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• Biotechnology (used by this lecture) is the application of science and


technology to living organisms and their parts, or to products and
models of living organisms, in the hope of producing understanding,
goods or services.
• Biotechnology is multidisciplinary in that it involves many different
disciplines, all the pure and applied sciences in fact, and
interdisciplinary in that all these sciences and technologies work
together to achieve biotechnological ends.
Bioethics of biotechnology • Because biotechnology enables us to do many things human beings
have never been able to do before, it has generated and will continue
to generate many new ethical issues, issues concerning what we should
and shouldn’t do, and many new social issues, issues concerning what
we as a society should and shouldn’t allow, or should or shouldn’t fund.
• Bioethics is the study of the ethical and social issues generated by
biotechnology. Bioethics is the discipline that studies the actions
permitted by biotechnology – actions like cloning or genetic
engineering – and asks whether or not these actions are morally
acceptable, and if so how we should manage them socially in order to
promote citizens’ welfare, protect their rights and treat them fairly.

• Ethics is primarily a practical discipline. After Bioethic issues


all, is concerned with what we should and
shouldn’t do. 1. Civil rights: rights to be respected
2. Fundamental issues about environment
– Should we clone human beings?
3. Biotechnology
– Should we pursue immortality?
– Should we produce genetically modified crops or
‘engineer’ our genes or those of animals?
–…
All these decisions are ethical decisions.

Mapping biotechnologies onto issues 1. Cloning


Biotechnology generates ethical and social issues by enabling us
to perform actions we have never been able to perform before:
Purposes of cloning can be:
• Cloning – Therapeutic cloning (Dòng hóa điều trị): the use
• The techniques of assisted reproduction of SCNT to produce human embryos genetically
• Genetic screening/testing identical to the nucleus donor. These embryos are
• The technology of life support then used for research, or for the harvesting of
• Genetic engineering stem cells, then destroyed.
• Bioinformatics – Reproductive cloning: the use of somatic cell
• Pharmacogenetics/pharmacogenomics nuclear transfer (SCNT) to produce human babies
• Synthetic biology with genomes identical to the nucleus donors.
• Nanotechnology

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1. Cloning
1. Cloning Therapeutic cloning: the moral status of embryos
Therapeutic cloning: the moral status of embryos
• In somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)
• Re-creation of
Hitler in The Boys
from Brazil
• The ‘spare part’
clones of Kazuo
Ishiguru’s in
Never Let Me Go:

1. Cloning 1. Cloning
Therapeutic cloning: the moral status of embryos Therapeutic cloning: the moral status of embryos

• In somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)

Strategy for therapeutic cloning and tissue engineering. From J. Hipp and A. Atala
(2004) Tissue engineering, stem cells, cloning, and parthenogenesis: new paradigms
for therapy. Journal of Experimental & Clinical Assisted Reproduction, 1:3.

1. Cloning 1. Cloning
Reproductive cloning: the moral status of embryos Reproductive cloning: the moral status of embryos

Factual information: Responses to the announcement of Dolly’s birth Physical risks


• 4 March 1997: The US issued a moratorium on federal funding for • Before producing Dolly, Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in
human cloning and demanded an immediate report on the social Edinburgh failed 277 times to produce a healthy sheep. The
and ethical issues. embryos either died, or were deformed.
• 18 March 1997: The House of Commons Select Committee on • Some suspect Dolly’s true age was the age of the donor of the
Science and Technology urged that existing law be tightened to ban nucleus that produced her rather than her chronological age.
human cloning in the UK. This would explain why she developed arthritis prematurely
• 14 May 1997: The World Health Assembly said: ‘the use of cloning and died of a lung disease usually found in older sheep. This
for the replication of human individuals is ethically unacceptable failure rate renders immoral any current attempt to produce a
and contrary to human dignity and morality.’ human clone.
• March 1997: The European Parliament called for an explicit
worldwide ban on the cloning of human beings.

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1. Cloning
Reproductive cloning: the moral status of embryos 2. The techniques of assisted reproduction

Human dignity • Louise Brown, the world’s first test tube baby
• Gilbert Meilaender has reason for believing that reproductive
cloning is morally unacceptable: he believes that it is a
necessary condition of human dignity that one be the result
of an ‘act of love’ between a husband and wife.
• Interestingly, Ian Wilmut, the scientist who brought Dolly into
the world, offered an argument against reproductive cloning
that is rather like Meilaender’s. Wilmut argued that
reproductive cloning would be wrong because clones
wouldn’t be treated as real people, they would be
discriminated against.

2. The techniques of assisted reproduction


2. The techniques of assisted reproduction • The resources of reproduction: eggs, sperm and
• In vitro fertilisation (IVF): a woman is treated with drugs to stimulate wombs for sale
ovulation. Eggs are then collected and mixed with sperm in a Petri dish. – A major cause of infertility is the inability to produce
Once fertilised one or more of the eggs is transferred to the uterus. fertile gametes. Sometimes the problems are not with
gametes but with difficulty in providing a womb
• Gamete intrafallopian transfer: gametes are mixed in a Petri dish then hospitable to a developing foetus  Gamete donation
transferred to the fallopian tubes for fertilisation to take place.
• Payment for gametes
• Zygote intrafallopian transfer: eggs and sperm are mixed in a Petri dish • Using family donors
and in the hope that fertilisation has taken place, the supposed zygote is
• Factual information: Fresh versus stored sperm
transferred to the fallopian tube.
• Encourage ‘egg sharing’
• In vitro maturation (IVM): used for women who cannot take the drugs • Use eggs from aborted foetuses
used to stimulate ovulation in IVF, IVM involves taking immature eggs and – A female child is born with all the oocytes she’ll ever have. These develop
allowing them to mature in vitro before being fertilised and implanted in early in foetal development and can be extracted from foetuses from about
the uterus. week 13. Between 16 and 20 weeks each female foetus has about 6–7 million
• Intracytoplasmic sperm injection: used when sperm are poor, a single oocytes each potentially capable of maturing into a fertile egg.
sperm is selected for its good quality and injected straight into the egg (see • Use artificial gametes
Figure 9.1). The end of men?

