Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, June 19, 2017

Ultra-Commercializing Motherhood -- Darwin Spinning in his Grave

"We hope to begin cases [in Canada] within the next few weeks.This technique is a new platform. How far it  can go, I really cannot imagine."
"When the world's first heart transplant occurred in South Africa, the community was afraid the doctor had transferred the soul of one person into another."
"[The first babies born from IVF (in vitro fertilization) in 1978 were considered] an unnatural abomination."
"We have the world's first successful [three parent] birth. Of course there is need for long-term study of that baby, and other cases. [However], we had twenty years of research before moving to the first case study."
Dr. John Zhang, New Hope Fertility Clinic, Manhattan
Dr John Zhang with the world’s first baby born using DNA from three people. The baby is reported to be healthy
Dr John Zhang with the world’s first baby born using DNA from three people. The baby is reported to be healthy. Photograph: New Hope Fertility Center

"This is unethical, irresponsible and exploitative."
"The chance of failure with IVF for women over the age of 45 is 98 percent. At best (and this is unlikely), this experimental intervention might reduce the chance of failure to 70 percent."
"This is about selling false hope."
Dr. Francoise Baylis, bioethicist, Dalhousie University

"We know that we're very close [medical science] to being able to make a gamete out of any type of body cell."
"Right now we make gametes naturally -- men make sperm, women make eggs. We put them together, magic happens, and you have a baby."
"Here we're starting to understand reproduction at a cellular level. The next step is to say, well, if I can do this in an egg cell, why can't I make an egg cell? Why can't I make a sperm cell? Why do you have to be female to make an egg?"
"There are big-picture questions, and what Zhang's done is give us another step on the ladder to attacking those big-picture questions."
"We fixed this person's infertility -- we change their microcellular structure, and that child goes off and reproduces. What is it they pass on? And what is it their children pass on?"
"It's accelerating our evolutionary process in a completely unprecedented way."
Dr. Roger Pierson, infertility expert, University of Saskatchewan
Mitochondrial diseases can be passed from mothers to their children in DNA.
JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

The technique is described as a spindle nuclear transfer. The first baby conceived through this new technique was born last September. The baby's mother had lost two other children; she was a carrier of a progressive neurological disorder led by a mutation in her mitochondrial DNA; a lethal-to-survival condition for a newborn. Dr. Zhang performed a mitochondrial replacement using the mother's egg in a laboratory in the United States. The embryo transfer took place in Mexico to evade U.S. laws where the procedure is banned.

The process proceeds with the removal of the nucleus of the mother's egg containing the maternal DNA, then injecting it into the egg of a young donor. The donor egg which has been stripped of its own nucleus possesses a younger mitochondria. And since this is the mechanism whereby energy is provided to every living body cell, the mitochondria of older women have a decreased energy-output, less able to fuel cell division post-fertilization to achieve pregnancy.

The new egg, 'reconstituted' is then ready to be fertilized with the sperm of the male partner at which time the embryo that results is transferred to the older mother's womb. And in the best-case scenario, which is what the procedure aims for, in due time a healthy baby results. Dr. Zhang's creative new methodology exchanges nuclear contents to turn the donor egg into a 98.9 percent genetic match to the mother, leaving a less-than-significant DNA contribution of 1.1 from the donor.

Doctors carrying out treatment
The mitochondrial transfer technique is aimed at those with a high risk of passing on debilitating diseases. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

This startling new direction in altering a would-be mother's egg to expunge the reality of a devastating mitochondrial disease being transmitted to children while still retaining the gross bulk of the mother's DNA to distinguish her children as her very own is understandably viewed with suspicion if not downright alarm by many in the medical community. Yet another addition to the already-lucrative fertility industry, Dr. Zhang's method boasts a capacity to "reverse the effect of age" on human eggs.

Among those viewing this technique with alarm are those who speak of the hubris in medical science out-running nature's formula for reproduction resulting in fears of deliberately designed genetic enhancement; "designer babies", with the technology utilized to 'edit' eggs and sperm of their less-favoured traits and substitute them with more elegant versions. Apart from which the long-range effects of how these genetic manipulations will eventually play out in the future through following generations represents a worrisome potential into the unknown.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet