MicroChip Implants Linked to Tumors in Animals (9/07)

Microchip Implants Linked to Tumors in Animals A radio-frequency identification chip manufactured by VeriChip.  When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved implanting microchips in humans, the manufacturer said it would save lives, letting doctors scan the tiny transponders to access patients' medical records almost instantly.   The FDA found "reasonable assurance" the device was safe, and a sub-agency even called it one of 2005's top "innovative technologies."   But neither the company nor the regulators publicly mentioned this: A series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, stated that chip implants had "induced" malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats.   "The transponders were the cause of the tumors," said Keith Johnson, a retired toxicologic pathologist, explaining in a phone interview the findings of a 1996 study he led at the Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, Mich.   Leading cancer specialists reviewed the research for The Associated Press and, while cautioning that animal test results do not necessarily apply to humans, said the findings troubled them.   Some said they would not allow family members to receive implants, and all urged further research before the glass-encased transponders are widely implanted in people.   To date, about 2,000 of the so-called radio frequency identification, or RFID, devices have been implanted in humans worldwide, according to VeriChip Corp.   The company, which sees a target market of 45 million Americans for its medical monitoring chips, insists the devices are safe, as does its parent company, Applied Digital Solutions, of Delray Beach, Fla.   "We stand by our implantable products which have been approved by the FDA and/or...

Scientists Try to Build a Better 'Womb' for IVF (10/07)

In a University of Tokyo laboratory, a pipette-wielding technician delicately positions 10 mouse eggs on a razor-thin microchip lined with a "bed" of cultured uterus tissue…"This is a new way to culture embryos in an environment that is closer to what happens inside the body," he said in an interview. Although results in mice so far are only slightly better than with the current method, Fujii dreams of building an automated device that takes in eggs and sperm at one end and delivers healthy human embryos out the other with near-assembly line results… Others are pursuing even more futuristic goals. Cornell University scientists built an artificial womb from cultured layers of mouse uterine tissue in 2003. Although embryos implanted and began to grow, they didn't survive, and while the studies continue, they have been placed on the back burner.   For now, Fujii and other researchers developing technologies that try to mimic the womb are focused on improving in vitro fertilization – and progress is needed. Just 29 percent of couples who attempted IVF in 2005 gave birth to a child, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. That was up from 24.7 percent in 1998, but still far from reliable enough for infertile couples, who often attempt IVF multiple times. A CDC report issued in 2002 found that among US women of childbearing age, 10 percent had consulted a doctor for infertility.   Some people are worried by increasingly artificial means of reproduction, said Josephine Johnston, a researcher at the Hastings Center, a bioethics think tank in Garrison, N.Y. One concern is that "assisted...