Tuesday, January 31. 2012
Many people who read my work elsewhere think transhumanism movement is not an important pro-life issue. It is so abstract an idea to them that they regularly wonder why I bother writing about it. I think it is simply because they don't realize how much transhumanism is already in our consciousness. Artificial human enhancements are depicted everywhere from TV (Chuck) to movies (Captain America and Limitless) to video games (Deus Ex.)
And whether parents realize it or not, transhumansim is especially in the consciousness of our children. In a recent conversation, my own son asked me why I don't like human enhancements. He was distressed and asked, "Then how can I become a super hero?" My husband commented that he wanted to be a super hero too when he was nine and every boy in the world wants to be a super hero. I responded that our son's generation may actually be able to fulfill those childhood and childish "dreams" of becoming enhanced.
This is the first time in history technology may make it possible for people to be able to chase those fantastical "super-hero" dreams of their youth with cognitive enhancing drugs, genetic engineering or artificial intelligence. The problem with childhood fantasies is that children often cannot see the possible devastating effects of drugs or invasive procedures on their otherwise healthy bodies. I fear without bringing transhumanism out of the shadows and into the light for scrutiny, an entire generation may not be equipped with enough insight to resist the overwhelming pressure to enhance simply because everyone else is doing it.
Even if your everyday person is not aware of transhumanism, our leaders are aware, or should be. Transhumanism was even a subject in the Republican Presidential debates. Newt Gingrich was asked by Wolf Blitzer about genetic engineering and human enhancement. Mother Jones reports Gingrich's reply:
"These are at the heart of the next 40 years. And we've got to understand: Somewhere on this planet there will be a dictatorship that uses science in a way that is truly grotesque. And then you're gonna have, for example, a decision to make, if someone can participate in the Olympics who's been genetically engineered. I mean you're gonna have, there's an array of different countries out there, some of which have values so lacking to any of us that you're gonna have these kinds of things."
Sunday, January 29. 2012
Today at Mass there was a 3 year-old boy with Down Syndrome in the pew in front of us. When it came time to wish each other peace, every person around him got at least 2 hand shakes and words of peace. A shake and a "Peace be with you" given with a love and joy I have never seen before in a child his age. I was lucky enough for him to offer me his hand three times. I looked around at the beaming faces around me. The toothy grins, the warm hearts, the smiling eyes all fixed on this child. A child who is truly lucky to have made it out of the womb.
I say this to every so-called medical professional, or any other elitist, who has ever suggested to a woman pregnant with a child with Down Syndrome that the "compassionate" thing to do, the "loving" thing to so, the ONLY thing to do, is to abort their child. What I saw today was TRUE compassion, TRUE love, TRUE happiness. Real, pure love and compassion that was only made possible by the strength and courage of a woman to resist your twisted logic. My family and I were privileged to experience it. With 90% of children with Downs aborted, we are all being starved of the ability to experience the infectious happiness of a person with Down Syndrome. We are not the richer for it.
Friday, January 27. 2012
The Obama Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have told Catholic institutions all across the country they must violate their conscience and provide coverage for hormonal contraceptives.
The response by Catholic bishops and Catholics everywhere has been loud and proud. We know that this mandate violates our religious rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Despite our cries, it seems clear that Obama and HHS really do not care about our free exercise of religion.
But I wonder if Obama and HHS care about the environment. Yes. That's right the environment. Obama is always talking about green energy and has branded himself a champion of the environment.
And yet all this newly covered hormonal contraception will cause even more damage to lakes, rivers and streams and the wildlife in them. The fact is, hormonal birth control has wreaked havoc on the environment for decades.
