Company Patents DNA System That Helps Parents Pick "Ideal" Offspring Traits
Before medical and technological advances, when a couple got pregnant, the health and the physical appearance of the unborn child remained unknown until birth. Nowadays, doctors can provide couples with risk factors for genetic disorders and other health conditions. Even though doctors can provide these numbers, couples still did not have the option to choose certain traits over others. Now, company 23andMe has patented their DNA system, which helps couples choose ideal traits for their offspring.
23andMe applied for the patent in 2008 and has finally received it on September 24, 2013. This new DNA system helps genetically analyze couples' sperms and eggs. The program provides a list of possible traits and risk factors based on each particular egg and sperm. The couples can then pick which egg and which sperm they want to fertilize, thus creating an ideal baby. Traits could include anything from height, hair color, risk of diseases and degree of athleticism. The company also states that it can estimate the amount of health care costs that the parents can expect from different egg-sperm combinations.
The company explained that its program is similar to how infertile couples choose donors. When people cannot get pregnant on their own, they tend to pick people who have healthy families, better physical appearances and good traits, such as altruism and athleticism. The program works by monitoring embryos during in vitro fertilization for both health risks and personality or physical traits. Current day in vitro fertilization only checks for genetic mutations.
Even though this type of technology does not change any of the genetic material, some ethicists are worried about the idea of creating an ideal child. The company has stated that it does not intend to use its system to genetically create a better child. It only promises to provide families with the best option that is available based on their own genetics.
"The company never pursued the concepts discussed in the patent beyond our Family Traits Inheritance Calculator, nor do we have any plans to do so," 23andMe said in a statement about the patent. "Applying for patents is a normal part of our business and we remain committed to our core principals of giving people access to their own genetic data, innovating the model for research and being transparent with our customers about what we are doing."