Where Do Babies Come From? Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells…Sort of

Recent headlines tout that it may be possible for same-sex couples to have biological children thanks to stem cell technology. Using skin stem cells, scientists from the University of Cambridge and the Weismann Institute found that it is possible to make primordial germ cells, the cells that eventually form into egg and sperm (gametes), from induced pluripotent stem cells created from a donor’s skin.

The opportunity for same-sex couples to have biological children may take over the headlines, but it is not the only, or necessarily the primary reason, scientists are interested in this research. One thing scientists hope to do is to use this technique to study age-related diseases. As we go through our lives, we accumulate epigenetic messages that tell genes when to turn on or off, when to make more cells, or when to stop making cells. Recent research shows that certain cancers and age-related diseases are likely due to these epigenetic factors going awry. These epigenetic factors are “reset” in germ cells, meaning scientists can start over and see how these factors develop at the cellular level. There is still much research that needs to be done in this area, including questions as to which epigenetic factors are passed on and which ones are actually reset in germ cells (See Nature’s recent issue on the results of the NIH’s Roadmap Epigenetics Project here).

While the epigenetic research is interesting, the headlines emphasize the reproductive possibilities. This technique could be another option for infertile couples who want to have biological children, including same-sex couples who want children that are biologically related to both of them. However, what is not touted as loudly is that, for now, the technology only works for male same-sex couples.

The why this technique can be used for two men but not two women has to do with how the cells are made. Primordial germ cells are made from skin cells are taken from each person to be converted into induced pluripotent stem cells. Those stem cells are then converted into primordial germ cells by turning on or off certain genetic factors involved in converting pluripotent stem cells to particular cell types.

Female cells have XX chromosomes and male cells have XY chromosomes, but in order to make primordial germ cells that are precursors to sperm, researchers need a Y chromosome. Lead researcher, Dr. Hannah pointed out, that it is easier to take away a chromosome than to insert one. Women don’t have any Y chromosomes to contribute, meaning that making primordial germ cells from women “is a long way off.”

Finally, one of the more troubling factors in this research is that little has been said about the health and well-being of the children that would be produced from this technique. A key point in the original research article in Cell is that SOX17 is a key factor in the process of making primordial germ cells and likely plays an important role in gene regulation. This was surprising to scientists because SOX17 does not play a key role in mouse development. This means that even though mice have been used in prior studies on creating primordial germ cells, they may not be a good model system for creating the subsequent sperm and egg cells. Often before a procedure or a drug makes it to human trials, it is first tested in mice and then in primates. When it comes to human development, though, things do not translate from animal models to human models as easily.

Once scientists are able to take the primordial cells and advance them to egg and sperm cells, they will be able to create an embryo. However, because the mouse models are different, this is a case in which we have no way of knowing whether these embryos or the children will be healthy until the experiment is actually done.

It is unclear from the interviews or the article if the assumption is that “unhealthy” embryos will die off before they implant in the uterus or how exactly researchers are expecting to test whether this technique work as another reproductive technology. If unhealthy embryos die, this poses an ethical problem for those that assume embryos should be granted dignity in their own right. But even if one does not accept that embryos are accorded a certain level of dignity, what about babies and children? What do scientists plan to do if the children born from this procedure are unhealthy or deformed?

Finally, it is worth mentioning that this technique would provide a source of eggs, which are needed for various other reproductive techniques and research endeavors. For example, The UK just passed legislation permitting what has been dubbed “three-parent IVF” in which scientists transfer the nucleus from one woman’s egg to another woman’s enucleated egg that will then be used in IVF. The hope is to prevent mitochondrial disease which is genetically passed down to offspring from the mother. Obtaining skin cells from a donor is much less invasive and poses less of a risk to the donor than obtaining her eggs after inducing hyperovulation.

This research is rife with ethical concerns, most notably the fact that it amounts to human experimentation on people who did not have the opportunity to choose to be the product of experimentation, but must live with the consequences, if they live at all.

Salvo Links 2.19.2015

Why are jihadis so obsessed with porn?
Recently, London Mayor Boris Johnson described Jihadists as “porn driven losers” who have “low self-esteem and are unsuccessful with women.” He’s on to something important and profound.

Young, Attractive, and Totally Not Into Having Sex
It’s Friday afternoon during finals week, and two undergrads at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville are lounging together on a battered couch in the student center, watching cartoons. They’ve only met twice before, but they’re all over each other. Rae, a tiny pixie of a sophomore wearing a newsboy cap, nuzzles up against Sean, a handsome freshman. He’s got his arm draped across her. They giggle and tease each other, and she sprawls into his lap. Their friend Genevieve, perched on the arm of the couch, smiles and rolls her eyes.

It looks like a standard collegiate prelude to a one-night stand. But there will be no kissing, no fondling, and definitely no Saturday morning walk of shame. Sean and Rae do not have the hots for each other—or anyone else, for that matter. In fact, they’re here hanging out at the campus outreach center, a haven for all who question their sexuality and gender identity, because they’re exploring an unconventional idea: life without sex. Or mostly without sex. They’re pioneers of an emerging sexual identity, one with its own nomenclature and subcategories of romance and desire, all revolving around the novel concept that having little to no interest in sex is itself a valid sexual orientation. Rae tells me she’s an aromantic asexual, Sean identifies as a heteroromantic demisexual, and Genevieve sees herself as a panromantic gray-asexual.

Stopping Human Trafficking Before It Starts
Human trafficking is increasingly gaining public awareness. Law enforcement, social workers, first responders – all are beginning to receive training regarding human trafficking. And that’s all very good. But it’s hardly enough.

They Just Can’t Believe It!

Why No Swimsuit Issue of Men?

On the happily few occasions when callers to my radio show make a particularly foolish comment, I ask them what graduate school they attended.

When they ask why I assume they attended graduate school, I respond, “Only someone who went to graduate school would say something that foolish.”

Because it is never my intention to humiliate a caller, I always hasten to explain that my comment is not directed at the caller; it is directed at our universities. Moreover, I mean it literally. In order to say certain things that are so obviously foolish, one has to be taught them.

Kudos to Dennis Prager for writing this. In any age except our own this observation about the sexual instincts of men and women would be filed under “common sense.” You may have read this idea before in the pages of Salvo by Dr. Louis Markos. Personally, this is one of my favorite Salvo articles (and it’s a two parter).

In case you missed it, enjoy!

Just Brilliant!
Three Things Only a PhD Can Believe by Louis Markos
Absurdity #1: There Are No Universal Standards
Absurdity #2: There Are No Essential Differences Between Men & Women
Absurdity #3: There Is No Clear Dividing Line Between Humans & Animals

Highly Creative
Three More Things Only a PhD Can Believe
by Louis Markos
Absurdity #1: The Design We See Around Us Is Only Apparent
Absurdity #2: Man Is by Nature Good and Is Therefore Perfectible
Absurdity #3: Virgil, Dante, and Shakespeare Are Products of Their Socio-Economic Milieus

Hear Contributing Editor Terrell Clemmons Talk About Her Latest Article In Salvo on “Fifty Shades of Grey”

from themorningcruise.com
50 Shades of Grey Commentary

As Valentine’s Day approaches, many media outlets are focusing on the much-hyped release of the ’50 Shades of Grey’ movie release. The Morning Cruise shared their thoughts on the movie and Bill shared an article by Terrell Clemmons of Salvo Magazine. Be sure to check out the alternatives to both the book and the film.



from Tim Constantine’s Capitol Hill Show
Fifty Shades of Grey… Does it Have a Biblical Message?

Interview starts at about 32 minutes



from Yes FM
Terrell Clemmons from Salvo Magazine. How Christian Women Should React to “50 Shades of Grey”.

A Psychiatrist’s Take on “Fifty Shades of Grey”

by Marcia Segelstein

Dr. Miriam Grossman is a psychiatrist and author of several books, including “Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student.”  Dr. Grossman has been quoted often in the pages of Salvo, and continues to expose the dangers of our sexually permissive culture on her website www.miriamgrossmanmd.com .

Her latest blog post is about the dangerous ideas promoted in the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Here’s a brief portion of what she writes:

“The ideas of Fifty Shades of Grey are dangerous, and can lead to confusion and poor decisions about love.  There are vast differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, but the movie blurs those differences, so you begin to wonder:  what’s healthy in a relationship?  What’s sick?  There are so many shades of grey…I’m not sure.
Listen, it’s your safety and future we’re talking about here.  There’s no room for doubt:  an intimate relationship that includes violence, consensual or not, is completely unacceptable.

This is black and white.  There are no shades of grey here.  Not even one.”

You can read her entire post here: http://www.miriamgrossmanmd.com/blog/

Women Are Affected by Abortion

by Marcia Segelstein

Sadly, but not surprisingly, there was little media attention paid again this year to the annual March for Life in Washington, DC. But the Media Research Center sent a reporter and videographer to interview some of the women marching, find out why they were there, and let them tell their stories. Some were conceived in rape, and some of those were pro-choice before they found out the truth. Some brought their babies who had been conceived in rape. And some were there because they regretted the abortions they’d had.  “I bought into the radical feminist lies of the 1960′s and 70′s,” said one woman who had two abortions. “It’s only through the grace of God that I started being truthful — and then I had to be truthful about what I had done.”

Salvo covered the issue of post-abortion suffering in “A Buried Grief.” It includes links to ministries and organizations that offer healing for women who’ve had abortions.