Testimony before the louisiana legislature

Jérôme Lejeune

June 7, 1990


Curiously, Mr, chairman, Natural Sciences and Sciences of the Law are speaking roughly the same language. Before you can enact a law, you have to spell out each of its terms. And then you have to get it voted, it's exactly the same for the Constitution, either the legal one or the natural one. Human constitution must be spelled out on every term, We call them genes and they are carried by chromosomes and there is also a votation process which la the fertilization. Only l about millions of sperm has gone inside the zona pellucida, which is a kind of plastic bag which protects the private life of the early human being, And at this very moment, a new human constitution is voted for and enacted.

There is a very curious fact which struck me during I was listening to Mr, Jenkins, because it's the decision of the Supreme Court of America which had so broad an effect on every children in this world, If the law of the abortionist has been voted in France, it's partly because of that decision because the promoters of abortion have referred repeatedly to that decision. Something struck me that there is now 17 years that this decision has been taken. If I'm not entirely mistaken, you get legal majority in Louisiana at 18 years of age. Now you are going to have your majority to know what is a right decision in front of human life.

Secondly, the Roe v. Mada started saying, "Because nobody can know really what moment do begin human life, we decide such and such." But since the 17 years elapsed, Science has made vertiginous progress and I'm going to tell you how much we know more about the nature of the human being at the beginning of the human person, than it was at the time 17 years ago.

To make a very long story short, I would say the life has a very, very long story. It is transmitted from Millenaries inside the human race, But each of us has a very precise starting moment which is the time at which the whole necessary and sufficient genetic information is gathered inside one cell, the fertilized egg, and this moment is the moment of fertilization. There is not the slightest doubt about that and we know that this information is written on a kind of ribbon which we call the DNA, It's a long molecule in which, under a specific code, all the quality of the future persons are defined. It measures exactly 1 meter of length, splits n 23 little bits inside the chromosomes, and 1 motor inside the ovule; so that, at the beginning of our life, we have got 2 meters of so to speak magnetic tape in which everything is coded.

Now to make you understood the miniaturization of those table of the law of life, I would say that this meter long of molecule is coiled so tightly that it fits at ease on the point of a needle which is the size of the head of a sperm. But to give you another impression, if by some magic system, I was able to gather, here in Louisiana, all the threads which will spell out each and every quality of each and of every person, 5 billions of them, who would replace ourselves on the surface of planet, this quantity of matter would fit roughly a aspirin tablets, Life la written on a fantastically miniaturized languages and it's only recently that we begin to be really able to read it.

At the time of Roa v. Wada decision, we knew that the information was inside the first cell, but nobody was able to read it and nobody wag able to say how it was going to express itself so that this information would finally become a man telling you, "I am a man." Now we know more, In fact, the symphony of life is vary similar to what happens with a magnetic tape in which the symphony has been recorded. On the magnetic tape there are no notes of musics, On the tape recorder there are no musicians, no instrument. Nevertheless, because the information has been coded at the moment it was received by a microphone and then transmitted to the tape, the magnetic recorder would read again and have some movement of the loud speaker so that what is reproduced to you are not the musician or the orchestra, are not the notes on the score which are read by the musicians. What is transmitted to you is the genius of Mozart if you are listening to the "Kleine Nacht Musick."

It's exactly the same way that the symphony of life is played, it is written on a very special code on DNA and the first cell can become part of the magnetic reading machine so that it will decipher the code and play human life as if the information which is Inside the tape recorder that is the first cell is a human information. Then this being, being human, is a human being. We know that at the beginning, there is a message and this message, if it is spelled out in the human way, makes what is a human.

We have to realize that matter is pure matter. There is nothing like living matter. Matter cannot live at all. But matter can be animated by a given information which gives form to the matter, and which allows the building of ourselves. Now, depending whether you are a music lover, or you are a newcomer, it will take a different time for you to recognize that you have put inside the tape recorder a mini cassette of the "Kleine Nacht Musik." If you are really a music lover, at the second bar, you will recognize the "Opus." If you are a newcomer, you will need to have the whole symphony being played before you can say, "Now I know what is the "Kleine Nacht Musik".

