And now, the three-parent embryo

As debates about marriage equality continue in nations around the world, science is changing the terms of the debate. Remember that behind much of the argument for the “one-man/one-woman” stance is that “God” established such “natural” pairings for breeding purposes. Hence heterosexual unions are deemed pre-ordained and above government––even though divorce statistics reveal that most conventional marriages fall apart. In fact, according to current statistics the most common “family” unit in the U.S is now a single person living alone.

Now the traditional breeding paradigm faces a new threat. Scientists in Oregon have created embryos with genes from one man and two women. In other words, three people can make a baby together, biologically derived from each of them. This is different from surrogacy or other third party methods in that in this new method the resulting child is truly a genetic offspring of all three “parents.”  While this is all experimental at this moment,  the new procedure presents challenges on religious, ethical, and legal grounds, and it has sent policymakers in the US and Great Britain into a tizzy, as reported in BBC News. Researchers were working to fix a relatively rare mitochrondrial disease when they came upon the three-parent solution. The BBC New reports it this way: “1) Two embryos are fertilized with sperm creating an embryo from the intended parents and another from the donors. 2) The pronuclei, which contain genetic information, are removed from both embryos but only the parents’ is kept 3) A healthy embryo is created by adding the parents’ pronuclei to the donor embryo, which is finally implanted into the womb.”

Right now, no one is planning to use this method on otherwise healthy embryos, or produce babies with “two mommies”––at least not yet. But the implications are clear. We are fast approaching a time when the basic biology of reproduction may be open to change. And when that day arrives, perhaps “Adam & Eve” justifications for “traditional” marriage will go out the window.

One Reply to “And now, the three-parent embryo”

  1. Two women as the genetic parents of a child and requiring no male input is already a possibility. I can see strong opposition to these new forms of procreation from a male dominated parliament and a dominant heterosexual public. Science outstrips dogma but dogma still occupies our elected representatives.

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