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Of mice and men and magical drugs

Posted in Scientific research, Screening, Termination, Therapeutic treatments by Matt at WelcometoIllinois on July 6, 2008

Three interesting news reports relating to Down’s syndrome this weekend. First up, Scotland on Sunday reports that Conservative MP Nadine Dorries wants MPs to vote on whether to ban abortions carried out because babies have a club foot or cleft palate.

According to the report, “the bid is opposed by family-planning experts who warn the move could open a legal minefield, raising the question of why other ‘abnormalities’ are not similarly ruled out.”

While I would agree with Dorries’s comment that in cases like Down’s syndrome the decision should be a matter for the parents and doctors, rather than legislators, I would also maintain that this does not mean the issue should not be debated.

I would never knowingly encourage anyone to read the Daily Mail (and this would be why – it never lets the discussion of a sensitive subject prevent it from using hyperbole to stir up some unnecessary controversy – such as “Parents’ fury at ‘Down’s Syndrome dolls'”) but this report about the age of the father potentially impacting the health of the baby is worth reading, if only for the fact that it raises an alternative to the view that the age of the mother must be the causative factor. The story is also covered in The Guardian.

Meanwhile, scientists are starting drug trials on humans with genetic disorders following successful tests that showed they could repair mental impairment in mice, according to this report on Philly.com.

Sounds interesting, although I can’t help feeling sceptical given one of the scientists involved in drugs rhat reversed the learning deficits associated with Down syndrome in mice described them thus: “They would bring the brain completely back online – like magical drugs.”

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