‘Three-parent babies’ could be born in Britain next year.


The first three-parent babies could be born by 2015 after the government set out new draft regulations which will allow donor DNA from a ‘second mother’ to be implanted into a defective egg.

The procedure, which was developed British scientists, is currently banned, but ministers want to change the law to prevent children suffering debilitating conditions like muscular dystrophy.

The Department of Health has launched a consultation on draft guidelines which is due to end in May.

Under the new rules, IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation) clinics will be able to replace a baby’s defective mitochondrial DNA with healthy DNA from a female donor’s egg.

It is controversial because it would result in babies having DNA from three people.

Dr David King, director of the pressure group Human Genetics Alert, said: “If passed, this will be the first time any government has legalised inheritable human genome modification, something that is banned in all other European countries.

“The techniques have not passed the necessary safety tests so it is unnecessary and premature to rush ahead with legalisation.

“The techniques are unethical according to basic medical ethics, since their only advantage over standard and safe egg donation is that the mother is genetically related to her child. This cannot justify the unknown risks to the child or the social consequences of allowing human genome modification.”

However most health experts and scientists have backed the government claiming it heralds a new era in genetic medicine.

Professor Peter Braude, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at King’s College London, said: “I am pleased that the Government has been brave enough to follow through on their promises given during the 2008 revision of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, to bring before Parliament an option to help a small but deserving portion of society blighted with the spectre of transmitting mitochondrial disease to their children.

“Although rare, the effects of mitochondrial disease are devastating on those families, and the technology proposed will bring hope to those carrying the disorders.

“It is true that genetic alteration of disease risk is an important step for society and should not be taken lightly. However the proposed changes to the regulations ensure it will be limited to informed couples, who understand from sad personal experience the significant effects of their disease, and are best placed to balance the risks of the technology with the possibility of having children without mitochondrial disease.”

Around one in every 200 babies born in the UK has a severe mitochondrial disease. Although rare, the disorders can be passed to future generations through the maternal line.

Examples of mitochondrial diseases include conditions that cause muscle wasting, nerve damage, loss of sight and heart failure.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, Britain’s biggest research charity, said: “It is now almost a year since a major public consultation found broad support for the use of new IVF techniques for preventing mitochondrial diseases, so we are pleased that the Government has now published draft regulations that would permit this.

“Once further public consultation on the detail of these regulations is complete, we urge the Government to move swiftly so that Parliament can debate the regulations at the earliest opportunity and families affected by these devastating disorders can begin to benefit.”

Doug Turnbull, Professor of Neurology at the University of Newcastle, said: “I am delighted that the Government has published the draft regulations. This is very good news for patients with mitochondrial DNA disease and an important step in the prevention of transmission of serious mitochondrial disease”

Robert Meadowcroft, chief executive of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, said: “News that the wait for proposed amendments to genetic research regulations to be shared with the public is over will be welcomed by many families living with mitochondrial disease.

“We have supported the Government’s review of the mitochondrial transfer IVF technique throughout, in the firm belief that open, thorough and transparent dialogue is critical. However, it will soon be two years since the initial consultation with the public was announced and three since the review began.

“There have been lengthy waits at every stage, and we now call on the Government to ensure that regulations are passed before the next general election, so that the technique can be moved towards clinical trials as soon as possible.”

He added: “Encouragingly, we have seen that, when given in-depth information, the majority of people in the UK are broadly supportive of this technology. We now need to see a prompt, efficient discussion with the public on the rules that will govern how it is taken forward.”

The new consultation is not to debate whether mitochondrial transfer should be allowed, but how it should be implemented.

Once the rules are brought in, it will be up to the fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), to decide whether a treatment can go ahead on a case-by-case basis.

Mitochondrial transfer will only be allowed when there is a “significant risk” of disability or serious illness.

Children born after mitochondrial transfer will not be entitled to discover the identity of the “third parent” donor.

Liz Curtis, from the Lily Foundation, which funds research into mitochondrial diseases, said: “The publication today of the draft regulations is welcomed by The Lily Foundation. We meet too many families on a daily basis whose worlds have been turned upside down by the devastating effects of mitochondrial diseases.

