Thursday, November 13, 2014

On Three Parent Embryos

It's also called Mitochondrial Donation.
The donors typically aren't asked so the donation is presumed and the takers just take.
In the US, the FDA said "NO"
Or at least "not yet." The FDA isn't so backwards as to prevent science from doing what science must do on moral grounds. 

The US believes in science good westerners of course we subscribe to that creed.
We're just a bit slower sometimes. These sticky morality discussions take some time to ignore. Sometimes it takes a little bit of work for us to isolate these moral concerns and cram them into the category of "moral" so we can move forward with the separated category of "science" as the unrelated and more pragmatic, (and therefore more real), objective. 
At the FDA, they can only dispassionately weigh all empirical categories of "science."
Science is a public concern. 
Moral is for the religious and is only a private concern.
So what does science say?
Science says that Mitochondrial Donation is still not very safe.
Darn. Not safe for who?

Well, before answering that, can we ask why "safety" is even a problem for science in the first place? I mean, it is beyond me as to why science should care one bit about safety. That sounds too much like something that would fall under the moral category. Science ought to  just be neatly concerned with the category of "results" and not the category of "moral." At least that always seems to be the line given if anyone voices an objection to an effort deemed scientific.
Is safety only good because it pertains to results or is treating people in an unsafe manner also not a morally problematic?

In any case, does Mitochondrial Donation work?
So what does science care if there is a high risk of complication for the people involved.
Care for people is a moral issue.
So to keep up the confusion of issues...some science concerns itself about some health results for some humans and some science does not concern itself with health results for some humans. When the latter happens it is no longer deemed a scientific concern even if the science is right smack dab in the middle of whatever is going on.
Well, at least, the contradiction seems apparent to me.  

The UK is considering approval of this procedure as well and hearings were held last week.
I was surprised to see my comments published in Parliament's Science and Technology Committee report!That was kind of gratifying particularly as it appears that only 25 written comments were submitted.
With such a small response, I suppose that any voice is a loud voice.
I don't hold out any huge expectation that Parliament will prohibit or even pause proceedings of this procedure.
The UK always tends to the aggressively progressive in the areas of bioethics concerns.
In any case, here is the cut and paste from a section of the link above with my comments.
I think that despite the claims of science, the human element is what drives this.
Peoples' suffering matters and that is the driver, (at least the PR driver), for getting these sorts of dicey procedures approved.
I tried to address the people who are fearful of their children being born with Mitochondrial Disease and I think that was a little bit unique in the replies.

The personal testimonies of the parents whose children have endured this devastating disease is
heart wrenching. Doubtless, the committee is already familiar with these stories and will be
presented with further accounts. One often hears a retort somewhere along the lines that those
who have not suffered a particular trial have no business impending the efforts of the afflicted to
find relief. I wanted to take the unenviable task of replying to those real individuals who have
suffered and express that reality that the methods of Mitochondrial Replacement will not
alleviate the pain that they and their children are experiencing. What is more, these techniques
will cause more pain for others.

We owe it to those who suffer to provide honest answers to their questions that are both
empathetic and also take into consideration the whole of this problem. The questions below are
posed in the good faith effort to summarize the public arguments that have called for support of
Mitochondrial Replacement. The answers are also posed in good faith, in an effort to speak to
the real and pressing personal concerns that have sparked the current review.

Q: Adoption is not something that I want to have to consider. I want to be able to look at my
baby say, “she is mine, she has the same traits as me.” That is important to me. Everyone else
has the opportunity to do that with their children. Shouldn’t I be able to have the same
A: All parents who conceive undergo some level of uncertainty. That is the fear and joy of
parenthood. There is always some element of surprise with a new baby and no one can
guarantee who this child will be and what strengths and weaknesses they will carry. Neither is
there any way to ensure that we can somehow level the field of parenthood to provide a false
guarantee of equal level of uncertainty, with regards to health or any other personal outcomes.
Of course we should work to prevent and cure health problems but not at the risk of making an
artifice of our children’s genetics. The science that would seek to pre-determine the particular
traits of our children has been referred to as the pursuit of “designer babies.” We instinctively
know that there is something dangerous about this sort of scientific endeavor.

Q: All of the child’s characteristics are contained in nuclear DNA. This isn’t a three-parent
baby. Isn’t mtDNA an overwhelmingly small and inconsequential part of the total make-up
human DNA?
A: It is simply not true that a child only get its characteristics from nuclear DNA. It is true that
mtDNA accounts for less than 1% of human DNA but genetics are not simply a matter of
quantity. Neither is this an accurate way to portray the role of mtDNA. Just because the vast
majority of DNA is nuclear does not mean that there is not a large abundance of non-nuclear
DNA in the body. The particular substances of DNA are of importance and it is important to
understand that the coding region of the mtDNA is the region of a person’s DNA that contains
the most ancestral markers. In dealing with mitochondrial related disease itself we cannot
neglect that mtDNA is so pivotal that it is essential for the survival of the individual. mtDNA
cannot be treated as a negligible ingredient in the medical quest to treat mtDNA related illness.
Furthermore, if you are so determined to have a baby with your genetics, why then would you
insert someone else's genes into your baby? No manipulation of language will change the fact
that this child will be tasked with parental identity issues that are unprecedented in human

Q: Don’t you think it is unfair to refer to or to associate Mitochondrial Replacement with
“designer babies”?
A: While the debate over “designer babies” typically involves the manipulation of particular or
isolated DNA and mitochondrial replacement involves a broader introduction of gene line
transfer it is the explicit objective in both scenarios that genetic traits will be altered in children.
It is simply bad science to suggest that mtDNA replacement has no bearing on the
characteristics of offspring when the intended effect is to change a portion of DNA that carries
maternal inheritance patterns.

Btw, much of the questions were almost directly pulled from this Guardian interview of a couple with a child who suffers from Mitochondrial Disease.
This story really is heart breaking.
Mother of divine grace, pray for us! 
For those who are suffering, in fear and despair

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