Thursday, March 12, 2009

Designer Babies

"In response to feedback received related to our plans to introduce preimplantation genetic prediction of eye pigmentation, an internal, self regulatory decision has been made to proceed no further with this project. Though well intended, we remain sensitive to public perception and feel that any benefit the diagnostic studies may offer are far outweighed by the apparent negative societal impacts involved. For those patients with albinism or other ocular pigmentation disorders, we continue to offer preimplantation genetic diagnosis in general but will not be investigating the genetics of pigmentation of any body structures."

-March 2nd, 2009 - from The Fertility Institutes

The Fertility Institutes are a collection of fertility clinics that have the technology to scan to the genetic composition of an embryo for diseases before implantation. They create the embryos, then after a few days when they are about 6-8 cells big they can extract a piece from it for testing. However, recently they've been telling the public that they will soon offer more than this - not only can you screen for disease but for eye color, hair color, skin color, and basic aesthetic characteristics.

This is known as
preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD.

According this article,

"PGD is used for medical purposes to avert life-threatening diseases in children, but the science behind it has matured so that it could potentially create a designer baby.

In a recent United States survey of 999 people who sought genetic counseling, about 10 percent of respondents said they would want genetic testing for athletic ability, while another 10 percent voted for improved height."

Needless to say, this made people a bit skirmish, hence the above statement responding via suspension of the program.

Although we talked about this a bit at our meeting the other night, I was wondering what specific problems and/or benefits are there to this technology? Is scientific progress crossing ethical borders where it ought not?

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