“These IVF techniques will eradicate mitochondrial disease for some families, offering the opportunity to have a healthy child. We hope the approval will not take too long, so these families can benefit from this as soon as possible and hopefully see a little light at the end of a dark tunnel.”

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Scientists pinpoint exotic new particle.


In the field of quantum physics, you could call this a droplet in the bucket.

Physicists in Germany and the United States have discovered an exotic new type of particle that they call a quantum droplet, or dropleton.

Dropleton is a new kind of stable particle cluster in solids, formed inside tiny correlation bubble

Writing in the journal Nature, they say it behaves a bit like a liquid droplet and described it as a quasiparticle — an amalgamation of smaller types of particles.

The discovery, they add, could be useful in the development of nanotechnology, including the design of optoelectronic devices. These include things like semiconductor lasers used in Blu-ray disc players.

The microscopic quantum droplet does not dawdle. In the physicists’ experiments using an ultra-fast laser emitting about 100 million pulses per second, the quantum droplet appeared for only about 2.5 billionths of a second.

That does not sound like much, but the scientists say it is stable enough for research on how light interacts with certain types of matter.

A previously known example of a quasiparticle is the exciton, a pairing of an electron and a “hole” — a place in the material’s energy structure where an electron could be located but is not.

The quantum droplet is made up of roughly five electrons and five holes. It possesses some characteristics of a liquid, like having ripples, the scientists write.

Quantum physics is a branch of physics that relates to events taking place on the tiniest scale. It is essential in describing the structure of atoms.

Particles are the basic building blocks of matter. They include things like subatomic entities such as electrons, protons, neutrons and quarks. Only rarely are new ones found.

The scientists in Germany worked with a team led by physicist Steven Cundiff at JILA, a joint physics institute of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

It was in Boulder where the laser experiments were performed using a semiconductor of the elements gallium and arsenic, revealing the new particle, albeit fleetingly.

“Even though this happens so rapidly, it is still useful to understand that it does happen,” says Cundiff.

Light applications

The scientists foresee practical value in the discovery.

“The effects that give rise to the formation of dropletons also influence the electrons in optoelectronic devices such as laser diodes,” says physicist Mackillo Kira of the University of Marburg in Germany, one of the researchers.

Examples of optoelectronic devices include LED lights and semiconductor lasers used in telecommunications and Blu-ray players.

“For example, the dropletons couple particularly strongly to quantum fluctuations of light, which should be extremely useful when designing lasers capable of encoding quantum information,” Kira adds.

Water leaked from Fukushima nuclear power plant finds its way to Canadian waters – UPI.com


Researchers say radioactive cesium isotopes from Japan’s severely damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant have made their way to the waters just off the coast of Canada.

Scientists confirmed the arrival of radioactive Fukushima water at the annual American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu today, but pointed out that the concentrations of the two isotopes were still well below safe drinking levels.

Researchers from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography have been continuously sampling water off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, since 2011.

“These levels are still well below maximum permissible concentrations in drinking water in Canada for caesium-137 of 10,000 becquerels per cubic metre of water — so, it’s clearly not an environmental or human-health radiological threat,” Bedford’s Dr. John Smith told BBC News.

Ken Buesseler at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) confirmed that none of the Fukushima water has yet reached U.S. beaches.

Like the rest of Japan, the Fukushima nuclear power plant was ravaged by 2011’s tsunami and earthquake. In the wake of the plant’s meltdown, several hundred tons of radioactive water leaked into the ocean. Smaller leaks continue to be found.

Initial results showed that water in the plant’s immediate vicinity measured at 10 million becquerels per cubic meter (bq/m3). A becquerel is an internationally-agreed-upon unit used to measure radioactivity.

And while the two escaped radioactive cesium isotopes, cesium-134 and cesium-137, have found their way to the waters of British Columbia, their presence sits somewhere below 1 bq/m3. Scientists expect those concentrations to go up as the plume of Fukushima water makes its way slowly across the Pacific — but not drastically.

