What if you could decide what traits you want in your baby – a certain eye color, hair color, even intelligence level?
At Morehead’s Current Science Forum on May 6, reproductive genetic counselor Patricia Devers explained that because of the complexity of non-medical traits, we’re nowhere close to being capable of designing babies in the way you might select the options you want in your next car.
However, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) can currently be used to screen embryos with certain diseases or conditions. (PGD can be done on embryos created by in vitro fertilization; PGD differs from prenatal testing, which can be done only after a woman is already pregnant.)
At the Current Science Forum, Devers posed a series of ethical questions to the audience, including:
- Should a woman who is a carrier for the sex-linked disorder Duchenne muscular dystrophy be allowed to use PGD to avoid the birth of a boy who, because of his sex, would have a 50% chance of having the disease?
- What about a couple who wants to use PGD to avoid the birth of a boy because they already have four boys and really want a girl?
- Should a couple be allowed to use PGD to have a child with slow twitch muscles, so that the child may be better equipped to run marathons?
Although many countries regulate the use of PGD, no laws in the United States cover its use. Instead, these questions are being answered in this country by couples and their physicians.
To join in on additional thought-provoking discussions of current scientific issues, please come to Morehead’s next Current Science Forum.
Amy Sayle is Morehead's Science 360 manager.