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New Advancement in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Research

Posted: October 17, 2017 at 3:29 pm

A recent change in how well we understand stem cells may make it easier for scientists and researchers to gather stem cells for use in scientific research as well as medical application. A new study was released in the research publication, Cell, which was performed by representatives from the University of California San Francisco.

One of the issues which hinder the use of stem cells as a more widespread treatment or field of research is that researchers and patients have a bottleneck of available healthy stem cell lines which can be used for research. Researchers hope that this new discovery will allow future scientific discoveries and applications in the areas of creating new and healthy tissue for patients with kidney failure or any other form of organ tissue failure. The future of medical therapy lies with Stem Cell Research, but many other forms of treatment, including Hormone Replacement Therapy, are already in practice today.

Researchers have discovered that it is possible to essentially “flip a switch” in an adult cell, reverting it back to the preliminary state at which cells existed in one of the earliest stages of development—the embryonic stem cell. Medical researchers hypothesize that Stem Cell treatments could be used for a variety of medical health issues which plague the world today, including kidney failure, liver disease, and Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes.

Use of Embryonic Stem Cells Contentious

There is an ethical issue in Stem Cell Research today. Many Pro-Life Advocates are vociferously against the use of Embryonic Stem Cells harvested from procedures such as fertility treatments designed for conception. They believe that the use of embryonic stem cells harvested from donors and couples looking to conceive is unethical.

Using current research, it may be possible to bypass this ethical quandary completely by using adult cells and converting them into embryonic stem cells. Furthermore, because these stem cells are genetic derivatives of the patient from which the adult cells were harvested, this potentially paves the way for patient-specific medical treatments using stem cells.

After adult cells have been converted back into Embryonic Stem Cells, it will be possible to convert them into any possible cell that the patient needs or would benefit from.

Hijacking the Blueprint of the Cell Allows Scientists to Revert Adult Cells to their Earliest State

Researchers have increased the capacity to produce Embryonic Stem Cells by identifying previously unrecognized biochemical processes which tell human cells how to develop. In essence, researchers have discovered how the body blueprints cells, and can change the blueprints so that a new cell is made.

By utilizing these newly recognized pathways, it is possible to create new stem cells more quickly than ever before. One of the researchers explains the implications of this research. Dr. Miguel Ramalho-Santos is an associate professor of obstetrics, medicine, and cancer research at the University of California San Francisco. Dr. Ramalho-Santos is also a member of the Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research.

He explains that these stem cell discoveries have the ability to alter the way that the medical sciences can take advantage of stem cells with regard to both cancer research and regenerative medicine. Dr. Ramalho-Santos was the lead researcher for this study, and the research was largely funded by the Director of the National Institutes of Health New Innovator Award, granted to promising young researchers which are leading highly innovative and promising medical research studies.

Dr. Ramalho-Santos’ research builds off of earlier research which discovered that it was possible to take adult cells and turn them back into embryonic stem cells. These stem cells don’t have any inherent aging processes, and they can be turned into any other kind of tissue. In the process of this conversion, the adult cells lose all of their unique characteristics, leaving them in an ultimately immature and malleable state.

This earlier research was conducted by researchers from UC San Francisco in partnership with Dr. Shinya Yamanaka from Kyoto University and Gladstone Institutes. These entities all gained a piece of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine from their part in the study.

Pluripotent Stem Cells vs. Embryonic Stem Cells

Thus far, we’ve described these cells as Embryonic Stem Cells, but in fact, the more accurate term for these cells are Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPS). These cells are biologically and functionally similar to Embryonic Stem Cells, but have a different name because they are sourced from adult cells. The difference between Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells and Embryonic Stem Cells is that Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells do seem to retain some of the characteristics of their previous state, which appears to limit their ability to convert into any other type of cell. This new research identifies new pathways by which it may be possible to increase the number of cells that an individual IPS Cell can turn into, perhaps allowing them to convert into any other kind of human cell.

