Introduction

A “designer baby” as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary is known to be “a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected by genetic engineering combined with in vitro fertilization to ensure the presence or absence of
particular genes or characteristics”. [1]
This may all seem a little confusing here isa little bit of background:
- Eugenics is known to be the science of gene alteration, and the practice of selective breeding
- In vitro fertilization, a procedure for women with fertility problems, is where the egg is fertilized outside of the womb
- The 'presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics’ may refer to anything from eye color, to body type, to genes that may affect one’s risk for a particular disease
In my project I want to discuss the controversial pros and cons of the creation of these test tube babies, and the potential affects they may have on society.




YouTube Video

If you can stand to listen to the English accent this video can be really helpful in explaining the basics of the controversies, and ins and outs of designer babies.


Check This Out!

This clinic in Los Angeles will let any family who is willing to pay the price choose the sex of their future child. Check out this website.




Background

Eugenics was very popular during the 19th and 20th centuries. Many countries were interested in the possibilities this science
held for their populations. With Eugenics brought the possibility of raising IQ scores, getting rid of undesirable traits, and creating a more intellectual, social, and adaptable species. However, with the rise of the Nazi Party came the fall in popularity of these very ideas of genetic modification. People began to relate the same ideas and possibilities brought forth by these studies to the ideas of Hitler in his effort to create a more ‘pure’ population.
Eugenics and the idea of creating designer babies was provoked once again in the late 1990s when it was discovered that not only could traits that would affect the phenotype be altered, but also there was new potential to change genes that led to specific inheritable diseases. These possibilities of curing diseases before they have the change to take a life is what has lead to scientists devotion to the cause, and intensive researching to lead to new ways of doing the procedure.
Today the process works as such: an embryo is created by in-vitro fertilization, a cell is removed from that embryo, the cell is genetically tested for traits, and after screening the parents may decide whether they wanted to keep the embryo and have it implanted, or discard the embryo.



Explanations and Connections

Controversies

Remember Unit Four? Well, maybe not too clearly, but our class had a great discussion about gender testing, and the right to be able to test to see if athletes are biologically the gender that their phenotypes portrays. Well, what would this lead for us to think about people whose genes had been changed during the embryonic stage? There is a lot of room for arguments on both sides as to whether or not it is fair or not.
Eugenics, as I have previously stated, is the manipulation or alteration of genes. The root of the word "eu" meaning good, so the word basically translates to "good genes".[2] Eugenics could be used in this sense to get rid of unworthy, unwanted traits such as: low intelligence, genes for diseases, genes for obesity, or certain body statures. This is where the study of Eugenics, including the practice of designer baby making, becomes associated with the Nazi Party of Germany.[3] It's the same idea of making a purer society by ridding communities of bad traits, and making good traits more common. The possibilities include raising IQ scores, and generally raising the quality of life, and the quality of a civilization.

Ridding the Genome of Disease

Think X-Linked... Rett Syndrome, Incontinentia Pigmenti type two, Aicardi Syndrome, Klinefelter Syndrome, Hemophilia A, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome, Red-Green Colorblindness... many of these diseases can be fatal within the early years of a life. Now, if you were a carrier for such a disease, and you were about to have a child, wouldn't you find it to be your right to screen for these diseases, and possibly manipulate the gene so that your child wouldn't be affected?
external image XlinkDominantX.jpg[4]

Pedigree

external image pedigree5.gif [5]
This pedigree shows a family affected by an X-linked dominant disease. Notice that it does not skip generations, and that males and females are equally affected.[6] Assuming that this disease were Coffin-Lowry syndrome (CLS) the males of this family would find themselves faced with mental retardation varying in severity, and prolonged intellectual development. Women of this family may have slight symptoms of mental retardation. All of the affected members of this family are also prone to particular facial features such as: a protruding forehead, wide-set slanted eyes, a short nose, and a large mouth with full lips. As the affected mature and age, so do the symptoms that characterize the disease. Other physical problems that may come along with CLS are scoliosis (curvature of the spine), a pronounced small head, and other general skeletal abnormalities.[7] So, if you were woman II-I, and you were marrying affected male II-II, what would you want to do? Take the chances to see what would happen? Or, genetic screening in hopes of manipulating the genes that cause CLS?



Social Implications and Where We Are Headed Now

The social implications of designer babies vary greatly. On the one hand scientists who have worked so hard to create this technology could possibly rid the genome of unwanted diseases; on the other hand however these advances should not be used for petty cosmetic reasons. So, what are we to do? Should we put restrictions on who the practice may be used on, or should we allow it to everyone who may afford it? Then there are the questions that ask, is it even an ethical practice? And, what will happen to minority populations if so many undesirable, uncommon characteristics are pulled from the genome? It's a slippery, slippery slope that the scientific world has begun to embark down, and I'm sure you can already see how many questions there are, and how few have clear, defined answers.
Much of the questions I pose to you are left to opinion, and consensuses on such controversial, influential topics are rarely reached immediately. Right now, while cosmetically enhancing children isn't really a problem we look over the future problems we are to face, but that is because as of yet the technology is still so new. But, when these sort of procedures become common place our population could face a lot of problems.
In addition, do you remember the pills taken by the scientists in a Unit long, long ago? To keep their telomeres from shortening, and ultimately help to slow the aging process? Well, like we discussed then it's all a great idea, but the long-term affects are still greatly unknown with that science, and the same principle holds true for this one. We have no ideas as to what will become of genetically modified children, or the children of those children.
  1. ^ http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/agar.html
  2. ^ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dh23eu.html
  3. ^ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dh23eu.html
  4. ^ http://www.web-books.com/eLibrary/Medicine/Appendix/XlinkDominantX.jpg
  5. ^ http://www.uic.edu/classes/bms/bms655/gfx/pedigree5.gif
  6. ^ http://genome.wellcome.ac.uk/doc_WTD020851.html
  7. ^ http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/coffin-lowry-syndrome