It sounds like a science fiction movie, but a biomedical ethics expert is discussing the possibility of designer babies in the future. This is based on the fact that scientists were able to turn regular mice cells into sperm and eggs, according to Yahoo News. So in theory, a woman could give some skin cell samples, which could then be turned into an egg. Professor Henry Greeley from Stanford University believes that in the future, there may be many options for parents that seem impossible today.
Today, scientists are attempting to create human eggs and sperm from regular body cells. Although researchers say they want to help infertile people, the end result could be used to create designer babies. Scientists say one possible application of this scientific method, would be allowing same-sex couples to have a child with both of their genetic makeup. Professor Greeley says that hundreds of eggs could be created and screened for genetic traits, and parents would then choose an egg to implant.
There are opportunities already for parents to pick and choose embryos. For example, couples who may have genetic disorders in their family history can undergo prenatal diagnosis to pinpoint possible issues in different eggs. But they cannot opt for a “super baby,” as the procedure is only used to help couples conceive a healthy child.
Just as designer babies seem like a distant possibility, in vitro fertilization seemed impossible at one point too. There are many ethical questions that are raised when considering the idea of a “super baby” or a designer baby that need to be addressed, not just in the scientific community, but by society as a whole.
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For example, there are questions about what would be done with rejected embryos that are deemed to not be “good enough.” And, is it ethical to be able to pick and choose a baby’s intelligence factor, athleticism, and attractiveness? It doesn’t end there, either. Scientists believe that other traits like disease risk and musical talent could be considered when parents are choosing an embryo.
Opponents also say that this would only be available to the wealthy, and question the ethical issue of whether parents should be able to choose physical features like eye color.
Currently, there are no laws in the United States that would prevent scientists from genetically engineering embryos. However, in the United Kingdom, designer babies are illegal, according to the Daily Mail.