Editing embryos- fiction, science fiction or both?

Designer babies and gene editing: fiction, science fiction or both: Princeton IVF blog
Researchers in Oregon 

A recent report from Oregon describes how researchers edited the genes in a human embryo.

To many of us, myself included, it sounds a bit scary.

An article in the NY times argues that it is huge leap from gene editing to designer babies, since most human traits require the interaction between a number of genes and the environment

There are thousands of what are called single gene mutation disorders that this gene editing technology may be able fix. Examples of this include Cystic Fibrosis, Tay Sachs disease and Sickle Cell Anemia. These types of diseases are due to a single gene mutation which could potentially be repaired using this technology. Many of these disorders can currently be screened for and diagnosed (if anticipated) during the IVF process using Preimplantion Genetic  Diagnosis (PGD)

Picking out your child's height, or athletic or intellectual abilities are another story. Height alone is likely to controlled by tens of thousands of genes, of which less than a thousand have been identified. Even if all of the genetics could be worked out, the task of editing those genes would be enormous.

So, for now at least, designer babies are the stuff of science fiction.

Dr. Derman gives talk at Princeton University

Dr. Seth Derman discusses ethics of fertility treatment at Princeton University: Princeton IVF blog
Dr. Seth Derman lectures at Princeton University

Princeton IVF doctor speaks at Princeton University biomedical ethics seminar

Dr. Seth Derman was invited to address a group of students at Princeton University's Center for Jewish Life as part of the their Fellowship in Jewish Medical Bioethics. He discussed with a group of engaged, intelligent young women and men about what Reproductive Medicine specialists do  to help their patients have a child, and the exciting technology and fundamental ethical issues that go along with the territory. The students came away a better understand of the ethical and emotional issues that face couples undergoing fertility treatment.

Genetically testing embryos can improve the chances for pregnancy and lower the risk of multiples

PGD embryos  biopsy

This article which appeared recently in our local paper The Trenton Times (and originaly in the Star Ledger) profiled a laboratory we work with at Princeton IVF called Reprogenetics. The test they discussed called Array cGH involves removing some cells from embryos created during IVF and testing them to compare the amount of genetic material they contain from each of the chromosomes. It enables us to diagnose disorders such as Down Syndrome and Turner Syndrome, avoid putting back most abnormal embryos and select embryos for gender. In comparison to earlier methods it is a more comprehensive chromosome screening technique. Click here to read the article.