In 2003, a Seattle Post Intelligencer headline warned that birth control may be harming the state salmon population. They reported that synthetic estrogen, an ingredient in hormonal contraception, is "showing up in waterways around the nation" being dumped there from sewage treatment plants. And the levels found are high enough to harm wildlife. The Intelligencer reported:
Birth-control pills can curb the reproduction of more than just the women taking them. Western Washington scientists have found that synthetic estrogen -- a common ingredient in oral contraceptives -- can drastically reduce the fertility of male rainbow trout.Hormonal contraceptives are harming wildlife in Colorado too. In 2007, the National Catholic Register reported that EPA-funded scientists at the University of Colorado found a high level of female and strange "inter-sex" fish in Boulder Creek. The culprit? Estrogens and other hormones from birth-control pills. From the Register article:
It’s “the first thing that I’ve seen as a scientist that really scared me,” said then 59-year-old University of Colorado biologist John Woodling, speaking to the Denver Post in 2005.Contaminating drinking water. Jillian Michaels, of Biggest Loser fame, tells the obese in her book Master Your Metabolism to forgo hormonal contraceptives and opt for condoms because hormonal contraceptives disrupt natural hormone balances making it hard to maintain a healthy weight. Is it even remotely possible that our nation's problem with obesity may be more than just a calorie consumption issue?
And with these reports of hormones in waterways around the country, one would think that environmentalists and the health conscious everywhere would be taking up the charge to clean up and prevent the contamination. But no one seems to care. This lack of concern puzzles some including George Harden, a board member of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. Harden told the Register:
“It’s going to start looking funny. The radical environmentalist won’t eat a corn chip if the corn contacted a pesticide. But they view it a sacred right and obligation to consume synthetic chemicals that alter a woman’s natural biological functions, even if this practice threatens innocent aquatic life downstream.”With Obama such a champion of the environment and Michele so obsessed with the obesity epidemic, I wonder if HHS would be more likely to grant exceptions to the mandate to cover hormonal contraceptives on environmental grounds than on religious grounds?
They probably would. Which is sad because the religious objection is the one actually protected by the Constitution. Maybe Catholic institutions should re-brand themselves as environmental organizations. Maybe then our objections to being forced to cover damaging hormonal contraception wouldn't be so carelessly cast aside.
Wednesday, January 25. 2012
Overheard in the Taylor house:
Son: (with grumpy face) Mom you don't like human enhancements do you?
Me: No, I don't
Son: (with even grumpier face) Then how will I become a super hero?
Me: You don't need to be enhanced to be a super hero. God loves you just the way you are. It is wrong to take drugs or do other stuff to make yourself super human, especially if you are already healthy. What if someone bad gets enhanced and hurts a lot of people? Or what if only rich people can get enhanced and then make life harder for everyone else? What if it gets so that you need lots of drugs or artificial limbs to play sports because talent and hard work aren't good enough to compete anymore? Or if you need a cyber-brain to go to college or be a doctor? What happens if normal people want to be part animal or glow-in-the-dark or just a brain walking around in a robot? What if parents enhance their children and the children don't like their enhancements?
Son: (Long pause) But I want to be a super hero, Mom.
Husband: Every kid wants to be a super hero when they are 9. I wanted to be one too when I was his age.
Me: True. But this generation could actually use technology to fulfill their childhood fantasies of becoming super human making the "haves" have even more and the "have nots" have even less. Once we allow healthy people to make themselves super human, a society with the enhanced ruling over the unenhanced is inevitable.
Son: What about Spiderman?
Me: His enhancements were an accident.
Son: What about the Hulk?
Me: Again an accident.
Son: The Fantastic 4?
Me: Terrible space accident. I mean look what happened to the Thing.
Son: The X Men?
Me: They were born that way and some of them hate it. Imagine if your parents did that to you on purpose and you hated it.
Me: CIA experiment on a normal guy. Wrong. Remember the Intersect hurt both Chuck and Morgan's brains.
Son: Captain America and Wolverine?
Me: Healthy men (small and mutant, but healthy) experimented on by the military. Very wrong thing to do.
Son: (sad face) Mom, you don't like human enhancements.
Me: No I don't. I think they are wrong and bad for everyone. We need to love ourselves and each other just the way we are. That is the way to be happy and to be a real hero.
Son: I bet you Satan likes human enhancements.
Me: Yes, son, I believe he does. I believe he does.
