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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.



Stocking the Genetic Supermarket: Reproductive Genetic Technologies and Collective Action Problemsby Chris Gyngell and Thomas DouglasWiley Online LibraryApril 10th, 2014Reproductive genetic technologies targeting non-medical traits could lead to collective action problems. Does this risk justify state intervention in the genetic supermarket?
Meet your unborn child – before it's even conceived[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Catherine de LangeNew ScientistApril 9th, 2014A service that creates digital embryos by virtually mixing two people's DNA will allow parents to screen out genetic disorders – and perhaps much more.
Editorial: Genome editing for allNature BiotechnologyApril 8th, 2014CRISPR-Cas is about to transform how we interrogate genetic variants and model disease.
Startup Offering DNA Screening of 'Hypothetical Babies' Raises Fears Over Designer Children[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Catherine de LangeThe GuardianApril 5th, 2014Anne Morriss and Lee Silver are about to launch a company called Genepeeks that uses the DNA of sperm donors and recipients to create "virtual babies."
Genetic Inheritance: How Much do you Want to Know?by Stuart JeffriesThe GuardianApril 4th, 2014Scientist Sharon Moalem says we will soon be able to alter our children's lives with genetic manipulation – would you do it if you could?
A Disturbing Trend: Conscience Clauses Threaten Genetic Counselingby Alex SternHuffPostApril 2nd, 2014Genetic counselors are increasingly being officially recognized and licensed, but some states are imposing "conscience clauses" that in practice may conflict with their professional ethics.
Breast Cancer Genes and Patient Protection in an Era of Personalized Medicineby Karuna JaggarHuffington PostMarch 20th, 2014Genetic testing is often heralded as a cornerstone of personalized medicine, but progress has lagged while persistent medical, ethical and scientific issues abound.
Can You Pass the (Deoxyribonucleic) Acid Test?[with CGS's Pete Shanks]Center for Environmental HealthMarch 17th, 2014Discussion with Kira Peikoff, Dr. David Ng, Dr. Stuart Newman, and Pete Shanks on 23andMe, direct-to-consumer genetic testing, epigenetics, and GMO humans.
Stirring the Simmering “Designer Baby” Potby Thomas H. MurrayScienceMarch 14th, 2014Good ethics begins with good facts, but the effort by the FDA to get the facts straight is just the beginning of the conversation we must have on the wisdom of new reproductive technologies.
Adrienne Asch: A Career at the Intersection of Bioethics and Disability Studiesby Sara BergstresserVoices in BioethicsMarch 12th, 2014Recognizing Adrienne Asch's pioneering work: Remembrances by three people who knew her both professionally and personally.
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