Theoretically ... Saliva testing/ Bioethics and cloning/ Using animal organs/ Living in space

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Genetic testing, good or bad? It's now being used to investigate claims by would-be immigrants to Germany who say they have family already living in the country. The foreign ministry says that the saliva-based tests are being used "on a trial basis" to combat abuse of visa rules by Turkish and Iraqi applicants at the German embassy in Turkey - a focal point for Kurdish refugees who want to go to Germany.

The saliva samples are compared with specimens from those claimed to be relatives in Germany, officials said. The process can take several weeks, but a spokesman said it can help as well as hinder: "It can help would-be immigrants who have no proper papers due to the administrative vacuum in northern Iraq prove their case for a visa."

Looks like another place Richard Seed won't be able to go to get cloning done: Japan is setting up a committee to discuss the idea of putting in place a legal ban on human cloning. Donating eggs is already illegal in Japan. A senior Japanese scientist said the whole subject is "a fundamental issue in bioethics" and that an "open and nationwide debate" is needed. However, the committee's meetings will be closed to the public, so quite how open that debate can be is unclear.

Meanwhile in the US, where they seem to have a more pragmatic view of things, a recent poll has found that more than 75 per cent of people would consider a xenotransplant (from an animal into a human) for a loved one, "if the organ or tissue required was not available from a human". Fewer than 5 per cent would rule out the idea altogether. However, opposition was greatest among those who were best informed about the issue - covered in detail in the last issue of the science journal Nature. And of course, Americans haven't had the Tamworth Two, though they did like the film Babe ...

Living on Mars and living on the International Space Station (ISS) might be similar existences, if a project called TransHab comes to fruition. The design is an inflatable module covered with an outer layer of Kevlar (the bulletproof material) and foam, in order to absorb the impact of micrometeorites and space junk, while the interior contains the life support equipment. According to New Scientist, the idea is being touted as a solution for life (human) on Mars, and it could be tried out on the space station. It would have more than twice the volume yet half the weight of the competing design for the ISS.