Tuesday, January 24. 2012
Yesterday it was reported that a human embryonic stem cell derived treatment has improved the vision in two women. From The Washington Post:
For the first time, an experimental treatment made from human embryonic stem cells has shown evidence of helping someone, partially restoring sight to two people suffering from slowly progressing forms of blindness.The women are not reporting any adverse side effects and I do hope, for their health, that this remains the case. But researchers are cautious. Delving deeper, there are concerns that this improvement in their vision may be a placebo effect or that it will be temporary:
Lanza cautioned that the findings are preliminary, the improvements could disappear and complications could emerge. Nevertheless, he thinks the two cases will provide useful lessons for the field....This is a two-person, uncontrolled, non-blinded study, so preliminary reports of vision improvements are just that, preliminary.
A reader asked about the fact that it was reported that ACT extracted the embryonic stem cells without destroying the embryo. They perform what is called an embryo biopsy, removing a single cell from the early embryo and using that to create an embryonic stem cell line instead of ripping open and destroying the embryo all together. This same procedure is also performed in preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) where embryos are screened for certain genetic traits like tissue compatibility, genetic disease and gender.
I have heard it argued many times that because ACT can create embryonic stem cell lines this way, that it solves every problem any pro-lifers could ever have against embryonic stem cell research. It doesn't. Just because an embryonic stem cell line can be derived with an embryo biopsy does not mean that every embryo survives the process. (Actually, as reported by The Post, the embryo used for this stem cell line was later destroyed.) ACT, or any PGD practitioner, cannot claim that no embryo is ever harmed by such an invasive procedure. In fact, researchers have discovered that mice that were subjected to embryo biopsy as embryos were at high risk for neurological disorders as adults. These scientists called for more rigorous research on the long term effects of embryo biopsy. Let us keep this in perspective, life in a dish is already a precarious proposition. Extracting cells at such an early stage makes it even more so.
Sunday, January 22. 2012
Thirty-nine years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Roe v. Wade, that the laws outlawing abortion in Texas were unconstitutional because a woman had a right to privacy, guaranteed by the Constitution. Suddenly, the unborn had no legal protection in the United States. But Roe v. Wade did not just deny legal protection to the unborn, it catapulted the United States toward all manner of unethical biotechnology.
Abortion obviously produces aborted fetuses. The taboo of using aborted fetal tissue for research is not a deterrent for some researchers; such tissue is just another tool in their toolbox. Michael West, formerly of Advanced Cell Technology, freely admits that he has used aborted fetal tissue to advance his research. In his book, The Immortal Cell: One Scientist's Quest to Solve the Mystery of Human Aging , he wrote, “By scrambling around and persuading, I found a means of getting early human fetal testes and tried to grow the human embryonic germ cell in a dish.” But, for his research, those germ cells were too old. In his words, “I needed five week old fetuses. But where could I get those? Women do not abort fetuses that early, when they are just learning they are pregnant.”
It is not just testes from aborted male babies that researchers want. Some want eggs from aborted female babies as well. The much-ignored reality of therapeutic cloning is this: to become a viable commercial therapy, an enormous amount of human eggs are required. So, researchers are looking to harvest eggs from aborted fetuses. All of a woman’s eggs come to be during her fetal development. A 20-week-old female has about 7 million eggs, the most she will ever have. Lori Andrews, a reproductive rights lawyer, makes the connection. She wrote in her book Clone Age: Adventures in the New World of Reproductive Technology, “With over a million abortions a year, some scientists have begun to think the unthinkable—using female fetuses as a source of eggs…."
Researchers also use aborted fetus to further embryonic stem cell research. Elaine Dewar, an investigative reporter, in her book The Second Tree: Stem Cells, Clones, Chimeras, and Quests for Immortality, asks a stem cell researcher about how he grows his embryonic stem cell lines:
So I asked, what do you grow these [embryonic] cell lines on now? On minced up human embryos, he replied. I cringed. "Isn't there an ethical issue in that?" "You can take it from abortions. In the human you can use earlier embryos, from the first trimester," he said.Companies Like ReNeuron, Neuralstem, Neocutis, and Senomyx are using tissue that came from aborted fetuses to develop drugs, treatments, flavor enhancers, and even beauty products. Some of the these companies do not publicly disclose where they got their tissue and so well-meaning pro-lifers and now faced with a world where the products they use were made possible by the deliberate killing of an innocent. A fact that thanks to Roe v Wade, companies feel they do not need to reveal.
