Tuesday, January 29. 2013
Last week the world was talking about Harvard’s George Church who suggested we use Neanderthal DNA to resurrect Neanderthals.
From the UK’s Daily Mail:
They’re usually thought of as a brutish, primitive species.And while the world focused on the creation of a fictional Neanderthal, I was horrified by Church’s “need” for a very real “adventurous female human.”
Continue reading at LifeNews >>
Sunday, January 27. 2013
In October of 2012, scientists in Oregon announced they had created a dozen human embryos with the genetic material from two women and one man. While these embryos never made it to a womb, these researchers are hopeful that they will be given federal approval to, as USA Today reports, "test the procedure in women." This, of course, means transferring these genetically modified embryos to mothers willing to gestate them.
A few weeks later, in December 2012, scientists from New York proclaimed they have improved upon the technique that created these three-parent embryos and are intent on further developing their breakthrough for use in humans.
Continue reading at the National Catholic Register >>
Thursday, January 24. 2013
This is exciting. A documentary film by Doug Wolens about transhumanism and the singularity with some serious players like Ray Kurzweil, Aubrey De Grey and Bill McKibben. It is called "The Singularity" and it asks right under the title "Will we survive our technology?" I am interested in finding out what the film maker suggests is the answer. Regardless, I applaud Doug Wolens for taking a serious look at what is no longer science fiction and is quickly becoming reality. Wolen writes:
Singularity advocates argue that consciousness is just another problem to solve or that it will just happen when a system is sufficiently advanced. But I was not too sure. The promise of this new future began to lose its luster. I started to see holes in some of the arguments and I began questioning the philosophical and moral implications. If smarter than human computers were created, how would they treat their human creators? Would everyone have the means to augment their intelligence or just the rich? What would happen if something went wrong with these super powerful technologies and destroyed everything on the planet? Or if these powerful technologies got in the wrong hands and were maliciously used? Maybe the singularity wasn’t such a good idea.
Wednesday, January 23. 2013
As the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade dawns, my friends that have adopted children have been posting pictures on Facebook of their beautiful families and thanking the birth mothers for their courage and sacrifice. These adoptive mothers asked everyone to choose adoption over abortion. As I contemplated praising my friends for telling their story, I remembered I had a story to tell as well. I had forgotten.
This month, my husband and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. My oldest daughter turned 17 a few months ago. You do the math.
Eighteen years ago, I was staring at two blue lines in the bathroom, and I felt my world crashing in around me. I was a senior in college, but, because of my year abroad, I had three semesters left before I could graduate. I had just received a grant for research in organic chemistry with toxic chemicals that no doubt would cause birth defects. My now husband was nowhere near graduating and I feared my conservative Catholic family would never forgive me for getting pregnant out of wedlock.
It was the textbook definition of a crisis pregnancy. My situation was exactly the hard case that everyone talks about when they say they are "pro-choice." I could have been the poster child for Planned Parenthood.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Tuesday, January 22. 2013
Another great episode of BioTalk with my friend Chelsea Zimmerman from Reflections of a Paralytic about the new technique that creates embryos with three-genetic parents and how the lack of any federal regulation is going to lead to the Brave New United States.
Thursday, January 17. 2013
It happens almost every time. When I write a piece about embryonic stem cell research, I get an e-mail or comment, sometimes polite, most of the time not, that goes something like this, “If you were not such a scientifically-ignorant pro-lifer, you would know that Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) can make embryonic stem cells without harming the embryo at all. I am much smarter than you and now that you are enlightened with this revelation, you can support embryonic stem cell research like I do.”
Continue reading at LifeNews >>
Wednesday, January 16. 2013
See the Church was totally wrong when she said that removing sex from procreation would turn procreation into manufacture and the next generation into a commodity. IVF is only for infertile couples desperate to have a child. It will NEVER lead to the buying and selling of human beings.