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells are not explicitly considered an alternative to Embryonic Stem Cells, but are considered a different approach to produce similar cells. If researchers fully uncover the mechanisms of how to reprogram these cells, it will lower many barriers to stem cell research and the availability of stem cell treatments.

As of today, researchers have figured out how to make these Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, but the percentage of adult cells which are reverted successfully is quite low, and frequently, these cells still show some aspects of specialization, which limits their use.

How Do Scientists Make Stem Cells From Adult Cells?

There are genes within every cell which have the ability to induce pluripotency, reverting the cell to an earlier stage of specialization. The initial stage of this process is the result of activating Yamanaka Factors, specific genes that initiate this reversion process.

As of today, this process of de-maturation is not completely understood, and researchers realized from the start that the cells they created were not truly identical to Embryonic Stem Cells, because they still showed signs of their former lives, which often prevented them from being successfully reprogrammed.

The new research conducted by Dr. Ramalho-Santos appears to increase our knowledge regarding how these cells work, and how to program them more effectively. Dr. Ramalho-Santos and his team discovered more genes associated with these programming/reprogramming processes, and by manipulating them, they have increased the viability and range of particular stem cells.

It appears that these genetic impulses are constantly at play to maintain the structure and function of a cell, and that by systematically removing these safeguards, it is possible to increase the ability to alter these cells.

This research increases researchers’ ability to produce these stem cells, by increasing the ability of medical scientists to produce adequate numbers of stem cells, while also increasing the range of potential treatment options by more effectively inducing the total pluripotency which is available in Embryonic Stem Cells. This research may also help scientists treat certain forms of cancer which are the result of malfunctions of these genes.

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New Stem Cell Cancer Treatment on the Horizon?

Posted: at 2:51 pm

Stem Cell Research is an amazing field right now, and promises to be a powerful and potent tool to help us live longer and healthier lives. Just last month, for example, Stem Cell Therapy was used to restore sight in patients with severe retinal deterioration, allowing them to see clearer than they had in years, or even decades.

Now, there is another form of Stem Cell Treatment on the horizon—this one of a very different form. Stem Cells have now been used as a mechanism to deliver medical treatment designed to eliminate cancer cells, even in hard to reach places. One issue with current cancer treatments is that, treatments that are effective at treating tumors on the surface of the brain cannot be performed safely when the tumor is deeper within the brain’s tissues.

Stem Cells have the fantastic ability to transform into any other kind of cell within the human body, given the appropriate stimulation. As of today, most of these cells come from Embryonic Lines, but researchers are learning how to backwards engineer cells in the human body, reverting them back to their embryonic state. These cells are known as Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells.

How Does This Stem Cell Cancer Treatment Work?

Using genetic engineering, it is possible to create stem cells that are designed to release a chemical known as Pseudomonas Exotoxin, which has the ability to destroy certain tumor cells in the human brain.

What is Pseudomonas Exotoxin?

Pseudomonas Exotoxin is a compound that is naturally released by a form of bacteria known as Pseudomonas Aeruginosa. This chemical is toxic to brain tumor cells because it prevents polypeptides from growing longer, essentially preventing the polypeptides from growing and reproducing. When used in a specific manner, this toxin has the ability to destroy cancerous and malignant tissue without negatively impacting healthy tissue. In addition to its potential as a cancer treatment, there is also evidence that the therapy could be used for the treatment of Hepatitis B.

PE and Similar Toxins Have been Used Therapeutically in the Past

As of now, this chemical, which we will refer to for the rest of the article as PE, has been used as a cancer treatment before, but there are major limitations regarding the use of PE for particular cancers, not because of the risks of the treatment, but because of the lack of an effective method to deliver the medication to where it is needed.

For example, similar chemicals have been highly effective in the treatment of a large number of blood cancers, but haven’t been nearly as effective in larger, more inaccessible tumors. The chemicals break down or become metabolized before they can fully do their job.

