You may never have thought about putting designer and babies in one sentence, but science and technology are making the impossible possible. After human cloning comes designer babies, which can be likened to designer clothing in the sense that both are created using specific materials for a specific client. You can also order both the designer babies and designer clothing, although you can’t get them from one place.
Designer babies used to be pure science fiction, but not anymore. It is a possibility that has become a reality. What exactly is a designer baby?
This refers to a baby that is created using biotechnology, similar to the one used in genetic engineering and modification. With this in mind, it is clear that the designer baby you order will have the genetic makeup that you artificially selected, which is likely to be all good, with the bad ones taken out of the equation. The process lets you change certain attributes in appearance, intelligence, gender, personality and disease, the lack thereof. So you are basically creating a perfect specimen. Trait selection happens during the pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Considering that it is not a natural reproductive process, genetically modified babies are created by in-vitro fertilization.
Now, what could be wrong with a designer baby? Doesn’t every parent wants a child who is perfect, smart and not sickly?
List of Pros of Designer Babies
1. Lower risk of inherited medical conditions
The world’s first known designer baby was Adam Nash who was born in 2000. His birth was not just a medical breakthrough but a life-saving purpose. His sister had Fanconi’s anemia, which he would have inherited had he been created naturally. When he was born, blood cells from his umbilical cord were transplanted into his sister’s body, saving her from the disease. His birth, no matter how artificial, definitely served a vital purpose.
2. Genetic disorder prevention
The process used in creating a designer baby involves genetic screening before an embryo is fertilized and implanted into the mother’s womb. If any signs of serious diseases are discovered early on, the next generation is guaranteed healthy. This is because several genes are screened and only those that doesn’t bear the disease will be implanted.
3. Provide lessons about genetics
Similar to cloning, stem cell research, and genetic modification, creating designer babies also give insights into genetics, and cell growth and development. If scientists gain a better understanding of why disease is passed on from one generation to another, or how defective genes develop during cell growth, they will be able to find answers and possible cures.
4. Increase life span
With defective genes discarded and only healthy genes being implanted in the uterus, a designer baby can grow into a healthy individual and is likely to live a long life. After all, medical conditions or genetic diseases that he might have inherited are removed, ensuring a healthy development. Unless his genetic makeup changes as he grows older, he will live long.
You should also remember that the creation of designer babies will reduce the risk of inherited medical conditions, such as cancer, which is considered one of the leading killers of today. It can also prevent obesity, diabetes and anemia.
List of Cons of Designer Babies
1. Moral and ethical implications
After the embryonic cells are removed and used in the selection process, those that are not chosen will be discarded that opponents of designer babies likened to abortion. There have also been cases where designer babies were created just for the stem cells. After the cells are extracted, the babies are given up for adoption or aborted, depending on the situation. What is even worse is that the donors of stem cells are doing it for the money with no regard for the life lost.
However, proponents argue that modifying genetic makeup is no different from telling an expectant mother to increase her folate intake to ensure proper child development and lower the risk of autism. After all, this is still considered medical alteration, so why is it less unethical?
2. Violation of rights
A baby will have no say as to how his body or cells will be altered or used. They will be unable to voice out their concerns, especially when they are still embryos. Even if it is done for a good cause, it is unfair for the baby to be treated like a tool instead of a human being.
In the case of Adam Nash, he had it easy because only the blood cells from his umbilical cord were used to save her sister. In other cases where bone transplant is the only available option, this so-called savior child will undergo painful invasive treatment. This makes you stop and think how someone as fragile as any human being can be treated in such an inhumane manner.
3. Plenty of room for mistakes
Although several designer babies have been created and served as a living example, the technology used is still not 100% safe. What are the odds that something could go wrong in one of the processes involved? And because the technology is still in the experimental stages, it will be hard to tell if the modification process has affected the baby’s gene pool, which could cause problems down the family tree. The people who performs the evaluation process factor in as well. As geneticists can also make mistakes, errors are sure to happen at some point.
Also, genes often have more than one uses. One gene could be in control of both intelligence and anger management, which means a designer baby could be very smart, but also very angry.
4. Create prejudice and societal divide
When designer babies become prevalent, one social problem would no longer be about black or white, but designer baby and non-designer baby. The genetically engineered children may feel superior over the not, or the other way around. Either way, it can create a hostile environment, the same way issues on race did.
While designer babies have their advantages, their disadvantages are not something to be overlooked. It is best to know the pros and cons, before making a decision to have a designer baby.