Monday, July 28, 2008

Test Tube Babies

This brings up an interesting topic for debate.

ABC: It was 30 years ago that the world's first test tube baby was born in Manchester, England. You might remember the furor. Today, the groundbreaking technology that gave her life is being used in ways no one could have imagined in 1978. And as the technology has developed, so has the controversy.
30 years ago, the phrase test tube babies conjured up strange images and real fears these babies would be social freaks! The world's first test tube baby is now all grown up and perfectly normal. Since her birth, more than 3 million babies have been born through in vitro fertilization, or IVF, where the egg is fertilized outside the body then implanted in the womb.

First test tube baby Louise Brown said, "The fact is that it has helped so many people. I mean it's a nice feeling that perhaps if I wouldn't have been born then those children wouldn't be here." But today IVF isn't just about helping infertile parents - now it's being used to make sure babies are born healthy. The therapy is called preimplantation genetic diagnosis or PGD. It works by screening the embryos for genetic diseases before implanting them in the womb.

Dr. Zev Rosenwaks with The Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility said,"To have embryos that we could looks at, transfer only unaffected embryos and then to have normal children who have not only unaffected but don't have to worry about the disease."

PGD changed everything for Larry and Anne Zimmerman. Larry was born with a rare form of hereditary eye cancer. When their first born, Perry was only seven weeks old the tumors started showing up, first in her eyes and two years later, in her brain. She spent many months in the hospital and had two operations. Perry is cancer free for now, but the ordeal took it's toll on the Zimmermans. They wanted more kids but couldn't handle the risk of another cancer diagnosis.

The Zimmermans said, "I don't think there's anyway in the world that Luke and Susanna would be here today if it weren't for the PGD tech. Because I don't think with what we were going through with Perry's brain tumor that we would have had it in us to basically roll the dice again.

But PGD raises some big ethical questions, especially as scientists identify more and more of our genes: Should parents really have control over the biological make up of their child? Caplan said, "Then how are we ever going to stop people from saying you know what I'd like someone with musical ability, I would like someone who's mathematically gifted. This slippery slope needs to have some stairs put on it if we're going to have any control over where we're going.

It all started with the first test tube baby. Now 30 years later similar debates about science and nature, ginned up genetics and made to order babies. But for the Zimmermans, it wasn't about making a designer family -it was about making a healthy one.

It's easy for me to say I wouldn't do PGD. I would take my chances because I don't know of a life threatening gene I could be passing on to my kids. But I can really see this from both sides. I can't imagine having a child with a brain tumor and I think I would do anything to prevent that from happening again. This is a tough one. What is your take on PGD?

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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Anonymous said...

My husband has a very serious disease (HIV due to hemophilia) and our only option for fertility treatment was to do IVF with prescreening to make sure he wasn't passing on the disease. Therefore, yes, I will do it as it was my only option to have children with my husband and I now have two beatiful babies, two year old boy/girl twins. Just weighing in on the subject! said...

I can completely see that side of the story. That is a scary situation. I am glad to hear your kids are healthy!

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