How do Stem Cells Increase the Effectiveness of PE Cancer Treatment

Right now, PE has to be created in a laboratory before it is administered, which is not very effective for these embedded cancers. By using Stem Cells as an intermediary, it is possible to deliver the medication to deeper areas of the brain more effectively, theoretically highly increasing the efficacy of the treatment.

The leader of this Stem Cell Research is Harvard researcher Dr. Khalis Shah. His goal was to find an effective means to treat these deep brain tumors which are not easily treated by methods available today. In utilizing Stem Cells, Dr. Shah has potentially found a means by which the stem cells can constantly deliver this Cancer Toxin to the tumor area. The cells remain active and are fed by the body, which allows them to provide a steady stream of treatment that is impossible to provide via any other known method.

This research is still in its early stages, and has not yet reached human trials, but in mice, the PE Toxin worked exactly as hypothesized and was able to starve out tumors by preventing them from replicating effectively.

Perhaps this might seem a bit less complicated than it actually is. One of the major hurdles that had to be overcome was that this Toxin would normally be strong enough to kill the cell that hosted it. In order for the Stem Cells to release the cancer, they had to be able to withstand the effects of PE, themselves. Using genetic engineering, Dr. Shah and his associates were able to create a cell that is capable of both producing and withstanding the effects of the toxin.

Stem Cell delivered medical therapy is a 21st century form of medical treatment that researchers are just beginning to learn how to effectively utilize. Essentially, this treatment takes a stem cell and converts it into a unique symbiotic tool capable of feeding off of the host for energy in order to perform a potentially life-saving function. It’s really quite fascinating.

How Does PE Not Damage or Kill Brain Cells Indiscriminately?

You might be concerned about the idea of a patient having a toxin injected into the brain to cure a disease. It sounds almost like a dangerous, tribal, homeopathic remedy. In reality, the researchers have been able to harness the destructive power of the toxin and re-engineer it so that it directly targets cancer cells while having limited negative effects on healthy, non-cancerous tissue.

The toxin does its damage after it has been absorbed by a cell. By retooling the toxin so that it does not readily absorb into healthy cells, the dangers associated with having such a potentially dangerous toxin in the brain are seriously and significantly mitigated.

Beyond that, Dr. Shah and his associates have been able to take steps to effectively “turn off” PE while it is inside the host stem cell, and only activates when it has entered the cancerous tissue. Dr. Shah explains that, although this research has only been conducted in animal subjects, there is no known reason why the effectiveness and safety of the treatment would not be applicable to human patients.

In this treatment, surgeons remove as much of the tumor as possible from the brain, and insert the engineered Stem Cells submerged in a sterile gel in the area where the tumor was removed or partially still exists. Researchers found that, when they used this treatment on laboratory rats, they could tell through imaging and analysis that the modified PE toxin effectively killed the cancer cells, and that this cancer treatment effectively lengthened the life of the rat, as compared to control subjects.

What’s the Next Step?

Of course, cancer treatment is far more complex than a single treatment, no matter how effective that treatment may be. Because human cancer treatment is a comprehensive therapy approach, the end goal of this research is to create a form of therapy in which the method used in animal subjects is combined with other existing approaches, increasing and maximizing the effectiveness of the comprehensive treatment.

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Devastating disease that changes brain size discovered – Medical Xpress

Posted: September 8, 2017 at 3:45 am

Credit: University of Manchester

An international collaboration led by scientists and doctors from the UK, Netherlands and United States has identified a new genetic disease that affects the size of our brains and causes severe developmental problems.

While working on another project, Dr Siddharth Banka who is based at The University of Manchester and the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine, Saint Mary’s Hospital, noticed three children with large or small brains, developmental delay and mutations in a gene called RAC1.

At that point, it was difficult to be sure if it was a true finding, because RAC1 has never before been linked to human disease. And mutations in no other single gene have previously shown this extent of variability in brain-size.

As part of a parallel project, Professor Han Brunner and Dr Margot Reijnders of the Radboud University in Nijmegen had gathered together four more children with mutations in the same gene and altered brain-sizes. Some of the affected children were also found to have epilepsy and heart defects.

Dr Tom Millard also from The University of Manchester then used mouse cells to show that mutations in RAC1 affect the shape of the cells. When Dr Maria Kousi and Professor Nicholas Katsanis of Duke University, North Carolina found a similar effect of RAC1 mutations in brain-size of zebrafish, the team had no doubt they had discovered something new.

The study is published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

“Evolution has tinkered with thousands of genes over millions of years, to shape the human brain, an organ that is remarkably consistent in its appearance and size across billions of people,” said Dr Banka.

He added: “However, occasionally a tiny little alteration in just one of these thousands of genes can have devastating effects, reflecting the fine balance of this complex genetic orchestra.”

Dr Reijnders said: “Remarkably, evolution has hardly meddled with RAC1. In fact, the RAC1 of the humble roundworm is not very different from the RAC1 present in your and my cells.

“This astonishing conservation across eons indicates the fundamental role of RAC1 in life. Hence, in some ways it is not surprising that a small alteration in this gene is difficult for us to tolerate.”

Professor Han Brunner added: “These findings open new doors to our understanding of the development of the brain.

“We suspect RAC1 plays an important role in other genetic diseases as well”.

Dr Banka added: “We are sure that this discovery will lead to identification of more patients with RAC1 mutations, who have not yet been diagnosed.

“The next step for the scientists will be to use this knowledge to work out possible treatments for this disease and related conditions.”

Part of the study was based on the genetic data from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge.

The doctors and scientists who took part in this study are unable to deal with individual clinical enquires from the public. However, patients and families should in the first instance contact their GP who may refer them on to a local geneticist.

Explore further: Rac1 protein critical for lung development

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Noblis Releases Online Portal for Bioinformatics Research, Tools – HPCwire (blog)

Posted: at 3:43 am

RESTON, Va., Sept. 7, 2017 Noblis, Inc. is proud to announce today the release of Noblis BioPortal, a comprehensive online resource for exploring the companys cutting-edge bioinformatics research and tools.

Its crucial for government agencies and labs alike to harness the power of life science data, which has the ability to combat and protect against bioterrorism, counter the spread of disease, customize healthcare and medical countermeasures and protect our global food supply chain, among other possibilities, said Walter Berger, Noblis BioPortal program manager.

Noblis bioinformatics research and tools bring the best of the companys microbiology, bioinformatics, and data science expertise together to solve pressing bioinformatics challenges. Noblis tools run on a robust high performance computing infrastructure, and enable advanced bioinformatic analysis in a variety of domains. This allows users to analyze very large datasets, such as next-generation sequencing reads, to turn genomic data into actionable information.

Noblis is a leader in pairing multidisciplinary teams with high performance computing, said Dr. Roger Mason, SVP of National Security and intelligence at Noblis. We are proud to showcase the tangible ways we are helping clients leverage the power of genomic data through Noblis BioPortal.

The portal also includes information on Noblis research, technical presentations, and life science news, as well as links to various community-developed open source applications that can help solve a variety of complex problems quickly.

As a nonprofit, investing in research and development that solves our nations most pressing problems is at our core, said Amr ElSawy, Noblis President and CEO. We are proud to share how were advancing bioinformatics research and development with the launch of Noblis BioPortal, and look forward to continuing to work with our federal, academic, and research partners to solve the next generation of bioinformatics challenges.

To visit Noblis BioPortal, visit noblis.bioportal.org.

About Noblis

Noblis, Inc. is a nonprofit science, technology, and strategy organization that brings the best of scientific thought, management, and engineering expertise in an environment of independence and objectivity. We work with a wide range of government and industry clients in the areas of national security and intelligence, transportation and telecommunications, citizen services, environmental sustainability, and health. Together with our wholly owned subsidiaries, Noblis ESI and Noblis NSP, we tackle the nations toughest problems and support our clients most critical missions.

