Monthly Archives: February 2015


In October, the English Government’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission published a report that proposed a national programme of parenting classes, claiming that four in ten parents are doing an inadequate job raising their children. These comments responded to the Report:
Reader in Social Policy at the University of Kent Dr. Ellie Lee comments: ‘Hey, teacher, leave those parents alone!’


Breastfeed for longer and save the NHS £40m

In December, Ellie Lee gave comment to The Times about a paper on the financial benefits of breastfeeding: ‘‘Ellie Lee, an expert in parenting culture at the University of Kent, said: “It is more and more apparent that women’s bodies have come to be thought of as a means to achieve the end of cost-cutting. Both home birth and breastfeeding are now discussed this way, as practices that can ‘save the NHS money’. This is wrong — women need to be seen as individuals and the starting point should always be their right to make the choices they see as best when it comes to pregnancy, birth and raising their child.” ‘

Biologising Parenting: Neuroscience Discourse and English Social and Public Health Policy

The article referred to in the piece by Zoe Williams reported on an event held in March this year, as part of the ‘Uses and Abuses of Biology’ research project. You can read more about this project, and access articles and papers from it and March event, here: 

Nappies could contain messages to get parents talking to babies

November saw criticism of a proposal from the Behavioural Insights Team (the ‘Nudge’ Unit) for messages to be put in nappies about taking to babies. Reader in Social Policy at the University of Kent, Dr Ellie Lee commented in this article in the Independent:

‘Hey, teacher, leave those parents alone!’

In October, the English Government’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission published a report that proposed a national programme of parenting classes, claiming that four in ten parents are doing an inadequate job raising their children. These comments responded to the Report:
Reader in Social Policy at the University of Kent Dr. Ellie Lee comments: ‘Hey, teacher, leave those parents alone!’

Kent reproductive law expert cautions against use of ‘three-parent’ terminology

29th January 2015

Kent reproductive law expert Dr Kirsty Horsey welcomes a parliamentary vote on legalising mitochondrial donation techniques but cautions against use of ‘three parent’ terminology.

Commenting in response to the article, ‘Legalise three-parent babies, say Nobel winners‘ in The Times today, Dr Horsey said: ‘The Parliamentary vote on regulations to allow mitochondrial donation, potentially making the UK the world’s first country to legalise this life-changing treatment, is excellent news for carriers of mitochondrial diseases, who previously have had to leave their children’s health to chance, and cope with extreme sickness and even death of their children.

‘This is a progressive step in both science and should it happen law. Other embryo screening techniques are already used in IVF to allow some parents to give birth to healthy children free from certain serious conditions. We also allow people to use sperm or egg donors, or surrogates, for the same reason, among others.

‘We should note that this process has been thoroughly ethically reviewed, and steer clear of the ‘three parents’ or ‘three mothers’ label, remembering that this is a technique that allows women the chance to bring a healthy child into the world.’

Dr Horsey, a Senior Law Lecturer at Kent Law School, has research expertise in the regulation of human reproduction and genetic technologies. She has recently secured funding to investigate surrogacy law in practice.

Dr Horsey’s latest book, Revisiting the Regulation of Human Fertilisation and Embryology, is due for publication by Routledge in June.

Kent | Ghent Bioethics Collaborative Initiative Event Agenda

Kent | Ghent Bioethics Collaborative Initiative  24-26 February 2015        

Kent Law School | Bioethics Institute Ghent | Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Reproduction (CISoR) University of Kent

Tuesday 24.02.15

VESSEL: Film Viewing and Discussion
Eliot Lecture Theatre ELT2 18.00 – 20.00

Co-hosts: CISoR, KCLGS & CeCIL
Moderator: Sally Sheldon

VESSEL begins with a young doctor who lived by the sea, and an unlikely idea. Rebecca Gomperts, horrified by the realities created by anti-abortion law around the world, felt compelled to challenge this. Her method: to provide abortions on a ship in offshore waters.

We witness the creation of an underground network of emboldened, informed activists, working at the cutting edge of global reproductive rights, who trust women to handle abortion themselves. VESSEL is Rebecca’s story: one of a woman who heard and answered a calling, and transformed a wildly improbable idea into a global movement.