Now the advantage of Science is that Science is a life lover, and we understand with genetics the beginning of life as soon as the first movements, the first bars are played. Now this notion of information is not a wishful thinking. It's not a metaphysical hypothesis, it's pure Science and it can be demonstrated very clearly and simply.

The first is that life is not purely a movement which continues. For example, we can freeze early human being called human embryos. If we slow down the temperature, we slow down the time; and when we come very, very deep in the freeze, time is suspended. But, the human beings which have been frozen are not dead because if we give them again a normal temperature, they will continue again, They will regain their own autonomy and begin again to be themselves.

So we know that what we have interrupted is the time and if we have not destroyed the information, life can start again. But the great and maybe the greatest discovery, specially for the purpose of pure discussion today is that 17 years ago we could not tell anything about the content of the first cell because if we were looking at what was inside it, about the genetic message which was coded inside, we would have killed that cell, It was a yes or no process, And it was the same with the very young embryo. It was impossible for the human embryo of 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, 1 week of age, to look at him and to see this embryo has such and such quality without destroying the embryo because of the invasiveness of the technique.

Now an extraordinary discovery has been made 4 years ago and has been used in laboratories since only 2 years, which is a very curious system that from an embryo at 3 days of age who has possibly 4 or 8 calls, we can with the utmost care, take one of those calls, puncturing the zona pellucida with a tiny hole and removing only 1 cell, then closing the hole. And then from that call, with a new technique which is called "POR," that is polymeriza ... "chain polymerization," we can reproduce the DNA which was on that unique cell and have enough of that DNA to make analysis of it because with that technique, we can reproduce from 1 molecule of DNA millions of the same molecule in just 24 hours, It's quite miraculous because it works faster than life but it is just using tricks that life is using, that la, using special enzyme and special cycle which are normally used in life.

So that now, and what I'm quoting is very recent because it's less, than 3 months ago that it has been published in England by Monk and Holding, that they were able, on human embryos produced in vitro, to remove one of the cell of those embryos, take that cell and have the DNA of that cell polymerized by that technique. Looking at the DNA with a special probe, they can demonstrate whether those tiny embryos 1 millimeter and a half big, were male or female. That has been published 2 months ago.

So even in an embryo of 1 week, with those new techniques, we can say already, He is a man" or "She's a woman" and then we know that the embryo is in fact already a human person. And, if I'm not mistaken with the English; when referring to the embryo I would not say "it", because we know a human being is there. Like a sailor about his ship, I would prefer to say : she is there. Remember the tiny human embryo possess already the properties which allow us to recognize that she is female, for example. It passes my imagination as a geneticist that lawyers knowing this embryo 1 week old to be a girl, would not realize, at the same time that she is a human person !

The second discovery which changed in the last 2 years our way of looking at the human make-up was made by another English colleague, Mr. Jeffries. Mr. Jeffries is an extraordinary specialist in playing with DNA and ha suddenly had the genius idea that there are long stretch of this genetic message which are just regulating the cells and because of that particular function they can withstand a lot of very small changes without any danger to the individual. So that it happens that each of us, on those message of regulation of our genetic system, we have a very peculiar array of genes which are slightly different from each other but which are all of them entirely normal.

With that technique, Jeffries was able to take one cell. And now we are able to do that, to take one cell to manufacture a lot of its DNA of that particular cell so that we can use later the Jeffries system. Now what it looks like is very interesting. We look at the DNA, It gets digested. And the DNA specific of every person will look, after we have used the whole technical succession of strips, I would say of lines of various widths and which are distant from various distances, each giving a very typical pattern for each and every human being.

To make you familiar with that, when you study the DNA of a person, it looks very much like the barcode that you are familiar with in the supermarket. You know instead of the tag in which the name and the price are written in letters, they are using bars of various widths, various distances from each other, and if you read that with a scanning system, it send the message inside the computer and the computer knows exactly in the supermarket what the product you are buying and what the price of it.

It's exactly what we can do now with every human being looking at his or her DNA. We can have a barcode which is absolutely specific of each of us. And we can even, if we compare the barcode of a person to the barcode of its father and of its mother, recognize that in all the lines which are specific of this person's, half of those lines are found in father, half of them are found in mother; so that absolute definition of heredity can be given and we can know with less than 1 chance in 10 billions of error that this person is the biological descent of this father and this mother.