Models put future levels of Cesium-137 at no greater than 27 Bq/m3, and maximum levels of cesium-134 at 2 Bq/m3 — both amounts below what the World Health Organization, the EPA and Canada’s Department of the Environment consider safe for human consumption.

In a video posted last month, Discovery News reporter Trace Dominguez told viewers there’s no reason to worry about Fukushima radioactivity in the West Coast or anywhere else in the U.S.

 

Breast-feeding study: Benefits of breast over bottle have been exaggerated.


187228879-man-gives-the-feeding-bottle-to-his-newborn-baby-at-the
A man gives a bottle of formula to his newborn baby at a hospital in Angers, France.
A new study confirms what people like our own Hanna Rosin and Texas A&Mprofessor Joan B. Wolf have been saying for years now: The benefits of breast-feeding have been overstated. The study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, is unique in the literature about breast-feeding because it looks at siblings who were fed differently during infancy. That means the study controls for a lot of things that have marred previous breast-feeding studies. As the study’s lead author, Ohio State University assistant professor Cynthia Colen, said in a press release, “Many previous studies suffer from selection bias. They either do not or cannot statistically control for factors such as race, age, family income, mother’s employment—things we know that can affect both breast-feeding and health outcomes.”

Colen’s study is also unique because she looked at children ages 4-14. Often breast-feeding studies only look at the effects on children in their first years of life. She looked at more than 8,000 children total, about 25 percent of whom were in “discordant sibling pairs,” which means one was bottle-fed and the other was breast-fed. The study then measured those siblings for 11 outcomes, including BMI, obesity, asthma, different measures of intelligence, hyperactivity, and parental attachment.

When children from different families were compared, the kids who were breast-fed did better on those 11 measures than kids who were not breast-fed. But, as Colen points out, mothers who breast-feed their kids are disproportionately advantaged—they tend to be wealthier and better educated. When children fed differently within the same family were compared—those discordant sibling pairs—there was no statistically significant difference in any of the measures, except for asthma. Children who were breast-fed were at a higher risk for asthma than children who drank formula.

Colen’s conclusion is the same one I came to when I wrote about a British pilotprogram that would pay women to breast-feed: Breast-feeding is good, but it shouldn’t be such a huge societal priority. As Colen put it, “We need to take a much more careful look at what happens past that first year of life and understand that breast-feeding might be very difficult, even untenable, for certain groups of women. Rather than placing the blame at their feet, let’s be more realistic about what breast-feeding does and doesn’t do.”

As more and more research comes out showing that the benefits of breast-feedingare modest at best, I’m starting to come around to the French feminist theorist Elisabeth Badinter’s views, which I once thought were overly radical and sort of bananas. I’m all for women breast-feeding if that is what is right for their families, but as Badinter does, I am finding the cultural push for all women to breast-feed, no matter how difficult it is, to be more and more oppressive. Hopefully this study will give women who can’t or don’t want to breast-feed for whatever reason more ammunition to tell the breast-is-best purists to piss off.

Scientists Claim That Quantum Theory Proves Consciousness Moves To Another Universe At Death


A book titled “Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the Nature of the Universe” has stirred up the Internet, because it contained a notion that life does not end when the body dies, and it can last forever. The author of this publication, scientist Dr. Robert Lanza who was voted the 3rd most important scientist alive by the NY Times, has no doubts that this is possible.

Scientists Claim That Quantum Theory Proves Consciousness Moves To Another Universe At Death 

Beyond time and space

Lanza is an expert in regenerative medicine and scientific director of Advanced Cell Technology Company. Before he has been known for his extensive research which dealt with stem cells, he was also famous for several successful experiments on cloning endangered animal species.

But not so long ago, the scientist became involved with physics, quantum mechanics and astrophysics. This explosive mixture has given birth to the new theory of biocentrism, which the professor has been preaching ever since. Biocentrism teaches that life and consciousness are fundamental to the universe. It is consciousness that creates the material universe, not the other way around.

