Early pronuclear transfer given the green light

This is one of those new stories which links to numerous school subjects, and reiterates the importance of concentrating and trying your best in everything you study and learn about.

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In GCSE Religious Studies we investigate medical ethics in our Unit 8 course and specifically about transplant surgery and fertility treatment. It is the latter which links to ‘early pronuclear transfer’. It might be our science knowledge that is going to assist us in understanding this one!

Early pronuclear transfer involves removing the parents’ key genetic material from an embryo within hours of fertilisation, leaving behind the woman’s faulty mitochondria.
The parental DNA, which contains all the key genes responsible for character and appearance, is then transferred into a donor woman’s embryo, which has its nucleus removed but contains healthy mitochondria.

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The BBC reports on this developing IVF technique which will help women who don’t want to pass on a genetic disorder to a healthy baby. It made the headlines because there will be 3 people providing DNA for the embryo and baby. What do you think religions will make of all this?

Human Organs Grown in Pigs

An incredible coincidence again, that our section 2 topic in Year 10 is about to be medical ethics and organ transplants. Freaky!

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This was some amazing news on Monday: that human organs are going to be grown inside pigs to be used later as organ transplants. Wow!

The BBC have a short video clip to explain how human stem cells have been inserted into pig embryos to produce human-pig embryos, called chimeras. This research has been going on in the US to attempt to overcome the worldwide shortage of organs for donation.

The Guardian also reports on this story, explaining that from the outside they will look like normal pigs but one organ inside it will actually be human. There are heaps of ethical issues with this. For example what happens if the brain is human inside a pig’s body? Obviously from an RE perspective there are questions about meddling with nature and God’s creation, or whether if God gave us this intelligence and free will it is actually acceptable?

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A Breakthrough in Growing Embryos

Scientists are excited about their findings after leaving embryos to grow past the normal moment they’d be implanted into a womb. There is a legal limit on how long you can allow an embryo to develop outside the womb, 14 days, but even that might soon change as scientists argue it should be extended so they can discover more.

It used to be up to a week that scientists would study a fertilised egg before it was implanted into the womb, but with the extra days scientists have discovered many things about the early stage of development which often results in developmental defects and failure to implant. So all this extra information that they’ve been able to glean should help them reduce infertility in the future.

embryo -a new organism in the earliest stage of development. In humans this is defined as the developing organism from the fourth day after fertilization to the end of the eighth week. 

foetus – a prenatal human (before birth) which is between its embryonic state and its birth.

Remember that at 24 weeks of pregnancy in England a foetus can no longer be aborted. Meanwhile Catholics believe that from the moment of conception a new life has been created and Muslims think that even though abortion is wrong if the mother’s life is at risk then up to 120 days the mother’s life has more value than the foetus.

Jane the Virgin – TV for GCSE RS

Thank you to Year 11 students for sharing the name of a TV series, Jane the Virgin, which is available on Netflix and all about a Catholic virgin who gets accidently artificially inseminated with a baby! Sounds far-fetched but with 7.8 on IMDb it is making a lot of people laugh.

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You can catch the main actress Gina Rodriguez talking about the TV show on Ellen or some clips from the series on YouTube.

Quick heart warming transplant story

A two year old boy is currently recovering in intensive care after receiving a heart transplant. He had been living with a mechanical heart for a whole year; longer than any other known child patient in the UK.

His parents, Candace and Adrian, from Hampshire, have published a thank you note to the anonymous donor. “Thank you, little angel. In their darkest hour, as you prepared to take your last breath, your family selflessly thought of others,” they wrote, adding: “Thank you will never be enough. Your family has given our family hope. A chance of a future. A chance of life itself.”

 

Transplant Surgery

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What is a transplant? It’s a surgical operation to introduce organ or tissue from one person (the donor) to another (the recipient). It may also refer to the transfer of tissues from one part of a person’s body to another part of the same person’s body.

Way back in 1908 Alexis Carrel came up with a way of transplanting organs but most of the organs he transplanted from one animal to another failed, as organs were eventually rejected. From the 1950s onwards organ transplants gradually became more successful with the development of drugs (e.g. cortisone) to help organs be accepted in the recipient’s body. The first successful heart transplant happened in 1967. For 18 days the patient Louis lived with the heart of a 25 year old woman beating inside him. Nowadays this would be seen as a failure, but back then this was a huge breakthrough. By 1984 heart transplants had become common place around the world and even children were having heart transplants.

In the second half of the 1900s development has continued with the options for transplant surgery growing. Artificial hearts have been with us since the 1950s. Since the late 1970s it has been possible to offer some deaf people the chance to hear with the aid of cochlear implants. In 1981 the first successful heart-lung transplant was performed in Stanford.

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Despite this, replacement surgery remains a highly technical and very specialised profession. Its success also depends on the availability of suitable organ donations, and in many places in the world there are not enough to meet the demand. The NHS website explains which organs people can donate  as well as what the main faiths teach about organ donation.

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This can raise serious ethical questions and, some fear, lead to the body being treated as a commodity.

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There is much debate within Islam on whether organ donation is halal or haram.

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This has lead to a shortage of organs for Muslims with them having to wait on average an extra year for an organ compared to non-Muslims. The reason for this is that of the three million Muslims in Britain most have a South Asian ethnic background: so if less Muslims of this ethnic background donate organs there’ll be less organs which match people of that ethnic background who need them. Hospitals have had to urge Muslims to donate because the shortage of organs is so severe.

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Donating organs is the Christian thing to do

The Bishop of Carlisle has said that blood and organ donation should be part of the “sacrificial offering” Christians are called on to make.

“That ‘sacrificial offering’ is usually associated with time, money and gifts. But it applies just as much to the blood that flows in our veins and the organs that are such an intrinsic part of our bodies,” the Bishop says.

These comments comes from a three day meeting of Church of England bishops who will be debating blood and organ donation, as well as the ongoing subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

The article about the Church debating whether Christians should be encouraged to donate organs also refers to a Christian organisation called Flesh and Blood which campaigns for Christian churches to promote organ and blood donation.