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Stirring the simmering 'designer baby' pot
Date:3/13/2014

(Garrison, NY) From genetic and genomic testing to new techniques in human assisted reproduction, various technologies are providing parents with more of a say about the children they have and "stirring the pot of 'designer baby' concerns," writes Thomas H. Murray, President Emeritus of The Hastings Center, in a commentary in Science.

Murray calls for a national conversation about how much discretion would-be parents should have. "Preventing a lethal disease is one thing; choosing the traits we desire is quite another," he writes.

He discusses public hearings two weeks ago by the United States Food and Drug Administration to consider whether to permit human testing of a new method of assisted reproduction mitochondrial manipulation that would prevent the transmission of certain rare diseases and perhaps address some causes of female infertility. At issue is the safety of the technology, as well as its ethical implications.

Mitochondrial manipulation creates an embryo with the nuclear DNA from the prospective mother and father (which contains most of the genetic material) and the mitochondrial DNA (containing 37 genes) from a donor without mitochondrial defects. Among the ethical concerns is that daughters produced by this procedure could pass down the mitochondrial DNA to their children. "Up to now, the United States has not allowed such genetic changes across generations," Murray writes.

He says that the FDA's discussion is the latest development that "tapped into a simmering controversy over what it means to have a child in an era of increasing convergence among genetic, genomic, and reproductive technologies." Those technologies include preimplantation genetic diagnosis (genetic analysis of embryos before implantation via in vitro fertilization) and prenatal screening to detect health problems in the fetus, including the prospects of a blood test of a pregnant woman to screen fetal DNA in her blood.

"Of all the possible choices
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Contact: Susan Gilbert
gilberts@thehastingscenter.org
845-424-4040 x244
The Hastings Center
Source:Eurekalert

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