2. The techniques of assisted reproduction 2. The techniques of assisted reproduction


• Surrogate mother (người mẹ thay thế) Screening and embryo selection: eliminating disorders or people?
– Partial, where the surrogate’s eggs are fertilised by the sperm of the
commissioning father; • Embryos at risk could be tested by amniocentesis (xét nghiệm
– Full, where an embryo created from the eggs and sperm of the thai nhi bất thường) and chorionic villus sampling (CVS - Sinh
commissioning parents is implanted into the surrogate’s womb. thiết gai nhau).
• In 2010, Christian Ronaldo paid a surrogate to have a child for him. • In the 1980s, it is possible to diagnose various genetic and
• Artificial wombs (dạ con nhân tạo) chromosomal disorders in very early embryos produced in
– Cells have been taken from the lining of a woman’s womb and grown vitro. The procedure is known as preimplantation genetic
in the laboratory on scaffolds of biodegradable material moulded in diagnosis, or PGD (sometimes PID).
the shape of the interior of a uterus. As the cells become tissue the
scaffold disintegrates and oestrogen and nutrients can be added to the Note: Both techniques are invasive and carry a high risk of
tissue. miscarriage but used for embryos selection
– The construction of tanks of amniotic fluid stabilised at body
temperature, in which foetuses can be put and connected to machines
that pump in nutrients and dispose of waste.
no foetus ever again need be aborted

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2. The techniques of assisted reproduction 2. The techniques of assisted reproduction


Screening and embryo selection: eliminating disorders or people? Screening and embryo selection: eliminating disorders or people?
• Genetic screening is done for a particular condition in individuals, groups or
populations without family history of the condition. • Indirect gene tracking (linkage) relies on
• Genetic testing is done for a particular condition where an individual is suspected comparing DNA markers from family
of being at increased risk due to their family history or the result of a genetic members with the condition to markers in
screening test. unaffected relatives. Used in situations
• Direct gene testing looks at the presence or absence of a known gene mutation by where the gene itself has not been precisely
examining the sequence of letters in the information in the gene. located or where mutation(s) in a gene have
The test is very accurate and used for diagnosis and screening including prenatal, not yet been defined, the test is not as
genetic carrier testing and screening, presymptomatic and predictive testing. accurate as direct gene testing but can be
used in diagnosis including prenatal and
• Limitations include:
presymptomatic and predictive testing.
– interpretation of the test result, e.g. finding that a person has a faulty gene does not
always relate to how a person is, or will be, affected by that condition; • It may not always be possible to find DNA
markers that enable the scientists to tell the
– the testing may be time-consuming and expensive for the health service if not for the
patient; difference between the faulty gene copy and
the working gene copy.
– for some complex conditions, e.g. cancer, the testing may have to be done on a family
member with the condition to identify a family-specific mutation in the gene (mutation Preimplantation genetic diagnosis
involves screening embryos for genetic
searching) before unaffected family members can be offered predictive testing. defects. HowStuffWorks 2001.

2. The techniques of assisted reproduction 2. The techniques of assisted reproduction


Screening and embryo selection: eliminating disorders or people? Screening and embryo selection: Selecting for sex
• Fertilisation (sometimes called ‘conception’) is a 24-hour process, complete at the
point of ‘syngamy’, when the genetic materials carried by the sperm and the egg
have fused. • Embryos are selected (gender selection)
• The product of fertilisation is a ‘zygote’ a single-celled organism. After 5 days the • Some parents wish to select for a sex for the purposes of
zygote becomes a ‘blastocyst’ (or ‘pre-implantation embryo’), a hollow ball of
about 100 cells, from some of which the embryo will develop. Other cells will
balancing a family or in order to avoid a sex-linked condition
become the placenta and the umbilical cord. such as haemophilia (bệnh máu không đông).
• About 2 days later the blastocyst will implant itself into the womb, triggering
biochemical signals from the mother, on which further development depends.
About 75% of fertilised eggs fail to implant.
• Fourteen days after fertilisation, at about the 2,000 cell stage, the cells start to
differentiate, the ‘primitive streak’, the beginning of the nervous system, appears
and individual organs start to develop.
• After 7 weeks the organs are recognisable and the embryo becomes a foetus, the
forerunner of the baby that will, all being well, be born 9 months after fertilisation.
• We use the word ‘embryo’ to cover all stages from syngamy to 7 weeks, though we
will occasionally talk of the ‘pre-implantation embryo’ (up to 7 days). In talking of
the ‘early embryo’ we will mean the embryo up to the 14th day.

3. The technology of life support: Aging and death 4. Our duties to ourselves
• Aging and immortality: the search for longevity • Human enhancement: the more the better?
– The possibility of ‘eternal’ life: individuals believe they would be made – The acceptability of enhancement
happier by increasing longevity

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Summary

In this chapter we have considered:


1. Bioethics is the study of the ethical and social issues
generated by biotechnology;
2. Biotechnology generates ethical and social issues by enabling
us to perform actions we have never been able to perform
before;
3. Biotechnological techniques do not map neatly onto the
ethical issues;
4. A list of techniques can generate ethical and social issues.