Stories tagged PGD

At least one clinic in the US is using preimplantation genetic testing (PGD) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) to allow parents to select traits such as the hair and eye color of their children. The clinic director expects a trait-selected baby to be born next year. (This technique has been used for years to help select embryos free sex-linked and other genetic diseases, but the deliberate selection of non-medical traits is new.)

More on PGD

A British woman is expecting the birth of a baby next week. Not so unusual, except that doctors screened the baby, through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), to be sure that he or she is free of a gene that causes breast cancer.

According to the article,

"The husband's grandmother, mother, sister and a cousin have been diagnosed with the disease [in their 20s].

While a daughter could have been affected by breast cancer herself if she carried the gene, a son could have been a carrier and passed it on to his daughters.

Mr Serhal said: 'The whole objective of this exercise is not just to make sure the child doesn't have the gene, but to stop the transmission from generation to generation.'"

Of course, the PGD doesn't guarantee that if the baby is a girl, she'll never develop breast cancer. There are other genetic and environmental causes for the disease. But at least she won't have the mutant gene that makes breast cancer a 50-80% certainty.

There's more on Buzz about PGD...

With the federal government refusing to fund research into new embryonic stem cell lines, reports this week of a process that created them without destroying embryos in the process had scientists excited. But critics are claiming that the researchers overstated the implications of their work.


Should we engineer our babies?

Genetic testing is allowing us to determine more and more information about the health and characteristics of our babies while they are still in their mothers' wombs. With this heightened level of awareness and power, we have to ask ourselves some pretty tough ethical questions:

  • Can we cure deafness or Down Syndrome through testing? Should we?
  • Is not having babies with a known trait an ethical way to eliminate that trait in our population?
  • Should we be able to select for "positive" traits or select the sex of our babies?

I attended an interesting film and discussion at the Bell Museum last week that focused on many of these issues.

Who's Afraid of Designer Babies? is a documentary mostly following several Australian families grappling with a wide array of genetic issues, from crippling genetic illnesses in their children to more frivolous interest in selecting the sex of their children.

While the discussion was very intelligent and not overly polarized I can say that we were far from a consensus on many of these issues. These are complex issues that we will have to keep hashing out as the technology and social mores change. Haven't formed an opinion yet? Read below for more information.

Resources and Links

Genetic Testing & Screening at the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics - This is a great resource on the basic questions of ethics that come up around genetic testing.

Genetics and Public Policy Center - "The Genetics and Public Policy Center is a source of accurate and trusted information about public policy related to human genetic technologies and is supported at the Berman Bioethics Institute of Johns Hopkins University by The Pew Charitable Trusts." This group does allot of work in assessing public opinion on these issues.

The US President's Council on Bioethics - This group advises the president on the science and ethical issues behind policy and regulation of biological activities. In the recent past this group has taken a more conservative focus, with President Bush firing several of the more liberal members of the group who actively criticized his position on Stem-cells.