The latest episode of BioTalk is with Dr. David Prentice of the Lozier Insititute on the world’s first GMO baby born this summer using the “3-parent IVF” method called “maternal spindle transfer”.
If not for the Aderholt amendment to the 2015 omnibus spending bill, which prohibits the Food and Drug Administration from entertaining any submission that proposes “research in which a human embryo is intentionally created or modified to include heritable genetic modification”, that baby would have likely been manufactured in the United States.
Preventing mitochondrial disease is a good and noble goal, but this is not the way to go about doing it. Allowing germ-line modification for mitochondrial replacement to proceed sets a dangerous precedent and may only be the beginning.
3-parent IVF is already being used in the Ukraine, not to treat mitochondrial disease, but general fertility treatment.
Let’s keep human genetic experimentation out of our country!
The presidential election is obviously important, but even if you’re one of the many people this time around who find yourself in the unfortunate position of feeling like you can’t vote for either major party presidential candidate, go to the polls and help elect good people to your state legislatures, Congress and other local positions. In many ways your votes there are even more important than your vote for president — in terms of actually having an impact on legislation.
Generally speaking, genetic testing is ethically neutral. In fact, in some cases it may be medically, and therefore ethically, necessary.
But, whether you’re getting tested for legitimate health reasons or just to find out “who you are” and where you came from, you should be aware that once your DNA leaves your body you have zero control over what happens to it.
This is important to understand because there is a lot of money to be made on harvestable biological material.
A recent example of this is the news that the consumer genetic testing company, 23andMe, has been selling access to its enormous DNA database to more than 13 drug companies.
One, Genentech, anted up $10 million for a look at the genes of people with Parkinson’s disease.
That means 23andMe is monetizing DNA rather the way Facebook makes money from our “likes.” What’s more, it gets its customers to pay for the privilege.
But consumer genetic testing companies aren’t the only concern. Rebecca noted two cases in the past involving patients whose blood/tissue samples, submitted for cancer treatment, were later developed into commercial cell lines for research without their consent:
As Rebecca noted, John Moore brought his case to the California Supreme Court, which ruled that a hospital patient’s discarded blood and tissue samples are not his personal property and that individuals do not have rights to a share in the profits earned from commercial products or research derived from their cells.
Michael Crichton’s novel Next is based on Moore’s case.
Once again, this is not meant to dissuade you from genetic testing, per se, even just out of curiosity about your ancestry, but to help you be a better informed consumer/patient.
Questions worth asking before submitting any genetic material: What is the scope of the research; How long will your samples will be kept; Will they be used for further testing?
Scientists love to give themselves “ethical guidelines” — only to “reevaluate” and revise those guidelines when they are no longer convenient.
A perfect recent example of this came this May when scientists in two separate studies reported keeping embryos alive, healthy and developing for 12-13 days. In both studies the embryos grew autonomously and began processes that lead to organ development.
This was significant because for decades international policy has limited embryo research to the first two weeks of development. Until now there had never been reports of anyone cultivating in vitro human embryos past seven to nine days.
Now scientists are calling for an extension of the 14-day rule.
The authors hope that the updated guidelines will allay various ethical concerns, and avoid the need for strict government regulations that could impede the progress of science.
“Self-regulation is the best form of regulation,” says Charles Murry, a member of the committee that updated the guidelines, and a bioengineer at the University of Washington in Seattle. “The biomedical community is best poised to strike the balance between rapid progress and safe, ethical research practice.”
The sad thing is, even when governments do decide to form policy regulating research, it’s often only the scientists they want to hear from.
In the latest episode of BioTalk, Dr. David Prentice and I discuss the need for more than just scientists to be involved in public policy discussions regarding human-embryo experimentation.
(If either embed does not work click for direct links to: video, audio)
The conversation has become too quiet
Yes, when forming policy, it is important to hear from “the experts”, but you also need to hear from everyone else who might be a stakeholder. And when we start talking about human genetics and the future of the human race we’re all stakeholders — and we should not neglect or be afraid to speak up.