Except that it did. William Saletan has it exactly right in his Slate piece "The Embryo Factory: The business logic of made-to-order babies" about Jennalee Ryan who doesn't sell egg and sperm. She sells made-to-order embryos. Saletan writes:
It's temping to label Ryan a madwoman, as many critics have. But that's exactly wrong. Ryan represents the next wave of industrial rationality. She's bringing the innovations of Costco and Burger King to the business of human flesh....When Slate begins to spot the man behind the curtain, it is time to sit up and take notice America. We are allowing the wholesale buying and selling of the next generation. It is time to get some laws regulating the fertility industry like every other sane nation in the world. It is time to stop looking at children like they are the latest accessory and start revering them as begotten, not made. Again, I pull out this quote from William E. May:
"When a child is begotten through the conjugal act, he comes to be as a gift from God, a gift crowning the spouse's mutual gift of themsleves to each other. When a child is 'produced' it comes to be, not as a gift from God, which in truth it is, but as a product of human control."
Tuesday, January 15. 2013
These days it seems we have a "right" to everything except the rights that are actually given to us by our Creator and enumerated in the Constitution. (My latest favorite is the "right to be unlimited." A right for iPhone5 users according to Sprint.) Chelsea Zimmerman over at Reflections of a Paralytic sent me this article from the MIT Technology Review over the Christmas holiday. It says we have a "right to consumer genetics."
What exactly is consumer genetics? Well, you can go about getting your genes tested in a couple of ways. Your doctor can order a test for a genetic predisposition for a particular disease. You give a blood sample or a sample of cheek cells and a clinical genetics lab tests that for the mutation of interest. (That was my job.) Your doctor, or genetic counselor, gets the results and interprets them for you.
Or you can, without your doc's involvement, spit in a cup and send your saliva to a for-profit company like 23andMe which will test your DNA for all kinds of things like ancestry (where they tell you what percentage of Neanderthal DNA you have) and health (where they tell you the percentage chance you will get Alzheimer's or diabetes etc.) And you can enter your spit into research projects for cancer or Parkinson's disease. With this kind of genetic testing though, you are left to try and interpret the results yourself.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Friday, January 11. 2013
I think of all my geeky t-shirts, this one is my favorite. For me these eight little words are not just chuckle-worthy, they say so much more than what is apparent.
What is entropy? Without going into a thermodynamic treatise on usable and unusable energy, I will say that entropy is simply the disorder or randomness in a system. The higher the entropy the more disorder there is. Without adding anymore energy, the entropy of a system will increase but not decrease. For example, if I knock over a glass and it shatters on the floor, the entropy has increased. The glass is very disordered laying on the floor in a bunch of pieces. The glass will never spontaneously reassemble. That would require a decrease in entropy. The only way to decrease the entropy of the glass is to add energy: the energy required to collect all the pieces and glue the glass back together.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics states the entropy of the universe is increasing. As time goes on, the universe is becoming more and more disordered. Hence the "Entropy. It ain't what it used to be."
But entropy has theological implications. If the universe is becoming more disordered, then at some point, in the beginning, it was infinitely ordered. In the beginning. Perfect order. I don't know about you, but to me that screams, "Creator!"
Dr. Robert Jastrow, in his book God and the Astronomers, wrote:
"Theologians generally are delighted with the proof that the universe had a beginning, but astronomers are curiously upset.... For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
Tuesday, January 8. 2013
This is depressing. Costa Rica, the only country to have an outright ban on IVF because IVF creates and destroys human life on an industrial scale, has been told by a "human rights" court that they have to abandon their prohibition.
You would think that the numbers recently reported by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority would bolster Costa Rica's case. In the UK, nearly 2 million IVF embryos have been created and then simply been discarded "unused." These shocking numbers prompted Lord Alton to say:
“It happens on a day-by-day basis with casual indifference. This sheer destruction of human embryos – most people would not know that it took place on such a scale."But it seems that the mythical "right to have a child anyway I see fit" is more important than the very real "right to life." From the Costa Rica Star:
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) has overturned a prohibition on IVF in Costa Rica saying that it infringed provisions under the American Convention on Human Rights.There is so much misdirection here I cannot handle it. First IVF does not "treat" infertility. It does not attempt to fix any of the causes of infertility. It only mass produces offspring in a dish in a desperate attempt to give parents a child. NaPro Technology actually addresses problem that is causing infertility so couples can get pregnant naturally, and not just once, but again and again. That is real treatment for the infertile.
