An athlete or a singer is someone who could be a target and they could put a stop to that.”
Studies conducted by the World Health Organization show that men from many countries around the world would welcome MHCs. The WHO has tested MHCs in hundreds of volunteers in various countries around the world and have not found it difficult to recruit volunteers for their studies. Researchers say many men are very willing to become involved in the studies and are anxious to see a male birth control pill on the market. 

A range of choices... 

Over the past 5 years, researchers around the world have had a great deal of success with male contraceptive pills, patches, implants and creams that deliver various amounts of hormones. It is now believed that an MHC in the form of a daily pill could be available on the market within 5 to 7 years and implants could arrive even sooner.
An injectible or an implant (similar to Norplant for women) will be the first to be approved. The big studies are now under way,” says Dr. Christina Wang, who is heading up the clinical trials of MHCs at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
She and her colleagues have found that a combination of progestin and androgen implants are safe, effective, inexpensive and entirely reversible.
The California researchers have tested several different products in hundreds of men and are also collaborating with investigators in China. A Chinese clinical trial is now under way at 10 different sites across China and includes 1,000 men. The Phase III trial involves a single injection given once every month. Wang hopes to start a similar trial in the United States within the next 2 years.
We are trying to find the best combination with the least amount of side effects and then the least amount of medication that may be required to get the maximum effects,” says Wang.
Wang adds that in some countries, a low-cost, reversible and long-acting form of an MHC could become commercially available within the next 3 years. However, she says it will probably be at least 5 years before one is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Interestingly, Wang says there is now greater interest in this technology than there ever was in the past and there is now more funding available worldwide than ever before.
But will men take it? Some say yes, some say only if their partners make them, and other say they would never even consider it.

Text via MSNBC 

Saved from Extinction?

Although extinct now for around 4500 years, the woolly mammoth was one of the most magnificent animals ever to walk the earth. Closely related to our modern day elephants, they were a much larger species often equipped with long curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long, course hair.
The largest known species, the Songhua River mammoth (Mammuthus sungari) , reached heights of at least 5 metres (16 ft) at the shoulder. Mammoths would probably normally weigh in the region of 6 to 8 tons, but exceptionally large males may have exceeded 12 tons. However, most species of mammoth were only about as large as a modern Asian elephant.

However, it may now be possible for mammoths to once again, roam the Earth. Why? Because scientists from from the Siberian mammoth museum and Japan's Kinki University are undertaking a Jurassic Park-style experiment in an effort to bring the woolly mammoth out of extinction. These scientists claim that a thigh bone found in August 2011 contains remarkably well-preserved marrow cells, which could form the starting point of the experiment. From there they plan to extract a nucleus from the animal's bone marrow and insert it into the egg of an African elephant. If succesful, the cloning could be complete within the next five years!
The Roslin Institute, famous for cloning Dolly the sheep, has published some thoughts on the possibilities of bringing extinct species back to life. It said it was extremely unlikely such an experiment would be successful, especially using an elephant surrogate: '...first, a suitable surrogate mother animal is required. For the mammoth this would need to be a cow (as best biological fit) but even here the size difference may preclude gestation to term.The success rate for such an experiment would be in the range of 1-5%. The second issue would be the need for viable whole cells.If there are intact cells in this tissue they have been 'stored' frozen. However, if we think back to what actually happened to the animal - it died, even if from the cold, the cells in the body would have taken some time to freeze. This time lag would allow for breakdown of the cells, which normally happens when any animal dies. Then the carcass would freeze. So it is unlikely that the cells would be viable...'

'...assuming that viable cells are found it becomes a numbers game. Let's say that one in a thousand cells were nevertheless viable, practical issues come into play. Given that we have an efficiency of 1% cloning for livestock species and if only one in a thousand cells are viable then around 100,000 cells would need to be transferred...'
Charles Foster, a fellow at Green Templeton College, Oxford, seemed more optimistic.
'...the idea of mammoth cloning isn't completely ridiculous. How the resultant embryos would fare beyond the stage of a few cells is more or less unknown. While most of the genetic coding of the embryo would come from the mammoth, some would come from the elephant ovum. We really don't know what the contribution of that cytoplasmic material is, or how it would interact with 'alien' DNA. It would however mean that, even if successful, the clone would be a hybrid rather than a pure mammoth...'

Text and images via Garden of Eaden 


South Korean and Russian Scientists 

Bid to Clone Mammoth

Russian and South Korean scientists signed a deal on Tuesday on joint research intended to recreate a woolly mammoth, an animal which last walked the earth some 10,000 years ago.

South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk (L) shakes hands with Vasily Vasiliev, vice director of North-Eastern Federal University of Russia's Sakha Republic Photo: AFP/Getty Images
The deal was signed by Vasily Vasiliev, vice rector of North-Eastern Federal University of the Sakha Republic, and controversial cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-Suk of South Korea's Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.
Hwang was a national hero until some of his research into creating human stem cells was found in 2006 to have been faked. But his work in creating Snuppy, the world's first cloned dog, in 2005, has been verified by experts.
Stem cell scientists are now setting their sights on the extinct woolly mammoth, after global warming thawed Siberia's permafrost and uncovered remains of the animal.
Sooam said it would launch research this year if the Russian university can ship the remains. The Beijing Genomics Institute will also take part in the project.
The South Korean foundation said it would transfer technology to the Russian university, which has already been involved in joint research with Japanese scientists to bring a mammoth back to life.
"The first and hardest mission is to restore mammoth cells," another Sooam researcher, Hwang In-Sung, told AFP. His colleagues would join Russian scientists in trying to find well-preserved tissue with an undamaged gene.
By replacing the nuclei of egg cells from an elephant with those taken from the mammoth's somatic cells, embryos with mammoth DNA could be produced and planted into elephant wombs for delivery, he said.
Sooam will use an Indian elephant for its somatic cell nucleus transfer. The somatic cells are body cells, such as those of internal organs, skin, bones and blood.
"This will be a really tough job, but we believe it is possible because our institute is good at cloning animals," Hwang In-Sung said.
South Korean experts have previously cloned animals including a cow, a cat, dogs, a pig and a wolf.
Last October, Hwang Woo-Suk unveiled eight cloned coyotes in a project sponsored by a provincial government.
Text and image via The Telegraph


Mammoth 'rebirth' 13 Jan 2011

What lies beneath...

Image via a-z animals 

Spoooky Reading 

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