Week 6 / Designer Babies by Marie De Austria

Designer Babies

As we learn more and more about ourselves, we delve deeper and deeper into the roots of life – DNA and genetics. At first the idea of chromosomes and protein transcription and translation are novel and exciting but human as we are, we always have an eye for progress. Humans have tampered into almost everything they can – politics, religion, ecosystems, solar systems, even the universe. Now they are looking not further into the horizon but deeper into themselves. They are now looking into the possibility of tampering with the genes of unborn babies to create “designer babies.” Furthermore, we already have working sperm banks, in-vitro technology, as well as a completed Human Genome map which would make the idea of designer babies a step closer to reality.

Scientists have been trying to perfect the “art” of inserting desired genes into embryos of animals since it is strictly illegal to do so in humans. The first incident of a bioengineered animal occurred when scientists successfully determined a growth hormone gene and inserted it into a mouse embryo. As expected, the mouse grew to twice its normal size. Now for non-scientific people, this incident is not very exciting. So a mouse grew to twice its normal size – big deal. But there lies the foundation of an even bigger idea – what if we can also engineer human genes, to take out undesirable genes and insert coveted ones?

Ever since the first baby conceived through cytoplasmic transfer was born in 1997, people have been wondering about the possibility of engineering babies to manifest desired traits. It turns out that Cohen, the man who discovered cytoplasmic transferring of fertile eggs to help infertile women have children, “endowed” the eggs with mutant mitochondrial DNA. Some of these babies were found to have diseases and problems linked to having incompatible genetic strands. But the health of the baby was not the concern in this case. The concern was that Cohen successfully engineered a human life and in many people’s eyes, especially those who hold conservative views, he essentially played God.

The idea of creating the “perfect baby” is indeed a very exciting prospect. Imagine if we can choose our child to have a certain eye color, hair color, skin color, height, and personality. Or better yet, imagine if we have certain genes that we don’t want to be passed on, say, a disease or a stunted height, and we want our child to have say, Tom Cruise’s blue eyes; imagine if we can engineer those genes into our child’s embryo. Imagine if we can choose our children’s genes, how will our future change?

Couple abandoning designer baby

But before we can look into the bright possibilities, we first have to deal with ethical problems that surround the idea of playing God. Since we are still on the verges of perfecting this technology, accidents and mistakes are more than likely to happen. The question is, who is going to take responsibility for the lives of children who were created with the wrong genes or who grow up not to have the traits that the parents paid for? The parents or the company who engineered the baby? Also, what about the whole idea of tampering with Natural selection? Would humans be subjecting themselves to a darker future by going against, or assisting, Mother Nature?

Personally, I think the idea of bioengineering is great for creating more nutritious and ecologically-beneficial things such as the “golden rice.” But for what it’s worth, I would just have to say that engineering human babies, or even animals for that matter, is too much, too arrogant, and too destructive for humans to consider doing. First of all, knowing how your baby is going to turn out takes away the excitement and surprise of having one. Yes there are benefits to ridding the future generation of genetic diseases and to the possibility of a genetic perfection.  However, I don’t think the benefits of creating the “perfect baby” outweighs the consequences of tampering with natural selection and human life.




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