The modern age of science has ushered in a new era of over- design and obsession with customization. You can design and customize your car. You can customize your house down to the most insignificant detail. You can customize your clothes, your diet, your hair and your even appearance through plastic surgery.
Soon, you'll be able to customize your children.
But what exactly are designer babies, and is this really where the future of our offspring is going? Are people really going to be doing this?
A designer baby is one whose genetic makeup has been selected in order to eradicate a particular defect or ensure that a particular, desirable gene is present. Basically, it's done for viability or for vanity.
1. For Viability
The first time scientists edited DNA of human embryos drew much criticism from the scientific community. The experiment, published in Protein & Cell, was conducted by Junjiu Huang and colleagues at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China.
Huang and his team altered the gene called HBB in 86 human embryos. The HBB gene can cause a fatal blood disorder known as beta-thalassemia, which reduces the production of hemoglobin.
Genetically modifying embryos to eliminate diseases based on single gene mutations, including Huntington's disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and Tay-Sachs disease could be a huge development and save many from suffering. But it would not come without numerous safety and ethical concerns.
"We don't really understand enough of the genome to be making these types of changes," said Eric Schadt, director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York to CBS News.
Any changes made to DNA could be handed down as a permanent part of the human genetic blueprint. If scientists were to make a mistake, that mistake could be introduced to progeny with unforeseen consequences. We don't know which traits will be desirable for our environment hundreds of years down the road, so it's a little reckless to give doctors everywhere the power to change DNA.
Members of the scientific community were also concerned about the success of Huang's experiment because of what it meant for the other version of designer babies, the vanity kind, that they fear would get out of control.
2. For Vanity
While most people can understand the idea of altering DNA for the sake of health and eliminating diseases, the idea of selecting your child's DNA to make them blue-eyed and athletic or brown-eyed and brilliant is a little unnatural.
"Beyond preventing and curing disease, it's starting to change all sorts of physical characteristics, enhancing your memory, enhancing your intelligence," Schadt said.
Additionally, the technology would at least at first only be available to those would be be able to afford it, which would further widen the gap between the wealthy and the poor.
While many of us look forward to having kids and think how great it would be if they had curly hair or how cool it would be if they had their dad's height, it just seems abnormal to take it to a genetically modified extreme. The general consensus in the scientific community is that it is also irresponsible.
What do you think? Would you want a designer baby?