Source: Noblis

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Global Bioinformatics Market : Comprehensive Evaluation of the Market via in-Depth Qualitative Insights – Digital Journal

Posted: at 3:43 am

Global Bioinformatics Market (Type – Platforms, Tools, and Services; Applications – Preventive Medicine, Molecular Medicine, and Gene Therapy Drug Development) – Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2014 – 2020

This press release was orginally distributed by SBWire

Albany, NY — (SBWIRE) — 09/07/2017 — Bioinformatics is employed for the purpose of managing the data gathered from the research and development projects in biopharmaceutical, life science, and biotechnology industries. The growth of the bioinformatics is being augmented by the rising application of IT in the healthcare sector along with robust technological advancements. The employment of information technology or IT has enabled easy storage, processing, access, retrieval of data.

The adoption of bioinformatics is extensively increasing in the field of biosciences owing to advancement in IT and demand for enhanced and better prevention options and treatment. The growing application of bioinformatics across the healthcare sector is expected to aid the growth of the global bioinformatics market in the near future.

The global bioinformatics market is projected to grow at a significant CAGR during the forecast period and is likely to touch a valuation of US$9.1 bn by 2018.

Obtain Report Details @http://www.transparencymarketresearch.com/bioinformatics-market.html

The global bioinformatics market has been segmented into services, content management tools, and platforms. These are commercially available for the purpose of processing the data gained from various research and development projects effectively employing bioinformatics. In terms of consumption, the bioinformatics platform emerged dominant in 2013 accounting for the leading share in the global market for bioinformatics.

The growth can be attributed to the rising employment in bioinformatics in the process of drug discovery and rising research and development activities. However, the bioinformatics services sector is likely to dominate the market in terms of growth until 2020. In terms of application, the market is expected to be led by the segment for molecular medicine.

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At present, the global bioinformatics market is dominated by North America closely trailed by Europe. The factors driving the growth of the market in these regions is the heavy research and development investment, high adoption of new and advanced technology, well-structured regulatory outline, and prevalence of developed technology. Nevertheless, Asia Pacific is expected to emerge as a lucrative region for the growth of the bioinformatics market.

The market is likely to grow in the region owing to factors such as growing literacy rate, increasing awareness regarding bioinformatics among consumers, increase in funding, and rising government funding and initiative for R&D. As compared to the African countries, Latin America is likely to exhibit strong growth rate between 2014 and 2020.

Some of the leading companies in the global bioinformatics market are Accelrys Inc., ID Business Solutions, Ltd., Affymetrix Inc., CLC bio A/S, Agilent Technologies Inc., GenoLogics Life Sciences Software, Inc., Life Technologies Corporation, and Illumina, Inc.

For more information on this press release visit: http://www.sbwire.com/press-releases/global-bioinformatics-market/release-860264.htm

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Free IVF treatment scrapped in county where it all began – Times & Star

Posted: at 3:42 am

Free fertility treatment for women struggling to conceive will not be available on the NHS in the very county where IVF was pioneered.

Funding for specialist in vitro fertilisation (IVF) services was scrapped by health bosses in the Cambridge and Peterborough area on Wednesday, and provision was suspended with immediate effect.

The money-saving move attracted backlash when the plans were first announced, with more than 2,200 people signing a petition calling for the proposals to be reconsidered.

But Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said it was a “financially necessary decision”.

Dr Gary Howsam, chair and chief clinical officer of the CCG, said: “This was a very difficult decision for the governing body to make and we understand that people will be disappointed.

“The CCG has finite resources to fund a whole range of health services and treatments.

“We need to save 46.5m this financial year, and so we have had to review all areas of our spending and to make some difficult decisions.

“The decision to suspend routinely commissioning specialist fertility services is a financially necessary decision.”

He added: “Couples can still be referred on to hospital for further tests to investigate the cause of their infertility. Many causes of infertility can be successfully treated without the need to go on to IVF.”