Lanza points to the structure of the universe itself, and that the laws, forces, and constants of the universe appear to be fine-tuned for life, implying intelligence existed prior to matter. He also claims that space and time are not objects or things, but rather tools of our animal understanding. Lanza says that we carry space and time around with us “like turtles with shells.” meaning that when the shell comes off (space and time), we still exist.

The theory implies that death of consciousness simply does not exist. It only exists as a thought because people identify themselves with their body. They believe that the body is going to perish, sooner or later, thinking their consciousness will disappear too. If the body generates consciousness, then consciousness dies when the body dies. But if the body receives consciousness in the same way that a cable box receives satellite signals, then of course consciousness does not end at the death of the physical vehicle. In fact, consciousness exists outside of constraints of time and space. It is able to be anywhere: in the human body and outside of it. In other words, it is non-local in the same sense that quantum objects are non-local.

Lanza also believes that multiple universes can exist simultaneously. In one universe, the body can be dead. And in another it continues to exist, absorbing consciousness which migrated into this universe. This means that a dead person while traveling through the same tunnel ends up not in hell or in heaven, but in a similar world he or she once inhabited, but this time alive. And so on, infinitely. It’s almost like a cosmic Russian doll afterlife effect.

Multiple worlds

This hope-instilling, but extremely controversial theory by Lanza has many unwitting supporters, not just mere mortals who want to live forever, but also some well-known scientists. These are the physicists and astrophysicists who tend to agree with existence of parallel worlds and who suggest the possibility of multiple universes. Multiverse (multi-universe) is a so-called scientific concept, which they defend. They believe that no physical laws exist which would prohibit the existence of parallel worlds.

The first one was a science fiction writer H.G. Wells who proclaimed in 1895 in his story “The Door in the Wall”. And after 62 years, this idea was developed by Dr. Hugh Everett in his graduate thesis at the Princeton University. It basically posits that at any given moment the universe divides into countless similar instances. And the next moment, these “newborn” universes split in a similar fashion. In some of these worlds you may be present: reading this article in one universe, or watching TV in another.

The triggering factor for these multiplyingworlds is our actions, explained Everett. If we make some choices, instantly one universe splits into two with different versions of outcomes.

In the 1980s, Andrei Linde, scientist from the Lebedev’s Institute of physics, developed the theory of multiple universes. He is now a professor at Stanford University. Linde explained: Space consists of many inflating spheres, which give rise to similar spheres, and those, in turn, produce spheres in even greater numbers, and so on to infinity. In the universe, they are spaced apart. They are not aware of each other’s existence. But they represent parts of the same physical universe.

The fact that our universe is not alone is supported by data received from the Planck space telescope. Using the data, scientists have created the most accurate map of the microwave background, the so-called cosmic relic background radiation, which has remained since the inception of our universe. They also found that the universe has a lot of dark recesses represented by some holes and extensive gaps.

Theoretical physicist Laura Mersini-Houghton from the North Carolina University with her colleagues argue: the anomalies of the microwave background exist due to the fact that our universe is influenced by other universes existing nearby. And holes and gaps are a direct result of attacks on us by neighboring universes.

Soul

So, there is abundance of places or other universes where our soul could migrate after death, according to the theory of neo-biocentrism. But does the soul exist? Is there any scientific theory of consciousness that could accommodate such a claim? According to Dr. Stuart Hameroff, a near-death experience happens when the quantum information that inhabits the nervous system leaves the body and dissipates into the universe. Contrary to materialistic accounts of consciousness, Dr. Hameroff offers an alternative explanation of consciousness that can perhaps appeal to both the rational scientific mind and personal intuitions.

Consciousness resides, according to Stuart and British physicist Sir Roger Penrose, in the microtubules of the brain cells, which are the primary sites of quantum processing. Upon death, this information is released from your body, meaning that your consciousness goes with it. They have argued that our experience of consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects in these microtubules, a theory which they dubbed orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR).

Consciousness, or at least proto-consciousness is theorized by them to be a fundamental property of the universe, present even at the first moment of the universe during the Big Bang. “In one such scheme proto-conscious experience is a basic property of physical reality accessible to a quantum process associated with brain activity.”

