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NRL News
Page 28
April/May 2010
Volume 37
Issue 4-5

Pro-Life News in Brief

By Liz Townsend

Adult Stem Cells from Veins May Treat Heart Disease

Researchers in England are studying the use of adult stem cells obtained from leftover veins during heart bypass surgery. They hope that one day these cells could be used to repair damage after a heart attack.

This is the first time that anyone has been able to extract stem cells from sections of vein left over from heart bypass operations,” Professor Paolo Madeddu of Bristol University told BBC News. “These cells might make it possible for a person having a bypass to also receive a heart treatment using their body’s own stem cells.”

During bypass surgery, doctors remove a long section of vein from the patient’s leg and use it to replace a blocked artery near the heart. Only a portion of the leg vein is actually used in most operations, so there is usually a section left over.

When Madeddu and his team tried to extract stem cells from the leftover piece, they were surprised to obtain thousands of cells. “That is not nearly enough for treatments,” said Madeddu, according to the Daily Mail. “However, it provided us with a source from which we could get those cells to proliferate. We seeded the stem cells in special plates and were able to grow them until we got samples of 50 million to 60 million cells—which was enough to use as treatments.”

Much more study needs to be done before these cells can be used to treat humans, but initial tests on mice showed that they helped new blood vessels to grow around damaged hearts, The Observer reported.

It brings the possibility of ‘cell therapy’ for damaged hearts one step closer,” Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, told BBC News, “and, importantly, if the chemical messages produced by the cells can be identified, it is possible that drugs could be developed to achieve the same end.”

Twin Unborn Babies Die after Abortionist Kills Healthy One

Florida abortionist Matthew Kachinas lost his medical license April 20 after he killed a healthy unborn baby while trying to destroy the twin diagnosed with Down syndrome. After finding out the wrong baby was killed, the parents had the surviving child aborted as well, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

The parents came to Kachinas’s Sarasota abortion clinic in January 2006 when the mother, identified only as “K.M.,” was 16 weeks pregnant with twins conceived through in vitro fertilization, the Times reported. Doctors diagnosed the boy baby as having Down syndrome and a heart defect, but his sister was considered “normal.” The parents wanted to abort the “defective” baby while allowing the girl to continue to term.

Kachinas has admitted that he had never performed a “selective reduction” abortion before. “It seemed like something that was within my purview, that I would be able to do safely and appropriately,” he told the Times. “I have never, ever in my entire career ever said ‘no’ to a patient. And that was my downfall.”

Using ultrasound as a guide, Kachinas injected what he thought was the boy with a lethal chemical. One week later, the parents discovered that the girl had actually been killed. In court hearings, Kachinas blamed the ultrasound machine for misidentifying the targeted child, according to the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

After discovering that the wrong baby had died, the parents came back to Kachinas to abort the remaining twin, the Times reported.

Kachinas told the Times that he will appeal the license revocation. He also said that he made a financial settlement with K.M. soon after the second abortion.

Promising Technique Uses Patient’s Own Stem Cells to Repair Brain Damage

Researchers in England are working on a technique that will use a patient’s own stem cells to repair brain damage by building a “biological scaffold” that the cells can attach to and grow on, according to The Independent.

The technique would use stem cells that are already present in the patient’s brain but are inactive. “We know there are stem cells in the human brain,” Professor Andrea Brand of the Gurdon Institute at Cambridge University told The Independent. “If we can reactivate stem cells that are in the right place at the right time, that would be ideal.”

They hope to one day build the scaffolding from “synthetically made biological materials” and then insert it into a brain in which cells have been killed by a stroke or other types of brain trauma, according to The Independent. The inactive stem cells would then multiply in the scaffold and regrow tissue that had been lost.

We know that stem cells will sometimes go to sleep and we’re studying ways of reactivating them,” Brand told The Independent. “This is really key because what we’d like to do eventually in terms of repairing the brain is to reactivate someone’s own stem cells in situ to give rise, hopefully, to the neurons that will replace those that have been damaged.”

The idea is in the very early stages of development. The researchers are currently working to identify genes that are needed to activate the stem cells, studying simpler nervous systems of creatures such as fruit flies to learn more about the process.

