Saturday, January 21, 2012

"No, Really I have Three Biological Parents!" Coming to a Child Near You.

I had to read this news several times in order to make sure that I understood it. Here's the quick bottom line:

1. It is possible that in 3 years, babies could have 3 'real' parents.

2. Researchers now have 6 million british pounds (about 9.3 million U.S. dollars) to figure it all out.

3. The goal is to help babies avoid some hereditary genetic conditions affecting the heart, muscle or brain passed on to them from one of their mother.

4. About 99.8% of our DNA comes evenly from our mother and father. A tiny fraction resides in the mitochondria (see below) and is passed down only by the mother.

5. In another article in The Telegraph (Jan. 21), Prof Doug Turnbull, a neurologist at Newcastle University, who will be taking part in the research says: "The easiest way to think of mitochondria is as a sort of battery within the cells. When the batteries fail, it produces diseases in energy-hungry tissues, like the brain, muscle, heart – some forms of muscular dystrophy, for instance, are mitochondrial disorders."  That is where these diseases come from, and thus from the mother.

6. So, the trick is to take one egg from the mother (M1) and another from the donor (M2) but replace the nucleus of M2's egg with the nucleus of M1's egg -- leaving M1's mitochondria behind and surrounding her egg's nucleus with the mitochondria of M2.  This can be done either before or after fertilization with the father's (F1's) contribution.    Supporters describe the process as simply akin to changing "the batteries on a camera".  Really.

7. Child gets their identity from F1 and M1, but gets their mitochondria DNA from M2.  And remember it's the mitochondria that produces problems in one out of 200 children in the U.K.  The argument is that now these mothers who carry bad DNA have a chance at normal children with their partner.

8. Additional arguments are that children who otherwise would die later on could be saved.  And of course, medical costs could also be reduced for both the parents and the state.

9. The opposition comes from many sources, as one would expect.

As a Christian, I am not sure where I stand on this issue just yet.  I see the advantages.  I marvel at the ability of man to be able to do this understanding that it is only possible because of the creative and mental abilities God has granted to man.  At the same time, I am not convinced that God would have us use that ability in just this manner.  Still, how different is this really than in a doctor trying to save the life of a child after he or she is born?   I don't know.  Maybe you could weigh in on this with your thoughts.  I welcome them.

The legal and social implications, especially for the child, are indeed horrendous.  The rights of each of the three children and the child will have to be clearly spelled out, and they won't be pretty.

I think it is important that we are aware of what lies ahead in the rest of this century, maybe even decade.  Change is coming faster than we could ever image and exponentially at that.  The least we could is be aware of it and consider the implications for ourselves, our children, and our society. 

Babies with three parents possible within three years - Telegraph

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