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Scientists have developed a new sperm separation technique which could in future allow couples having IVF to choose if they have a boy or girl before fertilisation.

Experts in Japan report they have come up with a new method allowing them to split mouse sperm carrying an X chromosome from those carrying a Y chromosome.

It means sperm can be chosen based on whether they will result in female (XX) or male (XY) offspring when it is used to fertilise an egg.

It was thought the sperm of mammals that lead to both offspring are identical except for the DNA they carry.

Sperm and Egg. Digital Composite.
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The scientists have focused on receptors in sperm

But researchers at Hiroshima University found 492 genes are active in sperm that carry the X chromosome, which give rise to female offspring, that are not active in sperm that carry the Y chromosome, which lead to male offspring.

Some 18 of the X chromosome genes encoded receptors, and were good candidates for manipulating the sperm – because of their response to stimuli.

The team has found that a chemical that binds to two of these proteins can slow down the movement of X-carrying sperm without affecting the Y-carrying ones.

This discovery makes it easier to separate sperm according to the sex of the offspring they could produce.

Sperm from mice that were treated with the chemical, followed by in-vitro fertilisation with the fastest swimmers, led to litters that were 90% male.

This was compared to litters of 81% female when slower swimmers were used.

Human sperms aspiring to human cell. Digitally generated image.
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Faster swimmers were more likely to produce men

Scientists say that whilst other methods of separating X and Y sperm exist, they are cumbersome, expensive, and risk damaging the DNA of the sperm.

The study was performed on mice – but the technique is thought to be widely applicable to other mammals too.

Researchers say that unlike the Y chromosome, which does not carry many genes, the X chromosome carries lots, some of which remain active in the maturing sperm.

That provides a theoretical basis for distinguishing the two, the research published in the journal PLOS Biology sets out.

Professor Masayuki Shimada, said: “The differential expression of receptor genes by the two sex chromosomes provides the basis for a novel and potentially highly useful method for separating X and Y sperm and we have already succeeded the selectively production of male or female in cattle and pigs by this method.

“Nonetheless, use of this method in human reproductive technology is speculative at the moment, and involves significant ethical issues unaffected by the utility of this new technique.”

Dr Peter Ellis, lecturer in Molecular Biology and Reproduction, University of Kent School of Biosciences, said: “This study makes the startling claim that there are cell surface markers on X- and Y-bearing sperm cells that ‘label’ these and selectively affect their function.

“This type of marker has been sought for many years in many different species, but thus far without success.

“If this study were to be replicated – and in particular if it holds true in species other than mice – then the implications could be colossal for both animal and human artificial insemination and assisted reproduction, but we are certainly not at that stage yet.”

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Amazon wildfires: Sending in the troops is only the first stage | World News

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It was only after the wrath of world leaders was unleashed on Friday that the Brazilian president responded with meaningful action.

Initially, Jair Bolsonaro denied the very existence of the fires – and since then, Brazilians have listened to days of arguments about who had started them.

Now President Jair Bolsonaro has authorised the mobilisation of 43,000 troops to try and put them out.

An aerial view of a tract of the Amazon jungle burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Boca do Acre, Amazonas state, Brazil August 24, 2019
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There have been tens of thousands of fires in the Amazon this year so far

Many of the military personnel are already based in the region, but all are now available for firefighting duties.

The emergency effort has been sanctioned for at least the next month. Six states – Roraima, Rondonia, Tocantins, Para, Acre and Mato Grosso have all asked for help.

Mr Bolsonaro is an outspoken right-wing leader who only assumed office in January. His style does win support with some, but he is also deeply unpopular with others.

This crisis means protests against him are growing. “We’re going back towards a military dictatorship,” one man told us as we filmed in Sao Paulo.

He may not admit it, but the president has been scorned by the accusation that he is to blame for the wildfires. Critics point to his environmental budget cuts and the way he has advocated “responsible exploitation” of the Amazon region.

The stern rebukes from European leaders and the withdrawal of funding by some countries from environmental projects in Brazil have prompted the military action.

