Three Parent Baby/Cyborgs

It is being widely reported today that the United Kingdom just made making babies from three parents legal. See Cari Romm’s “How Three People Can Make a Baby” at The Atlantic for more. This is precisely what Donna Haraway was talking about, all the way down to how this massively upsets the mother/father dualism and shows that even human biology itself is not immune from the technological, postnatural transformations of the Anthropocene.

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About Bradley J. Fest

Bradley J. Fest is assistant professor of English at Hartwick College. He is the author of two books of poetry, The Rocking Chair (Blue Sketch, 2015) and The Shape of Things (Salò, 2017), and has published a number of essays on contemporary literature and culture. He blogs at The Hyperarchival Parallax.
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5 Responses to Three Parent Baby/Cyborgs

  1. cso9 says:

    This is interesting because a friend of mine actually donated his sperm for these same purposes. I had never thought much of it until reading Haraway’s work. After reading “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” and viewing this diagram, the idea of it sounds a bit scary to me.

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  2. bagelbite13 says:

    This is very interesting article. My immediate reaction to the creation of 3-parent babies was incredible opposition. Amazingly, I feel the complete opposite way now. Although it might seem odd or weird at first, this new technology is a way to save people.

    The entire premise behind the technology is to eliminate the threat of passing on bad mitochondrial DNA to the next generation. A woman with bad genes for mitochondrial DNA is now able have her own nuclear DNA extracted from her eggs and implanted in another woman’s egg, which has been cleared of everything other than good mitochondrial DNA. The new egg is then fertilized by the father’s sperm. Essentially, the baby will have DNA from 3 parents, but only 2 will be of nuclear DNA, the base of human development. This procedure could cure diseases before they even happen. A baby with potentially lethal or debilitating mitochondrial genes now has a new chance at life.
    I’ll admit that this is a step towards designer babies. Although, it certainly walks the line, I feel this procedure does not cross the bounds of morality yet. With all the technology in our world today, I love that some of it is being put to good use. This is groundbreaking. I just wonder how far this will go.

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  3. soc19 says:

    I actually came across this topic while browsing BBC News recently! It was really fascinating to me, as a biology major, since we often discuss the implications of biotechnology and genetic enhancements in my classes. I have to admit, I was quite impressed that the UK legislature was willing to pass such a law, since it does blur the lines that define what makes a “parent” a parent. I had to take a step back and think about what kind of implications such medical technology might have on parental dynamics. I wonder if a donor mother might choose to have a role in the child’s upbringing, or if she would simply donate her mitochondrial DNA and leave it at that.

    I also wonder what kind of implications this technology has on the evolution of the human species. One might argue that utilizing this procedure to create a healthier child will artificially enhance our biological fitness (recall the idea of “survival of the fittest”). Some might question the morals of meddling with natural selection in this way.

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  4. kab248 says:

    I’ve recently finished my certificate in Conceptual Foundations and Medicine where we cover topics exactly like this one. If you like thinking about these kinds of issues, you should take a class in the History and Philosophy of Science (I recommend Morality in Medicine or Mind and Medicine). Note: the nature of philosophy in medicine is controversial. My thoughts below are my opinion, and I do not mean to offend anyone.

    In regards to this specific article, I believe this procedure is a necessary first step in the realm of human genetic engineering and eugenics. As already mentioned in a previous post, natural selection is the process whereby the most fit individuals in a population survive and reproduce, passing on their advantageous genes to their offspring. In effect, evolution selectively picks those traits that promote survival, whereas negative traits, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, are selected against. One advantage of human genetic engineering is to artificially select against genes that cause disease and malformations like those aforementioned. The UK just legalized the most basic form of genetic engineering, and as a result, doctors are now able to prevent debilitating mitochondrial diseases like MERRF, NARP, and some muscular dystrophies. This example shows the benefits of human genetic engineering and what might be the ultimate goal of eradicating all genetic diseases from the human population.

    Some advocates of the slippery slope principle might argue that if we begin human genetic engineering, then there will be no place to stop, and soon we’ll be creating designer babies that are smarter, more attractive, more athletic, healthy, etc. My question is: If evolution selects for traits that better the species as a whole, then why shouldn’t we do it artificially?

    If you don’t agree with me, read this article on “The Case Against Perfection” by Michael Sandel.

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