by Dr. Heather Kuruvilla
There is no genetically perfect person. Every one of us carries mutations, both genetic and epigenetic, in our genomes. In the future, we may be able to repair these defects. Gene therapies have shown promise in treating some types of cancer, and may eventually be used to treat or cure diseases such as sickle-cell anemia and cystic fibrosis. But right now, genetics is being used to discriminate against, and even destroy embryonic human beings.
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis is marketed as a way to help infertile couples conceive, and is usually done in embryos which have been created by in vitro fertilization. According to the americanpregnancy.org website,
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis involves the following steps:
- First, one or two cells are removed from the embryo.
- The cells are then evaluated to determine if the inheritance of a problematic gene is present in the embryo.
- Once the PGD procedure has been performed and embryos free of genetic problems have been identified, the embryo will be placed back in the uterus, and implantation will be attempted.
- Any additional embryos that are free of genetic problems may be frozen for later use while embryos with the problematic gene are destroyed.
In the future, we may be able to use such technologies to diagnose and repair genetic defects. But at present, this technology is only used to destroy embryos, since we don’t yet have the capability to fix them. Is this technology simply giving hope to infertile couples? Or has eugenics reared its ugly head yet again?