GENETIC DISEASES such as Best Disease, Marfan Syndrome, and Huntington’s Disease are dominant genes.
Charter Oak High School

Designer babies?

With the newest technology, parents now have the ability to select the gender of their child.

“While the desire to choose a baby boy or a baby girl has probably been present throughout human history, it is only recently that the technology to do so has become clinically possible and available,” said the Center for Human Production.

Recently, model Chrissy Teigen shared her pregnancy via social media, as well as the fertilization techniques she used. In vitro fertilization, or IVF, takes mature eggs, fertilizes them and places them back into the ovaries. Although IVF is used to offset fertility issues, the couple is able to “pick” the disease-free embryo, thus choosing the gender of their child in the process.

After a genetic screening, a mother’s results showed that she was at a high risk for Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker syndrome, GSS, a rare brain disorder that includes worsening speech, movement and memory issues. IVF prevented her children from inheriting her fatal brain disorder. Six out of 12 of her embryos were mutation-free after IVF, and two were chosen to be implanted. The children, now at three years old, are healthy. Had she not underwent IVF, her children would likely have inherited the higher risk of GSS.

Gender selection through IVF allows couples to avoid passing sex-linked genetic disorders to their children. It also allows parents to family-balance.

“At some fertility clinics, you won’t be eligible unless you’re married and already have at least one child of the opposite sex you’re trying for,” says the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board.

However, IVF is not only used for gender selection. The purpose of IVF is to prevent possible diseases, such as mitochondrial disease. This procedure has been carefully developed, including three reviews by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority and a review from Nuffield Council of Bioethics.

“The procedure involves swapping less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the human genome. But would it matter if it were 1 percent? […] This is DNA that does not determine any human traits, just disease,” said Tom Solomon, a professor of neurology at Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust. Solomon is also the director of the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool.

“There is talk of risks of designer babies,” added Solomon, who is stunned that people do not support this “advance in medical science that means so much to families affected.”

“The only designer babies I foresee are those designed without terrible […] diseases,” he said.

–Agnes Tran