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» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » Remember my argument about diploid chromosomes and life?

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Author Topic: Remember my argument about diploid chromosomes and life?
WarrsawPact
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Well, there's a new element in the mix:
quote:
Spark of life creates 'ethical embryos'

JOHN INNES

SCIENTISTS last night claimed to have made a major breakthrough in overcoming opposition to stem cell research by creating human embryos which cannot develop into babies.

The so-called "ethical" embryos have been created by using an enzyme dubbed the "spark of life" which tricks human eggs into believing they have been fertilised even without the presence of sperm.

Stem cells from the embryos can turn into different kinds of tissue and scientists believe that with the right chemical cues they could produce replacement tissue for patients suffering degenerative brain illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease as well as heart damage.

Dr Karl Swann, of the University of Wales College of Medicine in Cardiff, tricked the eggs into dividing by injecting phospholipase C-zeta (PLC-zeta), an enzyme produced by sperm that he discovered two years ago, into an unfertilised female egg.

He said: "It’s the spark of life. It tricks the egg into thinking it has been fertilised."

According to a report in New Scientist magazine, embryos created by the new procedure contain two sets of chromosomes from the mother, but none from the father and so are unable to develop into babies.

Proponents of the new technique say that allays the fears raised by pro-life campaigners opposed to stem cell research.

The tricked eggs divide for four or five days until they reach 50 to 100 cells, which is known as the "blastocyst" stage.

In theory, the blastocysts should yield stem cells which can then be used for scientific research.

Bob Lanza, the head of research at the cloning company Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the United States, hailed the discovery as a major one.

He said: "This could eliminate one of the main sources of ethical controversy in this research."

But campaigners refused to concede that the new technique paved the way for ethical stem cell research.

Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, a London-based pro-life lobby group, said last night: "I’d be happier if it was beyond all reasonable doubt that it could not become a human life."

- http://news.scotsman.com/scitech.cfm?id=1381332004

The way I see it at the moment... it is indeed living, and it does indeed have a full set of chromosomes... yet it cannot ever mature past 50-100 cells. It's like a runaway cell from the mother, not cancerous or anything, but living its own individual life.

I'm conflicted. Certainly this could allow a lot of previously opposing people to come to terms with stem cell research, but I'm not entirely sure where to place this new creation in an environment with a resilient set of human rights.

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Haggis
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quote:
According to a report in New Scientist magazine, embryos created by the new procedure contain two sets of chromosomes from the mother, but none from the father and so are unable to develop into babies.

There must be something here that I'm not getting. Am I right in thinking that this article is saying that the the lack of the father's chromosomes is the causal factor in the embryo's truncated deveopment? I thought that's what a clone was. Can anyone with a better working knowledge of biology explain this one to me? TCB? Vulture? Everard? Anyone?

[ December 06, 2004, 08:52 PM: Message edited by: Haggis ]

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A. Alzabo
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Don't forget about "virgin birth" embryos, either.

Edited to add:

I guess this is the article referenced, although it doesn't mention any growth limits. Certain genetic material from two ova is combined, with some of it filling in the "gaps" that would normally be filled in by a sperm. This currently seems to require quite a bit of manipulation.

[ December 06, 2004, 10:02 PM: Message edited by: A. Alzabo ]

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Ivan
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I can't possibly see what your problem is with this type of human life being used for genetic experimentation, WP. Isn't this just the "it's human life but not a human life" arguement? How are these things any different from my hair?

Either way, I think this is a great breakthrough in stem cell research, so hopefully now the government will be able to toss some cash their way for research.

-Ivan

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The Drake
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quote:
Originally posted by Ivan:
Either way, I think this is a great breakthrough in stem cell research, so hopefully now the government will be able to toss some cash their way for research.

I've got a better idea, let's fund it privately and then hog the cure all to ourselves.
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Zyne
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Mmmm, I don't really remember that specifically, but I'm not at all surprised that's your position, and I'm not surprised that you're hesitating here.

Suppose that we deliberately built a fetus that would not live past 50-100 seconds after birth, or 50-100 minutes birth, or have more than 50-100 bones regardless of whether born alive, or more than 5-10 organs regardless of when or whether viability ceases...

If a normal, healthy blatocyst deserves the protection of an adult human, then wouldn't engineering an intentionally defective blatocyst that cannot live be the moral equivalent of creating an intentionally defective child that cannot live?

This seems a silly of a line to me as "viability."

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WarrsawPact
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Yes, Zyne, you see my hesitation. Obviously my argument under the assumption of rights would make this an unfortunate death, but is it the same as murder? No positive action is taken to truncate life, just as -- while there are obviously age limits to human beings -- it is not murder to naturally procreate. It's not murder to bring a kid into this world knowing it will die someday. The question is, does intentionally dropping the life expectancy without taking positive action to destroy or even suffocate life actually to be deemed "murder"?

That is why I hesitate to classify this.

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Haggis
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quote:
The question is, does intentionally dropping the life expectancy without taking positive action to destroy or even suffocate life actually to be deemed "murder"?

I would say it's no more murder than to have a menstrual period every month.
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WarrsawPact
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But having one's period is not seemingly morally equivalent.

If someone has their period, they're not taking positive action, just like puberty isn't a conscious act. But physically encouraging an ova to replicate its chromosomes and start splitting is.

And to do so with the foreknowledge that the product is going to be human life, with its own genetic code (though very much like the mother's, not precisely the same thanks to meiosis), is to doom someone to a, say, *premature* death in the very meaning of the word.
Yet it is not the act itself that kills the life processes. It actually *gives* the cell a unique diploid life process but places a very low upper limit on how far it can reasonably be expected to go.
Big deal, maybe. Fertilization itself has its limitations, that individual's got maybe 100 years hardwired in as his absolute limit. It's not the same as killing the child you just created.

This is why I'm reconciling this slowly.

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