New Baby Boomer

When I stumbled upon this article, I was reminded of the IVF procedure in Mendel’s Dwarf. The article details a new method of “cloning” and how this could improve genetic research and offer otherwise infertile families a chance to have children. Some positive snippets:

-“[The process is] far more efficient than the Dolly technique, with fewer side effects, which makes it more acceptable for human use.”

-“we have the technology that can actually produce a child.”

-“although the technology for reproductive cloning in humans doesn’t exist, with this breakthrough we now have a working technology whereby anyone, young or old, fertile or infertile, straight or gay can pass on their genes to a child by using just a few skin cells,”

While I’m not looking to have children (like them, don’t want any), I find myself excited about this discovery, excited for those who want kids but biologically can’t. It’s also fun to think about how a story like Mendel’s Dwarf would be different if this technology were used.

However, matters could easily be complicated:
“These offspring are chimeras – a genetic mix of two or more individuals – because some of their cells derive from the embryo and some from the skin cell…’if we had a few skin cells from Albert Einstein, or anyone else in the world, you could have a child that is say 10 per cent or 70 per cent Albert Einstein by just injecting a few of their cells into an embryo,'”

Reading that, the notion of “designing” children (a little Crick, a dash of Disney, a BUNCH of Brad Pitt or whatever) is even less far-fetched and scarier. I mean, what would stop a person from taking a sample of some famous individual’s skin (handshake or…otherwise?) and using that to create (effectively) the offspring of that famous person? Would the “mating” behaviors of humans be cast off with an artificial means of sexual reproduction? Sure, you still need a host to carry the child, but how long will that last?

-Matt Walker

~ by th3flatline on April 15, 2008.

One Response to “New Baby Boomer”

  1. I find it interesting to juxtapose your excitement about this discovery with the quotation from Robert Lanza: “It’s unethical and unsafe, but someone may be doing it today.”

    I, like you, find this new procedure to be highly promising, not only in terms of its potential to produce stem cells as was mentioned in the article, but also because of its potential to allow infertile people to have their own children.

    You mention the relevance of Mendel’s Dwarf in your comment and I would like to elaborate on that point. As we all know now, Hugo was incapable of impregnating Jean because of a defect of his sperm. The strain that this placed on their relationship was obvious: feelings of inadequacy, Jean looking elsewhere, a violent Hugo lashing out in frustration and anger, and, most importantly, the eventual murder of Adam. Would any of this have happened had Jean and Hugo been able to pass their own genes along to a child? From the description that “you could have a child that is say 10 per cent or 60 per cent Albert Einstein,” it is feasible to imagine that Jean’s fertilized egg could contribute 50% of the genomic material while Hugo’s engineered skin cells could contribute the other 50%, thus yielding a child that is (mostly) their own. Without this stressor, would Hugo still have been violent? If not, would Jean have ever left him for Benedict?

    These are all very nebulous questions, much like the ethical issues that this method of artificial reproduction (I use this term because I find it difficult to call this cloning) raises. I think the ultimate question is: are the danger of “designer babies” and the other issues generally associated with cloning outweighed by the desire of couples to have biologically related offspring? I would have to reply in the affirmative.

    -Chris Adkins

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