Our souls are in fact constructed from the very fabric of the universe – and may have existed since the beginning of time. Our brains are just receivers and amplifiers for the proto-consciousness that is intrinsic to the fabric of space-time. So is there really a part of your consciousness that is non-material and will live on after the death of your physical body?

Dr Hameroff told the Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole documentary: “Let’s say the heart stops beating, the blood stops flowing, the microtubules lose their quantum state. The quantum information within the microtubules is not destroyed, it can’t be destroyed, it just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large”. Robert Lanza would add here that not only does it exist in the universe, it exists perhaps in another universe.

If the patient is resuscitated, revived, this quantum information can go back into the microtubules and the patient says “I had a near death experience”‘

He adds: “If they’re not revived, and the patient dies, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body, perhaps indefinitely, as a soul.”

This account of quantum consciousness explains things like near-death experiences, astral projection, out of body experiences, and evenreincarnation without needing to appeal to religious ideology. The energy of your consciousness potentially gets recycled back into a different body at some point, and in the mean time it exists outside of the physical body on some other level of reality, and possibly in another universe.

Proposed modular quantum computer architecture offers scalability to large numbers of qubits


How do you build a universal quantum computer? Turns out, this question was addressed by theoretical physicists about 15 years ago. The answer was laid out in a research paper and has become known as the DiVincenzo criteria. The prescription is pretty clear at a glance; yet in practice the physical implementation of a full-scale universal quantum computer remains an extraordinary challenge.

To glimpse the difficulty of this task, consider the guts of a would-be  computer. The computational heart is composed of multiple quantum bits, or qubits, that can each store 0 and 1 at the same time. The qubits can become “entangled,” or correlated in ways that are impossible in conventional devices. A  device must create and maintain these quantum connections in order to have a speed and storage advantage over any conventional computer. That’s the upside. The difficulty arises because harnessing entanglement for computation only works when the qubits are almost completely isolated from the outside world. Isolation and control becomes much more difficult as more and more qubits are added into the computer. Basically, as quantum systems are made bigger, they generally lose their quantum-ness.

In pursuit of a quantum computer, scientists have gained amazing control over various quantum systems. One leading platform in this broad field of research is trapped atomic ions, where nearly 20 qubits have been juxtaposed in a single quantum register. However, scaling this or any other type of qubit to much larger numbers while still contained in a single register will become increasingly difficult, as the connections will become too numerous to be reliable.

Physicists led by ion-trapper Christopher Monroe at the JQI have now proposed a modular quantum computer architecture that promises scalability to much larger numbers of qubits. This research is described in the journal Physical Review A, a topical journal of the American Physical Society. The components of this architecture have individually been tested and are available, making it a promising approach. In the paper, the authors present expected performance and scaling calculations, demonstrating that their architecture is not only viable, but in some ways, preferable when compared to related schemes.

Individual qubit modules are at the computational center of this design, each one consisting of a small crystal of perhaps 10-100 trapped ions confined with electromagnetic fields. Qubits are stored in each atomic ion’s internal energy levels. Logical gates can be performed locally within a single module, and two or more ions can be entangled using the collective properties of the ions in a module.

One or more qubits from the ion trap modules are then networked through a second layer of optical fiber photonic interconnects. This higher-level layer hybridizes photonic and ion-trap technology, where the quantum state of the ion qubits is linked to that of the photons that the ions themselves emit. Photonics is a natural choice as an information bus as it is proven technology and already used for conventional information flow. In this design, the fibers are directed to a reconfigurable switch, so that any set of modules could be connected. The switch system, which incorporates special micro-electromechanical mirrors (MEMs) to direct light into different fiber ports, would allow for entanglement between arbitrary modules and on-demand distribution of quantum information.

The defining feature of this new architecture is that it is modular, meaning that several identical modules composed of smaller registers are connected in a way that is inherently scalable. Modularity is a common property of complex systems, from social networks to biological function, and will likely be a necessary component of any future large-scale quantum computer. Monroe explains,”This is the only way to imagine scaling to larger , by building them in smaller standard units and hooking them together. In this case, we know how to engineer every aspect of the architecture.”

