Designer babies. If you are picturing tiny humans wearing high-end clothing by fashion houses like Gucci, Chanel, and Prada, you would be wrong. The ‘Designer Baby’ refers to babies who have been genetically modified for beauty, intelligence or to be free of disease. This has long been a topic of science fiction, but science is getting very close to making it a reality.
According to Dr. Tony Perry – a pioneer in cloning – precise DNA editing in mice is approaching 100% efficiency with the ground-breaking technology Crispr. The Crispr technology works by cutting DNA to make mutations and inserting new pieces of genetic code at the site of the cut. Crispr is being used in a wide range of experiments on plants and animals, but human trials have not begun due to specific ethical concerns. The benefits of altering human genetic code are vast and far-reaching, but the ethical concerns preventing it from happening are significant as well.
If the Crispr Technology was to be performed on humans during fertility treatments, health problems that run in families such as Cancer, Heart Disease, Alzheimers, Diabetes and even mental Illness could be avoided. These diseases could be removed from the genetic code before the sperm and egg even meet. This would not just benefit the one child being born through this procedure, but all the children in their genetic line would no longer have this defect. Permitting the Crispr technology to be used on humans would considerably lower the occurrence of disease!
Another advantage of using the Crispr Technology on humans comes from a superficial standpoint. If your father has fair fast burning skin prone to wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, while your mother has an ageless olive complexion, chances are not every child in your family (if any) will get that ageless olive skin gene. With the Crispr technology, parents will have the ability to select the physical traits that they feel are the most desirable to pass onto their offspring.
Performing gene transfer on humans places serious medical risks to the potential child. Errors could occur upon gene insertion that could be lethal, or could significantly worsen conditions that you were trying to prevent in the first place. Furthermore, new health problems may not be seen until long after the child is born, or late into adulthood, which could then be passed onto future generations.
Permitting the use of the Crispr Technology to select superficial traits on offspring has the potential to perpetuate culturally specific trends to a scary irreversible degree. There is beauty in our differences and if today we decide that one specific trait is not beautiful and mothers genetically modify their children to not carry this trait, that trait would die out for future generations. Moreover, our culture’s current idea of beauty is not static – it is ever changing. Using Crispr to eliminate undesirable traits would eventually lead to a lack of diversity and beauty would seize to exist.