This is especially important in the case in which paternity has to be checked, like, as it has been mentioned in case of rape,(it is exceedingly rare that a baby la coming out after rape, but it can happen). We can detect beyond any possible doubt the biological father. The crime was committed by the rapist ; why would the innocent baby he sentenced to death! Society should substitute to the indignity of the male progenitor. Already in utero and later on, up to adult hood, the baby should become a pupil of the Nation.

He (Jeffries) found that the genetic material which is carried by the sperm is differently underlined that the genetic material which is carried by the ovum. When you read a book or these of a student and you begin to learn something, very often you take a pencil and sometimes you underline some sequence that you find you must remember; it's a very important, but sometimes you cross another one because it's not necessary that you use it immediately.

It's exactly what is doing nature on the whole genetic message. You remember it was 1 mater long but I've forgotten to tell you that the letters written on that 1 meter message was the size of 5 times the Encyclopedia Britannica, That is, to print each name of all the bases which are inside our genetic code, we would need 6 times the volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica. So you understand why it's very wise that nature underlines some sequences because those have to be immediately deciphered by the first egg and cross others which are to be used much later in life. The cell cannot do everything at the same moment. It has to start with …

Now the discovery was that males are underlining a given part of the message and the women are underlining a different part and the result gave the explanation of 2 mysteries of genetics, Because we knew for a long time that it happens sometimes that after a normal intercourse there is a pregnancy with no baby inside which is called a clear pregnancy, and sometimes it makes vessicules, vessicules, vessicules; and it's called a "molar degeneration" and it's very dangerous because it can make a cancer. And it was found around 10 years ago, that when this molar degeneration was occurring there is no baby - only vessicules only membranes. And the whole genetic make-up on those vessicules is from the father.

The contrary is known, Sometimes in the young virgin girl, one of the ovary has 1 of the egg which divide which makes a terratoma. And in this terratoma you can find something like skin, nails, hair, teeth. It's called the "demoid cyst," but there is nothing looking like a baby. It only makes spare parts, but not a baby.

Now the discovery of Sirany (spelling?) was that the underlining of the male message tell to the first cell how to build The membrane which protect the baby and how to build the placenta which will take the supplies from the blood of the mother; so that, in fact, man has in the first cell, transmitted the baby that the male, the masculine duty is to gather the food and to build the shelter, to build the hut and go hunting. On the contrary, the female message is to teach how to make the different parts which must be assembled to make a baby. But neither father alone gives information enough to make a baby, nor mother alone can give information to make a baby. You need father and mother to have both imprinting on the genetic message so that a new human being can be conceived.

Now it's very extraordinary to see that the division of the work, that we would see in the grown-up, that is the man build the hut and go hunting and the mother elaborate the baby, is already written in the miniaturized language of genetics in the first cell 1 millimeter and a half width which la the epitome, the summary, the reduction to the smallest expression of the human person. When you look at the development, this way of imprinting is changing at each division of the cell so that the first cell who was knowing everything progressively transmits some part of message erased and begin to read other parts so that really the life is very much akin the evolution of a doctor in Medicine.

You probably noticed that in Medicine, when you go out of the university, either you become a generalist or you become a specialist, A generalist is learning about many, many, many diseases and with the years elapsing, he knows less and less about more and more; and when he's a very good generalist, he knows quite nothing about everything, But the specialists do the contrary. They learn more and more in the less and less, and at the very end, a good specialist know quite everything about nothing.

That's the way nature is playing the human message. The first cell is the generalist, She cannot express many thing but she knows something about everything. She tells how to build machine, to build machine, to build machine who would bring finally build the brain of the human being who will invent machine to help his own brain. But this first cell who knows everything has to have specialists so that specialists can express her own personality and she has to specialize so that one cell will make nails, one cell will make nervous system and finally the whole will make a human being.

If I had to summarize, Mr. Chairman, what tell us Science, I would say beyond any doubt, we know at the beginning there is a message. This genetic message is in life and the expression of this genetic message is life. Then to be even shorter, I would say that beyond any discussion, if this message is a human message, this being is a human being. And it has been said at the time of them slavery was defected in this country "A man is a man is a man." END