Paul Knoepfler is a stem cell researcher in California. His work focuses on the reasons pluripotent stem cells (both induced and embryonic) form tumors. He is also a writer and a blogger which is unusual for a research scientist.
Knoepfler does not oppose embryonic stem cell research or therapeutic cloning, but he does oppose the three-parent embryo technique also called mitochondrial replacement. On a recent blog about three-parent babies at the New York Times, Knoepfler wrote this comment:
It comes down to 2 key issues for me.
First, I don’t believe that we have discussed the ethical and societal implications of human genetic modification sufficiently to move forward with actually doing this in people. It’s a big deal and could be a first step toward eugenics as well.
Second, evidence suggests if we do this kind of embryo tinkering that inevitably there will be children born with chromosomal defects, developmental problems, and other issues that we just cannot predict. We also have no idea what this might mean for future generations.
UC Davis School of Medicine
Dr. Knoepfler is correct. We have not truly discussed the implications of this procedure or how it will lead us further down the eugenics road we are already on. Make no mistake, this technique does not just screen out embryos, it engineers them.
Also, such an invasive intervention on the egg (or embryo) may lead to serious problems that we cannot predict. Knoepfler wrote on his blog:
In the hypothetical context of real-world assisted reproduction, moving one oocyte nucleus into the enucleated oocyte of another person could trigger all kinds of devastating problems (most likely through epigenetic changes) that might not manifest until you try to make a human being out of it.
Then it’s too late.
And it is also too late for every generation after. Is that really a chance we want to take? Do we have the moral authority to purposefully and intentionally inflict such abnormalities on future generations?
Dr. Knoepfler is telling us we should not proceed; we need to listen.