Cloning and embryo experimentation may not be major news these days, but that doesn’t mean it’s not being done.
Unfortunately, the conversation has become too quiet lately, especially among pro-lifers.
10 years ago the “great stem cell debate” was raging, now all pro-life news and information I see is almost exclusively about abortion and euthanasia. Rarely do I see anything about cloning come across my feeds, and when I do it’s often accompanied by outdated arguments about embryonic vs. adult stem cells, etc…
I want to again remind you of something Zachery Gappa said last year in an article encouraging pro-lifers to take some time to learn more about bioethics:
Pro-lifers will lose the next stage of this argument unless they become more informed. The graphic abortions we have known over the past few decades will soon be largely a thing of the past, but we may be killing more unborn children than ever before.
As Dr. Prentice pointed out, “We always talk about the horrific loss of life in abortion in the U.S. since 1973, and we’re up to somewhere around 55 million young lives lost. I think we’re probably in that same neighborhood with human embryo research and the destruction of those human lives.”
And this research is roughly 10 years younger than legalized abortion.
The Brave New World may soon be upon us, whether we like it or not, but let’s not watch it advance without putting up a fight!
Last year the restaurant chain Chipotle made major headlines for announcing that all(ish) of its food would be “GMO free”. They actually received a heavy amount of criticism for this move, nevertheless, it’s safe to say they wouldn’t have done it if there weren’t a growing number of the general public wary of the “health risks” of so-called “Frankenfoods.”
For a society that cares so much about genetically-modified organisms in their food supply, you would think we’d be a little more cautious about the genetic modification of people.
After nearly a year of evaluation, last month the National Institutes of Medicine recommended that the FDA approve three-parent embryo techniques for use in IVF in the United States.
In this episode of BioTalk, Chelsea spoke with Dr. David Prentice about what, if anything, is being done to stem the tide of human genetic engineering in the United States. And if there’s any hope for tighter, more permanent restrictions in the future.
Embryo custody battles are on the rise. Except, legally speaking, they aren’t really “custody” battles — in the traditional sense of the term. They’re more like property disputes.
In St. Louis, Missouri Right to Life has gotten together with a few other pro-life organizations to file an amicus brief in the case of McQueen v. Gadberry in Missouri Court of Appeals.
The pro-life groups are working on behalf of Jalesia McQueen, who wants to implant and give birth to the remaining two embryos that she and her ex-husband made while they were still married. She is appealing a Trial Court ruling, which ordered that the embryos must stay frozen unless and until both parties can agree on what to do with them. They also ruled that the embryonic children are marital property — though of a “unique type,” because what one party does with them in the future (the mother) may impose unwanted obligations on the other (the father).
In the latest episode of BioTalk, Chelsea spoke with Jim Cole, who is the General Cousel for Missouri Right to Life and who was responsible for editing much of the brief.
The constant theme throughout is what is in the best interest of the (embryonic) children involved. And that is the ironic legacy of IVF: that couples are so desperate for children to love and yet concern what’s good and right for the children themselves is actually put last.
The Trial Court ruled against Jalesia McQueen obtaining and implanting her own embryos citing her ex-husband’s “right not to procreate.” Which is, of course, ludicrous, since procreation has already taken place.
Science establishes — and Missouri Law agrees — that a human being begins at fertilization. “Once procreation has occurred and human life has begun,” the brief states, “the rights and interests at issue can no longer be framed solely as the procreative or reproductive interests of the parents.”
America has a sordid history of defining certain classes of human beings as property. Let’s not go down that road again.
In this episode of BioTalk, Chelsea spoke with chemistry and physics instructor, Dr. Stacy Trasancos.
Stacy reminds us that it really doesn’t take any undercover investigating to find proof that abortion providers have been supplying scientists with aborted fetal body parts — sometimes even whole, intact, live fetuses — for research, much of which, like Planned Parenthood, receives funding from the Federal Government.