In addition to opening the door to the destruction of innocent human life for parts, Roe v. Wade gave legitimacy to something called “reproductive rights.” Roe v. Wade states that an individual, married or single, has the right “to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”
These mythical "reproductive rights" found somewhere in the Constitution mean that the United States has an out of control and unregulated fertility industry. If reproductive rights include terminating a pregnancy, then do they also apply to those who want to get pregnant by any means possible? There are many who believe so. Today anything goes because we somehow have a "right" to reproduce. Many other countries have laws regulating their fertility industries, limiting the number of embryos that can be created and/or transfered into a woman. Thanks to Roe vs. Wade, the United States has wild west human manufacturing that gives rise to Octomom and likely upwards of a million human embryos on ice waiting for a chance to finish their lives. Embryos stem cell researchers cannot wait to rip apart for the stem cell "gold" inside.
Those “reproductive rights” are also fueling the push for reproductive cloning. John A. Robertson, law professor at the University of Texas, contends that, with the absolute right to abort a fetus, women also have an absolute right to any “non-coital technology” they need to bear children, including reproductive cloning. This sentiment is echoed in the words of Randy Wicher, a cloning activist:
“My decision to clone myself should not be the government’s business, or Cardinal O’Connor’s, any more than a woman’s decision to have an abortion is. Cloning is highly significant. It’s part of the reproductive rights of every human being.”Lee M. Silver, Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton, when discussing the potential outcomes of the marriage of reproductive biology and genetics what he calls reprogenetics. Reprogenetics includes the genetic engineering of offspring according to parental wishes. Silver wrote in his book Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering and Cloning Will Transform the American Family:
“Indeed, in a society that values individual freedom above all else, it is hard to find any legitimate basis for restricting the use of reprogenetics. And there in lies the dilemma. For each individual, use of the technology can be viewed in the light of personal reproductive choice….”While not illegal in the U.S., reproductive cloning is considered unsafe at present because of the possibilities of genetic abnormalities arising from the cloning process. Abortion would be an essential component of making reproductive cloning a reality. Gregory Pence, Philosophy professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in his book, Cloning after Dolly: Who’s Still Afraid?, proposes the following solution:
If the primary moral objection to reproductive cloning is that it will likely result in genetic errors in reprogramming, then of course we want research to prevent that kind of problem. But how do we do that? The best way is to see how cloned embryos develop and to study them, gestating them in female chimpanzees, artificial wombs, or human volunteers, then aborting them to see which are normal and which are not, then experimenting to see how to create only normally developing embryos/fetuses.
There are technology junkies that want to take these mythical "reproductive rights" even further and call them "somatic rights." They believe these "somatic rights" give them the power to modify their bodies with any kind of enhancement that they want. These are transhumanists. They are not happy to be simply human, they want to be "posthuman" or "superhuman" using technology like genetic engineering, cognitive enhancing drugs, artificial limbs and intelligence to go beyond healing, transforming humanity into something else entirely. They want to be able to chop off perfectly good limbs and replace them with artificial ones. They want to genetically engineer themselves and their offspring to be superior than the average human. Transhumanism would necessarily create a two-tiered society where those that can afford or have access to enhancements would rule over those that can't or don't.
