Genetics and reproductive technology are front and centre in the British Parliament this week.
One bill will provide for the creation of "savior siblings." It's the creation of in vitro children intended to supply tissue for a sick older child. So, for example, little Jimmy could be manufactured to furnish a bone marrow transplant for big brother Johnny. It's unclear what fate would await Jimmy should Johnny require a new heart or a fresh pair of lungs.
The other big deal is the creation of "cybrids." These are blended human/animal embryos that will be permitted for research purposes only, at least for now. From the New York Times:
"The idea is to take an animal egg — say a cow egg — and remove its nucleus. This would remove most of the cow’s DNA from the egg. Human DNA would then be introduced, and the embryo would be allowed to begin to grow. (The introduction of human DNA would normally be done by putting an entire small cell, such as a skin cell, into the animal’s egg. On being zapped with electricity, the two cells readily fuse, and the nucleus of the skin cell then becomes the nucleus of the egg.) The new nucleus thus contains only human DNA. The technical term for this procedure is interspecies somatic cell nuclear transfer, or interspecies cloning.
If the embryo were allowed to keep growing, and was then implanted into a woman, it would — presumably, and assuming nothing went wrong — grow into a baby. However, the aim is not to produce humans this way; under the new law, embryos will have to be destroyed at 14 days (the time that the embryo begins to differentiate into cells of different types). Rather, the aim is to collect stem cells from the embryos for use in medical research."
Is this just a simple genetic experiment or the camel's nose slipping under the tent? Right now, no one can say for sure.