A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the “European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology” shows that in the first five days of his existence, the tiniest of human beings has the capacity to heal himself of genetic abnormalities .
From the story:
Professor William G. Kearns told the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology that a three-day-old embryo (called a cleavage stage embryo) with an incorrect number of chromosomes (known as “aneuploidy”) was capable of undergoing “a dynamic process of genetic normalisation” so that by day five, when it had developed to the blastocyst stage, it had become euploid, with the correct number of chromosomes.
This is an amazing process of healing directed by the embryo himself. Scientists are now engaging in research to determine how the embryo corrects the genetic problems. This is a significant finding because it points to another way in which the early human being develops as do all human beings, towards maturity of body. For other examples see Maureen Condic’s White Paper, When Does Human Life Begin?: A Scientific Perspective. In the paper she explains that one of the very first acts of the human being in a zygotic stage (one cell) is to protect himself from other sperm by changing the outer layer of the cell. One cannot help but marvel how the young human being protects and heals himself even in the earliest moments of his existence.
This study also has significant implications for the practice of in vitro fertilization which often involves “Preimplantation diagnosis.” Again, from the story:
Preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) refers to the removal of a cell from a developing embryo and evaluating this cell for all chromosome abnormalities. If the results of this screening show that the embryo is normal, then either it undergoes uterine transfer or is frozen for future use. In cases where PGS evaluation yields a biopsied cell that is chromosomally abnormal, standard practice is to discard the corresponding embryo. (Emphasis added)
The normal practice is to “discard” human beings that are shown to have genetic flaws. This practice is immoral, as every human being must be treated with the dignity and respect due to every member of the human species, created as imago dei. The Church’s document Dignitas Personae identifies this practice as “an act of abortion” which is “shameful” and “utterly reprehensible” (n.22). But this study also reveals that often the practice of discarding such embryos, even for the immoral stated reason, is unnecessary as 64% were completely healed.
In addition, if a day-three embryo was found to be aneuploid, then these findings suggest that it would be worth waiting and testing the trophectoderm at day five before making the final decision about whether to implant the embryo or discard it.
Finally, one should note two significant problems with this entire study. First is that in vitro fertilization is itself morally problematic because it offends the legitimate rights of the child and because it offends the relationship between husband and wife by separating procreation from the marital act. Second, the way this study was conducted is problematic because (among other reasons) the researchers “dissected the entire embryo,” killing it in the process.
As Dignitas Personae states, “In reality, it is deeply disturbing that research in this area aims principally at obtaining better results in terms of the percentage of babies born to women who begin the process, but does not manifest a concrete interest in the right to life of each individual embryo” (n.14).
LifeNews.com Note: Arland K. Nichols is National Director of HLI America, Human Life International’s educational initiative in the United States. Article originally published at HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum.