Gone are the days when designing the kind of baby you want, was a story of fiction. Today, with genetic engineering, you can select the traits you wish to see in your baby and get the exact kind of baby that you desire.
Astonished? So am I! The main idea behind designing a baby is to create ones that will not suffer from genetic diseases like cancer, mental illness, diabetes, and the same. While some parents prefer to have extremely healthy babies, some others look for traits like good looks and high IQ in their babies.
Although gene modification is not new, its application wasn’t fully accepted, owing to its probable pros and cons. However, the concept is regaining importance and bioethicists like Dr Kevin Smith are keen on altering the entire embryo structure with the aim to prevent the transmission of genetic diseases in the future.
The Bioethics Advisory Committee has reviewed the whole idea and studied how gene modification can help in preventing mitochondrial disorders that further lead to major health problems.
How Are Designer Babies Made?
It is definitely a massive technical feat to be able to design an entire human being by using certain scientific procedures. So how are designer babies made?
Designer babies are made by artificially creating a genetic makeup with the help of genetic engineering and in vitro fertilisation. The genetic makeup is designed after the parents confirm what genes or characteristics they wish to include and avoid in their baby. Traits like appearance, personality, intelligence, gender, and illness can be altered when designing a baby.
The process of embryo screening involves Pre-implementation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). Here, embryos are created by the in vitro fertilisation method, wherein the eggs and sperm are fertilised in a petri dish and allowed to grow until they reach the eight-cell stage. At this stage, scientists extract one or two cells for examination.
They test the DNA of those cells for any kind of defects, after which, only healthy embryos are inserted back into the womb. During this procedure, the cells are manipulated further to meet the genetic requirements specified by the parents. They also make changes to lower the risks of developing major diseases.
In this case, during the in-vitro fertilisation process, a third person’s mitochondria are inserted into the embryo in order to achieve the desired result. This helps prevent major mitochondrial diseases such as muscular dystrophy and other liver or heart conditions. This answers the big question – how are designer babies made.
This kind of genetic modification was first conducted in 1990 when Jacques Cohen did a cytoplasmic transfer by using DNA from the mother, father and a third person. It resulted in a baby with extramitochondrial DNA and that was the first time a designer baby was born!
In a world where we prefer to customise everything, the concept of customising our own children is also becoming a reality. The day is not far away when parents will have perfectly healthy and intelligent babies, capable of taking on the world, without suffering from any of the illnesses that normal babies suffer from.