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Pass the Soma: IVF in A Brave New World

by Jen (writer), San Fernando Valley, July 26, 2007

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In the 1932 dystopia classic "A Brave New World" Aldous Huxley envisions a world in which the world state has complete control over reproduction. It is a world where natural childbirth is all but obsolete, and humans "engineered" to be perfectly adapted to their pre-determined station in life are produced in factories.

Now, thanks to researchers from the University of Tokyo in Japan, we are one step closer to realizing his nightmare.

This realization comes in the form of an artificial microfluidic chip designed to more closely mimic the womb for in-vitro fertilized (IFV) embryos. Traditional methods of IVF involve manipulation of the developing embryos to provide essential nutrients, often resulting in a temporarily detrimental environment. Such manual manipulations are unnecessary with the chip. Fertilized eggs are grown alongside uterine lining endometrial cells which provide nutrients and growth factors that would be found in a natural womb. There is no need to disturb the developing embryos prior to implantation. While fertilization of the egg is still performed manually, the group hopes to develop a fully automated version of the chip in which eggs and sperm are deposited in one end and an implantation ready embryo comes out the other.

Tests in mice have shown that fertilized eggs grown on the chip are 8% more likely to develop into embryos, and 4% more likely to develop into healthy fetuses post-implantation. While this may not sound impressive, the success rate of IVF for women under 35 is only 37% after an extensive program of hormone therapy, followed by invasive surgery. Therefore, any increase in the chance of success is truly welcome. With approval to test the device using human embryos, it shouldn’t be long before the chip finds its way to a fertility clinic near you.

Couple this technology to the growing popularity of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), and you can almost start planning the ground-breaking ceremony for the new “Aldous Huxley Baby Factory” (bringing you the very best humans for a fraction of the cost).

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is a technique that allows for the screening of pre-implantation embryos. One or two cells are removed from the early embryo and tested for single-gene defects such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease), Alzheimer's, Inherited breast and ovarian cancer, Cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Emanuel Syndrome (severe mental retardation), and Tay-Sachs Disease among others. In addition, embryos can be tested to determine the sex of the embryo for sex-linked disorders.

Or, you can have your embryos tested because you want your child to be a particular gender.

Consider that for a moment.

It is already possible to "sex-select" sperm for artificial insemination. But what if we could select for things like blonde hair and blue eyes? As our knowledge gene function grows, so will our arsenal of PGD tests. Perhaps you would like a male child that will grow to be 6 ft. tall, maintain a full head of hair, and (after you furtively assure that the couple behind you in line isn't flying their gay pride colors) you might also ask that he be heterosexual. Unsure? Talk to one of our trained specialists to determine what kind of child is right for you. PGD: the power to bring you a kinder, softer form of eugenics than ever before.

Don't worry, "It Can't Happen Here".

Now, if someone would just give life to Woody Allen's vision of the Orgasmatron we could do away with the whole business of sex and focus on more important stuff like beating Chinook at checkers.



http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-07/ns-egb072507.php
http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/ART2004/nation04.asp
http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1120169
http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/medicine/genetest.shtml



About the Writer

Jen is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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6 comments on Pass the Soma: IVF in A Brave New World

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By AM Nelson on July 26, 2007 at 03:13 pm
Hmmmm...really interesting. Anyone else up for a pre-cure to cancer, retardation, and other major life altering diseases? Sounds frightening, but so did electricity. I have had a genetic screening done for a disease that made my brother disintegrate. I questioned if I was a carrier and might pass it along to a child. I decided not to have children if I did carry the gene, as the consequences are heart wrenching. Technology that helps improve the health of our children in special cases? Great! Besides, does anyone out there really think that technological baby-making would beat out the old-fashioned way? In our pleasure seeking society, I dare ask, which method is more fun?
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By Jen on July 26, 2007 at 04:37 pm
Savage- The imagery generated in my head of that factory when I first read the book is still fresh in my mind...and it creep me out. I dont know that I want to see that...YIKES! As for Huxley being a soothsayer. Yeah...he's great, but he's no Bradbury IMHO. We're practically living Farenheit 451. AM- Even the best, most noble, technology when placed in the wrong hands can be evil. Noone set out to discover the A-bomb. In regards to sex being more fun. In the book promiscuous sex is actually encouraged. Marriage and commitment are obsolete. Low-caste women's ovaries are removed altogether and Alpha women take BC until their ovaries are needed to produce new humans. Very dim... El- Agreed on all points. Before it was about selective "breeding" the good 'ol fashioned way. Genocide being another fabulous way to get rid of humans considered "undesireable". I thought about making this a bigger piece in order to go into the history, but chose to focus "hard-core" research energy on another issue. Way to bash Brown and Penn...
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By AM Nelson on July 26, 2007 at 10:18 pm
Evil is an empty abstraction. Invention and technology, knowledge...it is valuable. Perhaps baby-making is not a chemistry set to be put on the shelves of CVS. But knowledge does not necessarily lead to the suppression of others...It is noble to pause for possible consequence. But I think it is exciting and wonderful to have a greater understanding.
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By Jen on July 27, 2007 at 01:05 am
AM- I don’t disagree with you. Of course it is of great benefit to develop such technologies to avoid the suffering caused by diseases like Duchenne muscular dystrophy or Marfan syndrome. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy…were I to have one. However, I do think it prudent to consider how such technology can be used for less noble aims. And, obviously I agree with the following statement, “…it is exciting and wonderful to have a greater understanding”. I mean, I wouldn’t be engaged in biomedical research if I didn’t.
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By Geddy on August 09, 2007 at 05:35 pm
I think people hoping for designer babies will soon find it isn't possible. Oh yeah, you can get one with blonde hair or blues eyes perhaps. Perhaps even a child less susceptible to certain diseases or birth defects. But hoping for the perfect human being is out of the question. Nature AND nurture are 2 powerful forces and combined will eventually form the adult persona. Living next to toxic waste sites, witnessing a murder, winning the lottery, having a child yourself,loving parents, neglectful parents, so many things affect the way we end up. I doubt that after any long period the designer children and the children conceived by chance will have remarkably different traits overall. Besides, who really wants to know what their Christmas present is before they open it?
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By Oriana88 on June 11, 2014 at 04:46 am

It is so technology sukienka na co dzien

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