Adverse effects of phthalates on ovarian response to IVF

July 8, 2013 — Egg donation is now one of the major reasons why couples travel abroad for fertility treatment. Because this growing trend may circumvent regulations at home or raise concerns about financial inducement, it has also become one of the most controversial. Yet little is known about the women who provide the donor eggs in overseas clinics — their characteristics, their motivation and their compensation.A study performed by ESHRE, which surveyed (by questionnaire) 1423 egg donors at 60 clinics in 11 European countries, has now found that the majority of donors are keen to help infertile couples for altruistic reasons, but a large proportion also expect a personal benefit, usually financial.(1,2)The study was performed during 2011 and 2012 by ESHRE’s Task Force on Cross-border Reproductive Care and European IVF Monitoring Consortium, with the results presented today by the chairman of the Task Force, Professor Guido Pennings of the Bioethics Institute Ghent, Belgium. The donor’s age proved an important factor in her motivation to donate. While the overall average age of the donors in this study was relatively young (27.4 years, ranging from 25.6 in Spain to 31 years in France), there was a significant effect of age on altruistic motives: 46% of the donors under 25 noted altruism alone as their motive compared to 79% of those over 35; 12% of those under 25 were purely financially motivated compared to 1% of those older than 35. The younger you are, apparently, the more is money a motivation.Among the donor groups identified in the study population were:Students (18% in Spain, 16% Finland, 13% Czech Republic) Unemployed (24% in Spain, 22% Ukraine, 17% Greece) Fully employed (75% in Belgium, 70% Poland, 28% Spain) Single women (50%+ in Spain and Portugal, 30% Greece) Other findings showed that around one-third of all study donors had a university degree, and around one half all donors had a child of their own. Why do donors go through a demanding IVF treatment cycle to donate eggs? The study firstly found that, while altruism was the principal motive overall, the majority of donors did receive financial compensation. “The fact that a person receives compensation or money does not mean that she is motivated by that money,” said Professor Pennings. However, the study made it clear that financial compensation is still an important motivation for many donors, especially in certain countries. …

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Egg donation in European clinics: Why do women do it?

July 8, 2013 — Egg donation is now one of the major reasons why couples travel abroad for fertility treatment. Because this growing trend may circumvent regulations at home or raise concerns about financial inducement, it has also become one of the most controversial. Yet little is known about the women who provide the donor eggs in overseas clinics — their characteristics, their motivation and their compensation.A study performed by ESHRE, which surveyed (by questionnaire) 1423 egg donors at 60 clinics in 11 European countries, has now found that the majority of donors are keen to help infertile couples for altruistic reasons, but a large proportion also expect a personal benefit, usually financial.(1,2)The study was performed during 2011 and 2012 by ESHRE’s Task Force on Cross-border Reproductive Care and European IVF Monitoring Consortium, with the results presented today by the chairman of the Task Force, Professor Guido Pennings of the Bioethics Institute Ghent, Belgium. The donor’s age proved an important factor in her motivation to donate. While the overall average age of the donors in this study was relatively young (27.4 years, ranging from 25.6 in Spain to 31 years in France), there was a significant effect of age on altruistic motives: 46% of the donors under 25 noted altruism alone as their motive compared to 79% of those over 35; 12% of those under 25 were purely financially motivated compared to 1% of those older than 35. The younger you are, apparently, the more is money a motivation.Among the donor groups identified in the study population were:Students (18% in Spain, 16% Finland, 13% Czech Republic) Unemployed (24% in Spain, 22% Ukraine, 17% Greece) Fully employed (75% in Belgium, 70% Poland, 28% Spain) Single women (50%+ in Spain and Portugal, 30% Greece) Other findings showed that around one-third of all study donors had a university degree, and around one half all donors had a child of their own. Why do donors go through a demanding IVF treatment cycle to donate eggs? The study firstly found that, while altruism was the principal motive overall, the majority of donors did receive financial compensation. “The fact that a person receives compensation or money does not mean that she is motivated by that money,” said Professor Pennings. However, the study made it clear that financial compensation is still an important motivation for many donors, especially in certain countries. …

