Haploid Objectives and Objections

The ABCs of Biotech for Christians - Ninth in a series - H is for Haploid

In the previous post the reader was left hanging. What did the Maltese Parliament determine to do about embryo freezing and gamete donation? Sadly, the majority voted to approve it despite the Opposition members who objected that “the law stripped society of its humanity” and gave the ministers the power to decide who should be born and who shouldn’t...

“This is a law which creates inequality before birth… a law which is destroying the concept of family and destroying the structure of society so much so that tomorrow we will not recognise it…”

Going forward in Malta, couples will be permitted to fertilize up to five eggs, and two may be implanted, and the others will be frozen, making embryo “adoption” possible. Same-sex couples and single parents will now have access to IVF, and the new law affects other aspects of human reproduction. (Read more - ibid)

In other parts of the world these things are already legal. In the U.S. there are an estimated one million frozen embryos. This story relates the consternation of a mother who must now decide what to do with her two leftover embryos who are on ice.

The soul on ice is hard to contemplate. Those of us not involved in fertility dilemmas think only of God as the author of new life. IVF does not come to mind. The Bible has many stories supporting our simple viewpoint. When Rachel demanded for Jacob to give her a baby, he replied, “Am I in the place of God?” (Gen 30:2)

Abraham and Sarah gave up on having their own child, but when she was beyond child-bearing years, the Lord intervened, and prophesied a time that the child would be born. (Gen 18:10) Hannah cried to God for a child and was given Samuel who became a great man of God, and we see other great men of the Faith whose births were delayed from a human standpoint, but from God’s view, they were not untimely born.

Is God under constraint to provide a soul for the baby conceived through in vitro fertilization? Or, is the human soul somehow comprised in the flesh such that when life begins, however it is conceived, then a new soul comes into being? Does the soul suddenly spring into life when a frozen embryo is implanted in a waiting womb? Is there a fixed number of souls? Is having a soul an old-fashioned idea that needs to be put away? Are we not simply Mind and Body? The Christian will tell you, “Each person has an eternal soul.”

The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:5) Paul explained to the Ephesians that those who believe in Jesus Christ actually were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. (Eph 1:4) There are mysteries of time and eternity we cannot trace.

Like the people of Malta who attended the protest (see video in previous post) Christians should oppose procedures that upend respect for life. But is haploid research objectionable? It is one thing to bring sperm and egg together in a petri dish to invent an embryo for implantation, it is another to combine haploid cells from three people to form a new human who then does not comprise an hereditary flaw—the three-parent baby (ref), it would be another to use such cells to screen for genetic imperfections, and another to use haploid cells for research purposes only.

In biotech today, there are labs that use haploid cells to study how to understand and heal disease and how genetic imperfections may be corrected. A definition: Reproductive cells in animals, called gametes, are examples of haploid cells. Both male and female reproductive cells, known respectively as sperm and egg cells, are haploid in that they each possess one copy of each type of chromosome that, when joined with other haploid cells, forms a single, complete chromosome set.

If human embryos are not invented and destroyed, would there be any objection to such research? Some techniques obtain haploid cells from iPSCs, that is, induced pluripotent stem cells. The iPSC is derived from adult stem cells, not from embryonic stem cells. That is a new topic and brings us to I is for iPSC, our next post.

Gametogenesis re-imagined

The ABCs of Biotech for Christians - Eighth in a series - G is for Gamete

Maybe some readers will recall the junior high science class where they learned about human reproduction — and were embarrassed. Gametes are the reproductive cells…

They are also referred to as sex cells. Female gametes are called ova or egg cells, and male gametes are called sperm. Gametes are haploid cells, and each cell carries only one copy of each chromosome. These reproductive cells are produced through a type of cell division called meiosis. During meiosis, a diploid parent cell, which has two copies of each chromosome, undergoes one round of DNA replication followed by two separate cycles of nuclear division to produce four haploid cells. These cells develop into sperm or ova. The ova mature in the ovaries of females, and the sperm develop in the testes of males. Each sperm cell, or spermatozoon, is small and motile. The spermatozoon has a flagellum, which is a tail-shaped structure that allows the cell to propel and move. In contrast, each egg cell, or ovum, is relatively large and non-motile. During fertilization, a spermatozoon and ovum unite to form a new diploid organism. (ref)

A graphic depiction of the process in which gametes are produced is shown here. The way a human is conceived is a marvel— one now being explored for manufacture in a petri dish: A new biotechnology procedure called in vitro gametogenesis or IVG has been practiced in mice.

IVG could become a novel way to have babies by turning any cell in our bodies into sperm or egg cells (5 Things to know about IVG) “Existing assisted-reproduction technologies such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and mitochondrial replacement therapy still require gametes – the sperm and the egg – that come from a man and a woman. But that’s not the case for IVG.”

In IVG, an adult human cell that may come from the skin on ones arm or from inside a cheek could be converted into artificial gametes, and then combined to create an embryo that would be implanted to grow to maturity. This technique would be helpful to those who are infertile or who desire to become parents though in a same-sex relationship, etc.

There is a lot to learn about IVG, and to ponder—before it becomes the new IVF. In this video a woman who was conceived through anonymous sperm donation and IVF, speaks out against it. “I don’t want my children to be targeted for their gametes. This social experiment has taken place around the world… You are right Malta to take a stand!” - Dr. Joanna Rose

The video captured my heart because of the earnest people of Malta who turned out in large numbers to rally against a proposed IVF law that would legalize embryo freezing, gamete donation and non-commercial surrogacy. (ref). Malta is an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea, believed to be the “Melita” where Paul was shipwrecked en route to Rome. (Acts 28:1)

The vote took place just last week. Did Malta’s Parliament reject or accept the amendments to the Embryo Protection Act? We will address that in the next post, H is for Haploid, as the Gametogenesis topic continues.

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...and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind ... the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind ...the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. -Genesis 1

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A SistersSite eBook

Flesh and Bone and The Protestant Conscience is an e-book on Amazon.com. It is 99¢ and in the Amazon lending library as well. It is also available here in PDF format. The book description follows.

Would you let your conscience be your guide?

Does God care if the skin and bone of the dead are passed along to the living for medical uses? Is organ donation OK with God? Should you sign a Living Will?

Did you know that dead organ donors are often anesthetized before their organs are removed? Do you know the current definition of death? The conscience cannot function without facts.

As we ponder the ethics of in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and man-made chimeras, our thoughts trail off. How then should we live? (Ez 33:10)

How should a Christian think about euthanasia by starvation when doctors and the state attorney general all agree it is time to withhold feeding from a brain injured patient? Some things are family matters, but someday it may be our family.

Here is a small book to help you think about whether you want to sign your driver's license, donate a kidney, cremate your loved one, and many other practical questions that may arise in the course of your healthcare decisions or watch over others.

It offers a special focus on the doctrine of the Resurrection that is related to such decisions. Sunday School classes and Bible Study groups could use this book to facilitate discussion about the issues covered.