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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.



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?
CRISPR Opportunities ... For What? And for Whom?by Pete ShanksHuffington PostDecember 10th, 2014Money and deals are flowing into companies that promise to edit genes. Human, animal, plant, all kinds of DNA may be on the cutting board.
Commercialisation and the Moral Obligation to Create 'Designer' Babiesby John GallowayBioNewsDecember 8th, 2014Julian Savulescu made the case for a new 'eugenics', without ever using the word, at Progress Educational Trust's 2014 annual conference.
Couple Spends $50K to Choose Baby's Sex, Shining Light on Trend[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Beth GreenfieldYahooDecember 5th, 2014What if a boy wants to write poetry? What if a girl wants to play basketball? Not wear dresses? Announce that she’s transgender?
Extinct Species Should Stay Extinctby Ben A. MinteerCenter for Humans and NatureDecember 1st, 2014How far should we go to bring back lost species?
When Making Babies Goes High Tech: A Future Tense Event Recap[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Ariel BogleSlateNovember 24th, 2014From pre-implantation genetic screening to exo-wombs, these changes could even evolve our most basic notions of family and society.
Why Worry About Genetically Modified Babies?by Marcy Darnovsky and Jessica CussinsGeneWatchNovember 24th, 2014The terms "genetically modified babies" and "designer babies" are attention-getters. But beyond the catchy sound bites, what do they really mean - and are they something we need to worry about?
Breaking from our Eugenic Pastby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesNovember 13th, 2014As the victims of North Carolina's eugenics program finally receive compensation, we should not celebrate "the new eugenics" as some have argued, but learn carefully from this history.
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