Monday, June 7, 2010

Cocoon - Greg Egan

"Lansing said, "Our main project here was engineering improved syncytiotrophoblastic cells." I smiled patiently, and she translated for me. "Strengthening the barrier between the maternal and fetal blood supplies. Mother and fetus don't share blood directly, but they exchange nutrients and hormones across the placental barrier. The trouble is, all kinds of viruses, toxins, pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs can also cross over. The natural barrier cells didn't evolve to cope with HIV, fetal alcohol syndrome, cocaine-addicted babies, or the next thalidomide-like disaster. We're aiming for a single intravenous injection of a gene-tailoring vector, which would trigger the formation of an extra layer of cells in the appropriate structures within the placenta, specifically designed to shield the fetal blood supply from contaminants in the maternal blood."

"A thicker barrier?"

"Smarter. More selective. More choosy about what it lets through. We know exactly what the developing fetus actually needs from the maternal blood. These gene-tailored cells would contain specific channels for transporting each of those substances. Nothing else would be allowed through.""

4.5 out of 5

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