I have been neglecting my blog.  Last week I felt very creative.  This week not so much.  At least you have had some great music videos to watch while I struggle to think up a post.

I spent Monday night on a video chat with my friends Tam, Brent and Mandy.  Mandy has been visiting with Tam and Brent.  You can watch some great videos of them singing and having fun on their sites.

Today, 1/13, I spent the day with some retired friends.  One couple, both in their late 70’s, are the “bionic couple”.  She has had a hip replaced and both knees, he has a new hip and new knee.  Not too many years ago they would have needed walkers and wheelchairs to get around.

Technology is helping to create a better world.  It brings people together, no matter where they live, through video chats, twitter, iPhones, etc and allows the elderly to maintain an active life.  Technology is however a double edge sword and I have just been reading about “embryo screening” that sends chills down my back.

An article in the british news paper the Guardian is about a couple who used a procedure called “pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)” to have a baby girl that would not have it’s mother’s genetic predisposition to breast cancer.

“The baby girl grew from an embryo screened to ensure it did not contain the faulty BRCA1 gene, which would have meant she had a 50-85% of developing breast cancer.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/jan/09/breast-cancer-gene-baby

Doing some research I found that as of 2005 cells can be checked for dozens of genetically determined diseases. One site lists:

  • achondroplasia
  • adenosine deaminase deficiency
  • alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency
  • Alzheimer disease (AAP gene)
  • beta thalassemia
  • cystic fibrosis
  • epidermolysis bullosa
  • Fanconi anemia
  • Gaucher disease
  • hemophilia A and B
  • Huntington disease
  • muscular dystrophy (Duchenne and Becker)
  • myotonic dystrophy
  • neurofibromatosis type 1

I could not find out exactly how many babies were born using PGD but in the US it appears to be at least in the hundreds, perhaps in the thousands.

Here is a link to what Wikidedia has on PGD:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preimplantation_genetic_diagnosis

There are of course ethical problems with PGD.

1) The destruction of the embryos that are found to contain the genetic defect.  For my Christian friends who believe these embryos are children you are killing babies.  I can’t think of a way around that.

2) With PGD parents can not only screen for genetic defects, but also “desirable” traits, like blue eyes and white skin, and we know where that leads.

3) My faith is in evolution, and an important component of evolution is “random” mutation. It is mutations that lead to things like opposable thumbs. Screen out mutations and this can lead to an evolutionary dead end.

We can’t but the genie back in it’s technological bottle.  I have no doubt that the use of procedures like PGD for genetic screening will increase.  We can’t stop it but we had better place the strongest possible controls over it or it may lead us to that evolutionary dead end.

If I know that a crippling genetic disease ran in my family, and I could use PGD to remove this predispositon from the baby I was going to father, I can’t say I would not at least think about using it.  Would you?  

 

 

 

 
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