Tag: cloning

Bioethics News

Why People May Have Pig Organs Inside Them One Day

August 25, 2017

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That’s why a recent landmark report in the journal Science, which detailed the creation of piglets that could potentially provide organs for human transplants in the future, is being heralded as a “real game changer.” R esearchers from Harvard University, the biotech company eGenesis and other institutions explained how they used cloning and the gene-editing technology CRISPR to create pigs that may be used for human organ transplants down the line—if further research proves them safe and effective.

The findings have obvious implications for the many people waiting for a transplant. But one of the lead study authors, George Church, a geneticist at Harvard and founder of eGenesis, says the promise of pig organs that are compatible with humans may be even bigger. If pig organs could be engineered to be even healthier and more durable than the average human organ—which Church believes is possible—they could have a profound effect on human health and longevity, he says.

Image: By Jim Champion – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2944663

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Reproducing the Speculative: Reproductive Technology, Education, and Science Fiction by Kaitlyn Sherman

Walter, a Synthetic, quietly makes his rounds in the brightly lit, pristine interior of the Covenant, a Weyland Corporation Spaceship. Fingers pressed to the translucent, impermeable glass, he checks the status of each crew member as they rest in their cryochambers, suspended in chemically-induced comas until they reach their destined planet in seven years and four months’ time. The ship’s artificial intelligence system, Mother, chimes, “Seven bells and all is well.” Reassured of their security, Walter moves on to the next zone, where another 2,000 cryochambers contain sleeping colonists from Earth. This zone also features a panel of drawers, each housing dozens of embryos—over 1,100 second-generation colonists. They are packed individually into river-stone sized ovoids; clear, solid, egg-like. Amid the rows, an embryo has died, and its artificial uterine-sack is clouded and dark. Observing it briefly, Walter takes it from its socket with a set of tongs and places it into a biohazard bin. The Covenant is on a mission to colonize a habitable, distant planet. Their ship contains everything that could be useful in setting up a new colony: terraforming vehicles, construction materials, and human life itself. Even though these frozen embryos aren’t yet actively developing, they reflect a technology that allows for such a feat, while ensuring a population boom that is not dependent upon the limited space of mature female colonists’ wombs.

This scene is part of the opening sequence of the latest film in Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise. Alien: Covenant (2017) is the most recent science fiction film to illustrate advances in reproductive technologies, especially that of ectogenesis, or external gestation and birth.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

CRISPR, Pigs, Organs, Ethics: Some Key Considerations

Michael S. Dauber, M.A., GBI Visiting Scholar

Luhan Yang and members of her research team at eGenesis have taken a crucial step in growing organs in animals that may be used to provide organs for therapeutic transplants in humans, according to a study published in Science Magazine on Thursday, August 10th. Researchers involved in the study used CRISPR, a genetic editing technique, to “knock out” 25 genes that cause porcine endogenous retroviruses (sometimes referred to as “PERV genes”) that make ordinary pig organs unsuitable for transplants because PERVs can infect human transplant recipients. The result was the birth of 37 baby pigs without PERV genes.

The move comes at a time when CRISPR experiments are becoming increasingly popular. Last week, a team led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov published the results of the first successful attempt to modify human embryos using CRISPR by American scientists in Nature. The researchers successfully deleted a gene responsible for several fatal heart conditions.

While the results are a significant step in developing techniques for growing organs suitable for human transplantation, scientists must still travel a long road before any human patients will receive such organs. Researchers will need to determine whether or not organs from pigs developed using CRISPR can be safely and effectively transplanted into other animals first. Another hurdle is the cost and complexity of the technique: Yang’s experiments with her team involved embryos produced through cloning, an expensive technique that is not always completely effective: indeed, in Yang’s study, only a few of the cloned embryos were viable.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Human genome editing: We should all have a say

Françoise Baylis stresses that decisions about the modification of the human germline should not be made without broad societal consultation.

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Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a reproductive biologist at Oregon Health and Science University, is nothing if not a pioneer. In 2007, his team published proof-of-principle research in primates showing it was possible to derive stem cells from cloned primate embryos. In 2013, his team was the first to create human embryonic stem cells by cloning. Now, in 2017, his team has reported safely and effectively modifying human embryos with the MYBPC3 mutation (which causes myocardial disease) using the gene editing technique CRISPR.

Mitalipov’s team is not the first to genetically modify human embryos. This was first accomplished in 2015 by a group of Chinese scientists led by Junjiu Huang. Mitalipov’s team, however, may be the first to demonstrate basic safety and efficacy using the CRISPR technique.

