Designer Babies

Of Artificial Mice and Men Embryos

Creation of artificial mouse embryos provokes bioethical handwringing about designer babies

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MouseEmbryosScience
Science

Cambridge University researchers have created mouse embryos using stem cells. This is the first time this has been done in mammals. The researchers combined embryonic stem cells and cells that form the placental tissue, rather than starting from a fertilized egg. They then put the cells in a three-dimensional scaffold in a culture mimicking fluids in the womb that allowed them to develop together. The artificial embryos grew for seven days dividing and forming structures found in naturally grown mouse embryos.

The scientists suggest that the same procedures might be applied to create artificial human embryos that would help fertility researchers to figure out why so many pregnancies fail to take. Naturally, advances of this sort provoke bioethical handwringing about "designer babies." For instance, The Daily Telegraph reports:

Dr David King, director of the watchdog group, Human Genetics Alert, said: "What concerns me about the possibility of artificial embryos is that this may become a route to creating GM or even cloned babies.

"Until there is an enforceable global ban on those possibilities, as we saw with mitochondrial transfer, this kind of research risks doing the scientific groundwork for entrepreneurs, who will use the technologies in countries with no regulation."

Why a ban? What is ethically wrong with editing disease genes out of human embryos (GM!) so that they develop into healthy babies? What is immoral about cloning human beings? Once perfected, why shouldn't prospective parents who can't produce gametes be allowed to access these techniques to give birth to genetically-related children?

Congratulations to the researchers on this breakthrough. Full speed ahead.

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58 responses to “Of Artificial Mice and Men Embryos

  1. What is ethically wrong with editing disease genes out of human embryos (GM!) so that they develop into healthy babies?

    Nothing that I can see. Cloning and designer children are a different story. You are creating a person and giving them qualities without their consent. What gives you the right to enforce your preferences on another being? Does being the creator of that being necessarily make your will supreme? I don’t see how.

    More importantly, once you start creating people and engendering them with your preferred characteristics, you have deprived that person of their sovereignty and turned them into a tool for your end. You create a clone of Ron Baily and that person is no longer a person with their own dignity, they are a tool. They are a means to their being a new Ron Bailey or whatever other ends you are trying to achieve through the genetic engineering. What if it goes wrong and he comes out sort of Ron Bailey? What do you say to that person? That they are a failure. Because their purpose was to be Ron Bailey, otherwise why did you clone them?

    I think we need to separate forms of medical treatment that cure disease and such and for lack of a better term, life engineering. The former is fine. The latter is monstrous.

    1. You are creating a person and giving them qualities without their consent. What gives you the right to enforce your preferences on another being? Does being the creator of that being necessarily make your will supreme? I don’t see how.

      How is this any different than natural reproduction? In what way are the preferences of your heritage more moral than the preferences of your desire?

      1. The difference is with natural reproduction, no one is making a choice. If I am not making the choice, then you are not my tool for whatever end I want. If I can’t control the characteristics, then I am not making the choice and you are your own person not a tool I created.

        1. The two people getting it on aren’t making a choice?

          I can make the choice of what woman (available to me) I’d prefer to procreate with. That influences the characteristics of the child. It’s not total control, but I could decide that I don’t want to procreate with blondes, and as a result of that choice, my child is not blond.

          Likewise, while I can’t control my genes, I can decide whether or not to pass them on.

          1. They are choosing to create you. But the act creation is not the act of determining your characteristics. Yeah, you can guess what the kid will look like generally but you don’t know and you don’t control it. You can go out and marry someone athletic hoping to get an athletic kid, but you really can’t control it. You can maybe have a better shot.

            That is different than genetically engineering your kid to have whatever characteristics you want. There you are deciding for them, “you will be tall and athletic or smart or whatever”. And you are making them into a tool for your ends. That is depriving them of their humanity and totally inconsistent with the NAP.

            1. You may be increasing the degree of control over your choice, but that doesn’t deprive the child of any choices they otherwise would have had. They have no choice over anything, in either scenario.

              I don’t see how that makes them a “tool for your ends”. In the old days, you’d have kids so that they could be put to work on your farm, making them a de facto tool for your ends. Is that depriving them of their humanity?

              1. but that doesn’t deprive the child of any choices they otherwise would have had.

