Bioethics

Three Parent Babies Approved By British Parliament. Hooray!

Naturally the usual bioluddites are eager to stop progress.

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Three parent baby technique
DailyMail

Some women suffer from infertility because the mitochondria in their eggs are defective. In addition, one in 2,500 children are born with diseases associated with broken mitochondria. Mitochondria are the tiny power plants that fuel the activity of all the body's cells and are inherited directly from a baby's mother. Mitochondria have their own small genomes outside of the cellular nuclei where most genes reside. Researchers in the United Kingdom have sought permission to treat infertility and prevent by replacing defective mitochondria using those from donated eggs.

To cure infertility and to prevent children from being born with mitochondrial diseases, fertility specialists are proposing to implement two procedures: (1) maternal spindle transfer and (2) pro-nuclear transfer. In maternal spindle transfer genes are taken from nucleus the egg of the prospective mother whose mitochondria are defective and installed into a donor egg with healthy mitochondria from which nuclear genes have been removed. The reconstituted egg is then fertilized. In pro-nuclear transfer involves taking nuclear material from a fertilized egg before the nuclei of the sperm and egg have fused and installing it into a donated enucleated egg.

Basically, something like 0.1 percent of the DNA in a child born via this technique will have come from the donor and such kids will not pass along the genetic defect to their own progeny.

Mitochondria replacement was actually first pioneered in 2001 in the United States by fertility specialist Jacques Cohen at St. Barnabas Hospital in New Jersey. Some 20 children were born using this technique before the FDA banned it. One of the 20 children was later diagnosed with severe autism, but it is unknown what role, if any, the technique may have played in that outcome.

Naturally the usual bioluddites are eager to stop progress. The Center for Genetics and Society located in Berkeley, California sent around a press release decrying the parliamentary action:

The UK House of Commons voted today to clear the way for fertility clinics to use controversial germline engineering techniques to create embryos with DNA from three people. If also approved by the House of Lords, the bill would enact an exception to the UK's law against inheritable genetic modification, which is also prohibited by more than 40 other countries and several international human rights treaties. Many questions have been raised about the health risks of the techniques, and about the policy implications of crossing the long-held bright line against human germline modification.

"We believe the House of Commons has made a serious mistake, which we hope does not have dire consequences," said CGS Executive Director Marcy Darnovsky, PhD.

Fortunately there are more sensible bioethicists who argue that the technique is ethical and should go forward. New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan analogizes mitochondria to batteries and writes in Wired

…some say mitochondrial transplants cross a bright ethical line. Changing genes in the lungs of people with immune disease or in the eyes of people with macular degeneration may fix the broken body part but, critics point out, the change is not passed on to future generations. When you change the mitochondria in an egg with a transplant, you make a change that is inherited by every single offspring of any child created from that egg. That is called germline engineering. Germline engineering of mitochondria moves beyond using genetic engineering to fix our body parts into directly engineering the traits of our children. It is a road that could lead, the critics warn, to eugenics.

Well, that's where they are wrong. Transplanting mitochondria is not going to be the method used to create enhanced babies. Traits like height, intelligence, strength, balance, and vision don't reside in the battery part of our cells.

We may well want to draw the line at genetic engineering aimed at making superbabies but all that is involved with mitochondria transplants is trying to prevent dead or very disabled ones. The latter goal is noble, laudable and ought to be praised not condemned.

I certainly don't want to draw the line at safe genetic engineering used to enhance human capacities, but we will leave that topic for another time. Here's hoping that the House of Lords will vote yea.

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  1. FDA can suck my butt? This is obviously harmless (is helpful, prevents genetic diseases, enables parents). Why does it take the damned FDA several decades to approve my freedoms, which are more plentiful in other nations? USA taxes me to send soldiers to “bring freedom” to foreign lands, while FDA assholes at home, take away my freedoms. What gives?!?!

  2. Wow, fucking science! Fuck the FDA, the ATF, the CIA and all the rest of alphabet soup that lords over us.

  3. “prohibited by…several international human rights treaties”

    Is this true? I’m asking for informational purposes.

    1. Oh hell yea. They all have the FYTW clause.

      I am serious. Every political body interprets every law any which way they can for any purpose they want at any time.

  4. “We may well want to draw the line at genetic engineering aimed at making superbabies”

    But “we” won’t.

    1. No, we won’t, but our slave-owners will!

  5. Will someone please think of the franken-children?

  6. This is AWESOME! This can dramatically increase the quality of life.

    The real question is, however, how do you determine custody when things go south? I mean, 52 isn’t divisible by 3, so you can’t do alternating weekends. Surely you’re not going to trade off full months…

    Think of the amazing ways CPS and the courts can screw this up!

  7. “We may well want to draw the line at genetic engineering aimed at making superbabies ”

    Why? We don’t leave aircraft design to chance (eh, who cares if wings fall off, it’ll get to the ground anyway, right?), why is it different for human bodies?

    1. Because the government loves us and our babies more than we love ourselves!

      Scienfoology Song? GAWD = Government Almighty’s Wrath Delivers

      Government loves me, This I know,
      For the Government tells me so,
      Little ones to GAWD belong,
      We are weak, but GAWD is strong!
      Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
      Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
      Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
      My Nannies tell me so!

      GAWD does love me, yes indeed,
      Keeps me safe, and gives me feed,
      Shelters me from bad drugs and weed,
      And gives me all that I might need!
      Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
      Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
      Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
      My Nannies tell me so!

      DEA, CIA, KGB,
      Our protectors, they will be,
      FBI, TSA, and FDA,
      With us, astride us, in every way!
      Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
      Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
      Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
      My Nannies tell me so!

  8. I still think it’s silly to call it a “three parent” baby, considering the DNA contribution of the mitochondria is miniscule.

    It’s more like a 2.000001 parent baby.

  9. This shit is awesome.

    We live in magical times…my iPhone 6 makes Kirk and Spock look like they were using a soup can and string.

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  11. If my partner and I want to visit a genetic engineer and get eagle-eye vision and bear-gene-spliced infusions for being able to handle tons of cholesterol in baby’s diet, what gives governments, voters, etc., any right to get in our way?

    Also, at other sources http://www.houstonchronicle.co…..290.php#/0 etc., I read that these kinds of thing are probably already (the 3-parents babies, that is) being done in the likes of China and Japan. Comes time for those genetic imports from other species, what happens when my partner and I go to get baby-making help in a foreign land? Women of child-bearing ages, when they return to the USA, land of the free, and home of the brave, will they be forcibly inspected for carrying forbidden offspring in their wombs? And get forced abortions? Where are we headed here, towards more or less freedom?

  12. In maternal spindle transfer genes are taken from [the] nucleus [of] the egg

    In pPro-nuclear transfer involves taking

    Beat the orphans you have proofreading your articles, Ron. They’re slacking.

    1. Gadianton? Try to keep up on what’s the haps around here, willya??!

      As I understand things? Ron is a way-cool, non-hypocritical libertarian advocate of technological progress? And so, he wears NO monocle, and has NO orphans! He has a small army of genetically engineered human-cetacean hybrids, artificially intelligent robots, and cyborgs!

      1. Nonsense. I am reliably informed that, in order to be a libertarian, you must have a monocle, and an army of orphan slaves to go with your top-hat and tails. No mention was ever made about cyborgs, robots, or hybrids.

        Now, get off my lawn!

  13. Three is a crowd, isn’t it? A crowd gets uncomfortably close to village size. So let’s just have the village raise every kid. You’d like that, wouldn’t you Hillary?

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