This has serious implications for the ethics debate on human germline modification which involves inserting, deleting or replacing the DNA of human sperm, eggs or embryos to change the genes of future children.

Those who support human embryo research will argue that Mitalipov’s research to alter human embryos is ethically acceptable because the embryos were not allowed to develop beyond 14 days (the widely accepted international limit on human embryo research) and because the modified embryos were not used to initiate a pregnancy. They will also point to the future potential benefit of correcting defective genes that cause inherited disease.

This research is ethically controversial, however, because it is a clear step on the path to making heritable modifications – genetic changes that can be passed down through subsequent generations.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Human genome editing: We should all have a say

Controversial gene editing should not proceed without citizen input and societal consensus. (Shutterstock)

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a reproductive biologist at Oregon Health and Science University, is nothing if not a pioneer. In 2007, his team published proof-of-principle research in primates showing it was possible to derive stem cells from cloned primate embryos. In 2013, his team was the first to create human embryonic stem cells by cloning. Now, in 2017, his team is reported to have safely and effectively modified human embryos using the gene editing technique CRISPR.

Mitalipov’s team is not the first to genetically modify human embryos. This was first accomplished in 2015 by a group of Chinese scientists led by Junjiu Huang. Mitalipov’s team, however, may be the first to demonstrate basic safety and efficacy using the CRISPR technique.

This has serious implications for the ethics debate on human germline modification which involves inserting, deleting or replacing the DNA of human sperm, eggs or embryos to change the genes of future children.

Ethically controversial

Those who support human embryo research will argue that Mitalipov’s research to alter human embryos is ethically acceptable because the embryos were not allowed to develop beyond 14 days (the widely accepted international limit on human embryo research) and because the modified embryos were not used to initiate a pregnancy. They will also point to the future potential benefit of correcting defective genes that cause inherited disease.

This research is ethically controversial, however, because it is a clear step on the path to making heritable modifications – genetic changes that can be passed down through subsequent generations.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

June 2017 Newsletter

Global Bioethics Initiative (GBI) is dedicated to fostering public awareness and understanding of bioethical issues, and to exploring solutions to bioethical challenges.
Through its events and activities, which include annual summer schools on global bioethics, GBI seeks to keep the international community, policy decision-makers, the media, and the general public aware of important bioethical issues which is essential for making informed decisions and fostering public debate. Using various platforms, we at GBI are able to promote our motto “Doing bioethics in real life!”.
GBI is an active member of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) and enjoys a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, the UN’s central platform for debate, reflection, and innovative thinking on sustainable development. Check out our website here.
Global Bioethics Initiative (GBI) launches
its third edition Summer School Program

NYC (June 19-30), 2017New York, New York June 19, 2017: GBI starts its summer school program sponsored by Pace University, College of Health Professions and New York
Medical College. Lead by experts in the field of Bioethics, students and professionals will witness Bioethics in various forms such as film screenings, field trips, and lectures/seminars, ending with a completion ceremony. Topics addressed in the program are: embryonic stem cell research, cloning, gene therapy, end-of-life care, genetics, reproductive technologies, human subject research, organ transplantation and access to health care.

“I am absolutely confident you leave this program enriched, “said Dr. Bruce Gelb, President of GBI. You will find that what you learn over the coming days, will impact how you interact and engage with the world in many aspects of life.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

In Memoriam: John A. Robertson

by David Magnus, Ph.D.

Sadly, the field of bioethics lost one of its best this week. John Robertson, a law professor at the University of Texas and a major figure in law and bioethics, passed away on July 5th. John was an important scholar whose work spanned major contributions to scholarship on end of life, organ transplantation, and genetics, but he is best known for his work on reproductive technology. John’s articulation and defense of the importance of procreative liberty, though both his articles and his important book, Children of Choice, stands as an exemplar for scholarship in bioethics. I have used his work in my classes for over 20 years, because no one has better articulated the perspective he brought to bear on issues in reproductive technology.

