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Should genetic engineering or human cloning be used to create designer babies?
Every parent wants a perfect child – but what happens when a parent wants a designer child – a child built to order, a pedigree child, a super-breed, super-human or just a baby with higher intelligence? Sex selection is just the start of the process, a form of designer life: parents deciding that only a certain type of perfectly normal child will be allowed to be born.
Latest research is turning all these dreams into reality, using technology developed originally for use in animals.
The simplest way to a designer child is human cloning: taking a cell from an adult and combining it with a human egg to make an identikit clone of the adult. This is the ultimate pedigree child with guaranteed genes. What is more, we know from tracking the life of the adult exactly what the designer baby will look like at the age of two, ten, twenty, thirty and so on. We know what diseases the designer person will be likely to catch. We know a lot about the personality profile of the growing child. Studies of identical twins reared apart show us just how much more than we think is influenced by our genes. Of course all identical twins are individuals who make their own choices, but our genetic makeup is extremely important in who we turn out to be. There are technical hurdles still perhaps to be overcome before human cloning will be a reality but the race is on.
Another more difficult way to make designer people, or a super race, is to take sperm or eggs, or cells in a developing embryo, and add new genes to them. This is called germ cell alteration. Although this sounds very difficult, designer animals are made routinely using genetic engineering. Indeed, official government statistics show that almost a million designer animals were made in UK laboratories alone, many as transgenic animals, combinations of more than one species – say a cat and a dog, or a mouse,.