1. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    UK to allow "three-parent families"

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by erebh, Jun 28, 2013.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-23079276

    While there are plenty of countries totally against the idea of taking DNA from three people to produce one child via IVF, the UK (the first in the world) have given the go ahead, the first three-parent baby will be born in 2015. It is thought this new procedure will help approx. ten couples per year have a healthier baby.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Given that it's the mitochondrial DNA that is from the third donor, this doesn't trip me out as much as it might were the three donors involved in the actual nuclear DNA. I mean, would people care if it were the golgi body or reticulated membrane that were being replaced because of defect? Still, the average sod on the sofa isn't likely to differentiate and we'll soon be hearing claptrap of all colors. There is clear evidence that mitochondria are derived of once free living bacteria. How is this any different than giving the little tyke a probiotic?
     
  3. 7thMidget
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    7thMidget Member

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    This decision, by itself, doesn't really bother me, for the same reasons Wreybies gave. It's a correction, not an enhancement and it's not actually shaping a different person, just allowing them to have a healthy metabolism. I do think that it puts us one step closer to all kinds of (more) questionable genetic modifications in the future and that possibility, more than this actual procedure, is probably what's holding a lot of people back.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Fascinating. Using a donor egg and the nucleus from another egg is one step closer to cloning humans.
     
  5. 7thMidget
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    7thMidget Member

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    At the same time, though, if one is to consider this OK, why would the insertion of a third person's nuclear DNA be much more questionable, if it were just to keep people from being blind or have neurological defects or or or? And what if we could make all of those corrections at once to have 100% healthy babies at birth consistently (for those who could pay for it, sure)? I don't know how much "fixing without enhancing" is actually doable before we are indeed talking about eugenics. Bah, now I'm just confused.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Because what you mention now leads down the clear path of eugenics. And humans have a terrible track record when it comes to believing that they know better than Nature. Never mind a "Super Race", the much more likely disaster with eugenics is removal of genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is needed to keep any population healthy. That this diversity sometimes results in nonfunctional or poorly functioning outcomes is the bitter of the pill that must be taken.
     
  7. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    A planet full of perfect people... next step would be to correct the brain so we all think the same and save a fortune on all this spying and warring... Not sure the pharmaceuticals would be too happy if they haven't an ill to cure. Sorry, by cure I mean prolong.
     
  8. 7thMidget
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    7thMidget Member

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    Sure, but where do we draw the line, then? Mitochondria-related metabolic defects are worth fixing because mitochondria are pretty much independent organelles, but we aren't free to try to solve anything else, fatal or not? Can we pick anything, as we long as we only work on one or two bits per person and the individual's altered genetic make-up stays confined to his somatic cells (not the case here)?

    Erebh, those procedures would be unbelievably lucrative to the associated industries, I'm sure. I doubt they'd be widespread, anyway. Sure, the perfect babies would become perfect adults giving birth to more perfect babies, but not many people will be able to afford perfect offspring in the first place. The pharmaceutical industry is definitely fishy, anyway, I'll give you that. Doesn't make me feel too good about getting to work there within a couple of years :) Plus, they are born healthy, but won't be healthy forever.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    No, no, no. I don't pretend to have an ethical or moral answer to this. My post was meant to amplify the confusion you mentioned in the post I quoted, not to refute that confusion. :) I mention the impending specter of the "Super Race" only because that's what people always focus on when it comes to eugenics. My concern goes past that. Every time humans mess with Nature, thinking we know what we're doing because there is an end outcome we need to justify, we just screw things up worse. People fear a Super Race but ignore the other implications of designing a human. A Super Race is also a Super Specialized Species. Super specialized species have a tendency to be very much at the whim of environmental change. These kinds of species are masters at what they do, but when you change the game just a tiny bit, they fail.
     
  10. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I'm very surprised it hasn't been done already, to be honest. I'm against it of course, and I know society still says "it's wrong", but just think of other things the world has done which is morally wrong. I'm pretty sure human cloning will happen, and soon(ish).
     
  11. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I agree with this 100%.

    Human bodies are merely vehicles to carry our consciousness. You can make identical copies of a body, but in the end that person will be just as unique as everyone else.
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    As is evidenced by natural "clones", identical twins. Clearly they are each a separate and unique consciousness. My concern goes more to the idea of eugenically creating a species that is itself so homogenous in genetic makeup that a small shift in climate or other natural (or unnatural) change could very easily make this less varied genetic option the wrong one to survive such change.
     