Wednesday 25.02.15                                                                                                               

Confronting Science, Law & Bioethics: Areas of Current Research I

Keynes KLT5

13.30 Pamela White Introduction: Kent|Ghent
13.40 Ellie Lee ‘After the “need for…a father”: “The welfare of the child” and “supportive parenting” in UK assisted conception clinics’
14.10 Guido Pennings ‘The welfare of the child after social freezing of oocytes’
14.40 Sally Sheldon ‘The regulatory cliff edge between contraception and abortion: The legal and moral significance of implantation’
15.10 Health Break
15.40 Veerle Provoost ‘What constitutes parenthood according to (aspiring) parents, knowing that one partner will not be/is not genetically related to their child?’
16.10 Robbie Sutton ‘The precious vessel hypothesis: ubiquity & implications of “benevolent sexism” for interventions on conception, pregnancy and childbirth’
16.40 Pamela White ‘Hidden data/hidden activities: What Canada’s ART Registry (CARTR) reveals about gestational carriers’
17.10 Darren Griffin ‘25 years of PGD’
17:40 CISoR Light Refreshments
18:30 Close


Thursday 26.02.15                                                                                                                  

Confronting Science, Law and Bioethics: Areas of Current Research II       

Keynes KLT5 

10.30 Book Panel Kirsty Horsey: Revisiting the Regulation of Human Fertilisation and EmbryologyKirsty Horsey, Antony Blackburn-Starza, Katia Neofytou, Karen Devine, Pamela White

Working Lunch

Brian Simpson Room KLS Eliot Extension

12.00 Robin Mackenzie, Veerle Provoost, PG/LLM student representativesCollaborative opportunities for KLS | Ghent |CISoR

·       Student Research/Research areas of interest

·       Research funding opportunities, joint ventures

·       Student/teaching joint collaborations

·       Planning for Kent/Ghent visit in April, 2015

·       Focus on Death and Dying, Genetic Testing…

·       Summary and Conclusion

14:00 Close



New research suggests that chickens experienced fewer gross genomic changes than other birds as they evolved from their dinosaur ancestor

CISoR director Professor Darren Griffin appeared on BBC radio 4 Today programme (as well as the BBC World Service), talking about his work on avian genomes and how change in them can lead to reproductive isolation. In the most recent work, Professor Griffin described his laboratory’s research on chromosomal change and how, of the genomes they have analysed, the chicken and turkey most closely resembles the dinosaur ancestor of birds.

Published in the journal BMC genomics the paper was led by Michael Romanov in collaboration with Drs Denis Larkin and Marta Farre of the Royal Veterinary College


The Kent research is part of a study by a consortium of leading scientists into avian or bird genomes, which tell a story of species evolution published in the December issue of the popular journal Science. The living descendants of dinosaurs were thought to have undergone a rapid burst of evolution after most dinosaur species were wiped out. The detailed family tree of modern birds has however confused biologists for centuries and the molecular details of how birds arrived at the spectacular biodiversity of more than 10,000 species is barely known.

Professor Griffin explained that bird genomes are distinctive in that they have more tiny microchromosomes than any other vertebrate group. These small packages of gene-rich material are thought to have been present in their dinosaur ancestors. The team found that the chicken has the most similar overall chromosome pattern to its avian dinosaur ancestor. The researchers also found that the fastest rate of change had occurred in the zebra finch and budgerigar, consistent with more rapid speciation events in songbirds and their relatives.

Professor Griffin pointed out, to around 5 million listeners, that features such as birdsong evolved largely as reproductive strategies to find a mate.

FISH Image

DNA hybridization experiment under a fluorescence microscope showing the relationship between a section of ostrich and chicken genomes.


In November of 2014, immediately following Approval by the University of Kent Senate, the Centre for interdisciplinary Studies of Reproduction (CISoR) has its opening event. A starter of chicken liver pate or roasted pepper salad was followed by a welcome by Philippe De Wilde, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research. Professors Darren Griffin (School of Biosciences) and Sally Sheldon (Kent Law School) Director and Deputy Director of CISoR welcomed the guests and shared their thoughts on reproduction and the significance of interdisciplinary study. Guest were then treated to a dinner of glazed salmon fillet or vegetable Jalfrezi after which Drs Grant Walling (JSR Genetics) and Alan Thornhill (Illumina Inc) shared their thoughts on reproduction and feeding a growing population as well as the role of CISoR from numerous vantage points. The evening was then given over to a series of fun activities including:

  • When you realized you were pregnant (an adapted game of roulette)
  • Fertilize your egg (a game of archery)
  • Guess the weight of the baby (or at least a reasonable facsimile)
  • Sperm racing (like horse racing but with a twist)

….…. before being treated to dessert. The members of CISoR are extremely grateful to the BBSRC, Illumina Inc, JSR Genetics, Andrology Solutions, Research Instruments, The Bridge IVF Centre and Fairweather’s Solicitors for sponsoring the event and providing the raffle prizes.


“Three parent IVF” was discussed throughout the meeting




Dr Alan Thornhill was uniquely placed to speak on the various roles of CISoR after having been employed in academia (he is also an honorary Reader with the University), in private and NHS IVF clinics (including the Bridge Centre and Guys’ Hospital) and most recently with Illumina Inc.

Fertilisation Game

Fertilisation Game 1

The fertilization game

Sperm racing

Sperm racing


Having children was likened to a game of Roulette