Re: Redesigning humanity Parents have new choices

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Fri Jul 13 2001 - 00:53:25 MDT

At 11:23 PM 7/12/01 -0700, Olga Bourlin cited:
"Embryo screening  known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD  is
a gift from God, the Berkowitzes say."

I've been thinking about this technique, in its various guises, as a
possible way around the objections of those who wish to prevent use of
embryonic stem cells if their harvesting requires the destruction of early
embryos. While I regard this objection as drastically misplaced--as
fundamentally wrong-headed as trying to close down astronomical
observatories because the constellations are not in the right place
according to ancient sacred astrological revelations--still I figure it
would make sense to work around these qualms if that's technically feasible.

Hence it strikes me that when an early in vitro embryo is screened for,
say, the genes conducing to myotonic dystrophy, some stem cells might be
taken at the same time and grown into an immortal feedstock. Loss of a few
undifferentiated or barely differentiated stem cells from a blastocyte
doesn't do the potential foetus any harm, and the process could be regarded
as no more wicked or injurious than trimming fingernails, let alone
discarding an entire placenta at birth.

Anyone know of medical/biological objections to this proposed method? It
need not be restricted to interventions where a blastocyte is being
screened for deleterious alleles with a view to possible abortion (I don't
suppose anyone would wish to be injected with stem cells from a corrupted
DNA line in any case). Many healthy early embryos are compiled in vitro.
Unless there was a risk of damage, perhaps infertile would-be parents could
be charged a lower fee for the expensive procedure in exchange for some
stem cells from their early embryo? I suppose accusations of murder might
then be replaced with one of human-life-as-chattel, but I don't think
there's any law or moral stricture against selling your hair or even your
child's hair.

Damien Broderick

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