Birth of 30 Genetically Modified Babies May Lead to a 'Designer' Human Race

Birth of 30 Genetically Modified Babies May Lead to a 'Designer' Human Race


The recent birth of 30 genetically modified (GM) babies has sparked an ethical debate over whether fertility experiments help hopeful parents conceive or if scientists are altering humanity.

The existence of the infants was revealed the night of June 29. Fifteen of the babies were created over the past three years in a fertility program run by the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science (IRMS) of Saint Barnabas in New Jersey. They are all healthy.

Two of these one-year-old infants have the genes of three parents—two women and one man, reported the Daily Mail. Scientists were tasked with repairing the defected eggs of women undergoing infertility treatment, so they inserted mitochondria from donor eggs into these eggs, in addition to DNA from sperm cells. Their efforts were successful, creating at least two babies with the DNA of three parents. If these GM babies reproduce, this genetic change will be passed on to their offspring. The long-term effects of carrying DNA from three parents is yet to be seen.

Toying with the essential make-up of the human species is shunned by some geneticists, who fear that this technique could lead to the creation of a new race of humans—a designer breed crafted to amplify, pluck or fuse superior characteristics such as beauty, strength or high intelligence.

Professor Jacques Cohen, the IRMS science director who trained the embryology group for 18 years, discovered the method used to create GM children. He is regarded as a highly controversial yet brilliant pioneer in reproductive medicine. Among his most notable accomplishments, he is responsible for making it possible for infertile men to have children of their own by injecting sperm DNA directly into a fertile egg in a petri-dish.

However, many view his research and ambitions—such as his claim that he could clone children—as overstepping the boundaries of nature. "It would be an afternoon's work for one of my students," Cohen said of cloning a child. He has reportedly been approached by "at least three" individuals asking him to clone a child, but he had to deny their requests.

Indian Country Today Media Network wants to know your opinions on genetically altered babies: Is it the beginning of a new and potentially beneficial frontier in reproduction, or could playing Creator backfire?

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talyn's picture
Submitted by talyn on
I don't see that the two options are mutually exclusive. This IS the beginning of a new and potentially beneficial frontier in reproductive medicine, and of course, it could always backfire. We could imagine all the potential nightmare scenarios, shove this in some box labeled 'science best left alone', and run away screaming. But that would, in a uniquely real sense, be something like throwing the baby out with the bath water. In the cases cited above, it sounds as if the women wanting to have babies had an abnormality in their mitochondria. A disorder with seriously consequences. And since mitochodria are inherited ONLY from the mother, it is a problem that they would pass on to their children. So, in essence, a woman with healthy mitochondria donated a few cellular organelles to a child as yet unborn, who would otherwise have been born sick. Think of it as putting a new engine in a car with a broken one. It is still the same car, but now it works. Perhaps more to the point, think of it as a kidney. A kidney donor is a wonderful, altruistic person...but not a parent as a result. Yes, this is a microscopic organ inside a cell, and it is a healthy functioning organ that will be duplicated and passed on to children, but at least in this case it is still just organ donation. We already have rules and ethical guidelines for that. Of course, other sorts of DNA tampering will have different, more fundamental impacts on the potential child, (and cloning is an entirely different ethical can of worms) so not everything will be as straight-forward. I think that allowing selection or engineering for particular traits is probably a very bad idea. Be it height, eye color, curly hair, gender, or whatever else you have. But correcting genetic disorders I think should be allowed. Especially those that will significantly impact the quality or length of a life. Whether we are talking Tay-Sachs or cystic fibrosis, hemophilia or cri-du-chat, to correct these things I think could be regarded as a sort of surgery. Strange as pre-conception surgery may sound. Would this result in healthier, stronger children? Certainly. Is that bad? Not really. We don't want to create superman. Trying to design a superior human being is fraught with complications. Consider Hitler's Aryans. Historically, such efforts have always gone badly, and there is a good reason for that. We are not qualified. We are not Creators. But this isn't about superman or superiority, this is about healthy children. Not children who are better than their peers, but children who are THE SAME. Children who start out on equal footing with all the rest, who otherwise would have been handicapped from the instant of conception. Genetic therapy for genetic diseases is not the same as making designer babies. It is a very clear, very important line and so long as we do not cross it I think we can avoid the horrors in the 'best left alone' box.