Did you know: we can now make sperm from embryonic stem cells (in mice). Not only can we create this sperm, but we can use it to successfully fertilize an egg and develop into a fully grown mouse. And what is the role of bioethics in this scientific discovery, according to the article? A brief mention of theoretical ethical issues relegated to the end of the news article that no one reads far enough to see, anyway.
Scientific advancements in reproduction have occurred at an unbelievable rate. We not only have the ability to create sperm, but we can also create an embryo using three genetic donors, choose or reject embryos based on their genetic traits, such as sex, and correct genetic defects by essentially cutting and pasting healthy DNA sequences over defective ones. Conversely, using such technology, we also have the potential to clone human beings, choose or reject embryos based on traits such as hair color or athletic ability, and irreversibly alter a germ cell line, potentially leading to unknown negative effects in later generations.
While breakthroughs in reproductive technologies have the potential to address issues as important and varied as male infertility, uterine factor infertility, mitochondrial disease, genetic defects and disease, and even artificial gestation, one wonders whether anyone is stopping to ask: to what end? How will we use this technology? What are the short- and long-term effects? How might this technology be misused? And, my personal favorite, when will we start to regulate how and when we tinker with biology at a genetic level?
The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.