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Do you want a blonde baby with green eyes? How about an intelligent baby, or a baby with exceptional athletic abilities? Many people wish to choose their children’s traits and abilities, and this has been just a dream—until now. With modern technology such as CRISPR and PGD, this dream can soon become reality.

With the use of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), scientists are able to accurately target certain parts of the genetic code and alter them. The precision of CRISPR is said to be at the DNA level, the closest level that scientists have ever gotten to genetic engineering. However, the effects of CRISPR are still largely unknown, and the success rates are low. The success rate for deleting or muting a gene is about 40%, and the success rate for specifically altering a gene (through switching DNA letters) is 20%.

Genes can be altered by using molecular “scissors” to cut out undesired genes.

Image Source: lvcandy

PGD/PIGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or embryo screening) can potentially be used to help in the process of creating a genetically engineered baby. PGD is used to detect genetic defects in an embryo created for parents-to-be using in vitro fertilization (IVF) to make sure that there aren’t any genetic diseases that could be passed on to their child. As of now, PGD is used only to screen for the genetics of a baby created using IVF. But, in the future, using PGD and a more advanced form of IVF (and maybe a fine tuned version of CRISPR), parents will be able to choose their children’s traits.

Having the ability to create designer babies sounds like a good idea, right? The truth is, a number of ethical concerns have surfaced with this idea. Since the children have no say in their traits, some say that it violates their rights. Another concern is the social changes that may arise. Most of society will be put at a disadvantage, since only elite families will have offspring with advantageous traits. The ability to potentially create “perfect” babies is exciting, but should we really put it into use? When the time comes, it will be up to us to decide.

Feature Image Source: HannahPovey Eye 01 by Dan Foy

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