Second, I know activists have been trying to keep pushing the definition of conception as far away from fertilization that they possible can, but I thought implantation was the farthest away they could get. But now the moment of conception takes place "after implantation"? How far after exactly? Pretty soon "human rights" courts are going to be telling that the moment of conception is right before birth. As Dr. Antony Caruso, an American reproductive endocrinologist, points out this ruling may set a dangerous precedent. He warned:
“The court appears to have radically changed the legal definition of conception, and is applying an artificial description to a natural process. Indeed, this could have a far reaching impact.”And last but not least is the idea that childlessness is a somehow a human rights issue. Not just any human rights issue, but one that is more important than the right to life. This is the money quote:
Piero Tozzi, legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organisation of Christian leaders, said: ‘A preliminary reading of the ruling indicates that the Court elevated secondary rights-such as the right to privacy, a right to personal autonomy, and a right to sexual and reproductive health-above the right to life, which by necessity takes precedence over all the other rights’.This is the world we live in. The right to life should trump all others but unfortunately it is shoved to the back of the line behind the "right to sexual health."
Looks like Costa Rica is going to bow to international pressure and comply with the court's demands which is really a tragedy since they were a beacon of reason in a ever increasing sea of emotional relativity.
Monday, January 7. 2013
In an attempt to stop the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, two researchers sued the Obama Administration saying that the administration's funding of research that requires the destruction of a human embryo violates the Dickey Amendment. Unfortunately, while a lower court agreed that using tax-payer money to fund embryonic stem cell research is in conflict with the Dickey Amendment, higher courts have not agreed, and the Supreme Court has decided not to hear the case. So for now the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research continues.
But what is the Dickey Amendment anyway? Why does everyone refer to it when discussing the battle over embryonic stem cell research?
The Dickey Amendment, also known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, is a very, very important piece of federal legislation inside the Omnibus Appropriations Act that states:
SEC. 509. (a) None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for--Why is this little bit of a much larger piece of legislation so very important? Let's start with some history.
In 2001, President Bush, allowed federal funds to be used for research on human embryonic stem cells. Bush was the first president to allow tax-payer dollars to fund human embryonic stem cell research. But, these funds were restricted to research on human embryonic stem cell lines created before August of that year. Contrary to popular belief, Bush's executive order did not outlaw embryonic stem cell research nor eliminate funding altogether. It simply meant that from that point forward no federal tax dollars could not be used to fund the research on stem cell lines created by newly destroyed human embryos. Bush's policy was a compromise to allow some funding on existing embryonic stem cell lines without violating the Dickey Amendment.
Once elected, President Obama overturned Bush's funding restriction. Suddenly, our tax dollars could go to research on new cell lines created by ripping open human embryos. Obama's executive order only allowed funding for research on embryonic stem cell lines created from embryos left over from IVF treatments. Since federal funds still cannot go to fund research that creates or destroys human embryos thanks to the Dickey Amendment, with federal money researchers cannot destroy the embryos themselves. Instead, they can use federal money to work with embryonic cell lines created elsewhere by destroying embryos.
Theresa Deisher, co-founder of the Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute, and James L. Sherley, a biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute claim that their research is negatively impacted by the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. They sued the Obama Administration saying that its funding policy violated the Dickey Amendment. Initially the courts agreed. In the decision, Judge Lamberth wrote:
“If one step or ‘piece of research’ of an E.S.C. research project results in the destruction of an embryo, the entire project is precluded from receiving federal funding,”Lamberth's ruling was overturned by a higher court and the Supreme Court has now refused to hear the case.
