Gene Editing Is Allowing Parents To Design Their Own Baby's Looks

Throughout a woman's pregnancy, she and her baby undergo extensive testing to ensure both are healthy and progressing as they should. Many parents opt to include gene testing during pregnancy to know early on if the baby has a genetic disorder, such as down syndrome.

As science continues to move forward and evolve, genetic testing has become more and more of a hot-button topic. People wonder when the science of genetic testing and engineering becomes less about health and survival and more about manipulating an embryo to create what many call a "designer baby".

Genetic engineering has made a huge impact in terms of fertility and pregnancy, especially for those who are unable to conceive naturally. Thanks to IVF, parents can have specialists take the best sperm from the man and the best egg from the woman to create a viable embryo. This embryo can then be implanted directly into the mom-to-be or even into a surrogate if the mom is unable to carry a baby for health reasons.

However, some people argue that even IVF is going a little too far, because couples can choose their baby's gender before the embryo is planted. Now, scientists are getting to the point where they are working to be able to identify the genes that make up certain conditions in a human (such as breast cancer or Huntington's disease) and edit them so that they are no longer a risk.

Baby's feet in mother hands. Mom and her Child. Happy Family concept. Beautiful conceptual image of Maternity
Credit: iStock

While this may seem like a good thing (who wouldn't want to protect their child from potentially fatal diseases?), the problem is that it's not easy to do. According to Dr. Robert Klitzsman at Columbia University, there are three billion molecules that make up DNA, and if a doctor removes the wrong molecule by mistake, the baby would still be susceptible to the condition they were trying to eliminate and its DNA would be altered in an unknown way which could go so far as to impact body or brain development.

This isn't a new debate, there's always been a question of how much science humans should allow into conception. At what point do you just sit back and let mother nature do her job, regardless of the potentially scary outcomes? Science may seem perfect, but human error will always be a factor, so which scary outcome is less of a risk?

Would you opt for a "designer baby" if given the chance?

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