Montag, 9. Juni 2014

Surrogate Motherhood and Mitochondrial Diseases

Dr. Edith Breburda, DVM, PhD
see also FIAMC/ Bioetchis
On Friday 6, 6, 2014, in the late afternoon, a federal judge had overturned Wisconsin's state gay marriage ban. Couples rushed to the courthouse in the cities of Madison and Milwaukee. They where in such a hurry that they did not have any cash to pay for the license. A compassionate employee jumped in to help. Chief Judge Jeffery Kremers waited outside the building hoping to marry the first couple right on the spot. The first same-sex couple of Milwaukee took their vows before their own Pastor, Rev. Eric Koepnick, of United Church of Christ. More and more couples where streaming in. It only took minutes after obtaining their license to be married. On this Friday afternoon everything was suddenly different. The register of deeds office stayed open to provide certified birth certificates. The clerk's office did not close for those who needed copies of divorce papers. The 42-year-old Pastor Warner of Plymouth Church in Milwaukee had already married his 52-year-old partner in the church 14 years ago. Since then, they have been waiting for recognition. The two have adopted children. They left their kids with friends when they heard the law of the state allows same-sex couples to marry. (Sentinel Journal, Milwaukee Wisconsin: “Scores of gay couples married in Milwaukee, Madison” 6,7.2014).
Madison's Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino expressed deep sadness over the federal ruling that Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. He explained: "Allowing gay marriage would lead to other problems in society-- or dominos falling," the bishop said.

In 2013 a Louisiana senator, who has two children through separate surrogate mothers, introduced a bill to make surrogacy for same-sex couples and single people legal. Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed this year's revision to the bill. Governor Jindal says surrogate motherhood lessens the way we value human life.
Louisiana's Family Forum President Gene Mills raises concerns about the ethical and moral dilemma. "With gestational surrogacy, in vitro fertilization is used to fertilize the eggs in laboratory. Thus, surrogacy would destroy at least some embryos and dramatically redefines the institution of family."
On March 28, 2014, a Louisiana's Conference of Catholic Bishops letter referred to surrogacy as: " Commercializing and objectifying women, relegating them to a utilitarian purpose. It diminishes the dignity of women because it focuses on what women can produce as opposed to the entire worth and being who women have been created to be."
The document , Donum Vitae, already stated that gestational surrogacy is contrary to the dignity of persons. Further, Donum Vitae mentions that embryos created for in vitro fertilization are not protected at all. Concerns arise about the production of additional unused embryos which are often destroyed (S. Siggins: Bobby Jindal: Surrogate Motherhood lessens “the way we value human life", 2. June, 2014).
 
Researchers are zealous to make in vitro fertilization "safe." In their vocabulary, a "safe procedure" means to prevent the implantation of an embryo, which has a certain types of genetic diseases. Nevertheless, an increasing number of studies link IVF to birth defects and a slight risk of mental retardation and the opinion exists that a woman cannot be asked to carry a child with a genetic disorder to term.
 
Certain types of genetic disorders are associated with mitochondrial genes. Mitochondria are cell organelles in the cytoplasm. They possess an inner and outer membrane and even their own DNA. The mitochondrial DNA is inherited exclusively from the mother. Paternal mitochondria do not enter the fertilized egg.
Mitochondrial DNA has been called a biological history book of women. In 1987 three California biochemists proposed the so-called mitochondrial Eve-Theory. Tracing back human origins by using mitochondrial DNA led them to a single ancestral woman living in Africa about 200,000 years ago.
Numerous studies provided insights into the nature and variability of mitochondrial DNA sequences that will implicate mitochondrial processes during embryogenesis, cancer, biomarker development and forensic analysis (see: Promises of New Biotechnologies, · ISBN-10: 0615548288 ·ISBN-13: 978-0615548289).

Mitochondrial diseases are inherited from the mother. A new technique, called mitochondrial DNA replacement therapy, may prevent certain types of genetic disease and may allow women to have a healthy biological child. Scientists transfer the genetic material from an egg cell, which carries faulty mitochondria into an enucleated donor egg cell that has healthy mitochondria. In the end, the embryo has "three parents." It carries nuclear DNA from the mother and father and mitochondrial DNA from an egg donor. The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority of Great Britain has petitioned the government to present the proposed law to Parliament for a vote to grant licenses to clinics to offer the procedure. In the United States there is no federal law, which regulates methods like mitochondrial DNA replacement therapy. But clinicians would need the permission of the Food and Drug Administration.

The question remains whether the procedure, which alters the genetic material of the descendants, is really safe. Some researchers worry about mismatches between the nuclear DNA of the parents and the mitochondrial DNA of the egg donor. More research is necessary before the technique can be used for IVF. The development and health of a potential child might be endangered when faulty mitochondrial DNA from the original egg is unintentionally transferred along with the nuclear DNA. The embryos would not be implanted yet. Still, more embryos created in such a way are needed as control embryos. They would be used to obtain embryonic stem cells to study downstream effects of the procedure (G. Vogel. U.K Report Says Proposed IVF Technique Is Likely Safe. Science Magazine, June 3 2014).

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