Loading
October 14, 2010
Researchers create artificial human ovary
By Father Thomas Berg *

By Father Thomas Berg *

A recent study published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics described the scientific manufacture of an artificial human ovary which in turn produced a viable human egg.  Begun from real human ovarian tissue and grown on a prefab laboratory matrix, the artificial ovary was hailed as a major breakthrough.  As the authors observed, the experiment is proof of principle that an artificial ovary "can be created with self-assembled human theca and granulosa cell micro tissues," and can produce viable human eggs for reproductive and other purposes. The researchers went on to affirm that "theoretically, in vitro maturation of primordial [eggs] promises to yield the greatest number of fertilizable [eggs] for future reproduction."

It should be noted that history has already seen one gravely disordered use of related biotechnology on the occasion of an American medical first: a pregnancy achieved through a sibling to sibling ovarian transplant -- in this case, between identical twin sisters. The moral disorder in this case should be apparent: ovaries, because of their intrinsic link to human life and specific human identity (both of the woman and her eventual offspring) are not on a par with other non-vital body parts which could be reasonably donated to a person in need. Notwithstanding the genetic proximity of identical twins, the twin sister's ovary is nonetheless bound up in her own identity; her eggs are her eggs, with their unique genetic signature. Consequently, procreation here occurs with the egg of another woman, thus involving a third party in the procreation process and rendering grave harm to the marital unity of the infertile sister and her husband.
 
By the same token, we have also witnessed an amazing, wonderful and morally licit use of related technology.  In 2005, Stinne Holm Bergholdt had six strips of her own ovarian tissue returned to and transplanted onto her own ovaries. She had the tissue frozen before starting chemotherapy treatments which can cause sometimes irreversible damage on human ovaries, rendering a woman infertile. Since then, Stinne has had two children. 

As with most biotech developments, the achievement of artificial human ovaries presents possible benefits, but also an alarming potential for scientific depravity. On the positive side, the artificial ovary could assist the study of the early genesis of human eggs and offer a new research tool for the study of anomalies in the human reproductive process.  But beyond this potentially good application, the prospect of artificial ovaries constitutes a watershed opportunity for researchers to go mainstream with the dark project of human cloning.

Up until now, the lack of human eggs -- or oocytes -- has hampered attempts at successful human cloning. At the present state of the art, approximately 60 to 100 oocytes would be required to produce a single cloned human embryo. Artificial ovaries could supply in spades the heretofore dearth of eggs available for research. IVF clinics commonly discard many of the eggs retrieved for fertility treatments because they are too immature. The new technology would allow for such eggs to be matured in vitro and consequently hugely increase the supply of available eggs.

As reported three years ago, some of the remaining hurdles to successful human cloning have already been surmounted. Readers will recall the announcement, published in the journal Nature in November, 2007, that Oregon-based scientist Shoukhrat Mitalipov successfully cloned monkey embryos and derived embryonic stem cells from them.

Mitalipov's success with monkey embryo cloning provides the theoretical foundation for scientists to pursue so-called "therapeutic" cloning in humans. Embryonic stem cells derived from a cloned human embryo, because they would be genetically identical to a patient, could be used in potential treatments without prompting an immune rejection response -- overcoming one of the greatest hurdles for researching and developing therapeutic applications for human embryonic stem cells.

In a recent poll published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 76 percent of Americans express their opposition to human cloning for research purposes. While reassuring, such a statistic hardly constitutes a solid assurance that Americans are truly poised to effectively prohibit dark projects, such as human cloning, that would render the use of mass quantities of human embryos for biomedical research common-place. Such is the prospect we face. It will take the sustained efforts of pro-life advocates at the grass roots level to translate adverse attitudes toward embryo-destructive research into an effective and national legislative prohibition of such research.

Father Thomas Berg is a priest in the Archdiocese of New York and Professor of Moral Theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie).

« Previous entry     Back to index     Next entry »
Ads by Google
(What's this?)
blog comments powered by Disqus

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

The renewal of the Legionaries of Christ
The renewal of the Legionaries of Christ
Presentation of the book "The Pastor"
Synod on the Family October 2014
Preferential option for the poor
God is alive, even in sport
'A forbidden God' named Best Film at the International Catholic Film Festival
Vatican backs a 'Pause for Peace' during World Cup final
The effects of religious violence in Sarajevo 
The origin of Corpus Christi 
Corpus Christi at the Vatican 
Homage to an Indian Cardinal
Train of the Child's Light
New book explaining gestures of the Mass
Encounter between Pope Francis and the Charismatic Renewal in the Spirit Movement.
Religious tensions subside amid Balkan floods
John Paul II Center for Studies on Marriage and Family
Saint John Paul II on cartoon
Syrian Christian refugees
Papal Foundation Pilgrimage
Exorcism or prayer of liberation?
Jul
24

Liturgical Calendar

July 24, 2014

Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 13:10-17

Gospel
Date
07/24/14
07/23/14
07/20/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Jer 2: 1-3, 7-8, 12-13
Gospel:: Mt 13: 10-17

Saint of the Day

St. Charbel Makhlouf »

Saint
Date
07/23/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 13:10-17

Homily
Date
07/24/14
07/23/14
07/21/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: