Eggs for a good cause

Australian experts ask women with Type 1 diabetes, cystic fibrosis and other diseases to give their eggs for stem cell reserch.

Published October 12, 2006 12:01AM (EDT)

Here's an interesting idea from an article on Australian news site Adelaide Now: Young women with diseases like Type 1 diabetes and cystic fibrosis should donate their eggs for embryonic stem cell research.

The proposal comes from a group of experts, including Melbourne University genetics professor Bob Williamson, who seek "to lobby MPs ahead of a conscience vote on whether a ban on therapeutic cloning should be overturned." Williamson's point is that since it takes a lot of eggs to create a cloned embryo -- current estimates range from 20 to 200 -- it's going to be tough to come up with enough eggs to use if and when Australia's research ban is overturned. He therefore advocates encouraging (not forcing) women with applicable diseases to donate eggs for research.

"As a starting point, I think it's totally appropriate ethically to look to people who have a disease in their family as the first people to participate in the research," he's quoted as saying. "Who is more logical to participate in research in type-one diabetes than young women who have type-one diabetes?"

I've got to admit to a little bit of bias here: I'm a young woman with Type 1 diabetes -- a disease that requires me to prick my fingers 10-12 times daily, keep an insulin pump attached subcutaneously to my body at all times, and constantly monitor what I eat. If I mess up, I might develop complications that include strokes, kidney failure, blindness and amputation.

The idea of getting to participate in research that might eventually help find a cure for me and the millions of other Type 1 diabetics worldwide -- not to mention people suffering from other diseases -- is pretty thrilling. Yes, it's unlikely that this research would provide cures within the next 15 years. Yes, there are risks and discomfort associated with becoming an egg donor. And yes, it's debatable whether the United States will lift its restrictions on this kind of research to begin with. But if and when that happens, sign me up. Hope can be very motivating.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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