Genetically Modified BabiesWednesday 19th of December 2012 | Category: Baby News | Written by: Rosanne Moulding
As we reach the end of 2012, we say goodbye to the year in which we saw our first genetically modified babies. So will 2013 bring more of the same, or have so many people's strong disagreement with this process put a stop to our GM babies? It's hard to tell whether we are on the cusp of a huge change for in vitro fertilisation, or whether we won't hear of any more genetically modified babies for a long time to come.
What does the term 'genetically modified babies' actually mean?
When we hear the words genetically modified babies, we might assume that these are babies whose genes are modified to create 'admirable' traits, something which has been highly condemned by the public and in the media. However, the babies born this year in the United States were modified as an almost 'side effect' of their method of being conceived. Put simply, these are babies whose parents were unable to have children naturally and so the egg which created them was modified. Professor Cohen discovered some of the women who were classed as infertile had defects in the tiny structures in their egg cells. This structure is called mitochondria. To enable the women's eggs to be fertilised by their partners' sperm, Professor Cohen extracted some healthy mitochondria from a donor's egg and injected it into the woman wishing to have a baby's egg. So far, it all sounds like just another advancement in the area of in vitro fertilisation, and if it helps couples to conceive, how can it be bad? Well, the reason that so many people object to this is because the mitochondria taken from the donor's egg contains their genes, therefore the babies who are conceived this way actually own three different types of DNA: the father's, the mother's, and the donor's. In fact, this is the 'first case of human germline genetic modification resulting in normal healthy children'.
It is believed that by giving someone three sets of DNA, we are tampering with our very make up. Some geneticists even fear that this could be used someday to give people strength or exceptional intelligence.
So will this continue to happen?
It is unsure at the moment whether genetically modified babies will continue to be created. Lord Winston, of the Hammersmith Hospital in West London has said that 'It would certainly not be allowed in Britain.' Whether that is a good or a bad thing is up to your personal opinion. It is hard to condemn something which helps couples who cannot conceive to have their own child, but when you are bringing in the DNA of a third person and therefore altering the way in which humans are composed, it is also hard to approve of the practise. In this debate, we should also be aware that these babies are real people and will possibly read about the way they were conceived when they are older. It is important that they are treated with respect in both the media and the public's opinion. Whatever 2013 brings us in terms of GM babies, there are sure to be a lot of people who feel strongly about it, and some people who fear for our future. But for now, the world has thirty extra babies all born to loving parents who were desperate to have a child, and we wish them prosperous and happy lives.