  13. 7thMidget
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    7thMidget Member

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    Well, thank you, hah! And yes, I agree. As a species, we'd become very vulnerable.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This is one of those mythical exaggerations like the Noble Savage and 'all things natural' myths. Vaccines, insulin, those rovers on Mars, and jet travel all beg to differ with your conclusion.

    Even when you narrow it down to messing with genetics and reproduction, the food we grow is all 'messed with' and it's not all bad.
    Genetically Engineered Food: The Science Behind the Controversy
    It's an hour long university science lecture, not everyone is going to take the time to watch. What's key about the lecture is the professor describes all the grown food we eat today and he shows what the plants looked like before humans started affecting plant evolution over 10,000 years ago. Bananas, strawberries, wheat, corn, broccoli, and just about everything else we eat barely resemble their ancestor plants/animals.

    Was all that intervening in nature bad, or is it just the interventions that seem more exotic to us like manipulating genes and embryos that must be bad?

    Are there ever unintended consequences of modern technology? Absolutely, sometimes more harmful than others, sometimes simply requiring another intervention, and sometimes adding a different unexpected benefit. As authors/readers a lot of us are aware Mary Shelly's Frankenstein was a product of fear of new technology, electricity. Godzilla and a slew of stories at the time reflected a fear of radiation. Fearing new technology is a repeating pattern, as is recalling/imagining an idyllic past.


    Great for story ideas, not so much for accurately judging 'messing with nature'. Just sayin.... :D
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Again, I repair to my initial and now multiple statements that I don't pretend to have an answer or understand all the consequences. I'm just adding another thing to think about. ;)

    I know too well that our history as a species is one of changing our environment. In many ways the fact that we do so for reasons that are thoughtful (in that we think about it them consciously) as opposed to in a preprogrammed way (the way termites alter the the earth around them to create structures in which to live) can be thought of as one of the things that defines us as a species. Not a unique definition, as there are other creatures who do similar things, but definitely a part of our definition.

    Have we doomed the Earth because banana cultivars no longer have real seeds? Of course not. I raise the points I raise only to talk about unintended consequences that are frighteningly chancy when one starts rewriting our own set of instructions. We are already a species with poor genetic variation do to the bottleneck we experienced some 50 thousand years ago, the same one that left cheetahs as all near clones of one another. Could we survive the intervention of our own hands when those hands have had a dicy run of success?
     
  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I want to make a clarification here of my own statement. This is unless you hold to a particular school of thought within physical anthropology that espouses more vigorously the idea that humans are part of the ape tribe. Be that the case, within that school of thought, the homo sapiens is just one of a number of variations on a theme currently in existance and would represent a particular pool of genetic material within a number of interlinked pools. Under that paradigm, our genetic variation is greater. This is not a school of thought many anthropologists voice with vigor because though there are no other implications to be dealt with when pointing out the obvious relationship between a horse and zebra, that they are just variations on a common theme from a common stock, pointing out the same dynamic amongst primates when including humans touches on areas that are sensitive to other epistemologies.
     
  17. 7thMidget
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    7thMidget Member

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    You made a great point, but the things you mention are more revealing of how damn smart we are and not of how biologically well-adapted we're naturally born. You're talking about vaccines today, but don't forget about the disaster that thalidomide was a few decades ago, for example. The industrial and technological progress is great, but then there's pollution, some extra carcinogens hanging around, higher frequency of respiratory conditions, and so on. But yes, it's unlikely that we'll wipe ourselves out, and it's unfair to say that we do more harm than good with all the stuff we come up with. Still, as you said, the unintended consequences are always there, and within that window of time where we are still figuring out how to handle them, we never know what might happen for some people. The world is random like that, lol. In a time when we weren't as resourceful, plagues really got to us, for example. Comparing those days to today, what evolved immensely was our knowledge, not our basic biology.
     
  18. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I guess it comes down to the adage, 'Just because we can do something, does not mean we should do something.'

    Natural systems are almost always more complex than we imagine and usually we don't realize the full impact on our actions until it becomes measurable and then, it's usually too late and the damage is done.

