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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.



When Evolution Fights Back Against Genetic Engineeringby Brooke BorelThe AtlanticSeptember 12th, 2016Gene drive raises irreversible threats to ecosystems and unpredictable consequences that cannot be vetted in controlled lab settings.
Will Genetic Engineering Really Change Everything Forever? [Video Review]by Elliot HosmanSeptember 8th, 2016The hype surrounding CRISPR gene editing and a future of designer babies is on playback with a popular new video. Is its optimism justified? And who decides what’s inevitable?
Remembering Ruth Hubbardby Marcy DarnovskySeptember 8th, 2016Ruth Hubbard — biologist, feminist scholar, social justice advocate, and critic of what she termed “the gene myth” — has died.
5 Reasons Why We Need People with Disabilities in the CRISPR Debatesby Emily Beitiks, Biopolitical Times guest contributorSeptember 8th, 2016“Why do I have to keep justifying my existence?” How gene editing policy discussions reproduce ableist assumptions and generate advocacy fatigue.
Passing My Disability On to My Childrenby Sheila BlackNew York TimesSeptember 7th, 2016Drawing on personal experience, Sheila Black challenges the logic of creating "designer babies" with screening or modifying technologies.
The Perils of Planned Extinctionsby Claire Hope CummingsProject SyndicateSeptember 6th, 2016Instead of taking time to fully consider the ethical, ecological, and social issues of gene-drive technology, many are aggressively promoting its use in conservation.
Why Gene Tests for Cancer Don't Offer More Answersby Jessica WapnerScientific AmericanAugust 29th, 2016Genetic profiling of tumors has a long way to go. Many patients learn that their cancers have mutations for which no drug exists
Humans of the Future Could Be Much Faster Than Usain Bolt or Michael PhelpsSouth China Morning PostAugust 23rd, 2016We could be getting closer to the post-human era, where we modify our own genetics to the point that we're less recognisably "human" than ever before.
Hacking life: Scientists ‘recode’ DNA in step toward lab-made organismsby Sharon BegleySTATAugust 18th, 2016It may not be long before scientists assemble genomes of higher organisms, as George Church proposed to do for the human genome.
ExAC Project Pins Down Rare Gene VariantsNature EditorialAugust 17th, 2016A new study found only 9 of 192 variants were actually linked to pathogenic disease despite ongoing use in diagnosis and treatment.
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