The Body Ecology Diet (BED) Column
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Monday, July 9th, 2012:
Genetically Modified Babies! Are We Too Sick to Have Our Own Children?
Last month, it was revealed that scientists have created the world’s first genetically engineered human beings. (1)
According to reports, after some trial and error in the laboratory, 30 healthy and successfully genetically engineered (GE) babies have been born in the United States.
So far, scientists have run a genetic analysis on two of the genetically engineered babies. Tests have confirmed that these children have inherited the DNA from 3 adults - two women and one man.
Besides the ethical limits that genetically engineered babies push, there are at least one or two fatal flaws wrapped up in the development of our first GE babies.
Unhealthy Mitochondria Can Cause Infertility
Two of the genetically engineered babies have received a genetic fingerprint confirming that they have the DNA belonging to three people, not two.
It turns out that the parents of these GE babies were women and men who were unable to conceive on their own.
Professor Jacques Cohen, who has led the research behind GE babies, diagnosed the mothers of these two babies as infertile because of defects in small cellular structures called mitochondria.
Mitochondria are our cellular workhorse, and they generate much of the body’s energy. When the mitochondria in our cells begin to wane in numbers, or when they begin to malfunction, a number of diseases related to aging and degeneration result. This includes infertility.
Professor Cohen found that the defective mitochondria were located in the egg cells of both women.
To remedy the problem, Professor Cohen and his colleagues harvested healthy eggs from female donors. They then took a fine needle and removed some of the internal material from the healthy egg cell, including the mitochondria. This was injected into the eggs of women wanting to conceive.
Because mitochondria contain genetic information, the babies that were born to these women now each carry the DNA of two women rather than one.
Diet and Lifestyle Damage Mitochondria
It turns out that a 2012 study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology found that both oxidative stress and bacterial endotoxin can damage testicular mitochondria. (2)
Oxidative stress involves an accumulation of high-energy troublemakers, which are called free radicals. Free radicals can trigger an immune system response and lead to the breakdown of tissue. Because of this, oxidative stress is the biochemical ground on which the inflammatory process is built.
This is why healthcare practitioners place so much emphasis on foods that are rich in antioxidants.
Endotoxins or lipopolysaccharides (LPSs) give structural support to certain bacteria. They also generate a strong immune system response. While a great deal of research has linked endotoxins with chronic disease, it is important to remember that endotoxins are bug-related.
This means that the gut, which houses most of the bacteria in the body, must become “leaky” or permeable in order for endotoxins to become a problem and generate an inflammatory response.
Oxidative stress leads to mitochondrial dysfunction. Endotoxins from bacteria generate oxidative stress. Both can be traced to weak digestive function and poor diet.
Many women and men in the United States struggle with infertility. While the cause of infertility still eludes much of the medical profession, many studies like the one above point to diet or lifestyle as the real culprits.
Defects in mitochondria are a symptom, not a cause.
Unfortunately, by injecting one egg cell with the healthy mitochondria from another egg cell, Professor Cohen only treated the symptom, not the cause of infertility.
If GMOs Are a Cause for Concern, Should We Ever Genetically Engineer a Human Being?
A genetically modified organism is something that was developed in a laboratory setting. When creating a GMO, the genetic material from one species is forced into the DNA of an unrelated plant or animal.
If the research behind GMO food has taught us anything, it is that a lot of unforeseen problems can emerge once we begin tinkering with genetics.
Up until now, we have largely only seen GMOs in agriculture. Farmers will use genetically modified seed so that their crops will be able to tolerate toxic herbicides or to manufacture their own insecticide.
In the United States, there is a big push to get GMOs out of the marketplace and out of our diet.
This is because it is believed that GM foods contribute to the development of many common health disorders, such as:
- Premature aging
- Reproductive disorders
- Immune imbalance
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Organ damage
- Insulin and cholesterol disorders
When it comes to food, GMOs contribute to a profound level of toxicity within the body. For example, it has been found that the genetic information inserted into GM soy actually has the ability to transfer into the bacteria that make up our inner ecosystem.
What, if any, are the dangers of producing GM babies?
According to John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, “This seems to be a further illustration of the fact that the whole process of in vitro fertilization as a means of conceiving babies leads to babies being regarded as objects on a production line…It is a further and very worrying step down the wrong road for humanity.”
While many question the ethical integrity of Professor Cohen’s research, others champion him as a scientist on the cutting edge of reproductive technology.
It is still too soon to know if genetically modified children are, as John Smeaton puts it, “a worrying step down the wrong road for humanity.” However, if GM food is any indication of the dangers of GM humans, there is reason to worry.
Whether Professor Cohen’s work is ultimately a success has little to do with infertility. Infertility, like many chronic diseases that currently plague the American landscape, is a condition of modern times.
We can do something about our most common health disorders, including infertility.
Before even touching the genetic material of another organism or human, it may be a good idea to consider our overall health first. When we take small steps to nourish the body, heal the gut, and maintain balance within our inner ecosystem, we safeguard the body’s ability to heal and regenerate.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Scientists just made history by creating the first genetically engineered human beings with 30 healthy babies born in the US. Two genetically engineered babies inherited DNA from three adults, one man and two women who were unable to conceive on their own. The women were infertile because of defects in the mitochondria of their cells.
However, research has confirmed that oxidative stress and bacterial endotoxin can damage testicular mitochondria. Although infertility is still without a concrete cause in the medical community today, many studies reveal that diet and lifestyle may be the real culprits.
As a result, these genetically engineered babies were created as a treatment for the symptoms and not the root cause of infertility. It is too early to know if genetically modified humans are a step in the wrong direction. Nonetheless, it is critical to treat common health disorders like infertility by nourishing the body from the inside out instead of addressing only the symptoms.
- M Hanlon. World’s First GM Babies Born. Daily Mail. 2012 June 29. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-43767/Worlds-GM-babies-born.html
- A Hamdy. Mitochondrial dysfunction induced impairment of spermatogenesis in LPS-treated rats: Modulatory role of lycopene. European Journal of Pharmacology. 2012 Feb; 677 (1 - 3): 31 – 38.
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