                That doesn’t make it any better. Just because you can’t choose something doesn’t give me the right to choose for you.

                I don’t see how that makes them a “tool for your ends”.

                If you are not giving the kid these characteristics for some end, why are you doing it? The only reason you want those characteristics is because you prefer them in some way. That makes the kid a tool to achieve whatever end you prefer, like having an attractive or a smart child or whatever.

              2. And as far as using the kid for cheap labor and such, the difference is that there they will eventually be an adult and can make their own choices and no longer be your labor. Here we are talking about their genetic makeup and they can never change or reject that.

                1. What if I carry the sickle cell gene? Can I create a bunch of embryos and discard the ones that have it? Parkinson’s? BRCA1? Down’s? Gender? When does it change from being screening for life threatening defects to immoral?

          2. Think of it as if the govvernment told who can and can not breed together and arranged certain couples to have sex for a desired outcome. Thats what he is getting at.

        2. That’s the GMO line. “Natural” breeding is ok because random. “Artificial” is bad because precise.

          Once again you have no principles other than “icky” and “I don’t like it”.

        3. So you are against selecting sperm so as to produce a boy or a girl?

          1. selecting sperm is different than going in and editing someone. It is basically editing genes of a living person.

            For an example taking an egg or sperm and editing it is no different than taking a baby and editing its DNA to modify its out come* (assume the technology existed). The end result is the same. Selective breeding is not the same as editing DNA code.

            Editing sperm/egg before multiplication into a baby or editing a zygot or whatever vs editing 100% of all DNA post birth will result in the same thing (assuming you could pull that off). That is his point on how you are forcing your will on a person.

            I personal have no formal opinion on the concept but I do see where john is coming from.

      2. The unpredictable results of natural reproduction are not under my control and not my choice. They are not anyone’s choice. And they are therefore not anyone forcing their will and choices on someone else.

        1. Ah, light dawns. Your comments and opinions are ok because your lack of principles means you have no control over them. Any principled opinion is obviously suspect, dangerous, and/or icky.

        2. Shooting a gun into the air is ok because random and unpredictable, where as shooting a specific individual is always bad, even if the target is trying to kill me or rob me.

          The 9-11 hijackers were toot sweet ok because they were just aiming at random people and had no control over who was in those buildings. But the flight 93 passengers who attacked the hijackers were evil bastards because they targeted specific people.

          This is fun! I like this morality, this could be some fun. Except that because I answer John, I am evil, whereas if I picked a comment at random to answer, it would be ok.

          1. that isn’t even a comparable analogy.

            A comparable one would be using gene therapy to change a babies behavior and editing DNA in original cells to change a future behavior.

            That is comparable and where he has an ethical issue.

            1. What was comparable was how quickly his principles shift. IOW, he has none, because principles don’t shift like that.

              1. you are imagining his shift. He has been consistent the whole time.

    2. “The latter is monstrous.”

      Why would it be inherently monstrous? Many of us are born with inherited genetic defects. I don’t see how sparing your offspring from future health complications or a physical inferiority should be viewed as evil.

      1. Many of us are born with inherited genetic defects. I don’t see how sparing your offspring from future health complications or a physical inferiority should be viewed as evil.

        I didn’t say that was monstrous. I said designer babies and cloning were. I said that there was nothing wrong with curing disease and defects.

        1. Okay. But if you have evidence you’ll pass along a certain defective trait and can prevent that from even developing in the embryo in the first place, why wouldn’t you?

          1. I don’t see a problem with curing defects. If there is a way to keep your kid from being deaf or blind or dying when they are 20, then this is just a medical treatment. Where I object is when someone acts because they want the kid not be a certain way rather than just healthy.

            1. What if you could edit in strength or intelligence? Disease resistance? Would that be bad? Hiw is it different from paying for a tutor or a personal trainer?

              1. I think his moral issue is drawn with changes that afford someones identity beyond environment/experiences. Editing behavior, editing intelligence, and the like.

                Editing out diseases and genetic traits to health problems do not directly change someones identity. It can change life experiences but not their core being.

                This is where he is drawing the line from my understanding. I see his point and can agree with him but i don’t have a formal opinion if i am for or against. I can see where he comes from and agree with his point on the ethics but i don’t know if its something that should/n’t be done.