In conventional computers, modularity is routinely exploited to realize the massive interconnects required in semiconductor devices, which themselves have been successfully miniaturized and integrated with other electronics and photonics. The first programmable computers were the size of large rooms and used vacuum tubes, and now people have an incredible computer literally at their fingertips. Today’s processors have billions of semiconductor transistors fabricated on chips that are only about a centimeter across.

Similar fabrication techniques are now used to construct computer chip-style ion-traps, sometimes with integrated optics. The modular quantum architecture proposed in this research would not only allow many ion-trap chips to be tied together, but could also be exploited with alternative qubit modules that couple easily to photons such as  made from nitrogen vacancy centers in diamond or ultracold atomic gases (the neutral cousin of ion-traps).

Zoos in Europe ‘kill up to 5,000 healthy animals a year’


 

 
 
 
 
 

Up to 5,000 healthy zoo animals – including hundreds of larger ones such as giraffes, lions and bears – are killed by zoos in Europe every year, it is claimed today.

 

The revelation comes in the wake of the international furore over the killing of Marius, a healthy 18-month-old giraffe, by Copenhagen Zoo. It has since been established that five of the animals have been put down by zoos in Denmark since 2012.

Across Europe, 22 healthy zebras, four hippos and two Arabian Oryx were also put down. The Oryx were killed at Edinburgh and London zoos in 2000 and 2001.

Several German zookeepers were prosecuted in 2010 for killing three tiger cubs at Magdeburg Zoo. However, some zoos, such as Twycross in Warwickshire, have a policy of not putting down healthy animals.

Dr Lesley Dickie, executive director of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (Eaza), told BBC Radio 4’s The Report that between 3,000 and 5,000 healthy animals are put down every year across Europe. “That’s our estimate for all animals management euthanised in the zoo, be it tadpoles up until a giraffe,” she said.

She added that “less than a few hundred” larger animals such as giraffes, zebras, lions and bears were included in the total. She said the true number was not known as studbooks sometimes do not record why an animal is killed. Like Marius, some animals are put down as part of a breeding programme designed to encourage genetic diversity in the captive population.

Dr Dickie said if zoo populations became too inbred they would be “absolutely no use for any future reintroduction programme. There’s lots of success stories. Tiger populations are now more stable in our zoos than they are in the wild,” she said. “Things like golden lion tamarins, a small primate from South America – it only exists because of zoos. There are other animals in which the situation in the wild is very dire and thank goodness we have captive populations.”

The Eaza yearbook for 2007-08, the latest available to the public, indicated that over-breeding was a problem for some species with surplus male monkeys, baboons and leopards. Simon Tonge, Eaza’s chairman, admitted that the “numbers game can be made to sound awful”, but insisted most of the public were on their side.

“There is 10, 15 per cent of the population who believe that the worst thing a human being can possibly do under any circumstances is to kill an animal,” he said. “But for the majority of people, if it’s necessary to euthanise an animal for human consumption or to regulate the populations, actually they are perfectly happy for that to happen.”

But Libby Anderson, of animal welfare group OneKind, said the idea that killing zoo animals was part of a conservation effort was misguided. “These animals will never replenish the wild populations. If we want to conserve wild populations, we have to address the challenges that they face in their environment,” she said.

Fully formed teeth removed from the brain of a baby suffering from a rare tumour


A four-month-old baby was found to have teeth growing inside his brain.

  • The unnamed infant from Maryland, in the United States, had a rare type of brain tumour which contained a number of fully formed teeth.

The child underwent surgery to remove the growth, but is now making good progress, The New England Medical Journal reported.

Doctors first suspected something might be wrong when routine health checks showed the child’s head was growing at a faster-than-average rate.

An MRI scan revealed a tumour measuring 4.1cm by 4cm by 3.5cm and showed up structures on the right side of the mass which appeared similar to teeth in the lower jaw bone.

After the baby had undergone surgery, doctors identified the mass as a slow-growing tumour called adamantinomatous craniopharyngioma.

