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Designer babies: Is this taking things too far?

Designer babies: Is this taking things too far?

19:13 31st May 2016 | Embryo Screening

Genetic Modification PGD Genetic Diseases DNA Designer Baby

Genetic engineering is the deliberate modification of the characteristics of an organism by manipulating its genetic material. A so-called designer baby would be the result of genetic modification undertaken to create desired traits in the child. It is not yet a reality but it is enormously controversial and the subject of fierce debate worldwide.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is a procedure that is performed prior to implantation in order to screen the embryo for specific genetic diseases which could be inherited by the child. It is medically and ethically accepted worldwide and has saved much heartache by preventing the passing on of life-threatening or debilitating diseases.

PGD is sometimes used when sex selection is the desired outcome either for social or medical reasons but to use the procedure to create desired but non-medical traits in a baby such as height, colour of eyes, intelligence and other characteristics is where the controversy comes in. Should we be meddling with nature to this extent? Animals and crops have been genetically modified for years and many of the results have been very controversial.

In any case, humans are a different matter altogether. The process is extremely complicated and involves altering the human DNA, not just for the baby concerned but by implication, for his descendants. It is hardly surprising that 45 countries around the world have considered the legality of Inheritable Genetic Modification or IGM and have determined that it must be prohibited because of the Pandora's Box of problems it opens. It is also prohibited by the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, and considered to be contrary to human dignity in UNESCO's Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights. The process of creating a designer baby is questioned because of its shaky moral platform but there are some positive considerations. It would prevent genetic diseases such as Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s and Spinal Muscular Atrophy and could increase the human life span for up to 30 years. However, genes often have more than one use. For example, a gene that controls intelligence could also control anger management. By altering this gene, you could end up with a genius but a very angry child.

It seems to be very promising new medical feat but we’d like to know what you think. Kindly post your comments on our Facebook page.

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