    3. You are creating a person and giving them qualities without their consent.

      This is true of all reproduction, so this line of thinking would mean that having children at all is immoral because they can’t consent to the lives they are being given. Oh my God, John is making a Nikki argument. We’re through the looking glass, people.

      1. No it is not. In natural reproduction, I don’t’ choose the characteristics of my children. No one does. They just happen via nature. Therefore, I am not enforcing my desires and preferences on them, except that they should exist.

        I am not making the Nikki argument. I am not saying it is wrong to force them to exist. I am saying it is wrong to decide you kid must have blue eyes because you like blue eyes. Who are you to decide what eye color someone else has?

        1. “Who are you to decide what eye color someone else has?”

          Who are my parents for forcing me to have a circumcision as an infant? Personally, I think I’d resent them for it as much as I would for choosing my eye color for me; which is ‘not at all’.

          1. Having a circumcision was a violation of your sovereignty. Whether it is one large enough to qualify as immoral is debatable. But it is a violation.

            Deciding that your kid is going to be tall and athletic is also a violation of their sovereignty and one that deprives them of their humanity and is immoral.

            1. “Deciding that your kid is going to be tall and athletic is also a violation of their sovereignty and one that deprives them of their humanity and is immoral.”

              Huh. I don’t see how trying to provide your offspring with as much as a mental and physical advantage as possible in order to succeed in life as immoral.

              Agree to disagree, I guess.

              1. uh. I don’t see how trying to provide your offspring with as much as a mental and physical advantage as possible in order to succeed in life as immoral.

                It is immoral because you don’t have a right to make someone to suit your tastes. Just because you think a characteristic is good, doesn’t mean everyone does. For example, having a really IQ is not always a blessing. Given a choice, a lot of people would rather have an above average but not really big IQ. So you go and give your kid an 180 IQ, because they need all of the advantages they can get. And they also get the disadvantages that come with that, and there are some. What gives you the right to decide that? You don’t have that right. And the fact that it happens on its own doesn’t give you the right to step in and make the choice for the kid.

                1. So you have the right to procreate and bring a child into existence against their will but cannot predetermine their physical and mental traits?

                  Look, I know I’m a bit of an uneducated dumbfuck but I just can’t see how one is perfectly okay and the other is completely out of bounds with contemporary western morality.

                  Not trying to be an argumentative dick with you, John, BTW.

                  1. Yes. Why does creating the child necessarily give you any right to make any other choices about their existence?

                    1. Pre or postnatal? Is that your baseline for when it transfers from unethical engineering to responsible parenting? Honestly curious.

                  2. Yes, Trigger Hippie, you have the right to create an entirely random human being, warts and all. You are not allowed to do any better.

                    Following up on this, you must clothe them in whatever random clothes you find in free boxes, not anything you bought for its quality.

                    You must feed them whatever random garbage you can find in dumpsters behind restaurants. You must not feed them planned meals.

                    Grab whatever random books and newspapers you find lying around or blowing down the street. Do not buy them targeted textbooks or let them use any specific educational materials.

                    College? Fuhgeddabodit.

        2. I am not making the Nikki argument.

          You are making the anti-GMO argument.

    4. Reconstructive surgery, developed largely by trying to make soldiers horribly disfigured in combat look a little less horribly disfigured, has led to a whole industry of tuckers and tighteners trying to make 50-somethings look like 30-somethings. If you’ve seen some of the results, you know some of that gets pretty monstrous. But if you start picking and choosing who gets to decide who’s worthy of getting treatment you have the problem of picking and choosing who gets to do the picking and choosing. People are going to use technology for their own stupid ends – the ability to broadcast the thoughts and ideas of the finest minds in the world was used to broadcast Green Acres and advertisements for toilet paper instead.

      1. That is nice but in all cases of surgery, the people getting the surgery are choosing to have it. That is not what we are talking about here.

        And as I explain above, using this technology to cure defects is not objectionable. It is using this technology to give children charecteristics their parents prefer but they never consented to having is what is wrong.

        People are going to use technology for their own stupid ends – the ability to broadcast the thoughts and ideas of the finest minds in the world was used to broadcast Green Acres and advertisements for toilet paper instead.