In addition to his scholarly contributions, what I will miss most about John is that he was a tireless and enthusiastic mentor and advocate for younger scholars. Without his support, I doubt that my career would have turned out the way it has. First, if you are reading this blog, you are aware of the success of the American Journal of Bioethics. The journal owes a great deal of its success (and perhaps its continued existence) to John. When the journal was first launched, most leaders in the field expressed a great deal of skepticism about the need or value of another journal. John not only supported us and encouraged us, he made a major contribution to ensure our success. As the Chair of the ethics committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, John was instrumental in promoting a position to accept uses of new technologies for sex selection (at least in the context of family balancing).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Global Bioethics Initiative (GBI) launches its third edition Summer School Program

Global Bioethics Initiative (GBI) launches its third edition Summer School Program

New York, New York June 19, 2017, GBI starts its summer school program sponsored by Pace University, College of Health Professions and New York Medical College. Lead by experts in the field of Bioethics, students and professionals will witness Bioethics in various forms such as film screenings, field trips, and lectures/seminars, ending with a completion ceremony. Topics addressed in the program are: embryonic stem cell research, cloning, gene therapy, end-of-life care, genetics, reproductive technologies, human subject research, organ transplantation and access to health care.

“I am absolutely confident you leave this program enriched,”said Dr. Bruce Gelb, President of GBI. “You will find that what you learn over the coming days, will impact how you interact and engage with the world in many aspects of life.”

“There is a lack of opportunities for undergraduate, graduate students and professionals to learn about practical bioethics and GBI summer school helps to fill this void,” said​ Ana Lita, Co-Founder and Executive Director of GBI.

GBI is a not-for-profit international educational organization founded in 2011, by Dr. Ana Lita. GBI keeps the international community, policy decision-makers, the media, and the public versed in bioethical concepts. GBI provides this level of knowledge through an annual summer school program, human rights advocacy, and public policy reviews. GBI is associated with the United Nations Department of Information (UNDPI) with special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Attendees are encouraged to join Dr. Harriet R. Feldman, Dr. Charles Debrovner, and Dr. Ana Lita for the program’s introductory cocktail reception on June 20th, from 6-9PM at Pace University’s Aniello Bianco Room, 1 Pace Plaza, New York, New York,  featuring the singer, Sarah Hayes and​ her Trio​.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

The biological status of the early human embryo. When does human life begins?

“Those who argue that that embryo can be destroyed with impunity will have to prove that this newly created life is not human. And no-one, to the best of our knowledge, has yet been able to do so.”

Introduction

In order to determine the nature of the human embryo, we need to know its biological, anthropological, philosophical, and even its legal reality. In our opinion, however, the anthropological, philosophical and legal reality of the embryo — the basis of its human rights — must be built upon its biological reality (see also HERE).

Consequently, one of the most widely debated topics in the field of bioethics is to determine when human life begins, and particularly to define the biological status of the human embryo, particularly the early embryo, i.e. from impregnation of the egg by the sperm until its implantation in the maternal endometrium.

Irrespective of this, though, this need to define when human life begins is also due to the fact that during the early stages of human life — approximately during its first 14 days — this young embryo is subject to extensive and diverse threats that, in many cases, lead to its destruction (see HERE).

These threats affect embryos created naturally, mainly through the use of drugs or technical procedures used in the control of human fertility that act via an anti-implantation mechanism, especially intrauterine devices (as DIU); this is also the case of drugs used in emergency contraception, such as levonorgestrel or ulipristal-based drugs (see HERE), because both act via an anti-implantation mechanism in 50% of cases.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

The biological status of the early human embryo. When does human life begins?

“Those who argue that that embryo can be destroyed with impunity will have to prove that this newly created life is not human. And no-one, to the best of our knowledge, has yet been able to do so.”

Introduction

In order to determine the nature of the human embryo, we need to know its biological, anthropological, philosophical, and even its legal reality. In our opinion, however, the anthropological, philosophical and legal reality of the embryo — the basis of its human rights — must be built upon its biological reality (see also HERE).

Consequently, one of the most widely debated topics in the field of bioethics is to determine when human life begins, and particularly to define the biological status of the human embryo, particularly the early embryo, i.e. from impregnation of the egg by the sperm until its implantation in the maternal endometrium.

Irrespective of this, though, this need to define when human life begins (see our article  is also due to the fact that during the early stages of human life — approximately during its first 14 days — this young embryo is subject to extensive and diverse threats that, in many cases, lead to its destruction (see HERE).

These threats affect embryos created naturally, mainly through the use of drugs or technical procedures used in the control of human fertility that act via an anti-implantation mechanism, especially intrauterine devices (as DIU); this is also the case of drugs used in emergency contraception, such as levonorgestrel or ulipristal-based drugs (see HERE), because both act via an anti-implantation mechanism in most of the time.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.