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Designer babies would be genetically modified. Before we can answer this we must address other questions: What issues should we consider before modifying humans? How would designer babies be made? Is there a moral or ethical difference between using genetic technologies to prevent disease and to enhance human capacities?
Should we be striving to protect our humanity from genetic enhancement? What effect will human genetic modification have on society? Not today, but perhaps tomorrow There are two types of moral or ethical questions one can ask about designer babies.
The second question looks away from technological details to focus on the very idea of a designer baby. Are the technologies of genetic modification and selection safe enough to be used on humans? Even if the technologies are safe, can they be morally defended? The Oxford English Dictionary definition describes the way of making designer babies that at the same time is the most conceptually straightforward and raises the biggest concerns about safety.
One way to make a designer baby begins with an embryo created by in vitro fertilization IVF. Geneticists have enhanced learning in mice. Farmers in many parts of the world now plant crops with genomes altered to make them resistant to pests or herbicides. An experiment on mice performed at Princeton University suggests one way this might be done.
Geneticists introduced into mouse genomes an additional copy of a gene, NR2B, that codes for one type of glutamate receptor and is known to play a role in the development of the brain.
The NR2B gene exists in humans, prompting speculation about performing the same trick on one of us.
Before this is done, we need to examine pressing safety concerns. There are several safety concerns about the technology. Current techniques of genetic modification introduce genes at random places in the genome. We should be concerned about the possibility that an inserted copy of NR2B may arrive in the target genome in a way that disrupts the function of another gene crucial for survival.
Many genes have more than one effect. The effect we intend may be accompanied by others of which we become aware only later. There is evidence for such effects on doogie mice, which seem not only to have improved powers of learning and memory, but also to have a greater sensitivity to pain, an enhancement of more dubious desirability.
A gene affects intelligence only in combination with other genes. We are unlikely to find single genes whose modification would reliably produce a point boost in IQ, for example.
These ways of making designer babies will avoid some of the risks inherent in the genetic modification of human embryos while introducing others.
One technology is preimplantation genetic diagnosis PGDcurrently used by some people at risk of passing serious genetic disorders on to their children.
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis is already used to screen for genetic defects. People who use preimplantation genetic diagnosis to avoid passing on a disease to their child have a collection of embryos created for them by IVF.
These embryos are grown to the eight-cell stage, at which point one or two cells are removed and checked for genetic variants associated with the disease. Only embryos lacking these variants are introduced into the womb.
PGD is an expensive procedure currently offered only to couples at risk of having a child suffering from a serious genetic disease. But there is nothing inherent in the technology that limits it to such uses. One scientist argues you can also screen for personality traits.
Presbyterians who select children with the high self-transcendence version of VMAT2 should, however, be warned that they may end up with a child who expresses this selected psychological characteristic by way of a devotion to astrology.
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis is not risk free.The Legal and Ethical Environment of Business. v. Table of Contents. Licesning Information; Chapter 1: Introduction to Law.
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