The Strategist

Designer Babies: Controversial Research May One Day be Used to Alter the DNA of Entire Families

04/13/2015 - 17:01

Chinese scientists managed to make a change in the DNA of the embryo so that the changes become inherited. Is it the era of genetic design?
Prior to that, nobody has been able to artificially replace one region of the genome to another - there was no such precision technology. If scientists did it, still such results were not passed on from one generation to another. But researchers in China have been able to change the DNA so that the modified gene becomes inherited.

Thus, it is possible to easily cure heritable human disease if they have been detected during the embryonic stage. Now decoding of DNA is easy and learning about the human propensity to a particular ailment makes no problem. The only constraint - we do not always know which gene should be put in place of seized one.

Besides, there is a downside of the new technology. It can be used not only to treat hereditary disease of humans, but also to engage in genetic design. According to the discoverers themselves, they can affect many characteristics of the unborn child. The most harmless thing they can do is to pick up the color of eyes or hair.

The scientific world stood against of the application of genetic modification. One thing is to attend to the child's health, and the other - to design it on your own. In addition, genes not normally responsible for one function but for multiple. In some combinations, it may cause unexpected results.

The technology is not yet perfected, but has great potential. Its completion will not take a long time but much more will be spent on the study of varieties of genes and mechanisms of their interaction. And it may take years and decades.

Results of the study have not yet been published, but scientists are actively discussing this topic. Many insist on the complete prohibition of work in this area, since parents will be able to select genes for the child on your own.

The main upside of the discovery is to get rid of severe hereditary diseases. At the same time, the study involves quite serious ethical problems. This technology promises to the birth of children to be completely devoid of any predisposition to disease. These children are called "designed" because parents will be able to customize not only the exterior but even personal traits of their unborn child.

Genetic alterations of human embryos are considered illegal in many countries, but it is absolutely legal in the United States and China. A similar situation has evolved from earlier research in the field of eugenics, which is now banned in most developed countries. Eugenics is the science of "improving the human race," and was especially popular in Nazi Germany.

Previously, Professor of Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics Mark Reimers said that after 10-20 years, births will take place under the supervision of geneticists. Specialists will "clean up" bad sperm or ovum.