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Designer Babies: The Next Perfection

The perfect baby might not have the stereotypical physical traits of blond hair and blue eyes; they have the perfect genes of a healthy person. Designer babies is an euphemism for genetic engineering. As a baby’s genes are genetically altered, the DNA itself in most cases is not altered, but rather parents are merely selecting the genes that will not have a detrimental effect upon their child’s health. The procedure for fertilizing a human ovum, or egg, outside the body was first developed in the 1970s (Taus).

And this is termed as in-vitro fertilization (IVF), where mature eggs are first surgically harvested and then exposed to healthy sperm in a petri dish. Monitoring them to undergo cell divisions for a successful fertilization, scientists obtain relatively few viable embryos and select several embryos to be implanted in the uterus. During the final two decades of the twentieth century, the obstetric sub specialty of assisted reproductive technology (ART) grew exponentially.

And along with a technology called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), an embryonic biopsy on the fetus is performed at the blastocyst stage to screen out any genetic abnormalities. With vast improvements in the field of reproductive technology today, designer babies should only be used for scientific and medical purposes. No one can deny that parents want the perfect healthy baby. A designer baby can provide a cure to his or her family member who is afflicted with a disease.

As doctors use the stem cells of the healthy fetus ethically, the designer baby can donate its stem cells for a stem cell transplant, typically from umbilical cord blood obtained shortly after birth, for a cure. In 2000, this technology was first used with the birth of Adam Nash, who is now deemed as “the world’s first savior sibling” and “the first designer baby. ” Adam’s parents conceived him through IVF and PGD, so he could donate cord blood to his sister who was born with Fanconi Anemia and be free of the disease himself.

Adam was born healthy and was able to donate cord blood to his sister without being subjected to any risk to his health or safety. Molly Nash, who was Adam’s sister, tolerated the procedure, made a full recovery, and has remained healthy for more than five years (Taus). Adam not only provided a vital cure for his sister but also opened the horizon for scientists to put this genetic and reproductive technology in the forefront of a human revolution where babies are born healthy and can live a normal wholesome life.

Some may argue that this technology is still in its experimental stage, so it is not 100% safe. If the process is not done carefully, the embryo could accidentally be terminated. And scientists will not be able to evaluate every gene as there are also several factors on each gene. For example, a gene that controls intelligence could also control anger management. The parents could end up with a genius, but a very angry child. However, as most incidents in life are not 100% guaranteed, science is no exception.

There are still unknown territories that need to be discovered in science: technology, medicine, knowledge. Even if scientists understand every step of the PGD procedure and perform them countless times, parents are still putting their child at risk under the machine-like hands of scientists, who are also humans and sometimes make unintentional mistakes. With more research on the medical advantages of designer babies, this type of treatment installs a better understanding of genetics for genealogists and biologists.

Creating designer babies gives scientists insights into genetics, cell growth, and development. If scientists gain a better understanding of why a certain diseases is passed on from one generation to another, or how defective genes develop during cell growth, then they will be able to utilize this newfound knowledge and discover possible cures for the diseases. Therefore, it has the potential to be a very promising advancement in technology and the medical world.

Some parents may use this technology for superficial purposes, such as purposely seeking out a blonde haired, blue eyed baby for appearance concerns only. “Designer” babies would most likely be better looking, smarter, etc. This could create “classes” between designer and non designer babies. Because the procedure is not cheap, this privilege can also create a gap in society between the rich who can afford this expensive technology and the poor who cannot.

Not only can it create prejudice between “designer” and “non-designer” children, it can cause the “non-designer” children to miss opportunities such as jobs because employees are more likely to select the “optimum” candidate, who is better-looking and more intelligent. However, the risk of widening the existing gaping chasm between the rich and poor is irrelevant since the division has already occurred with an elite section of society using a similar approach to create superhuman traits for their enhanced offspring.

Smart people have children with other smart people while good looking actors marry other good looking actresses. Having those perfect intelligent genes are an advantage in learning, but those genes do not act alone and the role of one’s upbringing and experiences play a more important role in the success of one’s life (“Smart Parents, Smart Kids? “). The United States has long been regarded as the Wild West of assisted reproduction as the $3 billion fertility industry operates with virtually no rules or regulatory oversight.

The federal government has no direct control on the practice of medicine, leaving such oversight to each state. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the developed world, where the majority of countries have a national regulatory body policing fertility clinics. Indeed, of the 30 industrialized countries—which account for one-fifth of the world’s population and have the most fully developed biotechnology sectors—77% have banned embryo screening for nonmedical purposes (Miller).

Banning the undesirable applications of the designer babies’ technology will benefit those who wish to eradicate genetic diseases in their family lineage with a sense of reassured confidence by following those safety guidelines. As the process prevents genetic diseases and reduces risk of inherited medical conditions after several genes are screened and only those that doesn’t bear the disease will be implanted, medical conditions or genetic diseases that he or she might have inherited are removed, ensuring a healthy development.

A designer baby can grow into a healthy individual and is likely to live a long life. For example, the first British baby girl was born free of breast cancer as she will grow up without the defective BRCA1 gene that her father’s sister, mother, aunt and grandmother all suffered from the disease and passed down through the generations. The girl will break the chain of cancer misery that has haunted the family. Paul Serhal, medical director of the hospital’s assisted conception unit, said:

We only look at families with a strong history of the disease, people who have lost loved ones to cancer. We are looking to prevent someone developing a killer disease, not trivial abnormalities. Choosing an embryo for cosmetic reasons is something that will never be offered in the UK. (Greenhill) Then, there’s the issue of morality to alter what God gifts humans. Some may argue that it is morally wrong to weed out imperfect babies, and it will be better to find a cure for cancer than eliminating the carriers.

People argue it’s better than aborting babies that are carriers or afflicted, but two wrongs don’t make a right (Greenhill). ” Also, individuality will be stifled since most parents will select the best traits for their own children, so everyone will eventually have the same intelligence, same height, etc. and be relatively similar. Therefore, the ability to “change” as humans will falter. Throughout history, humans have relied on “survival of the fittest” to pass on the fittest genes to the next generation.

With the technology implemented with designer babies, parents will select the best genes of their choosing, not the fittest, and doing so will only harm the cycle of living with tempting fate and changing its course. However, performing a PGD and selecting the best genes should be the same principle as screening of pregnancies at 12 weeks for conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, because patients feel much more comfortable with the concept of discarding an affected cluster of cells rather than terminating a well-established pregnancy.

Because a baby cannot consent to having its body altered, it is the parents’ rights to engineer their child to give him or her a healthy life. Parents set their own limits for genetically engineering their baby. Genetically engineering babies is an option, not a requirement for all parents. For those that disagree with it, they don’t have to engineer their child. This also allows prospective parents to give their child genes that they do not carry. Furthermore, parents are already medically altering a child before he or she is born.

Taking folate during pregnancy reduces risk of a child developing autism, and it is considered ethically acceptable. The advancing technology behind designer babies can be enriched enough to to save a person’s life and eradicate genetic family disorders when this method is used justly for the benefit of one’s livelihood. A small change on one gene can save lives; essentially, designer babies can change the world with its innovative perfection on human health.

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