Also known as ‘Designer Babies’, they are made with genetically tailor-made embryos. Traits that are desired can be identified by screening with certain gene-specific markers which can identify genes linked with diseases and non-disease specific ones as well. Undesirable genetic traits can be removed with the help of gene therapy.
Using IVF, the embryos may be obtained, after which they are tailored and then transferred into the uterus, allowing them to be developed naturally. The technology around fully tailor-made babies is still not fully developed, with much research to be done in the area, but there has been an instance of directly editing the genome (complete genetic information about a person, stored in the DNA) before birth. These twins, Lulu and Nana, are the first genetically modified babies born in 2018 and are currently reported to be healthy. This particular experiment, however, was criticized for violating ethical guidelines.
Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of such tailor-made babies:
Only those qualities desired by the caregiver/s are selected
The caregiver/s can also choose the gender of the child
Genetic disorders can be prevented and there can be a reduction of illness in future generations
Life expectancy can be increased
The infant’s early lifestyle might be more under control
It may cause harm to the embryo and the person bearing the child
It widens the societal gap and gender gap as well
The technology is not fully developed and many genetic diseases are unknown
The process is under scrutiny for ethical considerations and it infringes on the child’s rights
Treatment will only be available for the rich
It will affect the gene pool and some deleted genes may be essential for the growth
It can be said that although a vision for the future, there are several ethical considerations must be satiated before such work can carry forward. Editing embryos in turn means that those genetic changes will be carried down to future generations; the effects of limiting genes is unknown. While genetically modifying babies might make sense for treating disease, there are concerns as to this being used as a kind of cosmetic surgery, as some may only focus on enhancing human traits found desirable. Implications for the wider society must be considered.
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About the Author.
Durva Bhatt is a psychologist at MindTribe.in. You can learn more about her by clicking here
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MindTribe.in, the Founders, or management team.
Acknowledgement: All images used are open source and from Unsplash.