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Babies know when a cuddle is coming

June 25, 2013 — Babies as young as two months know when they are about to be picked up and change their body posture in preparation, according to new research.Professor Vasu Reddy, of the University of Portsmouth, has found most babies aged two to four months understand they are about to be picked up the moment their mothers come towards them with their arms outstretched and that they make their bodies go still and stiff in anticipation, making it easier to be picked up.This is the first study to examine how babies adjust their posture in anticipation to offset the potentially destabilising effect of being picked up.Professor Reddy said: “We didn’t expect such clear results. From these findings we predict this awareness is likely to be found even earlier, possibly not long after birth.”The results suggest we need to re-think the way we study infant development because infants seem to be able to understand other people’s actions directed towards them earlier than previously thought. Experiments where infants are observers of others’ actions may not give us a full picture of their anticipatory abilities.”The findings could also be used as an early indicator of some developmental problems, including autism. It was reported by researchers in 1943 that children with autism don’t appear to make preparatory adjustments to being picked up.The researchers, who included Dr Gabriela Markova of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, and Dr Sebastian Wallot of the University of Aarhus, did two studies, one on 18 babies aged three months, and a second on ten babies aged two to four months old.In both, babies were placed on a pressure mat which measured their postural adjustments during three phases: As their mothers chatted with their babies; as the mothers opened their arms to pick them up; and as the babies were picked up.The results revealed infants as young as two months made specific adjustments when their mother stretched her arms out to pick them up. These included extending and stiffening the legs which increases body rigidity and stability, and widening or raising their arms, which helps to create a space for the mother to hold the infant’s chest.Between two and three months of age the babies’ gaze moved from mostly looking at their mother’s face to often looking at her hands as she stretched her arms out towards them.The results reveal two important findings — first, that from as early as two months babies make specific postural adjustments to make it easier to pick them up even before their mother touches them. And second, it appears that babies learn to increase the smoothness and coordination of their movements between two and four months, rather than develop new types of adjustment.”In other words, they rapidly become more adept at making it easier for parents to pick them up,” Professor Reddy said.The mothers in the study were asked about their babies’ physical responses before the tests and some reported their babies stiffened their legs or raised their arms in preparation for being picked up, but video footage watched frame by frame revealed physical adjustments happened to a greater degree and more subtly than mothers had noticed.The researchers suggest more research now needs to be done to examine the extent to which infants discriminate between different kinds of actions directed at them, between familiar and unfamiliar actions, and how infant anticipation of these actions is influenced by the different maternal styles they each experience.The research is published in the latest issue of the journal Plos One.

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Excited, but cold: Scientists unveil the secret of a reaction for prebiotic synthesis of organic matter

June 24, 2013 — How is it that a complex organism evolves from a pile of dead matter? How can lifeless materials become organic molecules that are the bricks of animals and plants? Scientists have been trying to answer these questions for ages. Researchers at the Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung have now disclosed the secret of a reaction that has to do with the synthesis of complex organic matter before the origin of life.Since the 1960’s it has been well known that when concentrated hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is irradiated by UV light, it forms an imidazole intermediate that is a key substance for synthesis of nucleobases and nucleotides in abiotic environment. The way how UV radiation acts in this reaction to produce complex organic matter was, however, never clarified. Dr. Mario Barbatti and his colleagues in Germany, India and Czech Republic have now shown how this process occurs via computer simulations.Using diverse computational-chemistry methods, the team has arrived at astonishing conclusions: For example that the reaction does not take place in the hot spot created by the solar radiation. “This has nothing to do with heat, but with electrons,” says Mario Barbatti.The reaction proceeds through a series of electronically excited intermediates. The molecules get into the “electronic excited state” because of the UV radiation, which means that their electrons are distributed in a much different way than the usual. That changes the molecule’s attitudes. …

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