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About Genetic Selection


Genetic selection procedures are done either on fetuses, through prenatal screening, or on embryos that are outside a woman’s body, through Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD).

PGD tests embryos for the presence of genetic sequences linked to a variety of conditions and characteristics. A cell is extracted from an embryo at its eight-cell stage and analyzed. Embryos with the selected characteristics can be implanted in a woman's uterus to develop into a child. The procedure does not appear to affect embryos’ or fetuses’ subsequent development, though more follow-up studies of children born after PGD are needed.


Frequently Asked Questions

Arguments Pro & Con

PGD was developed to allow couples at risk of passing on a serious genetic disease to have children not affected by it. Since its introduction in 1990, it has been most widely used to prevent the birth of children with conditions such as Down's syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, Huntington's chorea, and Cooley's anemia.

However, PGD is increasingly being used for other reasons. These include social sex selection, creating “savior siblings” who can provide bone marrow or other transplant tissues to sick older siblings, and selecting against embryos with genes correlated with late-onset and non-fatal conditions. Some clinics have even offered the technique for purely cosmetic traits including eye color, hair color, and skin complexion.

A newer variation of PGD, called Preimplantation Genetic Haplotyping, allows for many more genes to be tested, and for greater accuracy.

Many disability rights advocates, in particular, have been critical of PGD and prenatal screening. They point out that the definition of "disease" is to some extent subjective. Most support women’s right to decide whether or not to have a child at a given time, but are critical of basing this decision on the traits of the particular embryo or fetus.



Lisa Ikemoto Guest Piece on Human Germline Genetic Modificationby Lisa C. IkemotoKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogMarch 23rd, 2015The call for a moratorium is as much a game changer as the technology itself. It creates an opportunity for research transparency and open exchange between the scientific community and the lay public.
Public interest group condemns human germline modification efforts, supports research moratorium, calls for US prohibition[Press Statement]March 19th, 2015We're at a watershed moment in determining whether human genetic technologies will be used in the public interest and for the common good, or in ways that are dangerous and socially pernicious.
Engineering the Perfect Babyby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewMarch 5th, 2015Scientists are developing ways to edit the DNA of tomorrow’s children. Should they stop before it’s too late?
FDA Regulation and Early Prenatal Testingby George Estreich, Biopolitical Times guest contributorFebruary 5th, 2015The information that accompanies prenatal testing should be accurate, complete, useful, and most of all nondirective. The ads for early prenatal tests do not meet these criteria.
'Designer Babies' Debate Should Start, Scientists Sayby James GallagherBBC NewsJanuary 18th, 2015New gene editing techniques make "designer babies" more feasible, but that does not mean it's inevitably the way we have to go as a society.
The Future of Conceptionby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJanuary 8th, 2015Numerous writers took advantage of the ending year to look broadly at just how drastically we are changing the process of baby-making, and what it all means for society.
2014 in Biomedicine: Rewriting DNA, Decoding the Brain, and a GMO Paradoxby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewDecember 30th, 2014From genetically modified foods to gene therapy, 2014 was a big year for rewriting biology.
Cell Free DNA Screening is not a Simple Blood TestSociety for Maternal Fetal MedicineDecember 18th, 2014By its very nature, a screening test does not tell with 100% certainty whether or not a fetus will be affected by a given disorder.
Prenatal Tests: Oversold and Misunderstoodby George Estreich, Biopolitical Times guest contributorDecember 16th, 2014A scathing investigative report on the accuracy of noninvasive prenatal testing is likely to shift the terms of this important conversation.
Yesterday's War; Tomorrow's Technology by Nicholas G. Evans and Jonathan D. MorenoJournal of Law and the BiosciencesDecember 15th, 2014What's wrong with the prospect of the US military using genetic screening and germline genetic engineering to select or "enhance" soldiers?
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