In the latest episode of BioTalk, Rebecca Taylor and Chelsea Zimmerman give an update on “three-parent IVF” (aka “midochondrial donation or replacement”) and genetic engineering, what it means for our human future and what you can do about it.
Or, if you prefer, you can listen to audio only:
There is a very real possibility that the United States may follow the UK’s lead here. The FDA is once again revisiting their policy on three-parent IVF here in the States, and have asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a consensus committee to evaluate the technology.
As part of their evaluation, the IOM Consensus Committee is holding open meetings for public comment on March 31, April 1 and May 19. If you are in the DC area, please consider attending and making your voice heard!
If you are unable to attend, you can submit feedback to the committee here by clicking on “Provide FEEDBACK on this project” or you can email MitoEthics@nas.edu. That’s what we plan on doing; I hope you will join us (Rebecca has posted a sample letter that you can use).
At the National Right to Life Convention last summer Chelsea caught up with Dr. David Prentice, former Senior Fellow for Life Sciences at Family Research Council now Vice President and Research Director with the Charlotte Lozier Institute, and chatted with him a bit about the current status of the great “stem cell debate”, how scientists are tinkering with human life these days and what, if any, positive signs he sees for trying to stop this train at some point.
The latest newsletter for the Center for Genetics and Society is out.
Lots of good stuff in here — especially about the recent decision by Facebook and Apple to offer their female employees a $20,000 benefit to freeze their eggs for later use with in vitro fertilization.
• Couples are flocking to Thailand, the last place in Asia where sex-selective IVF is available.
• The Medical Board of Australia has suspended the medical registration of Dr Philip Nitschke, aka: Australia’s “Dr. Death”, following allegations that he counseled a man who was not terminally ill to take his own life. The board found that he posed “a serious risk” to the health and safety of the public.
• A 64 year old Chinese woman had twins through IVF in 2010. She holds the record as the oldest mother in China, having given birth at 60.
• T Maureen L. Condic explains why reprogrammed cells are not the same as embryos. Namely, they lack the ability to complete an organized development. In other words, if they were to be placed in a womb, such stem cells would create tumors, not a fetus.
• Jessica Cussins writes at the Center for Genetics and Society about the “cultural relevance” of the new Johnny Depp movie Transcendence. It’s ambiguity, she says, makes the subject matter compelling and may be what the movie gets “absolutely right” about the real-world tension created by radical biotechnologies.
• Speaking of Transcendence, if you missed it, be sure to check out the latest episode of BioTalk for more transhumanist images in popular movies and television shows. If nothing else, they help generate a conversation worth having.
• A British woman is suing the American couple she agreed to become a surrogate for after they allegedly backed out of the deal because she is carrying twins. The couple only wanted one child and demanded that she abort one of the fetuses She refused and wants to put the twins up for adoption.
• The International Medical Travel Journal reports that Cancun is attracting attention as a hot destination for the discerning international fertility tourist – seeking in-vitro fertilization (IVF), egg donation, and surrogacy services.
• The Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, famous for cloning “Dolly” the sheep, lost a bid to get a US patent protection on their cloned animal. The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that, instead of being a “product of human ingenuity,” Dolly and other cloned animals like her are just genetic copies of naturally occurring beings.
• Twin births are on the rise in the United States. Now, one out of every 30 babies born is a twin. This increase is largely due to an increase in infertility treatments like in-vitro fertilization and “ovulation stimulation medications.”
Transhumanist ideas are often spread in notable science/tech journals, magazines and even some conferences. And today’s rapidly-progressing technological world is making their goals more and more plausible.
However, as Rebecca put it recently, “To grease the wheels of the transhumanist technological utopia it will take getting a generation on board with radically changing the nature of humanity.”
That’s where the world of popular entertainment comes in.
In this episode of BioTalk we discuss how transhumanism is portrayed in some recent movies and television shows.
What we see is a mixed bag. Some seem to take the subject more seriously, showing the negative consequences of trying to enhance the human race beyond our nature. For others, the radical altering of an otherwise healthy human body is not only largely unquestioned, it’s sometimes portrayed as an act of patriotism.
However its portrayed, for good or for ill, we should use these forms of entertainment as an opportunity to have a serious conversation about our transhumanist future. Especially now such a future is not as far fetched as we once thought it was.
This has been a recurring theme in Rebecca’s writing lately. A few examples:
• Researchers have discovered that instead of simply being an extra copy of each of the genes on chromosome 21, trisomy 21 has an effect on the expression of genes on other chromosomes. Rebecca Taylor observes how this new discovery has implications for the future of human genetic engineering.
• Judie Brown explains why personhood described as being “from the moment of conception” no longer applies to every human being thanks to modern reproductive technology.
• A new app-controlled device for people with hearing loss also improves normal hearing and conjures “images of a bionic future”.
So, milk from a cloned cow is unnatural and unsafe, but injecting a human being with stem cells from their own (dead) clone is positive scientific progress?
What’s with society’s split personality when it comes to genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? Why are we going to great lengths to regulate and raise awareness about the use of GMO in our food supply, while largely ignoring the genetic modification of human beings?
Rebecca Taylor and Chelsea Zimmerman discuss in the latest episode of BioTalk!
After 35 years, IVF is still a vast experiment. An experiment on children, millions of whom pay for it with their lives. Even those who are lucky enough to have survived the process are paying for it in other ways: By having agreater risk of developing birth defects or spending their lives desperate to know where they came from, who they look like, whether they have any biological siblings and sometimes even why they’ve developed some genetic disease because they’ve had half of their identity deliberately withheld from them.
In the latest episode of BioTalk in which Rebecca Taylor and Chelsea Zimmerman discuss the ironic legacy of IVF: that couples are so desperate for a child to love and yet concern what’s good and right for the child himself is actually put last.