The recent birth of 30 genetically modified (GM) babies has sparked an ethical debate over whether fertility experiments help hopeful parents conceive or if scientists are altering humanity.
The existence of the infants was revealed the night of June 29. Fifteen of the babies were created over the past three years in a fertility program run by the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science (IRMS) of Saint Barnabas in New Jersey. They are all healthy.
Two of these one-year-old infants have the genes of three parents—two women and one man, reported the Daily Mail. Scientists were tasked with repairing the defected eggs of women undergoing infertility treatment, so they inserted mitochondria from donor eggs into these eggs, in addition to DNA from sperm cells. Their efforts were successful, creating at least two babies with the DNA of three parents. If these GM babies reproduce, this genetic change will be passed on to their offspring. The long-term effects of carrying DNA from three parents is yet to be seen.
Toying with the essential make-up of the human species is shunned by some geneticists, who fear that this technique could lead to the creation of a new race of humans—a designer breed crafted to amplify, pluck or fuse superior characteristics such as beauty, strength or high intelligence.
Professor Jacques Cohen, the IRMS science director who trained the embryology group for 18 years, discovered the method used to create GM children. He is regarded as a highly controversial yet brilliant pioneer in reproductive medicine. Among his most notable accomplishments, he is responsible for making it possible for infertile men to have children of their own by injecting sperm DNA directly into a fertile egg in a petri-dish.
However, many view his research and ambitions—such as his claim that he could clone children—as overstepping the boundaries of nature. “It would be an afternoon’s work for one of my students,” Cohen said of cloning a child. He has reportedly been approached by “at least three” individuals asking him to clone a child, but he had to deny their requests.
Indian Country Today Media Network wants to know your opinions on genetically altered babies: Is it the beginning of a new and potentially beneficial frontier in reproduction, or could playing Creator backfire?