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Human Embryo Research. James G. Anderson, Ph. D Purdue University. Treatment of Embryos. Genetic Screening Research. Technology. Amniocentesis (after 15 weeks of gestation) Chorionic villus sampling (1st trimester) Pre-implantation genetic screening (before clinical pregnancy).

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Human embryo research l.jpg

Human Embryo Research

James G. Anderson, Ph. D

Purdue University.

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Treatment of Embryos

  • Genetic Screening

  • Research

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  • Amniocentesis (after 15 weeks of gestation)

  • Chorionic villus sampling (1st trimester)

  • Pre-implantation genetic screening (before clinical pregnancy)

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Issues: Costs

  • Eight million carriers of cystic fibrosis

  • 30,000 babies born with cystic fibrosis

  • Annual costs of care range from $8,500-46,000

  • Embryonic screening cost $6,000-13,000

  • The cost is not covered by health insurance in the U.S.

  • The cost is covered in the U.K.

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  • Elect not to have children

  • Artificial insemination with anonymous donor

  • Prenatal genetic testing with possible abortion

  • Pre-implantation genetic screening

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Pre-implantation Genetic Testing

  • in vitro fertilization (IVF)

  • Allow fertilized cells to divide until 8 cells – 3 days

  • Remove single cell for diagnosis within 15 hours

  • Decide whether or not to implant

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What should we test for?

  • Genetic disorders 700 inherited conditions 344 test clinically available 211 prenatal tests offered

  • Traits

  • Gender

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Inherited Genetic Disorders

  • Tay-Sachs disease

  • Sickle-cell anemia

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • Hemophilia

  • Huntington’s Disease

  • Down’s Syndrome

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Arguments in favor of testing

  • Permits couples with genetic predispositions for disease to conceive a child without passing on the disorder

  • Reduces abortions

  • Couples have a right to the information

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Arguments against testing

  • May lead to designer babies

  • Results in destruction of embryos

  • Discriminates against embryos with disabilities

  • Potential misuse of genetic information

  • Potential stigma and discrimination against carriers

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Ethical Issues

  • Life of the embryo

  • Eugenics

  • Use of genetic information (e.g, employers, insurance companies

  • Lack of regulation of fertility clinics

  • Disposal of unused embryos

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  • Improvements in pregnancy

  • Fertilization

  • Egg activation, maturation and freezing

  • Embryonic screening

  • Harvesting embryonic stem cells

  • Cloning

  • Cross-species fertilization

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Stem cell research

  • Derived from 4-day old embryos

  • Stem calls can be transformed into 220 human cell types (e.g., pancreatic cells, nerve cells, skin cells, cardiac muscle cells

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Stem cells may cure

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Huntington’s disease

  • Diabetes

  • Spinal cord injuries

  • Skin tissue for burn victims

  • Damaged arteries and hearts

  • Grow body parts (livers, hearts)

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Arguments for research

  • Potential cures for neurological and other illnesses

  • New field of research will boost the biotechnology industry

  • Other countries will continue research and development

  • Fertility clinics already possess 400,000 unused frozen embryos that will be discarded

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Arguments against research

  • Fertilized egg is a human being and should not be destroyed

  • Stem cell research is similar to using the results of Nazi medical experiments

  • Using fertilized eggs for research is a “slippery slope”

  • Commercial exploitation – treat human embryos as property

  • Production of embryos to harvest stem cells.

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Potential Therapeutic Uses

  • Parkinson’s Disease

  • Huntington’s Disease

  • Diabetes

  • Spinal cord injuries

  • Growth of new tissue/organs from stem cells

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  • NIH ban on funds for research on human embryos

  • Fertility Clinic Success Rate and Certification Act 1992

  • 25 states have laws regulating disposal of embryos

  • Congress is considering the Human Genome Privacy Act

  • Debate over applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act

  • NIH guidelines allow federal funding of research with embryonic stem cells from existing cell lines

  • 28 states criminalize harm to fetus

  • Unborn Victims of Violence Act (pending)

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NIH Human Embryo Research Panel Recommendations Acceptable Research

  • Methods of improving the chances of pregnancy

  • Fertilization

  • Egg activation, maturation, and freezing

  • Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis

  • Development of embryonic stem cells

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Needs Additional Review

  • Cloning and use of oocytes without their transfer to the uterus for gestation

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Unacceptable Research

  • Cloning and use of oocytes followed by transfer to the uterus for gestation

  • Cross-species fertilization

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Guidelines for Review/ Conduct of Federally Funded Research

  • Qualified researcher

  • Valid research design

  • Major scientific clinical benefits

  • Number of embryos should be minimal

  • Informed consent obtained from gamete donors

  • Embryos not be created solely for research

  • No buying and selling of embryos

  • No research on embryos more than 14 days old