Designer baby..(not fashion related)

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The other day I heard from the news that in less than 30 years from now science and technology would enable us to have what they called a “designer baby”; a baby “designed” to be born with all traits, characteristic, also physical strength and resemblance just the way you want it to be.

And I thought.., that sounds tremendously interesting and scary at the same time.

This is not the first time I heard something like this.

Just slightly out of the baby topic, having read some stuff for quite some times now, I understand that many foods we eat these days are quite likely genetically modified.

Genetically modified foods are foods produced from organism that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering techniques allow for the introduction of new traits as well as greater control over traits than previous methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding (various sources).

Plants and animals where our foods come from have been genetically modified to eventually produce better crops or end result. Now you see why I mentioned that one first.

Then awhile ago, I read about an advanced technology that makes it possible to have gender preference of the baby in the reproductive process. I can’t quite remember in which stage exactly this is feasible to take place, but I imagine in the very early one, let’s say the embryo formation.

Imagine.. Some 30 years from now, a couple sitting in their living room, thinking and planning about building their own family. Each of them wants to pass on the good genes to their future child. Maybe intelligence and good look from one part (dark hair, medium complexion, height, etc.., for example), and strength plus resilience from the other. Then they discuss whether it will be a boy or a girl, or even twin or multiple (by the way, this has been made openly possible in one of the most current assisted reproductive technology, IVF). Once everything is set, they will see their GP (General Practitioner) to get a referral to go to a specialist (Obstetrician/Gynaecologist). In some circumstances perhaps some people go straight to the specialist. The Ob/Gyn then guide everything, with the help from their team, I believe one of them is the Embryologist.

To give you some sort of illustration, if buying clothes from a department store is like procreation in general definition, then having a designer baby is like you go to a tailor to have your clothes specifically made for you, based on the exact measurement of your body.

In a more scientific definition, a “designer baby” is a human embryo which has been genetically modified, usually following guidelines set by the parent or scientist, to produce desirable traits. This is done using various methods, such as germline engineering or preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). (various sources).

I sort of get the general idea of it, but to have a profound understanding, I definitely must read more. And as expected, this technology or even its original concept has been the subject of ethical debate, bringing up the concept of genetically modified “superhumans” to replace modern human.

That sounds like a science fiction movie, doesn’t it..? Well, yes it does in some ways.. However, this is not something too foreign at all, at least for me.

Looking back at my own fertility issues that ended up in IVF treatment, I recall now how this process actually involved more screening than that of natural conception. The PGD mentioned above is also known as embryo screening. This screening normally takes place in the first trimester of the pregnancy. And generally it is performed in both natural and assisted conception. In my case, one of the screening process was the non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT).

NIPT is a screen that analyses this DNA in a sample of your blood to predict the chance of Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, Patau syndrome and (if selected) DiGeorge syndrome. The first 3 syndromes are the conditions associated with intellectual disability and congenital malformations; the degree of intellectual disability and the risk and severity of malformations vary with the different disorders. While DiGeorge syndrome can cause heart defects, poor immune system function, a cleft palate and low levels of calcium in the blood. Its features vary widely, even among people with the same chromosome deletion. Sex chromosome abnormalities, such as Turner syndrome and Klinefelter syndrome can also be detected, but with reduced accuracy. Sex chromosome abnormalities are often clinically milder than other chromosomal abnormalities. Testing for sex chromosome abnormalities will also reveal the fetal sex. (various sources)

So, the point is, I think even with the current technology, the “designer baby” is here already. Not in a way described by the scientific definition above though.. But it’s like, we’re getting there… You can take a “sneak preview” of what your unborn child might carry in his/her DNA into life..! To me, that is scientifically fascinating..

However.., this is the “scary part”, at least for me.. Blame this on my wild weird imagination but.., what if this technology falls into those who are in it for not so noble agenda.. You know what I mean. These kind of people probably would create super-humans to be their organic robots that they can control absolutely.

You know when you heard the news about the attacks and stuffs like that, and you kind of see the similarities in it, as if someone powerful just grabs the “remote control” and push the “attack” button, that’s what I mean when I said “organic robots”.. Oh well, I hope this is only in my head..(or not..?)

Anyway, enough random thought of the day.. I got to go and pick up my “super-active” toddler now..

Have a good day..

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11 thoughts on “Designer baby..(not fashion related)

  1. Sedikit cerita pengalaman : saya pernah terlibat diskusi yang cukup alot dengan foreign speaker (saya bukan praktisi kesehatan, hanya kebetulan bersentuhan dengan bidang ini). Speaker tsb aneh karena di Indonesia bisa pilih gender, saya jawab karena ras / suku tertentu mengagungkan gender tertentu. Dia merasa aneh karena menurutnya hal tersebut tidak sesuai dengan aturan International. Sementara saya memprotes penyataannya tentang donor sperma karena justru hal tersebut ditolak di Indonesia, walaupun dilegalkan di International. Jadi tidak semua bisa seiring sejalan, saling hormati saja. NIPT pun saya familiar, esp expatriate yang justru lebih banyak melakukan NIPT dibanding orang Indonesia. Padahal penting banget, karena saya sendiri melakukannya saat hamil Teona untuk beberapa trisomi. Oh ya, ada teknik washing sperm juga saat inseminasi atau IVF. Salah satu manfaat kedua pasangan (suami istri) memeriksakan diri. Jadi tau, di mana yang ‘tidak beres’. Titip peluk virtual untuk Bear yaa 😘