It is thought to have arisen from Rathke’s pouch, an embryonic precursor to the pituitary gland.

These growths do not tend to spread outside the brain.

Surgeons removed a number of teeth from the baby's brain (The New England Journal of Medicine)

 

Surgeons removed a number of teeth from the baby’s brain (The New England Journal of Medicine)Dr. Narlin Beaty, a neurosurgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center, who performed the boy’s surgery along with his colleague, Dr. Edward Ahn, of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, toldLive Science: “It’s not every day you see teeth in any type of tumour in the brain. In a craniopharyngioma, it’s unheard of.”

He added that craniopharyngiomas commonly contain calcium deposits, “but when we pulled out a full tooth…I think that’s something slightly different”.

It is now a year since the child underwent surgery and he is said to be progressing well.

However, he will have to undergo hormone treatments for the rest of his life.

Teeth have been found in people’s brains before, but only in tumours called teratoma, which have been reported to contain hair, teeth, bone and even eyes.

Children of older men at greater risk of mental illness, study suggests


Research finds children born to fathers aged over 45 were more likely to have mental health problems and do poorly at school
  • Father and son walking
Comparing siblings, scientists found a link between the father’s age and children’s mental health and school performance. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/Guardian

Children born to fathers over the age of 45 are at greater risk of developing psychiatric problems and more likely to struggle at school, according to the findings of a large-scale study.

The research found that children with older fathers were more often diagnosed with disorders such as autism, psychosis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They also reported more drug abuse and suicide attempts, researchers said.

The children’s difficulties seemed to affect school performance, leading to worse grades at the age of 15 and fewer years in education overall.

“We were shocked when we saw the comparisons,” said Brian D’Onofrio, the first author of the study at Indiana University in the US. But he added that it was impossible to be sure that older age was to blame for the problems.

Scientists have reported links between fathers’ age and children’s cognitive performance and health before but this study suggests the risks may be more serious than previously thought. The increased risks might be caused by genetic mutations that build up in sperm as men age.

Researchers at Indiana University and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm studied medical and educational records of more than 2.6 million babies born to 1.4 million men. The group amounted to nearly 90% of births in Sweden from 1973 and 2001. Using the records, the scientists added up diagnoses for psychiatric disorders and educational achievements and compared the figures for children born to fathers of different ages.

The numbers told a complex story. When health and school performance were compared across all the children, and factors such as parents’ education and any history of psychiatric illness were taken into account, paternal age made little difference, except for cases of bipolar disorder, which rose with older fathers.

But the researchers went on to do another analysis. This compared the health and performance of siblings in the same families, in the hope of ruling out differences between families that may have skewed the results. This time they found a striking link between paternal age and children’smental health and educational outcomes.

According to the study, the children of fathers aged 45 and over were 3.5 times as likely to have autism, had more than twice the risk of psychotic disorders, suicidal behaviour and drug abuse, and had a 13-fold greater risk of ADHD. Fewer than 1% of children born to fathers younger than 45 had bipolar disorder, a figure that rose to about 14% in their siblings when fathers were 45 or older. In many cases, the risk of each disorder rose steadily with the father’s age.

The impact on academic achievements was less dramatic. Children with older fathers had a 60% greater risk of poor performance at age 15, defined as the equivalent of an overall fail grade across 16 academic subjects. They were also 70% more likely to spend less than 10 years in formal education.

The findings appear in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Some experts have questioned the analysis, because important factors that could be to blame were not ruled out.

While looking at siblings has the advantage of ruling out differences from one family to the next – such as the number of books on shelves and diet – teasing out cause and effect is impossible.

For example, a first born child may do better than his or her siblings at school, but that could be down to the parents having more time to spend with him or her than later children. The father being younger at his or her birth may be immaterial. Equally, a man’s second wife may be a worse parent than his first wife, with knock-on effects for his children with her. Again, his older age would not be the direct culprit.

