3 Parent Embryos Approved By Bioethicists

Bioethicists assembled at the request of the Food and Drug Administration, concluded that it is ethically permissible to “go forward, but with caution” with mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRT), said the chairman, Jeffrey Kahn, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins ­University. This form of genetic engineering results in babies with genetic material from three parents.

The FDA released a statement Wednesday saying it will carefully review the report from the advisory committee, but added that the congressional ban prohibits the agency from reviewing applications "in which a human embryo is intentionally created or modified to include a heritable genetic modification. As such, human subject research utilizing genetic modification of embryos for the prevention of transmission of mitochondrial disease cannot be performed in the United States in FY 2016."

MRT should be used rarely, with extreme care and with abundant government oversight, and it initially should be applied only to male embryos, the advisory panel said. The group delivered its report at a morning news conference at the National Academy of Sciences’ headquarters in ­Washington.

Science fiction writers have done their job here, making sure that sf readers always have advance notice of troubling issues in the application of science. In his sardonic 1949 story Venus and the Seven Sexes, writer William Tenn tells us about a rather complicated arrangement - the seven sexes of the Plookh.

"...I am a representative of the seventh sex - nzred."

"A nzred, huh? What do you do?"

"I coordinate... You see, a mlenb is primarily interested in winning the affections of a likely strob and finding a tkan whom he can love. A tkan merely courts a mlenb and is attracted to a good guur. I am responsible for getting a complete chain of these individuals in operation, a chain of compatibility where perfect amity runs in a complete circle - a chain which will produce offspring of maximum variability. Then, after the matrimonial convention, when the chain is established, each sex begins to secrete in its original germ with the full forty-nine chromosomes. A busy time for the nzredd!

"The nzred... fits himself in at any point in the chain which the exigencies of the situation seem to demand. He may receive the sextuple supergamete from the tkan and transmit the original single gamete to the guur, he may be between the flin and blap, the blap and srob, whatever is required."

Via Washington Post.

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