April 21, 2007
Woman Freezes Her Eggs To Give To Daughter

7 year old Canadian Flavie Boivin might some day give birth to her brother or sister.

MONTREAL - In what is considered a world first, Melanie Boivin has donated her eggs to her daughter who is sterile because of a genetic condition called Turner's syndrome.

The Montreal lawyer's eggs are to be frozen until her seven-year-old daughter, Flavie, becomes of age to bear a child through in-vitro fertilization.

If Flavie has a daughter from one of these eggs the baby will have a grandmother who is also her mother. This opens up all sorts of possibilities. Suppose a woman gave birth to a daughter from eggs donated from her great grandmother. The daughter would also be her mom's great aunt.

Recent advances in egg freezing technology improve the odds of starting viable pregnancies from frozen eggs.

Kutluk Oktay, a renowned expert in preserving fertility at the Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Cornell University in New York, said egg-freezing technology has "changed drastically in the last couple of years and is now being seen as the next breakthrough in reproductive medicine."

"The procedure will be seen as an established part of fertility care . . . within the next five years," he predicted.

Although questions remain around which method of freezing eggs is best, Dr. Oktay said McGill's fast-freezing technique -- known as vitrification -- "looks extremely promising."

Egg-freezing will become even more popular for women who want to assure that they still have viable eggs when they are able to afford the time to raise children. A woman pursuing a career and unable to find Mr. Right could put off children until her 40s by using frozen eggs she put away while still in her 20s.

I consider this all pretty small stuff compared to embryo genetic engineering. Imagine a woman deciding to build an embryo using chromosomes taken from 5 different men. Each man might carry some chromosome that has a genetic trait she wants. Or she might solicit all her girlfriends to chip in a chromosome or two. Get blue eyes and pretty face from Kathy, resistance to depression and stress from the indomitable Sally, and a sharp mind from Sue.

The ability to select individual chromosomes and assemble them together into an egg, sperm, or embryo will break the link between parenthood and parental genetic endowment. Add in the ability to modify genetic sequences and the rate of human evolution will skyrocket. Your guess is as good as mind on the question of where this will all lead.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 April 21 02:08 PM  Bioethics Reproduction

Lilianne said at April 22, 2007 8:22 AM:

Are parents wise enough to "design" a child? After all, most adults in the west are the result of a dysfunctional method of child-rearing that leaves them life-long adolescents.

Every parent can design an embryo to become an extension of themselves--their dysfunctional fears, hatreds, bigotry.

Islamist parents can design an embryo to become the perfect suicide bomber. Deaf parents can design an embryo without an auditory nerve, so that even cochlear implants will not be able to give their child the cursed gift of hearing.

Very few adults in the western world are wise enough to design a child.

Randall Parker said at April 22, 2007 10:10 AM:


Think of it this way: We all already have genes that make our behavior problematic in a variety of ways. If we do not consciously choose genes for our offspring we are doing it by a big spin of the genetic roulette wheel. Many of those spins are already producing bad outcomes. On average will those outcomes be better or worse of conscious choices are made? I do not know.

I think the answer depends on IQ level, personality type, religious belief, level and type of education, surrounding culture (expect the Saudis to make very different decisions that the Finns for example), and a whole host of other factors.

In my view this question of what people will do about offspring genes once they get the power to make choices is one of the most important questions about our future. Will the world get better or worse in the short, medium, and long term as a result of conscious choices for offspring genes?

Mthson said at April 22, 2007 10:26 AM:

Lilianne, the initial concerns for reproductive gene therapy will be intelligence, cosmetic concerns like height and hair color, and personality. People are practical and just want the good life for their kids.

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