Designer babies could become a reality if the FDA decides that ethical concerns do not supersede a new three parent DNA fertility method. The Food and Drug Administration is currently debating the genetically modified babies fertility procedure which combines DNA of a trio of adults in an effort to deter specific birth defects.
Critics of the genetically engineered babies procedure have deemed it an “ethical minefield” that could lead to the creation of so-called designer babies. FDA regulators are discussing possible issues and risks with a panel of scientists for both mother and child in meetings set to conclude this afternoon. The science involved with such fertility procedures has reportedly advanced significantly in the past several years. Some scientists are urging the federal government to relax requirements involved with studying the process more intensely in human subjects.
The designer babies procedure involves the manipulation of mitochondria, the “power producers” inside cells that transfers energy into a form that can be used inside other cells. Mitochondria containing defects passed onto a developing baby could theoretically be replaced with healthy mitochondria from a woman not the mother, if the FDA approves the procedure. The process can be completed both before or after an egg is fertilized.
Scientists have already conducted experiments involving the blending of genetic material from three different people. New Jersey scientists injected cytoplasm, the material that surrounds the egg nucleus, from fertile women in infertile women in 2001. According to a New York Times report, 17 babies have since been born in this manner in the United States.
Questions stemming from the New Jersey fertility experiment ultimately led the FDA to ban scientists from performing similar procedures in human beings without explicit permission from the federal agency. Since the halting of the fertility experiment, additional studies have been conducted on animals.
Mount Sinai Medical Center Director of Division of Reproductive Endocrinolooy and Infertility Dr. Alan Copperman had this to say about designer babies:
“Every time we get a little closer to genetic tinkering to promote health – that’s exciting and scary. People are afraid it will turn into a dystopian brave new world. The most exciting part, scientifically, is to be able to prevent or fix and error in the genetic machinery.”
Council for Responsible President Jeremy Gruber and his bioethics advocacy group see the situation far differently than Dr. Cooperman. “There’s a step missing here. The basic research is still unresolved.”
How do you feel about the controversial fertility procedure and the potential for the creation of designer babies?