Transhumanists are already using the foundation of "reproductive rights" to build their technological utopia. Kyle Munkittrick, in his piece When Will We Be Transhuman? Seven Conditions for Attaining Transhumanism, argues that for transhumanism to thrive the following must be embraced:
Actions such as abortion, assisted suicide, voluntary amputation, gender reassignment, surrogate pregnancy, body modification, legal unions among adults of any number, and consenting sexual practices would be protected under law.... Transhumanism cannot happen without a legal structure that allows individuals to control their own bodies. When bodily freedom is as protected and sanctified as free speech, transhumanism will be free to develop.Roe v. Wade did more than just legalize abortion across the Unites States. By denying the human embryo any rights, it has enabled the current practices of embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning. These, in turn, are just stops on the way to reproductive cloning. With legalized killing of human embryos in the womb, we have no moral grounds upon which to object to killing them in a test tube; no way to object to the use of aborted fetal tissue in research and manufacturing. Without Roe v. Wade would there be no fictitious "reproductive right" that seems to trump all others in our society. "Reproductive rights" have become "somatic rights" that will be used to justify invasive enhancements of healthy men, women and children in the future. If Roe v. Wade had upheld the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception, the practice of human beings being created and destroyed for their parts would not be possible. Nor would there widespread human manufacturing in the fertility industry. Nor would there be, I believe, so much ammunition to use technology to change the very nature of man into something "posthuman." Roe v. Wade has a legacy far beyond abortion. We will feel its reverberations for generations and beyond.
Wednesday, January 18. 2012
Because human life starts well before birth, it is no surprise that human learning starts well before birth. Science is showing us that the 9 months spent inside our mother's womb is a time we take cues from our mother and her environment. Some of these cues will stay with us for our entire lives. In this fascinating TED video, Annie Murphy Paul explains:
2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses' "right to become a father and a mother only through each other."
Tuesday, January 17. 2012
I have four children. With three of them, I found out their gender at my routine 20 week ultrasound. From the moment we discovered that our child was a boy or a girl, my husband and I began referring to our unborn baby by his or her name. We prepared the older siblings for the impending birth of the new baby by using his or her name. We even signed our unborn child's name in family correspondence. Finding out the gender of our children was a choice we made because we thought it better prepared the whole family for the life that was going to join us. Other families make other choices. Some like to be surprised. I admire their patience. That just was not us.
There was nothing inherently wrong with finding out the sex of our children. It would only have been wrong if our intent was to abort based on gender. Sex-selective abortion is a hot topic these days. Ever since Mara Hvistendahl courageously brought it to the attention of the world in her ground breaking book Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, the devastation of sex selective abortion has been in the consciousness of both sides of the abortion isle. New legislation introduced to the U.S. Congress in 2011 would ban abortions in the United States if the abortion is based on the gender or race of the fetus. In this legislation, it would be the abortion provider that is punished for knowingly providing an abortion based on race or gender. I think this is a good first step.
And while I am encouraged by the attention sex-selective abortion is now receiving, I am troubled by some other suggestions on how to curb the practice. Some would like to prevent sex-selective abortion by preventing couples from finding out the sex of their child in utero. It makes sense: if the results of an ultrasound are the reason some couples abort, then limiting access to the information in the ultrasound is the solution.
And yet this "solution" disturbs me because it is like rearranging the furniture and picking up the dung all the while ignoring the giant elephant in the room. It is the abortion that kills not the information gathered in routine ultrasounds. Without legalized abortion, the ultrasound would simply be a way to find out more about the life growing inside the womb. It is legalized abortion that makes finding out the gender, or any other information about a fetus, lethal.
As a pro-life community, we could call for the restriction of access to the information uncovered by prenatal testing as the way to deal with sex-selective abortion. If we go down that road we will likely have some strange company. Namely pro-abortion feminists who would rather restrict information from ultrasounds than the procedure that does the actual killing, abortion. Even after her expose of sex-selection in Asia, Mara Hvistendahl remains "pro-choice" suggesting that it is not access to abortion that is causing millions of Asian girls to go "missing" but instead the access to cheap ultrasound machines.
In India it is illegal to find out the sex of your unborn child. This is a response to widespread abortion of female fetuses as families limit their size, an allowed reason to have an abortion in India. It has not worked. In some districts, sex-selective abortion is as rampant as ever. This approach to curbing sex-selection by restricting gender information from prenatal testing has not worked in India and it will not likely work in the West. The only way to protect girls in the womb is to protect all life in the womb. Abortion is the problem and it is the abortion that needs to remain our focus.
