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You Could One Day Have Your Very Own Designer Baby

Illustration for article titled You Could One Day Have Your Very Own Designer Baby

Babies are as chic now as they've ever been, but have you noticed that some babies are, like, so much better than other babies? I mean, it's not as if you can show up to playgroup carrying whatever subpar human child you've been charged with raising, so how can you — as a stylish person on the go — guarantee that your baby is the best of the best?

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The answer used to be that there was no answer. You were simply stuck with whatever infant you ended up with and if you tried to bail, you were charged with something silly like "neglectful parenting," but now, thanks to science, you might end up with a little more control in the matter...if the FDA doesn't fuck it up for you.

The Food and Drug Administration recently held a two day meeting to discuss a provocative and experimental fertilization technique that involves the DNA of three people. While we can joke about designer babies all we want (and look, I already did!), the serious fact of the matter is that the procedure — researched by Oregon Health & Science University's Shoukhrat Mitalipov, among others — has been developed for the sake of preventing debilitating diseases from being passed down from parent to child and is pretty freaking groundbreaking.

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The technique has yet to be tested on humans and is particularly risky because its failure or success would not be known until after the baby was born and had lived enough years to give scientists a total understanding of its health.

From the AP:

Preliminary testing in animals suggests that combining the DNA of two parents with that of a third female donor could allow prospective mothers to give birth to healthy children. But even experts in the field warned that researchers would have to follow the offspring for many years to see if they are truly healthy.

"The end of the experiment will come decades later," said Michigan State University's Keith Latham, in a presentation before the FDA and its advisory panel. "It's going to take us that long to figure out the health of the progeny produced from these procedures."

On how the procedure works:

Mitalipov's experimental technique, if approved for use, would involve removing the nucleus DNA from a healthy female donor's eggs and replacing it with the nucleus DNA of the prospective mother. After fertilization, the resulting child would inherit the mother's nucleus DNA — containing traits like hair color and height — but the donor's healthy mitochondrial DNA.

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Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of debate surrounding the ethics of the process. As the Center for Genetics and Society's Marcy Darnovsky put it, the FDA's potential decision to allow human testing "could well be the first time any jurisdiction in the world had authorized intentional genetic modification of children and their descendants. And it would be making this decision with little or no input from the public or elected officials."

Then, of course, there's the sad fact that people will probably end up using off-shoots of this procedure to one day not only prevent disease, but to create a baby who they think will be smarter, more athletic or more handsome than the baby they could make without the help of science.

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Whether you support it or not, this type of genetic modification seems pretty inevitable so maybe we should probably start getting used to the idea of having designer babies in our midsts. I for one look forward to a day where I might be able to birth my very own dream child by shaping its genetic makeup (it'll have my DNA for personality, an enchanted mountain's DNA for fortitude and a noble water buffalo's DNA for good looks).

Image via Shutterstock.

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DISCUSSION

mehblahpfft
MehBlahPfft

Speaking as someone with a few totally crappy genes in there (cystic fibrosis carrier and pre-mutation carrier for Fragile X at the very least), who had to go through amniocentesis and CVS (one per pregnancy) to see if her kids would be born with awful diseases (mercifully, stats were on my side and Le Petit Comte is cystic fibrosis and fragile x free, though he does carry my cf gene; and the impending Petite Comtesse doesn’t even carry either one), I think this would be amazing! One concern I heard about on NPR, though, with this procedure, is the INTRODUCTION of genetic issues we couldn’t have foreseen that we could potentially introduce into the gene pool. Fascinating stuff.