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July 21, 2003
The Technology, Medicine, and Bioethics of Embryo Screening to be Discussed at the MBL's Annual Bioethics Lecture, July 30

Mark R. Hughes, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit will offer the Marine Biological Laboratory's (MBL's) Third Annual Bioethics Lecture on Wednesday, July 30 at 4:00 pm in the Lillie Auditorium, MBL Street, Woods Hole. The lecture, which is sponsored by Drs. Gerald and Ruth Fischbach, is free and open to the public.

The completion of the Human Genome Project heralds a new era of Functional Genomics.  Raw DNA information that comprises the blueprint of human life will be data-mined, taken apart, spliced together, and injected into cells, animals, and embryos in ways we can barely imagine.  The promise is for new medicines, predictive diagnostic tests, and stem cell therapies. The potential for societal, legal, and ethical uses/abuses of this powerful information is especially strong in reproductive genetics involving human embryos and the developmentally totipotent cells derived from embryos.

Most every American has a visceral and reflexive response regarding these promising yet troubling technologies.   Dr. Hughes will speak about one new technology, called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) of the human embryo.  PGD combines the technologies of in vitro fertilization (IVF), embryo culture and biopsy, and single-cell molecular genetics.   It provides couples at high genetic risk the opportunity to begin their pregnancy on day-one, with the knowledge that their fetus will not have the inherited disorder that afflicts their family. No longer do they need to throw the genetic dice, take a chance, and consider amniocentesis.   Dr. Hughes’ talk will mesh the biomedical tools of IVF-PGD with the clinical genetic scenarios of desperate couples.  He will explore the boundaries of testing for diseases versus traits through the use of real-patient data.

Mark Hughes is a Professor and Director of Molecular Medicine and Genetics at Wayne State University and Director of the Genomics Center Hub for the State of Michigan's Life Sciences Corridor. Formerly at the Human Genome Institute at the National Institutes of Health, his work has centered on understanding gene expression in the early human embryo. He pioneered the field of PGD for couples at very high reproductive genetic risk and offers this technology in conjunction with IVF Centers in the U.S. and Canada. Hughes earned dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemistry and Biology from St. Johns University in Minnesota, his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Arizona College of Medicine, and his M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. He joined the faculty of Wayne State University in 1998.

The Annual Bioethics Lecture was established in 2001 to offer an opportunity for a formal discussion of bioethical issues to reach a broad and diverse audience of scientists and concerned citizens.  Because so many biologists, including M.D. and Ph.D. candidates, work and receive their training at the Marine Biological Laboratory, the MBL provides an excellent forum for addressing ethical dilemmas emerging in biomedicine. Students in MBL courses are especially encouraged to participate in this important seminar.

The Marine Biological Laboratory is an internationally known, independent, nonprofit research and educational institution. It conducts the highest level of original research and education in biology, including the biomedical and environmental sciences. MBL hosts research programs in cell and developmental biology, ecosystems studies, molecular biology and evolution, neurobiology, behavior, global infectious diseases and sensory physiology. Its intensive graduate-level educational program is renowned throughout the life sciences. Founded in 1888, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the western hemisphere.