Friday, February 09, 2007
I saw you
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
I went to the talk expecting to see a technique.
I left having seen a life.
If there's one image that I wish you all could see, it would be this: a karyotype from a human embryonic stem cell.
A karyotype shows DNA pictorially. In the picture in this blog, you can see 22 separate, paired somatic (body) chromosomes, and then one final pair that determines the person's sex. (For more on karyotypes, see wikipedia).
The karyotype in this entry isn't the one that I saw during the talk. But it is similar in its format and content. Two karyotypes from two humans would be similar enough to conclude they belonged to the same species. And yet (excluding identical twins), each person's DNA is distinct enough that no two karyotypes can be exactly the same.
That day (January 19, 2007), I didn't look at the X/Y chromosomes, so I don't know if she was a girl, or he was a boy. And the presenter didn't allow his audience to dwell on the image.
But he showed it nonetheless: his point was that the cells he was using were, indeed, normal. But the point I understood was -- this is a person.
While he said repeatedly "human embryonic cells themselves are not much to look at," and that "they're kind of boring," I now realize something completely different. While he described the cells he worked with as a type of "uncarved block," which you can "mold" into what you want, I now realize that one aspect of this little person was finished to perfection. While many of this little girl or boy's characteristics were not allowed to blossom out, one aspect of their development was complete. The nuclei of their parent's sperm and egg had fused, and the resulting DNA of this person was distinct and individual. Their genetic code was perfect.
She was someone! He was someone! His/her karyotype is unique, and his/her cells are currently being cultured by scientists scrupulous to incubate cells whose uninformed donor no longer exists on earth.
I saw you, little one.
For one fleeting moment
your life touched mine
your life touched mine