        No shit. But that doesn’t make those uses right or something that we should condom. People used machine guns to murder refugees. So what?

    5. You are creating a person and giving them qualities without their consent.

      So…just like humans have always done? OMG that tall white guy is having sex with that short black woman! Don’t they know that they might create a bay with qualities that the baby did not “consent” to?!

      1. You don’t control your kid’s genetic characteristics. You control if they are created and nothing else.

        Now go away and let the adults talk for a while. You have emoted enough stupidity for one day.

  2. I think it’s great we can edit those genes that make a certain population’s mean IQ 85 instead of 100. We should embrace that. Odd to see such an alt-reich position taken here, but hey.

    1. It is Bailey land, technology can only be used for good.

    2. Your point is a very good one and shows the fallacy of Bailey’s thinking on this. Bailey doesn’t see the wrong in this because he only sees people doing nice things. Hey, who wouldn’t want their kid to have a high IQ or be tall or whatever?

      That sounds nice but as you point out, what if someone wants to create a person who is dumb and useful for manual labor? What then? Why is that wrong? it is wrong for the same reason that Bailey’s fantasy perfect children are wrong, people are not tools and no one has a right to create them to suit their purposes. It doesn’t matter what those purposes are.

      1. See, there’s an exellent example of you tolerating and even encouraging off-topic comments when they suit your purpose. Nothing in the article had anything to do with widespread forced 85 IQ adoption, yet you think it entirely on-target.

        Principles, principles, principles. Do a mind good.

        Now go away and leave the discussion to the adults.

    3. I can just see the government going and forcing all babies to be born submissive :/ Jesus….way to ruin my day!

  3. Why a ban? What is ethically wrong with editing disease genes out of human embryos (GM!) so that they develop into healthy babies? What is immoral about cloning human beings? Once perfected, why shouldn’t prospective parents who can’t produce gametes be allowed to access these techniques to give birth to genetically-related children?

    It’s like you’ve never even heard of The Island of Dr. Moreau. Don’t you know playing God always results in divine retribution even if it’s a deus ex machine doing the retributioning? It’s why I don’t wear polyester or eyeglasses or deodorant or ever visit the dentist – it’s all an unnatural meddling with the affairs of the gods.

  4. Look, we can point out the immorality if not the outright potential dangers of genetic engineering all day long, but we’re overlooking the real and immediate problem here. They’re already cloning mice. We don’t need more mice. We have enough mice!

    1. Solution: clone cats.

    2. Those mice will be smarter than we are soon.

      1. Are you pondering what I’m pondering?

      2. And riddled with cancer from all the Splenda.

  5. “Why a ban? What is ethically wrong with editing disease genes out of human embryos (GM!) so that they develop into healthy babies?”

    Nothing. Nothing at all. Unfortunately, this is one of those issues where the progressive left’s obsession with ‘all things should be natural’ and social conservatives’ obsession with ‘as God wills it’ intersect.

    1. Bipartisanship! Yay!

    2. nothing wrong with diseases but forcing what you want into another person like forcing them to be aggressive or submissive personality is a serious issue.

      Are you okay with the government or parents genetically altering babies personality to be submissive or giving or caring or intelligent? This is where john has an issue and for good reasons.

      1. The parents, not really. Those same traits can be conditioned by the child’s parents for many years after they leave the womb. Now the government, that’s a different story. I think the government would be engaging in that sort of thing at at the military level asap. Regardless the legality of it for the rest of us.

        My main gripe is with the government making the decision for you when it should be up to you and your doctor.

        I understand the ethical concern about denying somebody what you might consider their true personhood but I find it extremely difficult to think the vast majority of people wouldn’t benefit from a physical and mental boost. I also would be surprised if parents used the technology to genetically turn their kids into subhuman submissive drones.*

        *thinks about modern childrens’ addiction to all things distractingly electronic*

        Well shit. You may have a point.

  6. Enough “science” already! If deformed and suffering children were good enough for Ma and Dad and Jesus, they’re good enough for me. Pass the grits.

  7. There is nothing ethically wrong with it as long as it works. It is what happens when you have side effects is whete it becomes questionable. And as for clones, that depends on exactly why you want to have clones.

  8. I have an ethical problem with making mice. Little fuckers chew holes in my garbage and crap all over the place. Then they die in my boot.

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