I am for protecting the life in the womb in anyway possible. If we decide as a pro-life community to attack sex-selective abortion by restricting access to the information revealed in prenatal testing then we must do so with the understanding that for the majority of couples there is nothing inherently wrong with finding out the sex of an unborn child. While we chip away at the evils of abortion, we need to stay focused on where the evil lies, in the deliberate killing of innocent life. We must not forget to keep our eye on the prize: an end to all abortion, sex-selective or not.
Thursday, January 12. 2012
Long time readers of Mary Meets Dolly know that I have suffered from depression my whole adult life. Symptoms of depression and anxiety run in my family. So any story about new treatments for depression always catch my eye. But this one caught my eye for another reason. One of the indications of depression is a reduced hippocampus, a part of the brain that controls, among other things, memory and spatial navigation. Scientists have found a drug that increases the size of the hippocampus and they hope that this will not only treat depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's but cure them. From Gizmodo:
If you are depressed, or schizophrenic or have Alzheimer's, scientists say you probably have a shrunken hippocampus. The good news: a drug that just entered human trials promises to re-grow that part of the brain.
They discovered this drug by testing several on Neuralstem's neural stem cell line and seeing which promoted cell growth. Then they tested the most promising one in animals and now NSI-189 is being tested in humans for effectiveness at treating depression.
The researchers used a line of neural stem cells developed by Neuralstem Inc., a closely held biotechnology company based in Rockville, Maryland. The company developed the line from fetal tissue donated by a woman who underwent an elective abortion at 8 weeks.So the question is, would it be ethical to take this drug for depression if it becomes an FDA approved treatment? The manufacture of the drug itself does not require aborted fetal tissue. It was only discovered and developed using cells that look to be obtained from an elective abortion.
I think this situation may be analogous to that of vaccines. Many vaccines are created with cell lines that originated from an aborted fetus. Cell lines MRC-5 and WI-38 are common cell lines used to produce vaccines for rubella, polio, hepatitis A and chicken pox. MRC-5 was developed from lung cells from a 14-week-old male fetus that was electively aborted in 1966. The WI-38 line was derived from a female fetus that was aborted in 1964.
Many people often argue that using fetal cells from an aborted fetus is morally acceptable because the fetus was going to die anyway. The Catholic Church rejects this argument. If an organism must be intentionally destroyed to harvest cells, then the cells are morally tainted. If these fetal stem cells had come from a natural miscarriage, then it would be morally permissible for parents to donate these cells to research. The morality of fetal cell use is analogous to that of organ donation. If the patient died of natural causes or a traumatic event, then is is morally permissible to use their organs for the benefit of others. It is not morally permissible to intentionally and prematurely end a person's life and then take their organs for donation. Using fetal stem cells from aborted fetuses is analogous to using organs from death row inmates or victims of euthanasia.
I have written before that it is acceptable for pro-life parents to use these vaccines for their children as long as parents do their homework, request alternatives and voice their objections to health care providers if no alternatives are available. Companies will not change their practices if there are no complaints against their practices.
Which brings me to what truly bothers me about this drug and what Neuralstem, and others like Senomyx, a biotech company that uses aborted fetal cell lines to taste flavor enhancers, are doing. There is no mention anywhere on Neuralstem's website, as far as I could see, that lets the consumer know where they got the cells for their stem cell line. It could be they no longer use that cell line but I found no information to the contrary. Their recently published articles refer to their neural stem cell lines as "fetal" and "embryonic." How are consumers supposed to object if they do not even know there is something to object to?