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    • Wah makasih udah berbagi cerita yang sangat menarik di sini.. Inovasi teknologi, aturan yang dibuat, dan perdebatan yang mengikutinya memang berbeda-beda di tiap wilayah/negara, biasanya tergantung latar belakang sosial yang paling utama. Kalo di Indonesia, utk IVF aturan mutlaknya sperma dan sel telur harus berasal dari pasangan suami istri, dan ketika sudah menjadi embryo ditanamkan kembali hanya ke rahim wanita pemilik asal sel telur tsb..(maafkan jika pemilihan kata-katanya kurang pas). Di Amerika Serikat, commercial surrogacy diperbolehkan, tapi di Australia tidak.., hanya boleh altruistic surrogacy. Dulu salah satu anak Nicole Kidman lahir lewat surrogacy ini, dan saya ingat beberapa kenalan bule di sini lumayan mencibir soal surrogacy tsb.. Di dua negara itu, US dan Oz, aturan terkait hal ini pun kadang agak berbeda di setiap negara bagiannya, ibaratnya tiap state/province seperti punya Perda masing-masing juga.. Nah, soal designer baby, tentu akan sangat menarik melihat bagaimana nantinya tiap wilayah menyikapi hal ini..

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      • Beberapa teman ada yang menempuh surrogacy ini dengan berbagai macam alasan, mulai dari memiliki Penyalur di rahim (miom atau lainnya) hingga males hamil ntar badan melar. Menurut saya kembali ke keyakinan masing – masing aja. Namanpun niat ingin memiliki keturunan, segala cara ditempuh ya gak ada masalah. Surrogacy di Indonesia sendiri sudah mulai banyak walaupun masih segmented. Kalau menurut saya sih IVF dan EFT adalah teknologi termutakhir tanpa menyalahi aturan agama yang saya anut.

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      • Wah saya malah baru tahu kalo di Indonesia surrogacy sudah ada yg melakukan.. Ini surrogacy yg komersial atau altruistik ya, Fran? Ini beneran di Indonesia atau orang Indonesia yg pilih surrogacy di luar Indonesia? Dulu waktu zamannya aku berurusan dgn IVF, seingatku tak ada yg menyinggung soal ini..

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      • Beberapa teman melakukan komersial surrogacy dengan wanita luar Indonesia. Surrogacy amat sangat tidak disarankan oleh dokter2 di Indonesia, mungkin karena belum lazim dan melanggar aturan agama mayoritas.

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      • Oh pantesan kalo begitu.. Surrogacy memang lumayan “revolusioner”.., bahkan utk negara macam Australia sekali pun.. Oh ngomong-ngomong, peluk cium virtual juga dari Bear buat tante Frany katanya😄😘👦🏻🐻

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  2. Aku belajar sedikit masalah ethics designer baby ini dulu th 2008 pas kuliah di sini mba Emmy. Dosennya kasih kasus ke kita gimana seandainya kita bs “mendesain” bayi kita, apa bertentangan dengan norma dan moral, ataukah ga masalah. Di sini pun sampe sekarang masalah ini masih tetep jadi perdebatan, karna biar gimana juga sangat bersinggungan dengan agama dan kepercayaan masing-masing.

    Aku pas hamil kemarin dianjurkan untuk milih ambil tes syndrome atau ngga di usia kehamilan 12-14 minggu kalo ga salah (“window”nya emang ga lama katanya-mereka liat ini dr syaraf di leher si bayi). Walo Alhamdulillah hasil tesnya normal, tapi sempet deg-degan dan khawatir juga karna seandainya ada tendensi aku ga tau harus gimana (karna biar gimana juga semua pihak selain saya dan suami akan terlibat). Di sini buat embrio yg masih belum 20 minggu masih diperbolehkan untuk diaborsi. Buat yg proses IVF setau aku kalo si embrionya terlihat ada kecenderungan anaknya akan terlahir ga “normal” biasanya juga disarankan untuk ga diteruskan.

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    • Wah makasih banyak udah berbagi cerita yang sangat menarik di sini..
      Setelah dilihat-lihat, menurutku bukan sekali ini temuan ilmu pengetahuan dan teknologi (iptek) bersinggungan dengan nilai-nilai sosial, terutama agama. Entahlah gimana reaksi orang tapi menurutku banyak hal dalam agama sebetulnya iptek yang baru di kemudian hari bisa dimengerti secara logis oleh nalar manusia. Tentang proses IVF, aku juga dulu itu bikin semacam kesepakatan dgn suami, soal tindak lanjut hasil NIPT itu.. Bagi kami itu memang harus disepakati terlebih dahulu sebelum tes dilakukan, terlepas apa rekomendasi medis. Saya kenal bbrp orang yg kehamilannya memang tak bisa dilanjutkan karena alasan medis serius tsb, yg diketahui dari embryo screening di trimester pertama kehamilan..

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  3. Manusia bisa berusaha macam-macam dan boleh selama tdk bertentangan dgn keyakinan masing2.Biasanya keyakinan itu berhubungan dengan keteraturan dan kejelasan masalah pohon keturunan. Soal ketakutan karena imajinasi ala scifi mungkin sekarang disebut aneh tapi di jaman anak2 kita disebit biasa. Bahkan pengobatan dengan menginjeksi obat yg sifatnya separuh robotik bukan mustahil lagi nanti. Mungkin kita sama spt orang jaman dulu yg memimpikan pesawat. Manusia masa depan bisa jadi sudah jadi evolusi manusia dg modifikasi genetik…

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    • Oh ya benar banget sudut pandang ini.. Banyak lagi contohnya, favoritku: waktu kecil (era 80an) aku mengkhayal punya telepon yg bisa dibawa ke mana-mana.. Sekian puluh tahun kemudian, datanglah teknologi komunikasi yg bernama handphone😄

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