The world of science is changing at break neck speeds, and many ethicists are having a difficult time keeping up with the advances in technologies. One of the up coming break through’s involves the modification of DNA to create ‘designer babies.’ In simple terms, it’s a baby that is genetically engineered in-vitro for special characteristics and traits. This will allow for individuals to pick and choose from a buffet of physical characteristic that they desire, from eye color, height, and even intelligence. Dr Terry Perry is one of the leading scientists in the realm of genetic modification and cloning. He recently announced to the public that thanks to contributions from him and his peers, they were able to edit DNA at the moment of conception in mice. I completely understand that manipulating DNA strands in mice or pigs is a far cry from creating a 6’2″, 230 lbs, muscle bond, blue eyed hockey player in a laboratory, but it’s just a matter of time now. Scientific Reports have documented his ability of “precisely editing the genome of mice at the point DNA from the sperm and egg come together.”
The new technology that is making these marvelous advances in science and human nature is known as CRISPR, an editing tool. CRISPR allows highly skilled and educated individuals to edit the genomes with efficiency, flexibility, and precision that has never been seen before in the field of genetic engineering. Some of the major achievements under CRISPR’s belt is, preventing HIV infection in human cells, and creating monkeys with targeted genetic mutations in them. There is now hope of the possibility of curing genetic diseases with the recent announcement from Chinese scientists that they are using the technique in nonviable human embryos. The new CRISPR technique far suppresses gene splicing and editing of yesteryear.
Bioethicists fear that this may grant nefarious individuals with the opportunity to play the role of God in society. These are valid concerns, because it will enable parents to discriminate against things beyond the possibility of diseases, like picking the sex of your child, which has the potential of leading to a lopsided percentage of male to female or female to male ratio in society. Another ethical dilemma is that this costly procedure would only be accessible to wealthy families, while the social-economically challenged will be left out in the cold. This could lead to a greater economic division among the classes, with the upper classes taking advantages in genetic modifications that would bless their offspring with enhanced traits and characteristics that would enable them to advance easier in society. Genetic modification is a few years off, but the medical community needs to start tackling the ethical implications on ‘designer babies.’