Monday, June 11, 2007

The Unbearable Lightness of Being...an egg donor?

Why does this not surprise me? From the Boston Globe:

"A year after Harvard University scientists began trying to create cloned human embryonic stem cells, they have been stymied by their failure to persuade a single woman to donate her eggs for the groundbreaking but controversial research.

The goal of the work is to create embryonic stem cells -- all-purpose formative cells that can develop into virtually any cell in the body -- that are genetically matched to a patient with a particular disease, such as diabetes. Studying such cells could give scientists new insights into the diseases and possibly lead to treatments.

"It's an important experiment and we can't do it," Kevin Eggan, an assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard.

Without unfertilized eggs, scientists cannot create cloned embryonic stem cells through the conventional method. Called somatic-cell nuclear transfer, the procedure involves replacing the DNA in a donated egg with DNA extracted from a patient's cells. Scientists coax this new egg to grow for several days in a laboratory dish until it is an early embryo and stem cells can be obtained.

Over the last year, Harvard has spent tens of thousands of dollars on local newspaper ads in an attempt to recruit egg donors. Hundreds of women have responded to the ads, but none has followed through with donations, for a variety of reasons, Eggan said in an interview.

For one thing, egg donation requires repeated clinic visits and minor surgery under general anesthesia to remove the eggs from the ovaries. Women also face a small risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, an excessive absorption of fluids."

For access to the full article, click here.

4 comments:

Andrea Kalfoglou said...

I guess I'm not surprised either, except that as a potential consumer of the benefits of science, I feel like I've got an obligation to be research participant. For instance, I allowed vaccine researchers to put the HPV vaccine in my arm when it was in Phase I clinical trials. I didn't do it for the money. When I saw this article, I actually contacted the researchers and volunteered to go through a cycle. Unfortunately, the protocol is limited to women under 35 because they are more likely to actually produce eggs. I believe this is limiting their donor pool. Women who haven't completed their childbearing might be more hesitant to risk their fertility donating, but women like me who are done and have watched older relatives suffer from macular degeneration and Parkenson's Disease (and who don't need the money to pay off college debt) might be ideal donors.

Andrea Kalfoglou

Anonymous said...

egg donation is a powerful thing, I have been thinking I'd like to donate eggs maybe now i'll do it

Andrea Kalfoglou said...

Before you do, educate yourself. It's not a simple process. The National Academies of Science recently published a report on the risks to oocyte donors. It's available free in full-text online at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11832.html Keep in mind that most of the oocyte donor information on the web is published by clinics who are trying to recruit you.

Andrea Kalfoglou said...

Here's another article that will give you a list of issues you ought to consider before volunteering as an oocyte donor:
http://www.fertilityproregistry.com/news/news_details.asp?ID=26