One doesn’t have to just take the Center for Medical Progress’ word for it. This information is and has been widely available in scientific literature dating back decades. Trasancos gives a few specific examples:
Also available on Soundcloud, if you’re into that sort of thing:
“These (Planned Parenthood videos) are but strokes on a broader canvas,” Stacy notes. For decades the use of fetal material has been a research tactic that is 1) considered ethical and legal, 2) coordinated across continents if necessary, 3) funded by governments and private foundations, 4) demanded by industry, and 5) applauded by the scientific community.
“Planned Parenthood,” Trasancos has written, “could shut down completely tomorrow, but the use of aborted fetuses and fetal body parts will not stop.”
This goes far beyond Planned Parenthood. On a larger scale, it is actually a “controversy” of scientific/medical ethics. Tissue from elective abortions should not be being used in scientific research in the first place.
Public outcry is key. So far the CMP videos have done a good job of rousing some outrage over the suppliers of fetal body parts. That’s why I’m glad some of the later videos shows the buyer’s perspective and just how widespread this problem is.
“We’re working with almost like triple digit number clinics (not all PP) and we still need more,” said Cate Dyer, CEO of StemExpress. Which brings up a concern Rebecca and I will discuss in the next episode: as the scientific community continues to drive the demand for aborted fetal body parts — what happens when the demand outweighs the supply?
On the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009, Dr. Oz declared that the stem cell debate was effectively “over”. He explained that embryonic stem cells were harder to control and touted the then brand new discovery of induced pluripotent (Ips) stem cells.
I know many in the pro-life movement who agree with Dr. Oz’ assessment and, in many ways, he was right. In terms of regenerative medicine, embryonic stem cells continue to be out-performed by their adult counterparts. And even Ips cells, as relatively new as the research is compared to ESCR, are showing much more promise.
That being the case, coupled with the fact that many high-profile scientists have abandoned cloning/ESCR for Ips cells, and certainly after the announcement a few years ago that one of the largest biotech companies in the US, and the first to start trials using embryonic derived stem cells in human patients was dumping its embryonic stem cell research program altogether, it’s tempting to think that the stem cell debate is, in fact, over.
But I’m afraid we may have gotten a little too ahead of ourselves here.
In the latest episode of BioTalk, Rebecca Taylor and I discuss why the stem cell debate is far from over.
The explosive Center for Medical Progress videos have exposed the market in aborted baby tissue/body parts to the general public and put heavy pressure on State and Federal politicians to defund and investigate PP for their role as a fetal tissue supplier.
But let’s not stop there!
We need to stop using tissue from abortion in research. The longer this remains a common, legal practice, the more the scientific community drives the demand for aborted fetal body parts — and what happens when the demand outweighs the supply?
In one video, Cate Dyer, CEO of StemExpress, already admitted that they were working with “almost like triple digit number clinics (not all PP) and we still need more.”
We should be treating this much like we treated the embryonic stem cell debate 10 years ago — putting pressure on 1. lawmakers to defund and outlaw this research and 2. scientists to pursue ethical alternatives. If we do not, we risk ending up with a medical system that is inextricably linked to the abortion industry.
No, this is not a joke or an onion parody. A man in Russia has actually volunteered to receive the world’s first human head transplant (or body transplant, depending on how you look at it).
Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from a rare form of spinal muscular dystrophy, recently met with Italian Dr. Sergio Canavero who has agreed to perform the 36-hour operation. The procedure will also require Spiridonov to be put in a medically induced coma for 3-4 weeks.
Spiridonov and Canavero were recently in the United States — where Canavero has said he wants to do the surgery — presenting their case to the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS).
In the latest episode of BioTalk, Chelsea Zimmerman and Rebecca Taylor talk about the ethical considerations of this and and other extremely invasive medical procedures, our tendency to treat mental diseases as physical diseases, recent comments from the Vatican on plastic surgery and how it relates to transhumanism and the importance of “bodily integrity.”