Because the Dickey Amendment is seen as the fly in the embryonic-stem-cell-research ointment, newspapers, lawmakers and scientists have called for the Dickey Amendment to be overturned. That would clear the way for unfettered money to all kinds of embryo-destructive research. If the Dickey Amendment is overturned our tax dollars can go to fund embryo farms where human life is created and destroyed as a research tool for scientists. It would also allow the federal government (that means you and your tax dollars) to fund the cloning of human embryos for use in research.
Think that the worst would never happen? Think there is no way that our tax dollars would go to Frankenstein-like experiments if the Dickey Amendment fell by the wayside?
Well, remember the scientists in Massachusetts who created human embryos cloned with cow, rabbit and mouse eggs in an attempt to harvest patient-specific embryonic stem cells? One could argue that the creation of human-bovine, human-rabbit, and human-mouse embryos clearly falls under the umbrella of stem cell research since obtaining embryonic stem cells was the goal.
And what about the scientists in New York that purposefully created embryos with the genetic disorder "triploidy" in an attempt to harvest embryonic stem cells? The work was funded by the New York Stem Cell Foundation and was called a "landmark finding" in stem cell research. Might that not qualify for federal funding of "stem cell research" as well?
Even the scientists in Oregon that recently created three-parent embryos lament that restrictions on the federal funding of their work are "standing in their way" of bringing the three-parent embryo to the clinic to "test the procedure in women." I am sure the funding restriction they refer to is the Dickey Amendment.
Unlike other countries, the United States has no federal laws regulating the creation, manipulation and destruction of human life for research purposes. All we have is a law against funding such research. This means that the research is allowed, we just don't have to pay for it. But that funding restriction is still important. The Dickey-Wicker Amendment is the last impediment to a government-funded Brave New World where human life is created, manipulated and destroyed in the name of science. A very important little piece of legislation indeed.
Thursday, January 3. 2013
Peering into the abyss of biotechnology, I have often mused that the problem with much of what goes on in fertility clinics and laboratories of the world is a denial of human nature. The denial that living human organisms, regardless of how they are created, are indeed human beings. They are small and immature, but human beings none-the-less.
This denial of the nature of humanity can be seen in nearly all the moral problems in our society: from the denial of the humanity of the unborn, the sick and the disabled; to the denial of our need of an intact family unit with both a mother and a father; to the denial that sex is a procreative event; to the denial that the safest most loving place to begin our lives is in our mother's womb, not in a laboratory; to the denial that the sex of your next child should be decided by God and not by you.
I was heartened that the Holy Father spoke about human nature in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia. It is the denial our God-given nature that threatens to destroy our families and our civilization.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Wednesday, December 19. 2012
Those of us who could read between the lines have always known that so-called therapeutic cloning, the creation and cloned human embryos with somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) and their subsequent destruction for stem cells, has always ultimately been about reproductive cloning, or cloning-to-produce children.
How do we know this? Well first, SCNT is the same technique that was used to create Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, and the countless other mammals that have been cloned since. Once scientists perfected SCNT in humans under the guise of "stem cell research" it was only a matter of time before the same technique was being offered on the menu at your local fertility clinic. President George W. Bush was right when he warned:
"Anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be virtually impossible to enforce. Cloned human embryos created for research would be widely available in laboratories and embryo farms. Once cloned embryos were available, implantation would take place. Even the tightest regulations and strict policing would not prevent or detect the birth of cloned babies."Second, if you paid close attention to the race to clone embryos for stem cells, you would have noticed that fertility docs were moonlighting in the cloning lab. Dr. Samuel H. Wood is a fertility specialist. His web page at the San Diego Reproductive Sciences Center says their facilities are "where babies come from" and yet at the bottom of Dr. Wood's list of publications is his paper on cloning human embryos. [French AJ, Adams CA, Anderson LS, Kitchen JR, Hughes MR, Wood SH. Development of Human cloned Blastocysts Following Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) with Adult Fibroblasts. Stem Cells. 2008 Jan 17]
IVF pioneer Robert Edwards is also in favor of cloning-to-produce children. He sees a similarity between IVF in the early days and cloning and believes cloning to help infertile couples have a child is a "clinical imperative."
Now that induced pluripotent stem cell technology (iPSCs) has replaced therapeutic cloning as the method to get patient-specific stem cells, talk about cloning should have disappeared. That is if cloning really was about the stem cells.
Continue reading at LifeNews >>
Monday, December 17. 2012
In our culture, we idolize scientists. Often John Q. Public fails to question what scientists are doing or the money they ask for because there is the assumption that scientists are altruistic. Even more often, anyone who does question the ethics of the research or the public policy that provides money to ethically-suspect research is labeled "anti-science."
We have no problem believing that CEOs or bankers would commit fraud, but put on a white coat and that becomes a difficult sell. Venerating scientists like they are rock stars, doesn't help.
And yet fraud in the scientific community is a problem. The Scientist outlines the "Top Science Scandals of 2012." A fascinating read filled with made-up data and fictional patients. One Japanese scientist fabricated data in 172 papers over his career. A particularly clever fraud perpetrated by scientists, was to refer journal editors back to themselves for reviews of their papers:
Rather than falsify data in order to get published, researchers have taken a new tack this year by writing glowing expert reviews for their own papers. When asked by journal editors to suggest names of experts in their field who were not involved in their research, at least four submitting authors suggested names and emails that then forwarded back to their own inboxes. The trend, first reported by Retraction Watch, was caught by one journal editor when author Hyung-In Moon, assistant professor at Dong-A University in Busan, South Korea, offered up names of reviewers with Google and Yahoo rather than university email accounts.Are all scientists unethical? Absolutely not. But we cannot continue to treat all scientists with kid gloves. Scientists are people too. They are just as subject to the temptations of ethically-suspect behaviors as bankers and CEOs.
Which is why I have always said scientists are scientists, not philosophers, not ethicists, and certainly not lawmakers. To suggest that we should leave the decision about what is moral scientific research up to the just the scientists is like suggesting we should leave what constitutes ethical business practices up to corporate CEOs.
Friday, December 14. 2012
So this t-shirt is a bit more obscure than my others.
This is the heat equation. Hence the "HOT." "q" is the energy, in the form of heat, either absorbed or given off by an object. "m" is the mass of the object. "delta T" is the change in temperature of the object.
"c" is a special variable called specific heat. Specific heat is intrinsic to a substance. It describes how easy a substance is to heat up. Metals increase their temperature fast with very little energy input. Everyone who has touched a metal spoon that has been sitting close to a burner has experienced the fact that metals have a low specific heat. Water on the other hand has a high specific heat meaning that it takes a lot of energy to raise the temperature of water. Anyone who has paid to heat a swimming pool or waited for a pot of water to boil has experienced the high specific heat of water.
So the amount of energy (q) needed to change the temperature (delta T) of an object depends on the object's mass (m) [a bigger object needs more energy] and its specific heat (c) [how easy the object is to heat up.]
In the immortal words of Paris Hilton, "That's hot!"
Wednesday, December 12. 2012
I have always felt that Iron Man was the anti-transhumanist super-hero. His chest-plate is there to prevent shrapnel from entering his heart, not as an augmentation of an already healthy body. And instead of building a better soldier, Tony Stark builds a better suit. A suit that can be taken off at the end of the day and at the end of a career. Apparently, Iron Man 3, which opens in May 2013, delves into a tranhumanist plot line where Tony is compelled to enhance his body as well. Subculture for the Cultured has the story:
Extremis focuses on a battle between Tony Stark and a reactionary named Mallen, who has taken a dose of a genetic enhancer called Extremis. In their first encounter, Mallen handily defeats Stark leaving him beaten and close to death. Tony realizes he has no chance of defeating Mallen as long as he lacks Mallen’s speed and genetic enhancements.Interesting. This plot illustrates what many opponents of transhumanism have said for years. Transhumanism is NOT ABOUT FREEDOM to do with one's body as one chooses. Once people begin to enhance their otherwise healthy bodies, the rest of us have to as well just to keep up. Tony has to enhance to survive and beat the bad guy. Enhancements equal a loss of freedom not a gain. Wake up. Coercion is part of the augmentation package.
Tuesday, December 11. 2012
I recently saw a Jon Stewart monologue that really got me thinking. Stewart was making fun of Fox News' "War on Christmas." Stewart asks how could there possibly be a "War on Christmas" when Christmas, as a holiday, has become so bloated that this year it finally took over Thanksgiving. In 2012, before the turkey was even cold, Americans flocked to the stores to buy Christmas gifts on the new consumer holiday called Black Thursday.
What other holiday gets so much media? My cable guide is filled with endless Christmas specials of my favorite shows. Christmas music gets its own radio stations dedicated to such crimes as "Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey" (I am Italian, by the way) and Justin Bieber's version of "The Little Drummer Boy." And we are subjected to some of the worst music ever made not just for a week or two, but for a whole month or more. (I feel so sorry for the people who have to work places that pipe in that garbage. I think they should strike.)
Stewart ends by telling Halloween to watch its back. A wise admonition since we all have seen Christmas decorations on display right next to Halloween costumes and candy.
Upon some serious reflection, I discovered I agreed with Stewart. There is no "War on Christmas," the increasingly secular holiday. How could there be when Christmas has expanded its waistline so dramatically that it has finally eaten Thanksgiving?
I realized that instead there is a "War on the Meaning of Christmas."
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report>>
Monday, December 10. 2012
The Scientist is calling a service called MyCell offered by Cellular Dynamics International (CDI) one of the top ten innovations of 2012. With MyCell Services, a researcher can send in a blood sample of a patient and get back a cell type of choice. MyCell Services uses induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to reprogram the patient's cell back to a pluripotent state and from there CDI can differentiate those iPS cells into the cell type the researchers requests. From The Scientist:
Now, Cellular Dynamics International (CDI) is utilizing that technology to offer, via the company’s MyCell Services, iPSC lines from any patient of interest, as well as differentiated cell lines derived from the iPSCs.Now I know there is much controversy in the pro-life community over iPSC technology because, among other things, researchers have used a cell line in the reprogramming process that came from an abortion in the 1970s. Unfortunately this cell line is a common tool among cell biologists and is used in all kinds of research, not just iPSCs. I could not find any information on which cell line MyCell Services uses to grow their viruses for the reprogramming services they offer. If they have used a cell line from an abortion, even if it was performed decades ago, that does morally taint this innovation.
That being said, I want to point out what MyCell provides has been the holy grail of stem cell science ever since Dolly the sheep was cloned back in 1996: patient-specific cells of whatever type was needed.
Before iPSC technology, the way scientists tried to accomplish this goal was to collect hundreds of eggs from women, putting their health and fertility at risk, then clone human embryos with those eggs, then destroy those little lives trying to harvest the "patient-specific" stem cells inside. (Or they cloned human embryos with cow, rabbit or mouse eggs. Or they intentionally created embryos with a devastating genetic condition called triploidy.) Researchers insisted that this ethical disaster called "therapeutic cloning" was the BEST and ONLY way to get patient-specific cells of their choice.
iPSC technology has changed all of that. No eggs, no cloning, no animal-human hybrids, no human lives created, manipulated and destroyed. Researchers can now get patient-specific stem cells without these particular ethical issues.
Of course, if researchers in any kind of research are using cell lines of illicit origin, then the work is not totally free from moral problems. But this is a huge improvement over the "therapeutic cloning" vision of the mass cloning and destruction of embryos that stem cell researchers had less than a decade ago.
If we can encourage companies and researchers to totally stop using cell line of illicit origin (if they are using such tools) then we can truly rejoice over such an awesome innovation.
Friday, December 7. 2012
I thought I had heard just about every argument surrounding using human embryos in research. The other day I realized, I hadn't.
A friend of mine, who was reading Why Catholicism Matters by Dr. William Donohue, pointed out a passage where Dr. Donohue refers to a piece by Leon Kass, an ethicist of Jewish descent, called "The Meaning of Life in the Laboratory." Dr. Kass delves into the status of the human embryo and whether or not a human embryo is simply a "ball of cells" or something more. He writes this disturbing, but relevant passage:
On the other hand, we would, I suppose, recoil even from the thought, let alone the practice--I apologize for forcing it upon the reader--of eating such embryos, should someone discover that they would provide a great delicacy, a “human caviar.” The human blastocyst would be protected by our taboo against cannibalism, which insists on the humanness of human flesh and does not permit us to treat even the flesh of the dead as if it were mere meat. The human embryo is not mere meat; it is not just stuff; it is not a “thing.” Because of its origin and because of its capacity, it commands a higher respect.Human caviar. A disgusting, repulsive and horrifying thought for pretty much everyone. Why? Because the human embryo is a human organism, just as we are, albeit very early in development.
Dr. Donohue, in commenting on Kass' analogy, states the obvious:
If the proponents of embryonic stem cell research were served human embryos as a delicacy, or human caviar, would they partake? If not, why not? Because of a natural aversion to cannibalism? Does that not concede the point made by the Catholic Church?Indeed.
Tuesday, December 4. 2012
So the long and twisted court battle over the patenting of genes is finally going to the Supreme Court. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has rightly sued Myriad Genetics and the US Patent Office over the granting of patents on naturally occurring human genes.
DNA represents the physical embodiment of biological information, distinct in its essential characteristics from any other chemical found in nature. It is concluded that DNA’s existence in an ‘isolated’ form alters neither this fundamental quality as it exists in the body nor the information it encodes.Of course Myriad appealed and the appellate court came back with a ridiculous ruling that DNA isolated from the body was fundamentally different than it was inside the body so it qualified as an invention.
The case then went to the Supreme Court, without hearing arguments, who kicked it back down for reconsideration. The lower court again, out of its mind, found that isolated DNA from the human body was a patentable invention.
Now the highest court in the land has finally agreed to hear arguments over what I believe is the systematic claim of ownership of the human body.
As someone who has isolated more DNA from people than you can imagine, I have a suggestion for the ACLU lawyers. Myriad, a company that tests women for variations in the "breast cancer genes" BRCA I and II, is claiming that isolated DNA is so fundamentally different that it is in the body that it is something they can own. If I were a lawyer for the ACLU, I would ask Myriad whose name goes on the tube of isolated DNA. Guaranteed the patient's name is on the tube. In fact, a good lab will have two patient identifiers on every tube, the patient's name and a number assigned to their sample.
If isolated DNA is fundamentally different from it is in the body that it becomes a patentable invention, then why would Myraid bother to identify the sample at all? Why not just put "Myriad" on every tube and call it good?
Monday, December 3. 2012
The complicated case of the patenting of discoveries using embryonic stem cells in Europe is full of irony, surprise and confusion.
It began with German embryonic stem cell researcher Oliver Brüstle who applied for a patent on his method of deriving neural precursor cells from embryonic stem cells. In Germany, research on embryos is banned, so Dr. Brustle fought for grant money to work on embryonic stem cells imported from other countries. As reported by Nature, Dr. Brüstle says his is Catholic:
Brüstle, who is a practising Catholic, had thought hard about his own moral position. He disagrees with the creation of human embryos specifically for research. But almost all human ES-cell lines have been derived from embryos leftover from fertility treatment that would otherwise have been destroyed. Brüstle maintains that using them for biomedical research rather than discarding them is the moral imperative.Brüstle, of course, is in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Catholic Church that is very clear that the destruction of any human embryo, even for a proposed good, is immoral. It is not a valid argument that these embryos “are going to die anyway” so we can destroy them for their parts. All of us humans are “going to die anyway.” Not a one of us is going to make it out of life alive. That does not give us license to prematurely end some human lives for harvestable biological material.
Enter the irony. The “Catholic” scientist who tried to patent a technique using embryonic stem cells was challenged by none other than Greenpeace. Greenpeace in Germany is opposed to the patenting and ownership of products of nature, so they challenged Brüstle’s patent.
Continue reading at LifeNews >>
Friday, November 30. 2012
I got this one for all the ladies that come over to my house for tutoring and are in a emotional panic over their chemistry class. (Have you noticed the camera on my smart phone is scratched? I got my hubby's cast-off with the jacked up lens. At least it is a phone, and it's smart.)
I have written about this gender difference in detail at Creative Minority Report. Here is an excerpt:
Faced with a difficult multi-step problem, males and females attempt to solve said problem with divergent styles. A male will skim the problem and immediately start furiously writing, almost as if it is a race. He then circles his answer and looks at me with a proud look on his face. At this point, I burst his bubble and tell him his answer is wrong. It is wrong because he did not read the question carefully and so instead has the right answer for a different question entirely. (I believe this mental process is the same one that causes men to be reluctant to read directions or consult a map.)
Wednesday, November 28. 2012
This is one of the strangest treatment plans I have ever read about. Doctors in New York will purposefully give young adults with autism parasitic worms in hopes of treating their autism. Yes, you read that right. Worms.
The thought is that the non-harmful parasitic worms will engage immune system which doctors hope will reduce the inflammation characteristic in patients with autism. The Scientist has the slimy, squirmy details:
A growing body of evidence suggests that in some patients, increased inflammation contributes to autistic behaviors. Now, a Phase I clinical trial is under way to measure the effects of infecting autistic patients with a non-pathogenic parasitic worm. Scientists at Montefiore Medical Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and biotech company Coronado Biosciences will test the hypothesis that treating these patients with Trichuris suis, a non-pathogenic parasitic pig whipworm, will dampen their immune responses and ameliorate repetitive and irritable behaviors.Cool, but seriously gross. I am not sure I could get over the "infected with parasitic worms" part. The trial will be for 10 adults aged 18-35. Here is hoping this trial has some positive results. Otherwise it might just be opening a can of worms. Sorry....I couldn't resist.
Tuesday, November 27. 2012
I don't know how many times I have heard it. Well-meaning Catholics who say, "As a Catholic, I believe life begins at conception." I have decided that my mission in life is to correct this miscommunication because it is that very line that lets everyone who is not Catholic dismiss everything we have to say about stem cell research, cloning and reproductive technologies.
We Catholics do not "believe" life begins at conception, also called fertilization. We instead know that it does because it is a cold hard fact of nature that a new, distinct, human organism, identifiable by his or her unique DNA, is created at the completion of fertilization. That is not a belief. That is a fact.
Continue reading at Creative Minority>>
Friday, November 23. 2012
Today's geeky t-shirt blogging is in honor of the new James Bond movie Skyfall.
I love all my t-shirts but I this one because of its "sophistication." In chemistry, there a laundry list of different interactions between atoms and molecules. Two of the most commonly known are ionic bonds and covalent bonds. (You should have learned about these in your high school chemistry class.)
When an atom of metal and an atom of a non-metal meet, the metal happily hands over an electron or two (or three or four) to the non-metal which greedily takes them. This causes the metal atom to become a positively-charged ion and the non-metal to become a negatively-charged ion. The metal and non-metal are then attracted to each other because of their opposite charges. This attraction is called an ionic bond.
A covalent bond happens when two non-metal atoms meet. Both want each other's electrons, so like toddlers fighting over a toy, the only way both non-metals can be happy is if they share electrons. This sharing of electrons between atoms is called a covalent bond.
So an ionic bond is one where electrons are taken and a covalent bond is one where electrons are shared.
Hence the "Taken. Not Shared." Funny right?!?!?
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