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Should Vegans Give Their Eggs to Science?

When I read that there is a dearth of donated eggs for stem cell research, and because of the shortage animal eggs are being used as alternatives, I wondered whether vegan women in particular have some kind of obligation (and that could be a strong word) to sign up to have their eggs harvested.

I surely wouldn’t be a good candidate, as my eggs are over 40-years old and probably quite decrepit. (Remember, women are born with their eggs, which then age with them, and men produce a brand-spankin’ new supply of sperm every 90 days or so.) There’s pain involved in harvesting, rounds of injections, and some cash for your trouble (but not nearly as much as a donation to a fertility clinic, which is part of the problem. In the UK, there is a new "egg-sharing" program where women are subfertile and would like fertility treatments can get them at a discount if they donate surplus eggs to stem cell research.).

Here’s the dilemma: If you feel strongly that we should not be using animals, shouldn’t you then sign up for the harvest so that we don’t have to use animals? Anyone . . . . anyone?

And here’s my other question: If scientists have already demonstrated that eggs aren’t necessary, and skin cells can be converted directly into embryonic stem cells (note: this has only been done in mice), why are they concentrating on the eggs and their associated dilemmas? Why not focus on converting human skin cells into embryonic stem cells?

I’m sure there’s some kind of economic force involved here that benefits from using human eggs (like maybe fertility clinics and their staff?). Whenever science is slow to change the way it does things, you can usually find a host of foundations, hospitals, research centers and NGOs (not to mention scientists) who have something to lose if they change and will campaign hard to resist it.

And then there is the religious objection, which I would think is solved if you’re not starting with a human egg. Or am I wrong about that?

So many questions today . . .

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. emily #

    As far as i am aware the skin cell stem cells are inferior and less flexible in what cells they can become. As usual the media are not painting a full picture.

    September 24, 2007
  2. ah-HA! I knew there was a catch. Thanks, Em!

    September 24, 2007
  3. Ellie #

    Just wondering…how about human stem cells from the placenta, which is discarded after childbirth? Some parents save cord blood– if they can afford it. And I don't think they use the whole placenta for that. So I wonder if researchers could make a deal with parents to donate the placenta, and maybe get a discount on saving cord blood. Anyway, just a thought. For all I know, cells from the placenta wouldn't "work" the way they want them to.

    My eggs are over 40 too, but I think it would a very generous act for young women to go through the procedure. Then again, how many eggs can a woman give without compromising her fertility, and how many eggs do researchers need? Yes, lots of questions.

    September 24, 2007

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