Designer baby..(not fashion related)

The other day I heard from the news that in less than 30 years 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 stuffs 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..