I try to keep one eye on scientific developments that, while still in early stages, promise to complicate parenthood even further. I wrote about one line of research in the fall. This research opens to door to creating gametes (that would eggs and sperm) from ordinary cells, or at least from non-gametes. This is an outgrowth of research aimed at creating new specialized cells generally.
As the earlier post makes clear (I hope) the idea of creating specialized cells has wide application. The example I used (taken from research) involved creating new retinal cells which would be useful for treatment for certain retinal disorders.
But the implications of the research for reproductive technology are apparent. Continue reading
My classes ended today and I’m hoping to turn over a new leaf. That would mean (among other things) getting more posts up and keeping up with comments. There’s so much piled up on my desk, though, it’s hard to know where to start. On the theory that it is more important to just start, though, I choose this article, which someone sent to me last week.
This was published in The Guardian. It is just what the title suggests–a diary (brief) of a woman who served as a surrogate. She was what I would call an altruistic surrogate. What I mean by that is that money played no part in her decision. She offered herself as a surrogate because her brother and sister-in-law were desperate to have a child and had spent a great deal of time, toil and treasure trying to do so. Continue reading
There are a couple of tabs that have been open on my computer for a very long time as I’ve tried to find the time to produce a post worthy of them. There’s this–an article by Judith Shulevitz that appeared in the New Republic–and then this–and interview by Terry Gross with Shulevitz. I came across the second first because I’m a huge Terry gross fan and try to listen to Fresh Air regularly. If you do the gym or you’re out for a walk or whatever, you should really try to take the time to listen.
Shulevitz makes a number of points that a worthy of discussion here and that’s really what’s hung me up. It’s the picking and choosing. But time is so hard to find these days that I’m just going to plunge ahead here, accepting that I will probably skip as much of interest as I’ll comment on. And worst of all, by now I’m working from distant memory of the interview which has become mingled with my own thoughts about it. All of which is by way of a caveat or an apology, but here goes. In this post I’ll make two points leaving a third for later.
Towards the beginning Shulevitz notes that most of the solid information about the results of various forms of ART are from studies outside the US. Continue reading
I’ve been thinking about the Pratten case (which has been discussed on the blog a bunch to times) and a couple of new studies that have crossed my path. All of these items make one think about how to manage the use of donor gametes. (In general, I prefer to call these third-party gametes, but it’s hard to only use that terminology when the popular press consistently says “donor.”
Anyway, use of third party or donor sperm (or eggs) has been discussed a number of times here. Typically those discussions are spurred by some specific story–like the Pratten case. But sometimes its just as useful to think about a question without a specific case in mind. I’ve been trying to do that. And I find myself wondering (again?) why there isn’t a fairly obvious middle ground that might draw people together.
I know a number of people are concerned that those who are donor conceived do not have access to information about their genetic lineage, which can be important both for health reasons and for some sense if identity. Continue reading
Just before Thanksgiving I put up a post about a fertility clinic in CA that is offering pre-made embryos for sale. (This is rather a coarse way of putting it, perhaps, but it makes the point.) There’s a lot to think about here and there have been a number of thoughtful comments. I wanted to return to the topic and offer a few further thoughts to continue the conversation.
First, for those who think that selling eggs and sperm is wrong, this too is obviously wrong. I think it is fair to say that for those people it is wrong for the same reasons selling sperm and eggs would be wrong–and there are a whole array of reasons. While I think there is an important conversation here–about the propriety of selling sperm/eggs–it is one that has already received extensive attention here.
This why I want to focus on why those who are comfortable with a market for eggs/sperm might nevertheless draw the line at the market for pre-made embryos. Continue reading
Although surrogacy is not exactly rare, it also isn’t all that common. And yet it’s often covered in the news. And when it comes up here (as it has in the last couple of posts) it always spurs discussion.
I think it is because it raises so many issues and forces us to unpack so many assumptions. It crystallizes a bunch of questions about motherhood that I wrote about not so long ago. And it makes us think hard about gender/sex and sameness/difference. And really, of course, the problem is pregnancy and what we do with it.
Here’s one way to think about this. Under current law in NJ men and woman are treated differently with regard to legal parentage when surrogacy is used. Continue reading
There’s a new surrogacy case from NJ. To be really precise, there are two opinions from the New Jersey Supreme Court which deadlocked 3-3. Since neither view garnered a majority of the votes the lower courts decision is affirmed. If you don’t want to read the actual opinions, there’s decent coverage of the story in the New York Times. You can see this as expanding the discussion from UK law discussed in the last post. I think there’s been mention the NJ case in the comments from the last post, but I haven’t actually had time to really look and it’s worth raising to the status of a full post anyway.
Fairly simple facts: TJS and ALS are husband and wife. ALS could neither produce eggs nor carry a pregnancy to term. Using sperm from TJS and an egg from an anonymous provider, TJS and ALS had an embryo created. The embryo was then transferred into the uterus of AF who agreed to act as a surrogate and who eventually gave birth to a healthy child. She subsequently surrendered any parental rights she might have. Continue reading
Not so very long ago the winners of the 2012 Nobel Prizes were announced. Two men shared the prize for medicine and physiology, John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka. While the details of what they won for must be quite complicated, the broad outlines are pretty easy to grasp and are actually relevant to the conversations here. I learned this yesterday listening to one of my favorite podcasts–Science Weekly from The Guardian. You can also read about their work, if you prefer but I found the audio more informative.
Gurdon’s work was in 1962. (Yes, fifty years ago.) He removed the nucleus from an egg (a frog egg, as it happened) and replaced it with the nucleus from a frog intestinal cell. From this he was able to grow a new frog. This showed that the nucleus from the intestinal cell (a specialized cell) contained all the DNA needed to grow a new frog. I think we rather take this for granted now–we now that any one of our cells contains the whole genetic cells. But Gurdon showed it at a time when it was widely thought not to be true.
His work opened the door to cloning Continue reading
I’ve written in the past about technologies that have been or are being developed that would allow IVF using nuclear DNA from one woman and mitochondrial DNA from another. The idea here would be to avoid certain diseases transmitted via the mitochondrial DNA. A woman whose mitochondrial DNA carried those traits could have the nuclear DNA from her egg transferred to a stripped-out egg provided by a different woman who did not carry those traits. This egg–now composed of DNA from two different women–could then be fertilzed for use in IVF.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the UK of both the safety and the ethics of using mitochondrial DNA replacement. The HFEA (the UK agency that regulates all things ART–which I thought had been defunded but obviously still exists) has been seeking consultation with various communities for some time. And this consultation continues, as this post from Olivia’s View makes clear. Continue reading
Before I turn to the recent comments I wanted to put up a short post about this news items, which fits nicely with yesterday’s post. As you can easily see, yesterday’s post was about how new technologies have brought us the ability to freeze human eggs for later use. This development will almost assuredly lead to egg banks that more clearly resembles sperm banks and, one would think, a market for eggs that more clearly resembles the market for sperm.
But the ability to freeze eggs opens other avenues besides those that lead to commercial markets. As the article I linked to shows, Orthodox rabbis (at least some orthodox rabbis) are encouraging women to freeze their own eggs for later use. And it makes sense to me that they would do so.
For (some or many? I do not know) Orthodox Jews, a child is Jewish only if the egg from which it developed was from a Jewish woman. Continue reading