Aerial view of burnt areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, Rondonia state, Brazil, on August 24, 2019
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Maintaining the Amazon is vital for the world’s climate change goals

Mr Bolsonaro wants to be seen as taking charge of what he has described as “chaos”, but sending in Brazilian troops is only stage one.

Chile and Ecuador have pledged resources, US President Donald Trump has offered American support and the president’s ministers have said they are open to further international help.

It may well be needed: this is one of the hardest places on earth to fight wildfires – remote dense rainforest where civilisation and the rule of law are often hundreds of miles away.

Right now, it is impossible to tell what will be lost in the time it takes to try and extinguish the flames. Indigenous people and a truly amazing diversity of wildlife and plants share this natural habitat.

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Environmentalists say the evidence shows this crisis is manmade – some fires may have been started accidentally but many will have been deliberately set.

Clearing land like this is illegal in Brazil, but it means opening up farmland that can then be exploited. The rainforest’s natural function of storing carbon and creating oxygen is a brilliant balancing act of nature – we all need to breathe – but it doesn’t make any money.

Regardless of the financial gains to be had through from clearing the rainforest, there is also a PR game at play here. One of his ministers said on Saturday: “President Bolsonaro’s concern is evident.”

It is certainly becoming more evident.

Nobody though wants to be the person who killed the rainforest. The president knows that and it’s one of the reasons why he’s acting.

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Breaking Bad: Netflix confirms movie will be released in October | Ents & Arts News

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The title for the new Breaking Bad film has been revealed, ahead of its arrival on Netflix in October.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie sees Aaron Paul return as crystal meth cook Jesse Pinkman, who has escaped from a Nazi meth gang and is “coming to terms with his past in order to forge some kind of future”, according to the streaming service.

It is not clear whether Bryan Cranston will return as Walter White, a chemistry teacher who turns to drug dealing after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Cranston – who won an Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a drama series four times in the role – revealed the project in November following reports that show creator Vince Gilligan was working on a script.

He told NBC at the time: “I honestly have not even read the script. I have not gotten the script, I have not read the script. So there’s the question of whether or not we’ll even see Walter White in this movie.”

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. Pic: Netflix
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A scene from El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. Pic: Netflix

White was an ailing chemistry teacher when the series premiered in 2008, but over the course of its five-season run he transformed into a feared drug dealer known as Heisenberg.

The series finale in 2013 became one of the most-watched cable shows in US TV history, with plenty more glued to their screens in the UK.

Aaron Paul attends the New York premiere of Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV
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Aaron Paul returns as crystal meth cook Jesse Pinkman

Gilligan has already co-created the popular spin-off series Better Call Saul, which is set before Breaking Bad and focuses on conman turned lawyer Jimmy McGill.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie will arrive on Netflix on 11 October.

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Newlyweds killed in crash – minutes after getting married | US News

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Two newlyweds have died in a car crash in Texas – minutes after getting married.

Harley Morgan, 19, and Rhiannon Boudreaux, 20, collided with a truck after leaving their wedding venue in Texas on Friday.

The childhood sweethearts were pulling onto a five-lane highway when the truck, which was towing a trailer carrying a heavy tractor, slammed into their vehicle.

According to witnesses, their car then flipped multiple times before coming to rest in a ditch.

The couple, still in their wedding clothes, were pronounced dead at the scene by the same justice of the peace who had just married them.

“The family was right behind them. They were all going out to go to wherever they were going to have their reception,” Orange police chief Captain Keith Longlois said.

Detectives say the truck driver does not appear to be at fault, but he is cooperating with the police. He was not injured and is going to undergo drug and alcohol tests.

The groom’s mother LaShawna Morgan and sister Christina Fontenot had been travelling behind the couple when they crashed.

Mrs Morgan told KFDM: “They haven’t even been married for five minutes.

“Those two babies – the only thing that they wanted was to get married and start their life. The two of them had so many dreams.”

Ms Fontenot said the couple had been planning a larger ceremony for December.

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