by AVI VINCE
The pregnancy/baby debate is an ongoing cycle of theories and opinions. If science and society aren’t commenting on how and when you should consummate (you want my leg where?), they are talking about what and how you should eat, drink, workout and look during your pregnancy. Then there is how to pop it out (again, you want my leg where?), breastfeeding or bottle and a further twenty five years of conflicting advice on how to best raise them.
So why not add one more log of word to the fire pit?
Would you genetically modify your baby?
I’m not talking about blue eyes vs. brown eyes, or blonde vs. brunette. I’m talking about the recent laws that may be changed in the UK.
Reported in newspapers this week, UK scientists are offering up the change to have a guaranteed healthy baby. This is a baby that wouldn’t have any of your (the parents) harmful genes that would put them at risk of hereditary diseases.
In simple terms, it means when their GP asks, “Any history of hereditary disease in your family?” they can say, “Yes, but not for me.”
What’s the catch?
To remove your harmful DNA, scientists need a third parent. The recipe for a genetically disease free bub calls not only for you egg mixed with his sperm, but an additional donated egg thrown into the mixing bowl. More scientifically, whatever bad DNA you and your partner have gets removed and replaced (using the donated egg) with healthy DNA. And bang, fresh out of the oven, your baby won’t have your or his hereditary diseases.
Genetically modifying babies… Is this a good idea?
While it is not a disease, I’m lactose intolerant. According to my doctors, there is a gene in me that is switched off. My body just cannot digest the lactose from cow’s milk. But this gene isn’t my fault. While in my mum’s womb, I didn’t go, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to turn this switch off.” No, apparently it is hereditary. Someone in the branches above me on my family tree was lactose intolerant. Thing is, it isn’t anyone who is still alive. So I have a dead great-grand somebody to thank.
Again, I’m prone to high-cholesterol. I found out through a routine blood test a few years back. The doctor assured me it has nothing to do with my diet or weight (I heart leafy green vegies), but rather my realies on my dad’s side. They are from Eastern Europe, who are prone to high cholesterol levels. So thanks Dad.
If this technology was available when my parents were… let’s not go there. Would I want them to have used it? Probably not. Yes, it would’ve been nice to not be lactose intolerant so I didn’t suffer from daily stomach aches until I was 10 years old when finally a doctor diagnosed me instead of saying I was attention seeking. But really I don’t mind picking sorbet over ice-cream (but that may be because I’m vegan).
But what about those chronic hereditary diseases? The ones that can cause your child pain for the rest of their life? The one that pop its ugly head up like cystic fibrosis. Would you take the genetic altering option to break the chain of hereditary disease? Is this a way to find a cure for these diseases?
Or would you be traditional and put your baby at risk?
Of all the questions for parents, genetically modifying babies has to be the hardest one.