I fear this is the future. Well meaning pro-lifers using drugs and other medical breakthroughs with no knowledge of the unethical practices that brought them to market. This is another disastrous legacy of Roe vs. Wade. A fetus is now considered no more than just tissue and therefore companies do not feel obligated to let patients know that their product was made possible by ripping a fetus from its mother's womb. These companies could have used cells from a natural miscarriage but instead they chose to morally taint their work by using the cells from the taking of an innocent life. And thanks to the false notion of "reproductive rights" now they do not feel obliged to disclose this very important fact. A fact that would matter greatly to a great many people. If only we knew about it.
Tuesday, January 10. 2012
More great news in the adult stem cell field. Researchers from the University of Illinois have reported they have improved insulin production in people with type 1 diabetes. It is thought that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease meaning that something causes the patient's white blood cells to attack the pancreas cells that produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. These researchers took the patient's blood and circulated it with cord blood stem cells that reprogrammed the patient's white blood cells, called lymphocytes. The blood was reintroduced to the patient and insulin production increased enough to be able to reduce the amount of insulin the patient needed to take in order to regulate their blood sugar levels. They call this technique the "Stem Cell Educator." From the press release:
Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body's own immune system attacking its pancreatic islet beta cells and requires daily injections of insulin to regulate the patient's blood glucose levels. A new method described in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Medicine uses stem cells from cord blood to re-educate a diabetic's own T cells and consequently restart pancreatic function reducing the need for insulin.
Photo of epidermolysis bullosa from SockMonkeyClothing.com a clothing retailer for children with skin disorders
The lesions that once blanketed Charlie's small frame have largely receded. Just a few patches of fragile skin remain, and those are carefully wrapped with bandages that once entombed most of Charlie's body....Good luck to the Knuths and Seth! We wish them all the best.
This last year has shown hope for a cognitive treatment for Down Syndrome. And yet there has been some reservations about such treatment by parents of children with Down Syndrome. They worry that treating their child for cognitive dysfunction implies that there is something wrong with having Down Syndrome. That somehow their beautiful, loving, happy child is not good enough and needs fixing.
In her article for LifeNews, Effie Caldarola, a mother of a child with Down Syndrome, asks:
Is this good? The idea raises questions on so many levels. Who would hesitate to immunize their child against disease, buy them the eyeglasses they need, or let’s face it, indulge the American desire for every child to have the perfectly aligned set of teeth? But to alter someone’s intelligence level with a drug? Does this suggest that there is something wrong, something diseased or misaligned, about the I.Q. with which we are born?I am not a parent of a special needs child so it is incredibly difficult for me to comment on these very valid concerns. Making genetics my profession, I have always thought a person is more than just a sum of their genes. So for me a person with Down Syndrome is so much more than their extra chromosome 21. The syndrome is not who they are. It does not define them. And so therefore I have never personally perceived treating the cognitive issues associated with Downs as a rejection of their person. I also do not believe that a person with Down Syndrome needs to be "fixed." But I could certainly see how such measures could be perceived as such.
Dr. Gerard Nadal has written a fantastic response to the ethical issues surrounding the treatment of Down Syndrome. I thank him for writing it. A father of a special needs child Joseph, Dr. Nadal adroitly handles this very sensitive issue by explaining that treatment that allows children to be the best they can be is not a rejection of who they are:
Do we want Joseph to only become “functional enough” and then leave him looking sufficiently autistic? No, of course not. We want him to be all that he is capable of becoming, given the brain with which God has blessed him. He will never not have autism. He will forever retain certain of the traits that define autism. However, we want him to have as many options in life as possible.
Monday, January 9. 2012
Infertility is heartbreaking and it seems that nearly everyone, myself included, has a family member or close friend or colleague that has tried IVF to have a child. Many people are reluctant to even discuss IVF simply because they do not want to be considered insensitive or judgmental.
But it is important to not turn away from the dark side of IVF. IVF is terribly wasteful of human life. According to figures release last year in the United Kingdom, 130,822 live IVF babies have been born in the period between 1991 and 2009. But over 3 million embryos have been created in about the same time. That means for every IVF success, nearly 24 lives are frozen, discarded, or sacrificed in research.
