Progress in genetic testing of embryos stokes fears of designer babies

Human Embryo. Credit: Ed Uthman, MD/Wikipedia

Recent announcements by two biotechnology companies have stoked fears that designer babies could soon be an option for those who can afford to pick and choose which features they want for their offspring. The companies, MyOme and Genomic Prediction, have been working on technology that they hope to sell to fertility clinics, which could someday lead to the option of terminating pregnancies if fetuses have undesirable characteristics, such as low IQ levels.

Genetic testing of fertilized via has been available for almost 30 years—it is routinely conducted to look for abnormalities in chromosomes that lead to disorders such as cystic fibrosis. But such tests have been limited in scope. Advances in technology now allow for screening for more possible conditions and soon, certain undesirable characteristics.

More specifically, there are two new options that will soon be made available to parents considering IVF. The first involves obtaining genetic samples from both parents and the embryo, and using a computer algorithm to come up with a more complete chromosomal profile for the embryo. The second technology involves sequencing the embryo's DNA and subjecting the results to machine learning algorithms that are able to identify patterns among DNA elements that suggest the likelihood of a person developing some types of diseases, such as certain cancers.

The new technology gives prospective parents more leeway in deciding whether to implant an embryo and allowing it to grow and eventually to be born. But it also opens the door to more in the future, as biotechnology continues to improve. Researchers at such companies as MyOme and Genomic Prediction have mentioned that it might soon be possible to make a better-than-average prediction of intelligence based on genetic markers. That poses the question of whether it is unethical to filter for intelligence or other non-health related characteristics, such as eye or hair color—or perhaps someday, how good-looking a child will be, or how personable.

Officials for both companies have been careful to point out that they will only be offering testing for diseases, at least for now. Critics have suggested that it is just a matter of time, however, before designer-baby options become available.

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Nov 16, 2018
Our brave new world is one of privatization. The states are rabidly guarding the retirement funds of teachers, police, fire, prison guards, all other state employees who pay into a retirement fund. This is why we have an bullet-proof stock market, the switch over to private is going to be complete by 2020, and the carrot for the state employees not to upset the privatization apple cart is the reason.
The Federal retirees also may see privatization looming ahead like the post office employees. Social security will be destroyed with a substitution of Medicare for All and..................

our prison population will be composed of the LD, mentally retarded, at the whim of the the inmate population mafia. What do you think they are going to do with the 10% LD, create new programs when they are eliminating the ones we have?
Science has determined that LD, mentally retarded, have no significant point of damage in the brain, that it is a condition inclusive of all parts.

Nov 16, 2018
Not fears - hopes.

Nov 17, 2018
Ignorant luddites strike again.. This is a good thing.

Nov 17, 2018
If you can spare a child the suffering of inheriting disease or disability its unethical not to.

Nov 17, 2018
This could result in hopeful results? If the people in command & control were capable of embracing ethical Humanist standards and practice moral civil behavior.

HAHAHAHA! I really crack myself up writting such stupid optimism.

Nah! The ruling class will abuse genetics as they have done with every other tool of science.

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