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Making an Impact: Journal of Law and the Biosciences Scores High

The Journal of Law and the Biosciences is the first fully open-access, peer-reviewed, legal journal focused on the advances at the intersection of law and the biosciences. JLB is co-edited by Profs. I. Glenn Cohen (Harvard Law School), Nita Farahany (Duke University School of Law), and Hank Greely (Stanford Law School). JLB contains original and response articles, essays, and commentaries on a wide range of topics, including bioethics, neuroethics, genetics, reproductive technologies, stem cells, enhancement, patent law, and food and drug regulation. JLB is published as one volume with three issues per year, with new articles posted online on an ongoing basis.

The Journal of Law and the Biosciences recently received a journal impact factor of 2.431, making it one of the most cited, influential journals in its fields. In fact, JLB ranks 14 out of 148 law journals and is ranked third out of sixteen in the areas of both medical ethics and legal medicine.

Which articles have made a big impact?

The JLB editorial team is grateful to its many contributors for their work and dedication to producing relevant, timely, important work in the fields of medicine, ethics, and law. Here are a few of our favorite widely read and cited articles:


Mitochondrial replacement techniques and Mexico’s rule of law: on the legality of the first maternal spindle transfer case

Cesar and Palacios-Gonzalez and Maria de Jesus Medina-Arellano


News about the first baby born after a mitochondrial replacement technique (MRT; specifically maternal spindle transfer) broke on September 27, 2016 and, in a matter of hours, went global. Of special interest was the fact that the mitochondrial replacement procedure happened in Mexico. One of the scientists behind this world first was quoted as having said that he and his team went to Mexico to carry out the procedure because, in Mexico, there are no rules. In this paper, we explore Mexico’s rule of law in relation to mitochondrial replacement techniques and show that, in fact, certain instances of MRTs are prohibited at the federal level and others are prohibited at the state level. According to our interpretation of the law, the scientists behind this first successful MRT procedure broke federal regulations regarding assisted fertilization research.

Other women’s wombs: uterus transplants and gestational surrogacy

John A. Robertson


The birth of a child after uterus transplant from a living donor in Sweden in October, 2013 has spurred reproductive and transplant physicians in Europe and North America to investigate whether uterus transplants, from living or cadaveric donors, will be a safe and effective therapy for women with uterine insufficiency. While progress with uterus transplant depends on medical factors, there are also important ethical and legal concerns. Uterus transplant is essential for women without access to surrogacy. It may also be sought by infertile women who dislike surrogacy. This article examines medical, ethical, legal, and policy issues that arise with womb transplant, including the role of surrogacy policies that make them necessary. The conclusion is that there is a clear ethical path for either surrogacy or uterus transplant to be used by women with uterine insufficiency.

Mitochondrial replacement therapy: the UK and US regulatory landscapes

Rosa J. Castro

From the article:

This note discusses the UK regulatory framework for MRT and compares it to the US landscape. It focuses on the regulatory and ethical discussions in both countries to find some lessons for debates about editing human germ cells.3 The first section introduces some biological characteristics of mitochondria and their implications for mitochondrial diseases, medical interventions and ethical and regulatory questions. The second section discusses the regulatory pathway leading to the adoption of the UK 2015 regulations and the main features of the approved text. The third section considers the current regulatory landscape in the USA. The fourth section discusses some regulatory and bioethical questions raised by MRT.

Forensic bitemark identification: weak foundations, exaggerated claims

Michael J. Saks, Thomas Albright, Thomas L Bohan et al.

From the abstract:

Several forensic sciences, especially of the pattern-matching kind, are increasingly seen to lack the scientific foundation needed to justify continuing admission as trial evidence. Indeed, several have been abolished in the recent past. A likely next candidate for elimination is bitemark identification… This article describes the (legal) basis for the rise of bitemark identification and the (scientific) basis for its impending fall. The article explains the general logic of forensic identification, the claims of bitemark identification, and reviews relevant empirical research on bitemark identification—highlighting both the lack of research and the lack of support provided by what research does exist. The rise and possible fall of bitemark identification evidence has broader implications—highlighting the weak scientific culture of forensic science and the law’s difficulty in evaluating and responding to unreliable and unscientific evidence.

In vitro gametogenesis: just another way to have a baby?

Sonia M. Suter


Advances in science have made possible the derivation of reproductively viable gametes in vitro from mice. The research on human cells suggests that in vitro gametogenesis (“IVG”) with reproductive potential may one day be possible with humans. This technology would allow same-sex couples to have children who are biologically related to both of them; allow single individuals to procreate without the genetic contribution of another individual; and facilitate “multiplex” parenting, where groups of more than two individuals procreate together, producing children who are the genetic progeny of them all. IVG could also make prenatal selection a much more refined and comprehensive process than it is today, allowing for the selection of embryos on the basis of multiple factors. Evaluating IVG under a relational autonomy framework, this article argues that the potential benefits or harms of IVG depend on the social, scientific, and legal context in which it is situated and how it is used. It concludes that IVG is preferable to some forms of assisted reproductive technologies in certain instances and substantially more problematic in others. Finally, it suggests that its capacity to “perfect” prenatal selection in many ways exacerbates the problematic aspects of increasingly expansive prenatal selection.

Genetic citizenship: DNA testing and the Israeli Law of Return

Ian V. McGonigle,  Lauren W. Herman


The Israeli State recently announced that it may begin to use genetic tests to determine whether potential immigrants are Jewish or not. This development would demand a rethinking of Israeli law on the issue of the definition of Jewishness. In this article, we discuss the historical and legal context of secular and religious definitions of Jewishness and rights to immigration in the State of Israel. We give a brief overview of different ways in which genes have been regarded as Jewish, and we discuss the relationship between this new use of genetics and the society with which it is co-produced. In conclusion, we raise several questions about future potential impacts of Jewish genetics on Israeli law and society.

Submit your work to JLB

The Journal of Law and the Biosciences is always looking to publish new, exciting work. JLB encourages the submission of original manuscripts, responses, and essays devoted to the examination of issues related to the intersection of law and biosciences. JLB welcomes submission of varying length, with a theoretical, empirical, practical, or policy-oriented focus.

Learn more about the kind of work JLB publishes and how to submit.


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