There is another way to treat infertility. One that actually finds the cause of unknown infertility and treats it instead of just wastefully creating disposable human lives. Not enough can be said about NaPro Technology that is successful even for couples for whom IVF has failed. And even though awareness of NaPro Technology is growing, it is still relatively unknown compared to the rest of the fertility industry. We all need to do our part to inform our friends, neighbors and loved ones about this ethical treatment for infertility.
In September, The Irish Times did a great article on a NaPro Technology provider, Dr. Phil Boyle:
Many couples turn to assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), for help, but Galway GP and fertility specialist Dr Phil Boyle believes that these interventions do not do enough to address the underlying causes of infertility.The article also has a great success story from a couple that failed with IVF because the cause of their infertility, her cycle, was not diagnosed:
Louise McMullan and her husband, Eamonn, a GP in Omagh, have three daughters – Alice (11), Lucy (eight) and Rose (five) – all born through NaPro technology.In addition, here is a video from an Australian practitioner of NaPro Technology where he compares IVF to their approach. It is very informative. His discussion of IVF begins about minute 12 and the discussion of NaPro Technology treatment begins about minute 25.
Tuesday, January 3. 2012
Reflecting on 2011, I began thinking of the 5 events in biotechnology that were the greatest threats to the sanctity of human life. True to my mission though, I couldn't just talk about what is bad in the biotech arena. I also have to celebrate the 5 ways biotechnology has improved or preserved human life.
Monday, January 2. 2012
Several years ago, I remember watching a story on the efforts to save India's gharial crocodile. On the verge of extinction, it is the most endangered crocodile on the planet. After sending out thousands of gharials into the wild, only 200 breeding adults are left. I remember marveling at the lengths the researchers and volunteers were going to save this prickly, yet majestic animal.
And then I asked myself, "Why?" If the gharial crocodile is just a product of random mutations and that were selected by nature, why would anyone try and save it? Why not let natural selection take its course and let the gharial go extinct? In our creation-free, science-only mindset, why were we not celebrating the extinction of the gharial? I mean, some other species will adapt and take its place in the ecosystem; Darwin's natural selection once again proved. That is cause for celebration right?
And yet conservation efforts by humans abound. Why? Why try and subvert the process of natural selection? Some would say it is because humans are causing the extinction of these species. But if we are better adapted to our environment and the gharials can't adapt well enough to deal with us, then why not let them die out. Is it not the survival of the fittest? Are humans not the species able to adapt to nearly any environment? Are we not the most fit to survive just about anywhere? Then why do we care about species that can't make it on their own?
And yet even the most die-hard Darwinian atheist would applaud the conservation efforts of anyone trying to save an endangered species. Why? I believe it is because humans inherently know that we are charged with being the curators of God's creation. We are meant to protect and preseve our environment because it has inherent value beyond simple randomness. We want to and should save the gharial crocodile because that is our charge. We know it even if we do not believe that there is a Creator that has given us that charge.
I think caring for our environment and the other species in it goes beyond just a desire to preserve our habitat, I think it is a hard wired understanding that humans have been entrusted with caring for this planet and everything on it. And we better not screw it up.
And yet the radical environmentalism that has surfaced in that last decade has taken a scary departure from this idea. Instead of trying to protect and preserve nature, there is a growing meme that it is the human that needs to go extinct. We have to get rid of ourselves in order that nature survive. Many environmental types truly believe that the planet would be a better place without us and they want us gone. Some range from just asking that we voluntarily do not have children, some want to implement a global one-child policy like China, and some hope for an outbreak of a virus like Ebola to get rid of what they see as a plague on the Earth.
And yet would Earth be a better place without its curators? I believe I found the answer in Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's, now Pope Benedict XVI, collection of essays, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Creation and the Fall. He profoundly warns:
Human beings no longer have any use for themselves; they would prefer to put themselves out of the way so that nature might be well again. But this is not how to bring healing to the world, for we go against the Creator when we no longer want to exist as the human beings that he wanted to exist. It is not thus that we heal nature, but rather thus that we destroy ourselves and creation by removing from it the hope that lies in it and the greatness to which it is called.
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