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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.



Human Gene Editing: A Timeline of CRISPR Cover StoriesWith recent gene editing tools, a number of high-profile media are featuring CRISPR on their covers and front pages. We gather highlights since early 2015, along with opinion polls, TV shows, and editorial board statements.
Review of Blame: A Novelby Abby Lippman, Biopolitical Times guest contributorNovember 28th, 2016Blame is especially important for those unfamiliar with the range of ethical, social, legal, and political issues raised by applications of what is learned in a lab. While a work of fiction, it is definitely not science-fiction
DNA-editing breakthrough could fix 'broken genes' in the brain, delay ageing and cure incurable diseasesby Ian JohnstonThe Independent [UK]November 16th, 2016The technique allows DNA changes that have not previously been possible, modifying the genes of non-dividing cells in a living animal.
CRISPR gene-editing tested in a person for the first timeby David CyranoskiNature NewsNovember 15th, 2016A clinical trial in China used cells edited with CRISPR-Cas9 to treat a patient with lung cancer. Spectators anticipate a biomedical duel with US.
San Diego Scientists Help Develop New Twist On In Vitro Fertilizationby David WagnerKPBSNovember 10th, 2016The patent holder for a related "3-person IVF" technique reports new work with "polar body genome transfer." Some experts say none of these approaches have been proven safe.
Why We Need to Rethink Ethnicity-Based Genetic Testingby Shivani NazarethUS News & World ReportNovember 7th, 2016The problem with genetic tests that assume people exist in neat race and ethnicity categories is that it simply is not an accurate reflection of their ancestry.
America’s ambivalence about race is seeping into scienceby Taunya EnglishThe Pulse, NewsworksNovember 4th, 2016"Race has been used to oppress people, ... to kill people. Does science really want to be using a concept that is so historically loaded?"
Fruity with a hint of double helix: A startup claims to tailor wine to your DNAby Rebecca RobbinsSTAT NewsOctober 27th, 2016Sequencing giant Illumina's new app store Helix is leading the charge of linking DNA analysis to lifestyle marketing.
Are Altered Mosquitoes a Public Health Project, or a Business?by Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewOctober 27th, 2016The fight against dengue and Zika in Latin America is turning into a contest between mosquito-altering technologies, and between profits and public health.
18 Years Later: First Update on Children Born Using 3-person IVF Precursorby Leah LowthorpBiopolitical TimesOctober 27th, 2016Citing a recent study, the media is celebrating "proof" that there is little danger in 3-person IVF. The study itself, however, is not at all certain of the reliability of its results.
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