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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.



Taking race out of human geneticsby Michael Yudell, Dorothy Roberts, Rob DeSalle & Sarah TishkoffScienceFebruary 5th, 2016"We believe the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research—so disputed and so mired in confusion—is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way."
Debating UK approval of gene editing in human embryos
[MP3]
[With CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]February 1st, 2016The decision by Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority marks the first time a country's national regulator has approved the technique.
U.K. Scientists Given OK to Use ‘Gene Editing’ on Human Embryos[cites CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by David MillsHealthlineFebruary 1st, 2016The experiments raise raised concerns over the possibility that “designer babies” will eventually be produced by using gene editing to alter the DNA of embryos.
Britain approves controversial gene-editing experiments[cites CGS’s Marcy Darnovsky]by Maria ChengAssociated PressFebruary 1st, 2016"This is the first step on a path that scientists have carefully mapped out towards the legalization" of genetically modified babies, said David King of Human Genetics Alert.
We Need More Proof That Prenatal Gene Screens Are Beneficialby The EditorsScientific AmericanFebruary 1st, 2016Results from screening tests can be misleading. Industry and federal regulators are not doing enough to ensure that people get all the information they need.
Who's Looking to Profit from Human Germline Changes?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJanuary 28th, 2016Billionaire Randal Kirk has assembled the components to commercialize heritable human genetic modification.
Down's Syndrome people risk 'extinction' at the hands of science, fear and ignoranceby Tim StanleyThe TelegraphJanuary 18th, 2016The true moral test of a society is not how pretty, sober or well organised it is – but how it treats its most vulnerable, even its most difficult, citizens.
I fathered 800 children, claims sperm donorby Natalie Morton & Sarah BellBBC NewsJanuary 11th, 2016An unlicensed UK sperm donor has been connecting with intended parents online for 16 years, donating once a week and charging $50 a pop.
Why Is Sperm So Damn Expensive?by Brittany MaloolyVICE BroadlyJanuary 10th, 2016On the sperm market, the amount of labor that's involved in obtaining so-called premium gametes drives sperm prices sky high.
Belgium's Top Ad Execs Are Donating Sperm and Eggs to Ensure the Nation's Creative Futureby Angela NatividadAdweekJanuary 8th, 2016The "vaguely eugenicist" campaign, called "Ad Babies," asks creative professionals to donate sperm and eggs.
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