    Take assisted reproductive technology for example. If nature has determined, through cause or coincidence, that a woman or man should not reproduce then they turn to science to override natures barriers. We have no idea what effect, if any, a proliferation of this type of activity will produce.

    A few years ago, a study came out that showed that 'banding' penguins to study climate change greatly impacted their survival and reproductive chances.

    Tagging penguins affects performance, research shows
    I mean, the other problem is the explosion of scientific advancement over such a short period of time.

    It's only been a paltry 70 years since we thought putting unsheilded x-ray equipment in shoe stores was a nifty idea and only 80 years since we discovered Pluto. We may think that our current generation is the pinnacle of human enlightenment, but hisotry tells us that this is not the case.
     
  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with all of this. We already practice eugenics in a way, and we practice it in a fashion that tends to benefit the individual, but not the species. Sunblock is eugenics in action. It has the effect of saving the individual from certain types of skin cancer. We now know that many of these types of cancer have a genetic predisposition to them. Sunblock saves the person but also saves the alleles that predispose people to these types of cancer. They pass forward without a side benefit as is the case with heterozygous advantage. In the long run, sunblock causes more cancer than it prevents. It's an unpretty example and may be offensive to some because it clearly ignores the individual over the species.
     
  20. GingerCoffee
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    My comment was addressing
    (bold mine)

    I did not say we never screw up. Insulin messes with human biology. Vaccines mess with human biology. In vitro fertilization messes with human biology. Genetic screening of a fetus messes with human biology.

    I don't get your point? Humans can cause fetal damage. Yeah, but we can also have good outcomes 'messing with Nature' as well. (Not sure why the capital N.)

    [MENTION=3885]Wreybies[/MENTION] "Screw up worse" is a judgment that contradicts, "I don't pretend to have an answer or understand all the consequences", so I'm confused.
     
  21. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Screw up worse refers to the measures we take in controlling Nature (I just like the capital N is all) when we take one measure to control another and the cure is worse than the ailment. At the point I made that statement in this thread, I felt the conversation was still open enough to speak of other things besides genetics to draw in as parallels to our poor understanding of how Nature functions. In Puerto Rico we already have four invasive species that are all interrelated, stemming from the sugar cane industry that was once here, each one brought in to get rid of the last. Every year we have a cycle of plague proportion where first the #1 rats get out of controle followed by the #2 cane toads followed by #3 the iguanas followed by #4 the mongooses. None of them belong here. The first was an accident, the rest were intentional. They are destroying the ecology. Again, my mistake for saying always.
     
  22. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I've heard this argument before but it's based on missing genetic science knowledge.

    If vaccines allow us to survive childhood, without them we'd eventually develop a genetic resistance to that particular pathogen. This is easily seen with the devastation measles brought to the Americas because the population had not been previously exposed. However, one of the things which helps any species survive is genetic diversity.

    Here's how it works. If you are a rapidly reproducing organism you can afford to wait for a mutation to occur when you are faced with a hazard. That's how antibiotic resistance develops.

    But if you are a slowly reproducing organism, you cannot afford to wait for that mutation, it has to already exist within your collective species or the species will die before the resistance to the hazard develops to reproduce.

    So by allowing more children to avoid dying from childhood vaccine preventable diseases you allow more genetic diversity to accumulate within the species.

    It can be a wash or even an advantage to prevent skin cancer.

    And you picked an odd example since a lot of skin cancer develops after people have passed their reproductive years. Sun damage is cumulative. So the sunscreen prevents cancer in grandma who may help raise the grandkids, a speculated evolutionary advantage of living well past reproductive age. But I'm guessing that was just a coincidental choice of examples.
     
  23. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    No doubt there are many examples, our Australian friends have a few stories to tell themselves involving rabbits, viruses and toads. :)
     
  24. Wreybies
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    Nah, it was the favorite example of one of my anthro profs for whom I TA'd for many more years than I care to mention. I got to know his routine by heart. ;) :D

    And I'm well aware of the need for gene diversity. My concern over it was my entry into the conversation.
     
  25. 7thMidget
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    We are in agreement ;) I just wanted to highlight the bad stuff we did make here and there, because you made the point about unintended consequences, but your picture was still too pretty! My negative self can't handle it.
     

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