In particular, we are interested in how these stem cells can generate all the different types of nerve cells that you find in the human brain,” Brand added.

Baby Boy Left to Die after Botched Abortion

An Italian priest praying over the body of an aborted 22-week-old baby boy discovered he was still alive. Although the boy was rushed to another hospital for neonatal care, he died the next day.

Doctors at Rossano Calabro Hospital in Italy aborted the baby April 24 on his mother’s request because she was told he had a disability, the Daily Telegraph reported. After the abortion, he was wrapped in sheet with his umbilical cord still attached.

Father Antonio Martello, the hospital chaplain, went to pray for the baby 20 hours after the abortion. Shocked to find the baby boy moving and breathing, he called for help and the boy was rushed to Cosenza Hospital’s neonatal unit, according to the Telegraph. Sadly, the baby died April 26.

Italian law requires doctors to treat babies born alive after abortions, the Telegraph reported. Government officials said there will be an investigation.

We must remember that a baby, once born, is an Italian citizen equal to all the others, and is entitled to all fundamental rights, including the right to health and therefore to be given full support,” Eugenia Roccella, the under-secretary of state in the health department, told the Telegraph.

If the reported story is true, Roccella added, “this would be a case of deliberate abandonment of a seriously premature neonate, possibly also with some form of disability, an act contrary to any sense of human compassion but also of any accepted professional medical practice.”

Sanctions against Pro-Life Nurses Lifted

Admitting that they needed to change their policies, officials at Nassau University Medical Center in New York lifted sanctions against eight nurses who objected to participating in an abortion for reasons of conscience.

We erred in our personnel actions, have apologized to several of the nurses and will do so with the others, as well,” medical center president Arthur Gianelli told Newsday. “They did nothing wrong.”

Federal law allows health care workers to refuse to participate in procedures for which they have a moral objection, as long as the patient is not in a life-threatening situation.

In this case, a pregnant woman’s water broke when she was 14 weeks pregnant March 31. Told she could face a life-threatening infection later on if the pregnancy continued, the mother decided to abort the baby, Newsday reported.

Eight nurses refused to assist in the abortion for conscience reasons. Since another nurse who did not object would report to work later, and since there was no immediate danger to the woman’s life, her doctor agreed to wait to abort the baby, according to Newsday. The baby was aborted April 2.

However, the director of perinatal nursing misunderstood the situation and thought the woman needed an immediate abortion, Newsday reported. She reported the nurses and the hospital began disciplinary action, including reprimands and loss of vacation leave days.

When the nurses protested the sanctions, the hospital investigated and concluded that the officials’ actions were wrong. Gianelli told Newsday that the medical center is refining its policy on conscientious objection.

Chinese Officials Conduct Forced Sterilization Program

Officials in China’s Puning county, in Guangdong Province, conducted a 20-day forced sterilization campaign in April, aiming to sterilize 9,559 people who had more children than allowed, the London Times reported.

Most people in China are only allowed to have one child, according to rules implemented in 1978. In rural areas like Puning, some are allowed to have two children if the first is a girl, but can have no more than that no matter the gender of the second child, according to the Times.

Because some Puning families have three or four children, family planning officials decided to crack down on rule breakers. “It’s not uncommon for family planning authorities to adopt some tough tactics,” an official at the Puning Population and Family Planning Bureau told the Global Times.

Relatives were imprisoned in order to force compliance with the sterilization efforts. Huang Ruifeng, who has three daughters, said that officials threatened his father. “Several days ago a village official called me and asked me or my wife to return for the surgery,” Huang said, according to the London Times. “Otherwise they would take away my father.”

About 100 relatives were being held in cramped conditions April 10, the Southern Countryside Daily reported. “There were some mats on the floor but the room was too small for all people to lie down and sleep, so the young ones had to stand or squat. Owing to the lack of quilts, many cuddled up to fight the cold,” according to the newspaper.

About half of Puning’s targeted citizens had been sterilized as of April 12, only five days into the campaign, the Times reported.

State-level authorities told the Times that they may investigate to determine if the county officials went too far in their program. State rules do not allow family members to be threatened in order to force compliance, and require authorization before penalizing violators, according to the Times.