There will be some exceptions to the plans, with access available for cancer patients left infertile by treatment, while couples who have already been referred for IVF services will still receive one cycle as previously promised.

The plans will be reviewed in April 2019.

Government guidelines recommend that women under 40 should be offered three free cycles if they have been trying to conceive for three years.

IVF was pioneered by Robert Edwards andPatrick Steptoe in a laboratory in Cambridge in 1978.

Since then, millions of babies have been born to families who otherwise may have struggled to conceive.

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Free IVF treatment scrapped in county where it all began – Times & Star

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Free IVF treatment scrapped has been scrapped in the Cambridge … – Express.co.uk

Posted: at 3:42 am

Funding for specialist in vitro fertilisation (IVF) services was scrapped by health bosses in the Cambridge and Peterborough area yesterday, and provision was suspended with immediate effect.

The money-saving move attracted backlash when the plans were first announced, with more than 2,200 people signing a petition calling for the proposals to be reconsidered.

But Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said it was a “financially necessary decision”.

Dr Gary Howsam, chair and chief clinical officer of the CCG, said: “This was a very difficult decision for the governing body to make and we understand that people will be disappointed.

“The CCG has finite resources to fund a whole range of health services and treatments.

“We need to save 46.5m this financial year, and so we have had to review all areas of our spending and to make some difficult decisions.

“The decision to suspend routinely commissioning specialist fertility services is a financially necessary decision.”

He added: “Couples can still be referred on to hospital for further tests to investigate the cause of their infertility. Many causes of infertility can be successfully treated without the need to go on to IVF.”

There will be some exceptions to the plans, with access available for cancer patients left infertile by treatment, while couples who have already been referred for IVF services will still receive one cycle as previously promised.

The plans will be reviewed in April 2019.

Government guidelines recommend that women under 40 should be offered three free cycles if they have been trying to conceive for three years.

IVF was pioneered by Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe in a laboratory in Cambridge in 1978.

Since then, millions of babies have been born to families who otherwise may have struggled to conceive.

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Free IVF treatment scrapped has been scrapped in the Cambridge … – Express.co.uk

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How does IVF work, how much does the fertility treatment cost and what is the success rate for in vitro fertilisation? – The Sun

Posted: at 3:42 am

baby boom

The process can use eggs and sperm from the couple themselves, or these can be sourced from a donor

ONE of the techniques used to help women with fertility problems who are struggling to have a baby is in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

But what does process involve and who qualifies for the treatment on the NHS?

Getty – Contributor

The process involves removing an egg from a womans ovaries and fertilising them using sperm in a laboratory.

The fertilised egg, also known as an embryo, is transferred back into a womans womb to grow.

The process can use eggs and sperm from the couple themselves, or these can be sourced from a donor.

There are six main stages of IVF:

Getty – Contributor

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)recommends in its fertility guidelines that IVF should be offered to:

Those who have been recommended by NICE for NHS-funded IVF in England will then have to be approved by localClinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) who can have stricter criteria.

These requirements can include:

If a woman doesnt qualify for IVF on the NHS, treatment is available at a private clinic.

Getty – Contributor

Costs can vary depending on the clinic, but one cycle can be up to 5,000 or more.

There may be additional costs for medicines, consultations and tests.

You can contact some private clinics without seeing your GP first, but some require a referral.

Getty – Contributor

The success rate can depend on a number of factors, including the age of the woman and the cause of their infertility (if it has been determined).

The younger the woman, the more likely it is that IVF will be successful, and factors such as avoiding alcohol, caffeine and smoking can improve your chances too.

In 2010, the percentage of women who had IVF and later had a live birth were:

Getty – Contributor

Going through the process of IVF can be both physically and emotionally draining for couples, and often counselling is advised to help provide support.

Some women experience side effects like headaches and hot flushes from medication using during the treatment.

