How Human Embryonic Research Has Changed Over the Decades

Public opinion has changed and so has politics. But policies remain surprisingly similar.

Photo by Amina Filkins

Our Starting Point: The Research Panel Report

Some of the applications of this research. Gif by author.

The human emrbyo is entitled to profound respect; but this respect does not necessarily encompass the full legal and moral rights attributed to persons.

The very early stages of an embryo. Image by author.
The blastocyst stage. Image by author.
The formation of the bilaminar disk. Image by author.
The formation of the endoderm layer. Image by author; inspired by Ninja Nerd.
The formation of the mesoderm and endoderm. Image by author; inspired by Ninja Nerd.

The primitive streak acts as “a proxy for individuation.”

[The primitive streak] marks the start of a process called gastrulation, which is when the cells of the body start moving and separating into the beginnings of what’s a creature rather than just a ball of cells.

We picked on 14 days because we learned that at about that time the cells in the loose cluster that then existed began to differentiate into different types of cells and tissues, and that after this, the progress grew much faster, there could be no further division into twin embryos, and the primitive streak would appear, the first sign of what would be the spinal cord.

I chose 14, rather than 13 or 15, simply because everyone can count up to 14; a fortnight is a good, memorable number, and records can be kept week by week. We were criticized because it was an arbitrary figure, and in a way it was, it could have been other than 14.

Doing research on zygotes could put women enrolled in IVF programs under pressure to consent to donate unused eggs or zygotes. This pressure could be particularly acute if the creation of zygotes for research purposes were prohibited.

Women or couples could feel compelled to donate zygotes so as not to be seen as uncooperative or because they believe that to refuse could cost them their place in the IVF program.

I concur with the Panel’s conclusion that women undergoing already scheduled surgery and women who agree to donate after death are permissible sources of oocytes. I would not permit, however, the use of oocytes from dead women where consent is obtained from next-of-kin or from women who are participants in infertility treatment.

The 3 P’s Over Time: Policies, Politics, Public Opinion

The 14-Day Rule

Image by author.

No Compensation For Donors’ Time

Financial compensation of women donating oocytes for reproductive or research purposes is justified on ethical grounds.

Total payments to donors in excess of $5,000 require justification and sums above $10,000 are not appropriate.

Parthenogenesis

Closing Thoughts

Hey there, I’m Parmin, a 15 y/o student researcher studying stem cells 🧪 Everyday, I aspire to uncover the secrets of biology and learn something new! Make sure to follow me on Medium to hear about every new article I post, connect with me on LinkedIn, or contact me at parminsedigh@gmail.com! Also subscribe to my monthly newsletter to learn about every cool, new thing I’m working on ✍️

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Science communicator trying to learn something new everyday | Published in Start It Up, Predict & The Writing Cooperative

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Parmin Sedigh

Science communicator trying to learn something new everyday | Published in Start It Up, Predict & The Writing Cooperative