Speech 2001 Lecture Notes - Aryan Race, Genetic Testing, Designer Baby
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Picture this you just got married and your ready to settle down and have a
child. You and your spouse both get tested for being carriers of the Tay-Sacs
disease and you find that you are a carrier. You look into your options and you
find primiplnatation genetic diagnosis, which is an embryonic screening process.
This procedure which comes at a very high price will allow you to make sure that
your child will not be born with this disease or be a carrier. You then look further
into this screening process and find that you can also choose the sex of the child.
Do you take this screening process to the next level and begin to design your
baby? There is a new phenomenon that has hit the market where you can
actually design your baby.
The term “designer baby” was actually made up by journalists since
doctors and scientists describe the process as being the use of technology to
modify embryos in order to choose certain desired characteristics in a baby. Just
so that we’re all clear, an embryo is a cell in a women which is fertilized by the
sperm of the male into the egg of the female and it carries half of the DNA of both
parents. Once the embryo has developed for 8 weeks, it then becomes a fetus.
Basically, these advanced reproductive techniques require the use of InVitro
Fertilisation so that the women’s eggs can be fertilised with the man’s sperm in
test tubes, outside of the mother’s body. This procedure will reduce the chances
that a child will be born with a genetic disorder.
There are 2 basic types of advanced reproductive technologies at this time.
The first is screening the type of sperm that will fertilise the egg, which will
determine the sex and the genes of the baby. Parents may want to choose the
sex of the embryo because certain genetic diseases such as haemophilia and
muscular dystrophy are only found in male babies. It is also useful in cases
where the parents have a history of male-related diseases. The second
technique, known as preimplantation process, is one that will screen the embryos,
making it possible to eliminate those genes that are associated with genetic
defects. Only the genes without disease are then implanted into the mother’s
womb. Doctors can choose a healthy female embryo without the problem gene
and then implant it directly into the mother’s womb.
As scientists continue to study genes and learn more about how they
interact with each other, they have been able to do much more than just testing
for pre-existing medical conditions. They have been able to actually create these
`designer babies` by preselecting such features as height, eye and hair colouring,
appearance, athletic ability, personality and intelligence. These techniques
clearly raise all sorts of potential ethical questions.
Genetic screening can dramatically reduce the possibility that babies are
born with diseases such as down syndrome and cystic fibrosis, as well as various
blood disorders. Likely the first example of putting this technique to a good use
was in 2000 when scientists genetically selected a non-diseased embryo so that
when the baby was born, he was able to save his sister’s life, even though she
was dying from a rare blood disorder by being a donor. Had genetic screening
not taken place, the baby would have likely carried the same disease as his
sister. Disease-bearing genes can be screened and only those healthy genes
can be implanted into the woman’s uterus in order to reduce or eliminate the
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