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Name: Amy
Status: Student
Age: 14
Location: N/A
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Date: N/A 

Is it possible for scientists to genetically change a baby embryo to how you would like it?

The technology as it stands today does not allow us to do this. In the future, perhaps we can change eggs or sperm before fertilization, but now embryos cannot be changed once fertilization has taken place.

van hoeck

Not yet ...but not too far into the future changing some of the genes in an embryo will be possible...probably first for genetic diseases.


The technology to genetically alter humans has nearly reached that level. I don't see any TECHNICAL reason that it would not be possible within the next couple of years in a very specialized laboratory. This sort of experimentation (human cloning, etc.) is banned in the United States. That ban is not worldwide, and I will bet there is a mad scientist somewhere out there working on it.

However, there are lots of ethical issues to consider. There are lots of possible good uses for this sort of technology like eliminating genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis or certain types of diabetes. You could potentially remove cancer susceptibilities or narcolepsy. But it gets sticky when you realize that that would mean we'd also have the ability to change a person's appearance (skin color). Even their behavior might be genetically controlled. (What if there is a tendency-to-violence trait? Would changing that make a person an obedient zombie?). And how could a parent say no to adding a gene that might make their children more intelligent?

If you want to do some interesting science fiction reading on the possibilities, check out Huxley's Brave New World or Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game series (especially the 3rd book -- Xenocide).

Christine Ticknor, Ph.D.
Case Western Reserve University

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