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It's Not Eugenics, it's Embryo Selection

Some couples use egg or sperm donors selected for their physical characteristics, education, aptitudes, and other traits, but this does not guarantee their children will share these traits. Reliable genetic engineering of human embryos is not yet possible, but recent advances in embryo selection can allow parents to select the best traits for their children.

Since 1978 in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer has been used to help couples with fertility problems have children. For several decades, the implantation of multiple embryos has facilitated identification of healthy fetuses with desirable traits and selective reduction of defective fetuses. Prenatal genetic screening has been used to select embryos without monogenic disorders like thalassaemia, sickle cell anemia, haemophilia, cystic fibrosis, and tay sachs disease or to select for gender or eye and hair color.

Recent advances in whole genome amplification from single cells have allowed for genetic screening of embryos prior to implantation. This addresses some peopleís ethical concerns and more importantly allows larger numbers of embryos to be screened for desirable traits. Careful administration of follicle stimulating hormone can stimulate ovaries to produce as many as 70 mature eggs at once. Through multiple egg retrieval cycles, hundreds of eggs can be retrieved for embryo production and genetic screening.

Bioinformatic studies have identified genes contributing to athletic performance, intelligence, height, myopia, mental health, homosexuality, and artistic talent. Through whole genome sequencing, profiles of disease risk, physical attributes, and aptitudes can be constructed for each embryo allowing parents to choose the embryo with the most desirable profile.

Embryo selection does not allow parents to construct the perfect child. Childrenís attributes are limited by their parentís genetic contributions and rearing environment, although environmental limitations are minimal in those wealthy enough to afford embryo selection. Embryo selection is also limited by genetic complexity. It will be rare to find an embryo with all physical traits maximized, but screening of hundreds of embryos greatly increases the chances of having healthy, successful offspring.

dodo@scientastica.com

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