Pro-life champions should brace for further advances in the spawning business – including dick transplants

Let's try this for size...

Let’s try this for size…

A pro-life advocate (and maybe many of them) has expressed concerns that New Zealand’s first “made-to-order baby” will carry an unfair burden.

Gotta say Alf is troubled, too, by this and other goings-on in the baby-making business, although he does not reject all the advances being made by medical researchers. For example, he sees some merit in the prospect of being given a penis transplant.

This would enable him to step up a few sizes from the present model. Moreover, all going well, he might find one that works.

But he is getting ahead of himself…

NZ’s first “made-to-order” baby was selected from a batch of IVF embryos as a genetic match for its sick older sibling and will donate stem cells at birth.

Down south, the past president of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child and former Timaru branch president Carmel Armstrong is not too chuffed about this technological advance.

She told the Timaru Herald she could understand that parents would want to go to any lengths to save their child.

“But parents are limited in other choices which are not ethical, no matter how much their hearts want it,” Armstrong said.

She wondered if the child would have to undergo further medical procedures as it got older.

“And what happens if it revolts against that as a teenager? There is an urgency for the child to comply with the requests, a burden we don’t have.”

Armstrong warned that taking the first step in this direction could lead to other parents demanding gender selection.

She objects to the spawning of “designer babies” because if the embryos did not meet the parents’ requirements they were discarded and had no chance at life.

Dunno if she has caught up with this report in the Daily Mail.

It brings us up to speed on all sorts of fascinating – and worrying – possibilities in the reproduction business.

We are reminded that:

Fertility treatment has come a long way since the first IVF baby, Louise Brown, was born in Oldham in 1978.

At the weekend, it was revealed that a 36-year-old Swedish woman had given birth to a healthy baby using a transplanted womb — a medical first — with more babies expected to be delivered soon using the same technique.

But, as THEA JOURDAN and Rachel ELLIS reveal, womb transplants are just the start. 

Where to start?

Let’s try …


Women in decades to come may be able to store their eggs as a powder and simply add water and sperm when they want to start a family.

The usual way to store eggs for future fertilisation and implantation is to freeze them in liquid nitrogen.

Now scientists in Israel have developed a method to ‘powderise’ eggs — in this case, cows’ eggs — to store them.

First, they freeze the eggs: it takes less than a tenth of a second for the eggs to reach a temperature of minus 200c, too short a time for ice crystals to form, which can damage their cellular structure.

The frozen eggs are then held for a day at minus 55c at low pressure to convert them into a powder, which can be stored at room temperature indefinitely.

Then you might like to think about infertile men and women – in the not-too-distant future – having their own stem cells used to create egg and sperm cells in the lab.

In a study published earlier this year, scientists at Stanford University in the U.S. took skin cells from infertile men who were unable to produce healthy sperm.

They re-programmed them to turn into stem cells and implanted them into the testes of mice, where they turned into early-stage sperm cells.

The process can be used to grow eggs, too — last year scientists in Japan reprogrammed mouse skin cells to make egg and sperm cells.

Mike Bowen, a consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician, says this  means, in theory, a woman wouldn’t have to donate her egg in fertility treatment. She could donate a skin sample instead.

Artificial wombs are on the list, too.

And artificial ovaries.

But Alf was tempted to give greater thought to the possibility of penis transplants.

Scientists have grown penile tissue in the laboratory, but a penis needs a complicated nervous system to work during sexual arousal and intercourse.

It’s a long way off, but researchers in Chicago have shown that tissue made from collagen, which is connective tissue, could help promote growth of nerves in the new penis, making it more likely to function.

The findings, presented at the American Urological Association meeting in Chicago, could also have implications for men who have undergone radical surgery for prostate cancer.

This treatment often damages nerves that are vital to achieve and maintain erections.

Oh, and then there is baby cloning. And something called sperm washing – a technique used to clean sperm, making it ready for use in fertility treatment.

And sperm injections.

The way things are going, a bloke could finish up getting an artificial womb and ovaries, and a sheila could get an artificial penis.

And the husband could be the mother of a child fathered by the wife.

Alf voted against that law that enabled blokes to marry blokes and sheilas to marry sheilas.

He most certainly will be voting similarly against any laws that will permit some of the procedures outlined in the Daily Mail article.

Except, of course, he would approve of penises being transplanted so long as the recipient happened to be a bloke in need of one.



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