Over the past ten years, scientists have been able to genetically alter babies’ physical characteristics, personality, and even IQ levels using the pre-implantation genetic diagnosis technology. Throughout the years, the product of this technology coined the term “Designer Babies”. The term was inspired from science fiction. It has also made entry in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004, where it is defined as ” a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected by genetic engineering combined with in vitro fertilization to ensure the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics” . This technology was used to eliminate all illness and defect before the baby is born.
It was in the year 1976 when scientists had the first successful genetic manipulation in mice. New genes were implanted into the embryo during the germ line stage, where permanent results occurred. However, it wasn’t until the January 11, 2001 where scientists had a breakthrough in this arena of science. The scientists in Oregon have modified the genes of a rhesus monkey to carry a jelly fish genome. Monkeys are said to be the closest to humans regarding the genetic makeup.This breakthrough has opened doors and inspired scientists to modify human genomes.
Five years later, scientists uncovered around 97 percent of the entire human genome. This discovery is a vital step in understanding genetic defects, diseases, and complications. It wasn’t until the year 2003 when the first human genome was modified by scientist Jacques Cohen. Cohen had produced two healthy babies from the genetics of two different mothers in his attempt to solve infertility issues.
This technology uses the pre-genetic implantation(PGD), a form of in vitro fertilization(IVF). In addition to that, the created embryos are then screened to see if there are any faulty genetics before implantation. After the embryos have matured to an 8-cell stage, one or two embryos are then tested to see if there are any faulty genes. The one without fault is then implanted into the mother.
However, as the name “designer baby” implies, people may use this to use for superficial reasons. The thought can be comparable to that of plastic surgery, but for babies. There have been mixed responses in the media regarding altering genetics, some critics, such as Jeremy Rifkin would say,”It’s the ultimate shopping experience: designing your baby,”
However, the pre-implantation process can be used to eliminate illness and defect. One prime example is Adam Nash. He was the first child to be born using this technology to save his dying sister of Faconi’s anaemia by becoming a donor. This technology can be used to prevent Down’s Syndrome Similar principles of this technology are used to alter crops and plants to resist herbicides and pesticides.
Also, geneticists would alter the IQ of mice by placing an extra gene, NR2B, which plays a major role in the brain. The mice that had the extra copy of the gene learned faster and retained memory longer than normal mice.(Inti genetics, 2010) The technology has clearly been used into practice for a while now, but is it ethical to this technology to genetically modify humans? Originally, this technology is used for patients who are at risk of passing on serious birth defects to their baby. However, The Fertility Institutes is advocating this practice to anyone who desires to not only prevent diseases or health defects, but to also change characteristics such as eye color, skin color, gender, and complexion. However, after a barrage of complaints of this controversy, the Fertility Institute retracted the offer as of March 2, 2009. The price for this technology is indeed expensive and not truly accessible to everyone-yet.
If the future rests in having favor of “designer babies”, then what would the social implications be? In a Time and CNN poll, roughly 90 percent of Americans were against “genetically superior human beings” conducted in the year 2001
How would this look like with people who have been naturally born, without the use of genetic engineering? With this kind of technology, humans can have a higher IQ, and can have desired physical traits. This can create barriers between people who have been genetically engineered and the people whom have not been engineered. Pro-life organizations are upset at the idea of scientists creating healthy human embryos and are being discarded when they are not needed.(Sarah-Kat
In the Christian perspective, it is written in Psalms 139:13-14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” No life is an accident, therefore everyone is God’s masterpiece. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”- Ephesians 2:10. It states here that God has divinely created us with a purpose and plan before we were even born. If this technology is used to “enhance” the appearance of babies or to create “superior beings”, then it is considered unethical in the Christian standpoint since we are created in God’s image.
Another issue is that if these genetically modified babies are not what parents have anticipated, would they be able to sue the geneticists? It costs money to implement this technology, but if the end result is sub par or defected, there would be an issue.
For the people who are in favor of this genetic engineering technology, they may use this to stop life threatening disease and deformities before the child is even born. Screenings can take place to see if there are any predispositions and physical deformities. It can eliminate the option of aborting an abnormal child. Currently, scientists are still figuring out the complex relationships between a single gene to a human’s phenotype, so the options of altering physical appearances are limited. However, as scientists are discovering the relationship from single genes to physical characteristics, making more options a likely possibility in the future.
As technology advances, scientists can now manipulate human genetics using pre-genetic implantation to produce a healthy baby. While there are still the ethical implications to consider, some say that the future embraces designer babies. That it is “inevitable” in certain people’s views, while others advocate an end to an unethical practice. The debate continues of whether if humans should tamper with nature with genetic engineering.
Agar, Nicholas (2006). Designer Babies: Ethical Considerations. Retrieved 10 December 2010 from actionbioscience.org: http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/agar.html
“Designer baby” Oxford English Online Dictionary. 2008 http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/50854?redirectedFrom=designer%20baby#eid7007912 (December 10, 2010)
Ren, Yin (2005). Designer Babies: The Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering. Retrieved 10 December 2010 from interaction-design.org: http://web.mit.edu/murj/www/v12/v12-Features/v12-f4.pdf
inti-genetics.blogspot.com (2010). Designer Baby. Retrieved 10 December 2010 from inti-genetics.blogspot.com: http://inti-genetics.blogspot.com/2010/07/designer-baby.html
Lemonick, Michael, Bjerklie, David, Park, Alice and Thompson, Dick (1999). Designer Babies. Retrieved 10 December 2010 from time.com: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,989987,00.html
Han, Jen (2008). Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis: The Future of Eugenics. Retrieved 10 December 2010 from bc.edu: http://www.bc.edu/clubs/mendel/ethos/archives/2006/han.shtml
The Surrogacy & Egg Donation Center (2010). Despite Change of Heart by Fertility Institutes, Designer Babies are Inevitable. Retrieved 10 December 2010 from conceptualoptions.com: http://www.conceptualoptions.com/intended-parents/despite-change-of-heart-by-fertility-institutes-designer-babies-are-inevitable
Sarah-Kate Templeton(2004) ” Pro-life group takes ‘designer babies’ appeal to the Lords “. Sunday Herald, The. FindArticles.com. 12 Dec, 2010. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4156/is_20040201/ai_n12587130/