Babies By Design: More Harm Than Good?

Gene editing is becoming widely debated as stories of babies with three parents become more common. Currently, most hopeful parents are interested in gene editing in order to prevent the risk of disease in utero. As technological advances with gene editing move forward, there may soon be more ways for doctors to design babies in the womb. But this scientific step forward can be controversial.

DNA and Three-Parent Babies

Gene editing is mostly used to change the DNA of an embryo in order to stem the dangers of genetic diseases. The most recent story of a child with “three parents” involved genetic calculations to prevent Leigh syndrome.  The mother had already had several miscarriages and lost two children to Leigh syndrome, a severe neurological disorder. The disease’s dangers made it nearly impossible for her to give birth to a healthy baby that would grow to adulthood. After some time, she learned about gene editing.

The Basics of Gene Editing

We all have mitochondrial DNA from our mothers, which includes the danger of passing down some diseases. This DNA can possibly hold genetic health defects which increase the odds of developing illnesses. These defects can be multiplied when passed along to a baby. Heightened chances mean heightened dangers for the child. Gene editing can result in so-called “three-parent” situations  because some of the mitochondrial DNA is replaced with DNA from another female.

How Ethical is Gene Editing?

Scientists disagree when it comes to the ethics of gene editing. Some people argue that altering DNA is essential for guarding against the dangers of embryonic diseases. Others say that three-parent babies go against nature and that Man is playing God. Another group wants to take the science further so that parents can choose visual characteristics like height and hair color, in addition to protecting children from the dangers of some diseases.

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