Designer Babies by John Bliss

By John Bliss

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1997 Dolly the Sheep, the first adult animal clone, is born. 2003 The human genome is completely sequenced. 2009 Fertility Institutes announces plans to screen embryos for hair, eye, and skin colour. 2009 Nadya Suleman gives birth to octuplets as a result of IVF. 2010 Robert Edwards is awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for the development of human in vitro fertilization therapy. In the 50 years since Watson and Crick examined the structure of the DNA molecule, genetic science has grown tremendously.

41 s e r u t fu e l b i Poss Screening embryos for desirable traits is one thing. But what happens when parents have the ability to add genetic enhancements to their children? Should we have the ability to programme our children for higher IQs or a longer life? Genetic science isn’t likely to stop with simply choosing traits already present in embryos. We already have the ability to alter and even add genes to organisms. In 2007 researchers at Cornell University in New York created the first genetically modified human embryo when they added a green fluorescent protein to an embryo left over from an in vitro fertilization.

Coli does not smell very nice. In fact, it smells like faeces! So when researchers are working with a lot of E. coli cultures, the lab smells like a poorly kept bathroom! Students at MIT in the United States decided to tackle this problem head-on. They introduced a gene from the petunia plant to create a new strain of E. coli that smelled better. Encouraged by their success, they took the experiment a step further. They implanted a second gene that triggered a change in the smell once the culture had finished growing.

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