In many countries, the age of first-time fathers is on the rise, and if the latest findings are right, that could drive more psychiatric and educational problems in future generations. The average age of men who became fathers in England and Wales rose from 30.8 to 32.6 years old in the two decades to 2011, with mothers’ age rising to 29.7 years old over the same period. In 2011, 31,643 babies were born to fathers aged 45 and over. Some 833 fathers were 60 and over, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Ryan Edwards, who studies the economics of health and ageing at the City University of New York, said the study revealed “some evidence that paternal age may worsen children’s psychiatric, behavioral and educational outcomes.”

But he warned that the results hinged on the scientists’ comparisons between siblings. “In that setting, it is difficult to separate the overlapping effects of paternal age, children’s age, and birth order in a convincing way,” he said.

Jennifer Roff, also at the City University of New York, had similar reservations. “I’m not saying that there is no possible genetic role for paternal age. I simply think that this could be confounded with other environmental factors like birth order. The extent of the problem will vary. I can imagine that for things like cognitive scores, this could be a larger problem than for things like schizophrenia.”

Consultation on technique to prevent mitochondrial disease launched in UK


Controversial technique, currently banned, would prevent women from passing mitochondrial diseases to their children
  • Mitochondria
Around one in 200 children born in the UK has some form of mitochondrial disorder. The most serious affect the heart, brain, muscles and liver. Illustration: Getty Images

The Department of Health has launched a three-month consultation on the draft regulations for a radical procedure that aims to prevent mothers from passing on serious genetic diseases to their children, a controversial technique because it leads to babies with DNA from three people.

Mitochondrial transfer has never been tried in humans and is prohibited in Britain under laws that ban the placing of an egg or embyro into a woman if the DNA has been altered. But scientists working on the technique said it offered hope of preventing life-threatening diseases for which there were no cures.

The government announced last June that it intends to allow the procedure, but the regulations must be finalised, debated and approved by parliament before the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) can allow clinics to offer the treatment.

About one in 200 children born in the UK have some form of mitochondrial disorder. The most serious affect the heart, brain, muscles and liver. Under the procedure, the nucleus is removed from an affected woman’s egg or from a cell in an embryo and transferred to a donor egg or embryo that has healthy mitochondria.

As a result, a baby will have DNA from the biological parents and a female donor who provides healthy mitochondria, the tiny biological batteries that power most cells in the body. The fraction of a cell’s DNA that is in mitochondria is minuscule and affects only how cells are powered. It does not influence the child’s physical appearance or personality.

Another reason the procedure is controversial is that it would be the first to introduce genetic changes that are passed on not only to the intended child, but to all subsequent generations. One concern is that any harmful and unexpected side-effects might then damage the health of people born long into the future.

Launching the consultation, Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, said: “Allowing mitochondrial donation would give women who carry severe mitochondrial disease the opportunity to have children without passing on devastating genetic disorders. It would also keep Britain at the forefront of scientific development in this area.”

She added: “I want to encourage contributions to this consultation so that we have as many views as possible before introducing our final regulations.”

Under the draft regulations, donors of mitochondrial DNA would remain anonymous, but could request details from the HFEA of the number and sex of any children born from their material. If someone aged 16 or over asked the HFEA if they were born after mitochondrial transfer, the authority would be required to tell them.

Doug Turnbull, a neurologist at Newcastle University and the leader of mitochondrial transfer research in Britain, welcomed the draft regulations. “This is very good news for patients with mitochondrial DNA disease and an important step in the prevention of transmission of serious mitochondrial disease,” he said.

Last year, the HFEA published results of a national consultation on mitochondrial transfer, which found broad public support for the procedure. Tests in monkeys suggest that the procedure is safe, but research to perfect the technique is ongoing.

Mitochondrial diseases can affect single or multiple organs and tend to worsen with age. One disorder, called Leigh syndrome, usually develops in babies before the age of two, and causes progressive degeneration of the brain and nervous system.

Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, encouraged the government to bring the regulations before parliament as soon as the consultation period finished in May. “Once further public consultation on the detail of these regulations is complete, we urge the government to move swiftly so that parliament can debate the regulations at the earliest opportunity and families affected by these devastating disorders can begin to benefit,” he said.