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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.



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, 2016Stephen Hsu predicts the future of selecting genetic variants for our children, ultimately achieving "peak" human performance and intelligence.
Hacking life: Scientists ‘recode’ DNA in step toward lab-made organismsby Sharon BegleySTATAugust 18th, 2016Recoded organisms could have talents evolution hasn’t yet created. For instance, they could make proteins that do not exist in nature, including drugs.
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.
In the Fight for Our Genes, Could We Lose What Makes Us Human?by Ziyaad BhoratopenDemocracyAugust 17th, 2016The rapid commercialization of genetics threatens human dignity as our biology is exposed to society's political economy.
CRISPR patent fight: The legal bills are soaringby Sharon BegleySTATAugust 16th, 2016Editas has already spent $10.9M in 2016, but many in the CRISPR field wonder privately why Broad and UC Berkeley have not reached a settlement.
Athletes are keeping their distance from a genetic test for concussion risksby Rebecca RobbinsSTATAugust 15th, 2016Sports competitors, insurers, and researchers are cautious about the privacy and geneticization issues behind testing for "athletic" genes.
Ethical questions raised in search for Sardinian centenarians' secretsby Stephanie KirchgaessnerThe GuardianAugust 12th, 2016Samples from residents of Sardinia’s "Blue Zone," who are famed for longevity, have been sold to a for-profit British research firm.
Scientists break 13-year silence to insist 'three-parent baby' technique is safeby Ian JohnstonThe IndependentAugust 11th, 2016The researchers conclude the technique "can produce a viable pregnancy." But the pregnancy they established resulted in miscarriage.
Diversity, disability and eugenics: An interview with Rob Sparrowby Xavier SymonsBioEdgeAugust 11th, 2016Philosophers and the medical profession have been way too swift to make judgments about other people’s quality of life. We're not as far from the bad old eugenics as many think.
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