In a number of cases, women can end up having twins or triplets due to IVF, which can be dangerous for the mother and babies.

There is also the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), where too many eggs develop in the ovaries.

Ectopic pregnancies can happen too, which is when the embryo develops in the fallopian tubes instead of the womb.

A study from a leading fertility centre found over two thirds of women confessed they completely stopped having sex after embryo insertion due to being scared that sexual activity could harm their chances of a successful pregnancy.

The study of 200 couples at IVF Cube found 63 per cent experiencing a drop in the quality of their sex lives and intimacy in their relationship.

The centres fertility expert Dr Hana Visnova is calling on couples to ignore old wives tale advice to avoid sex after embryo insertion and to enjoy sex fully during the whole process of IVF treatment.

She said: Theres still so much taboo when it comes to IVF and sex.

Its not hard to find online fertility forums devoted to the subject, and often filled with conflicting advice, which only serves to add to the confusion and misinformation.

The important thing to remember is that sexual activity cannot harm an embryo.

Meanwhile Dr Robert King, lecturer in applied psychology, suggested that the female orgasm can increase fertility by up to 15 per cent.

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How does IVF work, how much does the fertility treatment cost and what is the success rate for in vitro fertilisation? – The Sun

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Stormont deadlock blamed for fertility treatment delays – BBC News

Posted: at 3:42 am

Image caption Della McGill and Ryan Cunningham say IVF offers them an opportunity to have a baby

A County Down couple have said the political deadlock at Stormont is delaying their chance of becoming parents.

Della McGill has suffered two ectopic pregnancies and said in vitro fertilisation offered her and and Ryan Cunningham the chance of having a baby.

Last month, the Belfast Health Trust announced a temporary halt on offering fertility treatment as part of a raft of cost-cutting proposals.

Access to the Regional Fertility Centre for an estimated 320 new patients would be deferred until next April, it said.

They would then join a waiting list that is already up to nine months long for certain treatments.

Ms McGill, 35, said she was “heartbroken” when she heard the news.

“The current political deadlock at Stormont has obviously contributed to all the other problems that we are facing, the uncertainty of our future and the possible postponement of potentially never having our family and we aren’t getting any younger,” she told BBC news NI.

“We’ve already been through a nightmare for two years. I have suffered two ectopic pregnancies and lost one fallopian tube.

“Our hearts are broken.”

The NI executive collapsed in January, and the last round of power-sharing talks ended in stalemate in June.

The two biggest parties, the unionist DUP and republican Sinn Fin, blame each other for the lack of progress.

The couple argue that if the Northern Ireland Assembly was up and running with an Executive in place, the health service would operate more smoothly.

Ms McGill has been involved in compiling an online petition, which the couple hope to hand in as part of the consultation process on health savings.

Originally from Scotland, Ms McGill said that despite women there being entitled to three free IVF cycles, she would not consider moving back as Northern Ireland is her home.

Women in Northern Ireland are entitled to one fertility cycle paid for by the Health Service. In Wales, women are offered two cycles of IVF.

In England, the situation is more fragmented and IVF treatment has been restricted or halted in 13 areas since January.

Mr Cunningham said that while he understands budgets are tight across the UK, the other devolved nations at least have functioning governments in place.

“There was X amount of money promised for Northern Ireland that is just sitting there,” he said.

“If the government was in place in Stormont that money could be used to help ease the pressure.

“If the money was in place perhaps the cuts to health and social care wouldn’t be necessary.”

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland co-ordinator for Fertility Network UK described a meeting with Health Department representatives as “sad, but encouraging”.

Sharon Davidson said targeting fertility services was a soft option.

“No one wants to see the vulnerable in society being hit in this way,” she told BBC News NI.

“However, I am very optimistic that we have put all our points across, we have come out with a good fight to save the service being deferred by an additional five months.”

Ms Davidson described targeting people who were desperately trying for a baby as “emotive”.

She said her organisation had been inundated with calls from service users and professionals asking why the service has been cut.

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