Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Designer What?

Have you ever heard of a designer baby? That’s right. A designer baby. You may ask, what in the world is that? Well, the term designer baby was defined as a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected to ensure the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics. How does this happen? Eggs with sperms are placed in test tubes, where they use InVitro Fertilization (IVF) to fertilize the embryos. Then, after the first five days of its creation, the cell is genetically tested. The parents would decide if they would want to discard the embryo or implant it in the mother’s womb. This process is called Pre – implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). PGD is also used to create designer babies by using two types of advanced reproductive technologies. One would be choosing the type of sperm that will fertilize the egg, which is used to determine the sex and genes of the baby. The other would be screening the embryos for a genetic disease.  By allowing parents to screen the embryos for genetic diseases, they can choose to remove the disease – causing genes, having a perfectly healthy baby. This seems to be quite popular for parents who are at risk of passing serious genetic disorders to their children. With this, the baby can grow up nice and healthy and wouldn’t have to worry about passing unhealthy genes to their own babies. 

Although having designer babies may seem perfect, some have labelled designer babies as “saviour babies”. This means that the embryo is created to suit as a donor to its older sibling. For example, in 2003, a baby boy, Jamie, was born. Baby Jamie was literally born as a saviour to his four – year – old brother Charlie, who had a life – threatening blood disorder. Baby Jamie’s tissue was a perfect match. Charlie’s only hope for a cure was through stem cells from Baby Jamie’s umbilical cord or a bone marrow transplant. Another example of a saviour baby would be the world’s first known designer baby, Adam. His older sister suffered from Fanconi’s anaemia and there was a high chance of Adam getting that disorder as well, so scientists genetically selected his embryo so he could possess the right cells to save his and his sister’s lives. Even though it would be nice to have all of our children alive, it doesn’t seem fair for the younger sibling to be alive just so it can be a saviour baby.

Now that you know about designer babies, would you choose to have one?


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