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.