FRONTLINE #1717 "Making Babies" Airdate: June 1, 1999 Written and Produced by Doug Hamilton and Sarah Spinks Directed by Doug Hamilton NARRATOR: This is Kieran, born December 17th; Ella - or maybe Bella, her parents haven't decided - due next month; and this is Matthew.
All healthy, normal babies, but how each was created is anything but normal. NARRATOR: This is the new act of conception, performed in a basement laboratory at the University of California in San Francisco, an extraordinary new technique called ICSI, or intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection.
" RECEPTIONIST: I just need to collect for your cycle today. Potential sperm donors are screened for genetic disease and low sperm count. He has blond or brown hair, medium complexion, college graduate, and has dimples. H., Counselor, California Cryobank: I really hate- is camera off now? MARILYN RAY: I hate the whole thing of the whole physical thing. But I do remind patients that the patient, the mother, the recipient, will be contributing half of the genetics.
Those accepted come in twice a week and are paid up to $50 a time. CAPPY ROTHMAN, Medical Director, California Cryobank: We now know the ideal man. NARRATOR: The laboratory prides itself on providing customers with all the information they want, except for one key thing. For $40 a half-hour, La Trice will guide a client through the selection process. NARRATOR: The more we learn about genetics, however, the more we are surprised by how important genes are. D., Princeton University: When we put a mouse into the middle of the apparatus, the mouse has a choice.
From the beginning, no one really knew if any of these techniques were going to prove to be effective or safe, so there's a grand leap of faith each time. Who is to say that we are not- even if our child did have Kartagener's, she would have had a full life.
Because the goal is so important, we feel like it's like worth that leap. NARRATOR: Kevin and Mina Gates wanted a baby for years. NARRATOR: A few years ago, it would have been impossible for Kevin to father a child because his condition leaves his sperm defective, but now these new medical techniques make it possible. NARRATOR: The Gateses decided to go forward, but because there were no living sperm in Kevin's ejaculate, Dr.
They were all conceived with extraordinary new medical technologies. D., Princeton University: I think this is a revolutionary evolutionary point in our history as a species. NARRATOR: Twenty-one years after the first test-tube baby, the science of reproduction has made remarkable advances in the ability to create life.
NIGEL CAMERON, Bioethicist, Trinity International University: I mean, this is very much science fiction all of a sudden, and much sooner than anybody had thought, becoming science fact. Today sperm can be frozen in vats of liquid nitrogen and chosen over the Internet.NARRATOR: Today, as we find ourselves on the cusp of being able to clone a human, the question is, how far will we go in our efforts to engineer a baby? NARRATOR: Woman's eggs can be surgically removed and fertilized in sterile laboratories.SUSAN VAUGHAN: It makes you feel a little bit like you're getting into territory that's really eugenics, and that a little scary. Embryos - potential children - can be frozen and stored in metal canisters for years.But we did- after that first miscarriage, it was really so upsetting that I was ready to move on to adoption. I look at these papers- it was quite a hard decision. NARRATOR: Marilyn Ray also counsels clients at the Cryobank, but on the genetic history of the donors. MARILYN RAY: I spend a lot of time explaining to patients that no one can separate out nature versus nurture, and we certainly haven't.And Kevin said, "Honey, why don't we try one more time? NARRATOR: At the California Cryobank, sperm is analyzed, processed and frozen for at least six months. MARILYN RAY: Because I don't- I don't think we use much of a- it's not the scientific approach, you know? We cannot say how much nature or genetics contributes to intelligence, and how much the environment the child grows up in contributes, or the schools or the society.PAULA GREELEY: Infertility is definitely a different type of medicine than any other area that I've been exposed to. SUSAN VAUGHAN: You could go through on the computer screen and say, "They have to be over 6-3, blond hair, blue eyes.