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Designer Babies.....ugh, this is scary.

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LtlFirecracker

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Well, some basic gene selection is already happening. I know that they can diagnosis embryos with trisomy 21 and than implant the ones that are not affected, but that is on the chromosomal level, not the genetic level. I am not sure how you would select for a trait that is created by multiple genes (like height and eye color). And most traits that babies have the potential to develop are influenced by environment (e.g. very premature babies usually don''t get adequate nutrition during their NICU course and that will affect their growth potential). There is no amount of genetic manipulation that can control for the environment they will grow up in.
 

anchor31

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Date: 3/4/2009 7:17:28 PM
Author: swimmer


I forced DH to watch the Fox news clip, yeah, I owe him big time. He said the same thing as jsm. It would have to be IVF, if you have black hair, your child could not be ''manipulated'' into a blonde; it is just if one of the fertilized eggs happened to have the characteristics of hair or eye color that you wanted, it COULD be selected. So interestingly in this totally hypothetical situation, you would pay tens of thousands (and an uncomfortable procedure with hormone injections and all) to pick one of your criteria, but might not be able to select both. It just depends on how the dice is rolled. Remember doing punnet squares as a kid in biology classes? If it ain''t happening for you statistically, you wouldn''t find it in that petri dish.

So, essentially this is a sensationalism of what already does exist for profiling/selecting for disease already. It is not at all difficult to ID eye or hair color from extracted DNA. However, it is not yet possible to manipulate an existing human (or large mammal) zygote to exhibit particular characteristics. DH wondered if there was really any point to trying, first of all, people would have to want to pay enormously, these bio-tech firms that profile your genetic background for a grand are not doing well. Most of all, there are decent chances that like Dolly, your child would die at an early age of unusual cancers. People are weird, but THAT is just criminal to risk over hair color.

So, perhaps the only lesson here is to take anything on Fox News with a grain of salt.

FYI: jsm, it is illegal to post copyrighted materials, so don''t post anything from a journal of that nature. Anything in the public domain is fine of course, but PS could get in trouble and you would be fined for doing posting it. But I think the admins would pull it first and remind you of the copyright rule.
I''m a biologist, and when I watched the news clip, I went ''WTF??''
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... Like swimmer said, there''s no way a brown-haired/blue-eyed couple like DH and I could have a blond-haired/brown-eyed baby, even if we ''ordered'' one. Genetically and statistically, it''s not possible. Unfortunately, a lot of people with limited knowledge of genetics are going to believe that article.

As far as the morality of eugenism goes, we discussed it in my bioethics class in college. I can understand the intentions behind parents selecting embryos without MS genes or cancer genes, etc., but are we really certain it does more good than harm? What if those genes also include traits that would prevent other illnesses? Having the genes doesn''t necessarily mean you''re going to develop the illness in the first place, so is the risk really worth it? Not to mention that it still doesn''t garantee you''ll have a ''perfect'' baby... I have CP, and it''s not genetic. My parents could have designed me to be perfect (if such a such were possible), but I still would have had CP.

Very Gattaca indeed.
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partgypsy

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I think this is a really interesting topic. Just because we can do something scientifically, doesn''t mean we should do it ethically. First off like swimmer''s dh said, this is further off than 6 months, but this is something that needs to be addressed. I personally am uncomfortable with selection of embryos other than avoidance of embryos with life-threatening disease. I even feel weird about sex selection, and that is legal as far as I know. There seems to be many potentials for abuse, ethically (maybe I''ve read too many science fiction books!) and secondly we really don''t know enough about the genome to be mucking around there, it is quite likely we would do more harm than good. Before we think it is brave new world yet, I should point out except for simple dominant recessive genes and single site mutation diseases, most physical characteristics are due to the actions of many many genes working in concert. You typically can''t go in and change one gene and make a smarter kid, or a more athetic kid, it''s not that simple. However IF we could, how does that affect our belief that "all men are created equal"?
 

zhuzhu

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Date: 3/8/2009 4:01:47 PM
Author: part gypsy
.... You typically can''t go in and change one gene and make a smarter kid, or a more athetic kid, it''s not that simple. However IF we could, how does that affect our belief that ''all men are created equal''?

I understand your concerns completely; and indeed policies should be in place to prevent any abuse of technology. All men are created equal in terms of our "rights", and we all know that nothing is really "fair" in this world. Some are born in poor families and countries while many are like Paris Hilton; some are born with defects while others can live to 100 yo even if they drink and smoke. The beauty /potential of genomic medicine lies in making everyone "more equal" in health-related aspects, which will benefit not just the individuals, but also the society for decreasing the health cost of not only single gene diseases but also polygene/multi-factorial based diseases.
 

vespergirl

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This is an interesting topic. Like any medical discovery, I think that there''s going to be initial resistance, and then acceptance. Personally, I disagree with "designing" a baby, but is it a different story if you''re eliminating the risk of a fatal disease? How about if you say you want a darker-skinned baby because that child will be less prone to develop skin cancer? Or you say that you want a skinny baby - but is it for health reasons, or is it really so they are not ridiculed for being overweight as an adult?

30 years ago, the idea of "test-tube babies" was morally and ethically distasteful to most, the way that cloning is now. I think that most people probably know someone these days who have conceived through IVF. Years ago, it may have been said that "God chose not to give that couple a baby for a reason" (I totally don''t feel that way, but I''m just pointing it out to show how society''s ideas change).

Someone earlier in the post mentioned natural selection, and someone else mentioned against medical intervention in reproductive choices. However, to play Devil''s Advocate, one can point out that using any types of medication or medical therapies to save or prolong life is interfering with natural selection. So basically, if you''ve ever used antibiotics, you''re interfering with survival of the fittest.

Like I said, I''m against designer babies, but who knows what society''s views will be on this years from now.
 

partgypsy

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My evolution professor in college also made that point, due to modern medicine and healthcare we humans have decoupled ourselves from natural selection for the past few hundred years, and we really don''t know the implications of that.

I agree it does seem cruel if we know and can prevent a child from having say cystic fibrosis or other very debilitating disease and we do not prevent it, especially as the alternative is to have the child but then treat it with medications the rest of his/her life.

But -there are alot of gray areas here that will have to be discussed as this technology evolves. I don''t think we have completely thought this through.

I guess my point is that I don''t think we know as much as nature does. We may think we are selecting for a beneficial trait, but may be also unknowing selecting against something else that is equally beneficial but not understood completely, in the same way heirloom species of rose are not as showy but more disease/pest resistant, grow in marginal soil, etc. I wouldn''t trust the average person off the street to "know" what is better for us than what millions of years of evolution has bred into us.

Here''s an example, what if a person wants their child to have wings, because the parents think that would be really cool? So their child grows up to have wings. As far as I know there are no laws to prevent a parent from doing that, provided the technology exists. Sure he/she can have them surgically removed, but remember that''s in their genome now. If they ever have kids they will pass those genes on to their kids (if they are even compatible with having childen with non-modified people). Changing a person''s genome is not the same as medical intervention, a tattoo, or surgery.
 
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