Designer Babies: Genetically Edited Newborns

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In recent years, the branch of science that is genetic engineering has progressed immensely. The advancements allowed scientists to gain the knowledge and capability of artificially modifying the genes of embryos and subsequently implanting them in wombs. The term “designer babies” is applied to those genetically edited newborns.

The method which the scientists use to edit the human genome in embryos is not difficult to comprehend, though it is complex in practice. CRISPR is a state-of-the-art technology which is used as a tool to alter the structure of DNAs. During the procedure, unwanted DNA fragments are sheared out from the selected embryos by an enzyme CAS9 which acts similarly to a scalpel.

Genetic engineering has been a highly controversial topic in the public’s eye ever since it was hypothesized. Now that it is no longer hypothetical, the debate rapidly gained even more popularity. Those who argue for or against this newly found technology usually reason from two perspectives. One of which is technological and the other consider the ethics of designer babies.

As of now, there is a near-global ban on germline editing – the genetics modifications done on reproductive cells, due to the fear of unknown risks warned by scientists. The major risk according to our current knowledge is a mechanism called gene drive, this is where genetic elements pass from parents to their decedents. As a result, that genetic element quickly diffuses into the population, causing permanent changes to the human genome, possibly mutations. Since that genetic engineering is extremely complicated, a single mistake would require changes in thousands of DNA fragments. Besides, recent researches suggest that “CRISPR may cause cells to lose their cancer-fighting ability”. In the worst-case scenario, CRISPR would result in dreadful aftermath that would potentially lead to our extinction. Undeniably, it is reasonable for some to argue that instead of putting our species at stake, we should avoid such errors completely. However, developed countries like the US and the UK allow germline editing for the sole purpose of correcting hereditary diseases to investigate the possible consequences.

The ethics of genetic engineering and designer babies are strongly questioned. Firstly, some find the idea of parents taking absolute control of their children to be immoral. If babies were all to be designed, our future society would lack diversion in personalities and identities. Dyslexia, for example, is generally viewed as a defect, nonetheless, numerous studies show that this condition is related to traits such that of holistic thinking, creativity, spatial thinking etc.  If hereditary conditions like dyslexia is erased, individuality will be lost as all of the population have similar long-comings. Supporters of genetic engineering refute this argument stating that modern parents already are the ones deciding their children’s futures by selecting the environment which their children are exposed to. Therefore, designing a baby is simply deciding for them at an earlier stage.

Secondly, those against the idea also purpose that if the medical procedure becomes widely available, it would result in a massive societal split that is beyond mending. Presumably, designing babies would be done at a high cost due to the high demands, as a result, the gap would widen between the wealthy and the impoverished, in other words, those who can afford the procedure and those who cannot. Thanks to the enhancements, the heirs of the wealthy would be at eminently advantageous positions in comparison to those who did not undergo the procedure, causing the children of the poor to retain their social status. Overall, there exists a possibility that designer babies will obsolete the meritocratic competition in our current society. On the other hand, those who condone genetic engineering on embryos believe that there are many ways to better fit designer babies to our morals. During an interview, Arthur Caplan Ph.D., renowned Professor of Bioethics, suggested that an international organization can be founded comprising of members from different communities such that of the scientists, religion, ethics and legal leaders. The organization members can regulate the technology by setting up rules which all members accept. As an example, to prevent the social consequences as mentioned, the organization can forbid bringing enhancements to children via CRISPR, similar to the way the US and the UK are current regulating genetic engineering national wise. Genetic engineers ought to follow these rules to be certified for using the CRISPR technology.

Many of the supporting voices are heard from scientists who practice in the field of genetic engineering, they believe that the restrictions on their researches should be removed despite the possible repercussions. As previously mentioned, genetic engineering is an intricate study which is also new to the world of science. Advancements are almost guaranteed if further researches are done. Furthermore, as more is known about the human genome, scientists will be able to skillfully manipulate the genetic fragments whilst accurately avoiding problematic parts, thus reducing the risks of genetic engineering, especially in embryos.

Moreover, if the medical procedure is properly carried out, genes which are responsible for genetic defects or predispositions to diseases can be removed. For instance, mitochondrial genome mutations can lead to a range of untreatable mitochondrial diseases, reliable statistics show that 400 to 1000 newborns carry such conditions from birth. Although the mortality rate of mitochondrial diseases is low, being 14%, (Eom) those affected still live with symptoms that hinder their daily functions. Supposedly, children can also gain genetic enhancements, such that of a higher level of intelligence and a more athletic build, simply by adding on corresponding genes, however, our current knowledge on the human genome is insufficient for scientists to do so. As all modifications will be passed on to their heirs, fatal diseases caused by genetic mutation can potentially be eliminated and humankind strengthened with these genetic enhancements. Ultimately, the human life expectancy will increase by about 30 years if this technology is put to use.

As all of the major concerns, ethical and technological, on genetic engineering in embryos can be resolved, certainly the benefits of designing babies outweigh its drawbacks. It can be said that the future of technologies like such is completely dependent on the way we employ them. For designer babies to succeed in the future, scientists must be carefully monitored to obey all rules and not make risky decisions at their whim, in that way we can slowly advance forwards in the field of genetic engineering.


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  2. Dovey, Dana. “The Downside Of Banning Designer Babies.” Medical Daily, 26 Aug. 2016, www.medicaldaily.com/downside-banning-designer-babies-396181.
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  5. Kelly, James. “CRISPR’s Potential and Dangers: Is CRISPR Worth the Risk?” SciTechDaily, 22 Aug. 2018, scitechdaily.com/crisprs-potential-and-dangers-is-crispr-worth-the-risk/.
  6. Licholai, Gred. “Measuring the Risks, Potential of CRISPR.” Genetic Literacy Project, 30 Aug. 2018, geneticliteracyproject.org/2018/09/04/measuring-the-risks-potential-of-crispr/.
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Cite this paper

Designer Babies: Genetically Edited Newborns. (2020, Oct 31). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/designer-babies-genetically-edited-newborns/



Are designer babies genetically modified?
Yes, designer babies are genetically modified as they are created by selecting desired traits through genetic engineering techniques. This process involves altering the DNA of embryos to enhance or suppress certain characteristics.
What are CRISPR designer babies?
A CRISPR designer baby is a baby that has been genetically modified using the CRISPR-Cas9 system. This system allows for the precise editing of genes, which can be used to change the baby's physical appearance, intelligence, and even disease susceptibility.
What happened to the first gene-edited babies?
The first gene-edited babies were created in China in 2018. The babies were edited to be resistant to HIV.
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