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NRL News
Page 7
February/March 2010
Volume 37
Issue 2-3

Pro-Life News in Brief
By Liz Townsend

Indian Father Compensated for Unborn Baby’s Death

Acknowledging that an unborn baby was a life separate from the mother, the Delhi High Court in India ruled that an insurance company must compensate the child’s father for the baby’s death.

This court holds that an unborn child—aged five months onwards in mother’s womb till its birth—is treated as equal to a child,” the court ruled, according to the Times of India. “The foetus is another life in a woman and loss of foetus is actually loss of child in the offing.”

The unidentified mother and seven-month-old unborn baby were involved in a severe car accident in Delhi on June 8, 2008, the Times reported. Nine days later, the baby died in the mother’s womb and was delivered stillborn. Unable to recover from her injuries, the mother also passed away on August 14, according to the Times.

Husband and father Prakash sought compensation for both of their deaths. The Motor Accident Claim Tribunal (MACT) ordered the insurance company to pay him Rs 6.11 lakh (about $13,000) for his wife’s death, but refused to acknowledge the baby, the Times reported. The postmortem report did not mention the baby because the child died before the mother, and therefore the MACT did not include the baby in the ruling.

Prakash brought the case to the High Court. Doctors who treated the mother and child told the court that the baby died directly as a result of the car accident, according to the Times. The court ruled that the insurance company should compensate Prakash for the death of the baby as a separate person, and ordered an additional Rs 2.5 lakh (about $5,500) to be paid.

Umbilical Cord Cells Treat Cerebral Palsy

When Alyssa Dupuis was born three years ago, she suffered brain damage that caused cerebral palsy. But her parents’ decision at the time to bank her umbilical cord blood has now led to a remarkable improvement in her condition, using her own stem cells.

Alyssa traveled with her parents from her home in the Tampa Bay area to Duke University to receive a stem cell transfusion, WFTS reported. In only 15 minutes, she was given stem cells that her parents hoped would help improve her motor function, which was significantly impaired due to the cerebral palsy.

Her mother Andrea Dupuis said that they quickly saw improvement. “At first she would keep her hand clenched and use her left hand to pick up her food and her toys,” she told WFTS. “Shortly after that, her right hand was opening up.”

The treatment cost several thousands of dollars and was not covered by insurance, since it is still considered experimental. However, Andrea Dupuis said that their child’s health is worth it. “When it comes to your child, you’ll pay anything,” she told the television station.

Her mother hopes that Alyssa will continue the remarkable progress she has begun to make. “Her speech has exploded, unbelievable,” Dupuis told WFTS. “She is about what I would consider 85 percent cured from CP. She can walk flatfooted with a leg brace.”

Stem Cells Show Promise in Treating Aging Disorder

Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute discovered a promising use of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells: reversing the aging process in a rare disorder called dyskeratosis congenita. IPS cells are generated when adult cells are reprogrammed back to an embryonic stem cell stage by inserting four genes.

According to Reuters, the disorder causes “premature graying, warped fingernails and other symptoms as well as a high risk of cancer. It is very rare and normally diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 30. About half of patients have bone marrow failure, which means their bone marrow stops making blood and immune cells properly.”

Writing in the February 17 online issue of Nature, the scientists said they were trying to study the disorder by extracting cells from patients and creating iPS cells, which are as versatile as embryonic stem cells but are obtained without killing the donor. During this process, the research team discovered that it restored the telemeres, which are the portions of chromosomes that prevent cells from aging.

When the formerly diseased cells were made into iPS cells, the researchers measured three times as much TERC, which is the gene that helps maintain the telomeres. “This study suggests that the level of TERC isn’t just static, but could possibly be manipulated,” said lead researcher Suneet Agarwal in a Children’s Hospital Boston press release. “If you could do that in a patient with dyskeratosis congenita, you might be able to elongate their telomeres and sustain them a little longer.”

Agarwal explained that using cells obtained from the patients themselves would be the best way to treat the disorder. “If you give patients with dyskeratosis congenita a conventional bone marrow transplant, they tend to have higher mortality than other patients because their disease affects so many organ systems,” he said. “For these patients, and for patients with other bone marrow failure syndromes, it would be ideal to give them a gentler stem cell transplant from their own cells.”