Nearly 18 years ago, a U.S. medical journal announced that genetic material had been successfully transferred into human embryos. As a result, the first genetically modified babies were conceived. The resulting children have "snippets" of mitochondrial DNA from two mothers and one father.
Since that time, the genetically modified babies have grown up, and they are expected to graduate high school in the spring of 2015.
Since the time of conception, the identities of the genetically modified babies has been cast in shadows. It is unknown, publicly, whether the children have had health issues, excelled in school, or any sort of quirks that set them apart from naturally conceived children with only two parents. Follow ups with the children began just this year, and only with 17 of the 30 children. However, details of the follow ups are being kept secretive, possibly to lessen any controversy and cause for panic. A spokesperson for Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) spoke out on the follow ups.
"We do not know of any follow-up of children born as a result of cytoplasmic transfer but we would certainly want to know the results of such a follow-up."
Since it was revealed that the children were subjects of genetically modified behaviors, there has been much debate about the ethics involved in creating designer human beings and the long term effects of doing so. As the original children prepare to graduate from high school, there is curiosity as to whether their offspring will be hindered by the experiment that originated within them. Furthermore, there are more musings about what the would happen to the offspring if two of the genetically modified individuals were to procreate with each other.
Regardless of the outcome, if the children -- now adults -- are to procreate, the introduction of genetically modified genes will be set loose in each future generation that they produce. The long term effects are nearly unguessable.
Debate against GMO vegetables and other consumable products and the effects they might have on humans has surged in the last few years. We can most likely expect the debate to transition toward the reproduction of genetically modified humans as well.
Although most information about the genetically modified babies has been kept under wraps, there was a report in 2001 that reported two of the children may have been born with Turner Syndrome, which results from a missing sex chromosome. According to the report, one of the babies resulted in a miscarriage and the other was aborted. Dr. Jacques Cohen, the scientist who carried out the cytoplasmic transfer, defended the defect.
"Whether these anomalies were related to the procedure is unknown. The fact is that the parents could not become pregnant on their own or after conventional IVF. This could have also been the cause of the [Turner syndrome]."
Although the cases of the two babies which did not survive was published, they are not counted in the lack of follow-ups due to the failure to mature outside of the womb. They have become nothing more than collateral damage of the experiment.
[Photo Courtesy: Inform Africa]