Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Technology for Designer Babies Was Just Patented, But Will It Be Used?

Cue the dystopian prophecies: A personal genetics company was recently awarded a patent for a system that would allow parents-to-be to pick and choose the traits of their unborn child—anything from hair color and height to muscle strength and life expectancy. 

The patent describes a method for what's essentially genetic shopping. Couples stipulate the characteristics they're looking for, and the technology computes which matches of sperm and egg from a marketplace of donors would produce the desired outcome. Or, in patent-speak: 

The recipient may specify certain phenotypes the recipient desires in his/her hypothetical offspring and send the specification to the donor selection device … Based on the genotype information of the donors and the recipient, the donor selection device performs inheritance calculations pertaining to the phenotypes of interest and identifies one or more preferred donors for the recipient.

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