Designer babies: the kids of the future?

Megan Ray Nichols
May 5th 2017

What if you had the choice of sparing your child from diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease or autism? Scientists are working on new DNA techniques that will allow you to choose embryos with edited genes. This gene technology can lower the risk of severe illness as well as increase certain desired factors, like a higher I.Q., athletic ability, eye and hair color and gender.

This gene-editing technology, Crispr-Cas9, snips mutant genes with natural enzymes. These modifications are permanent, so once a mutant gene is gone, any offspring from that child will not have the mutant gene. Scientists are running clinical trials now and the Francis Crick Institute in the United Kingdom is testing the technique on embryos in the early stages.

Another reproductive technique uses mitochondrial transfer, allowing a third parent to submit their DNA for use in place of faulty genes that may cause a miscarriage or other issues. Women struggling with carrying their babies full-term or women with infertility issues may be open to this new advancement.

Although women only have a specific number of eggs to use, a technique known as in vitro gametogenesis (IVG) can create large amounts of eggs from other cells in the body, including skin cells. With IVG, same-sex couples could have biological children or single parents could reproduce without a partner.

Will the public accept gene modification? In the past, the public viewed in vitro fertilization (IVF) in a negative light but eventually, the benefits outweighed the criticism and the technique became acceptable. Just like with IVF, these new DNA techniques require answers to ethical questions to avoid the possibility of “egg farming” or reproducing a superior set of people.

With the advancement of gene modification, the public may soon embrace the new DNA techniques to bypass fatal diseases and increase their children’s quality of life.

Sources: The Guardian, NBC NewsThe Embryo Project Encyclopedia

 

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