Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Pregnancy Created Using Infertile Woman's Egg Nucleus.

It's not all that common for a news story to give me an exam question in three of my courses, but this one comes pretty close.

Denise Grady has a piece in today's N.Y. Times that picks up on an AP story that ran on Monday concerning a Chinese procedure for extracting the nucleus of a fertilized egg, inserting the genetic material into a denucleated egg of another woman, and implanting the "new" egg into the uterus of the first woman. The process initiated a pregnancy in a woman who previously could not maintain a pregnancy with a blastocyst beyond the two-cell stage. The new technique resulted in three fetuses, one of which was aborted to give the other two a better chance of survival, and the remaining fetuses died at 24 and 29 weeks. Because this technique involves nuclear transfer, the process has set off alarms among those who are uncomfortable that this is one more step toward human reproductive cloning. It's not exactly cloning, which involves making a genetic copy of oneself, but Jeffrey Kahn of the University of Minnesota worries that it amounts to "'proof of principle' for cloning even if no copying took place."

The technique also adds to biotech's contributions to Family Law exam questions. Consider this headline, from today's Belfast (Ire.) News: "Scientists Create Test Tube Twins with Two 'Mothers'."

It also raises a nice question for a Bioethics exam. As today's Newsday article on the story put it:
But none of her three developing fetuses survived, and some question the ethics of such research.

"The gestational outcome was a disaster," said Dr. James Grifo, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology at New York University. Grifo and his NYU colleague, Dr. John Zhang, are listed on the abstract of a paper on the case to be delivered today at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting in Texas. Grifo said they didn't have anything to do with the clinical research "beyond showing them how to do it."
Malcolm Ritter's AP story (from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram) on the ASRM conference in San Antonio quotes others who aren't so sure about the "roadmap to cloning" argument:
R. Alta Charo, professor of bioethics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said the Chinese work is not a direct analogy to cloning. A key difference is that the transferred DNA does not have to be reprogrammed to act properly in an egg as it does in cloning, she said. So the study result doesn't offer a direct indication of the outcome of attempts to clone humans, she said.

[Dr. Joe Massey, a fertility specialist at Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta] and [Dr. David Sable, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology at the St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J.,] said the experiment was not cloning, with Massey stressing that it wasn't aimed at copying an individual. "This is not a pathway to cloning. It's not about that," Massey said.
Finally, for the Administrative Law exam, consider this: Dr. Grifo, the NYU researcher who advised the Chinese team, "said the Food and Drug Administration indicated that work he was doing might be subject to government regulation, and he stopped his experiments in 1998 because of the energy and money required to comply." I wonder what the FDA is thinking this morning about his participation in the Chinese experiment.
posted by tommayo, 7:20 AM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter