MONDAY, 11 DECEMBER 2023Would you like your baby to be genetically modified? With the in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and gene-editing technologies well heard nowadays, the prospect of being able to select the genetic makeup of our future generations is looming. If you ever wonder about what choice you might make, a new book - “The End of Genetics:Designing Humanity’s DNA”, written by the renowned geneticist David Goldstein, may offer some clues.
When faced with decisions concerning genetic modification in humans, mixed feelings may arise depending on the context: should we eliminate known genetic variations that cause fatal or debilitating diseases? Many parents may be inclined to say yes. However, thoughts and emotions can get complicated when it comes to non-life-threatening characteristics, such as height and intelligence, and this raises many more questions than answers. Would we create a healthier humanity or relapse back into the horrors of eugenics prevalent merely a few decades ago? Would there still be a sense of biological belonging to a family if parents decide not to have their children inherit their genetic quirks? After all, do we really know about the potential consequences of applying reproductive genome editing en masse?
By taking readers through the history of human genetics – from the realisation of heredity as a concept, all the way up to the latest advancements in reproductive gene editing technology – Goldstein lays out what we do and do not yet know about the ways in which genetic variations in the population may affect our lives and well-being. Goldstein stresses that for better or worse, as with any technological progress in human history, what can be done will be done; so now is the time for scientists to inform the public more about the uncertainty and less about the hype around this potential avenue of reproductive genome design.
Article by Raina Jia. Artwork by Sumit Sen