Recently, Time magazine, wrote a series of articles about infertility, fertility treatments, and the future of babies as medical advancements allow couples more opportunities for conception. One of these articles discussed the creation of “designer babies” from in vitro fertilization with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).
The medical community and the public are concerned that with advances in PGD technology, we will enter a realm of creating designer babies with certain desired characteristics, such as hair and eye color, and even intelligence or athletic ability. This can have significant ethical implications, including creating a “super human” race and eliminating diversity from the population.
Recently, a Chinese bioengineer alarmed the scientific community by using technology known as CRISPR to make a genetic change in twin girls when they were embryos to make them resistant to HIV infection. While on the surface, this could sound like a good thing, we have no idea what the long term effects of these genetic alterations are going to be on these girls and their future offspring. That researcher defied the scientific community’s agreement to place a voluntary hold on genetically editing human embryos that would be transferred for pregnancy. There are no legal consequences to his actions though.
There are many scientists, who are conducting valuable work that could lead to the elimination and/or treatment of many diseases. Hopefully, one scientist’s over zealous work with CRISPR, will not put that research at risk of being terminated.
We should not close the door altogether on PGD because the current testing allows many couples to conceive children without those children inheriting chronic and life threatening diseases, such as cystic fibrosis. As technology advances, we just need to be very careful about how we use it. What we need are better laws and regulations, so that use of the technology is not abused and so that the long term implications are considered.