Will designer babies end need for sex?
Humans could reproduce using skin samples within 20 years
It has played a key role in the evolution of life on Earth, allowing a mixture of genetic material to be passed on from generation to generation.
But sex, which almost every animal and plant on the planet uses to reproduce, could be about to come to an end for one species – our own.
An expert on the ethics of genetics at Stanford University has claimed humans may be on the cusp of a monumental change in the way we breed, using laboratories rather than the bedroom to create children.
Professor Hank Greely argues that couples will use genetic material from a few skin cells to create eggs, which will then be fertilised using sperm samples taken from the prospective father.
WILL GENETIC ENGINEERING LEAD TO A NEW SPECIES OF HUMAN?
It won’t be war, politics or poverty that eventually wipes out humanity.
According to Seth Shostak, our end will come about as a result of designer babies and artificial intelligence.
The outspoken director of the Search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Seti) Institute believes developments in these areas will lead to new ‘alien’ species.
“We can eventually produce offspring that are as different from us as dogs are from grey wolves,” he said in an opinion piece for Seti.
Shostak believes growing understanding of biology at a molecular level will allow humanity to cure all diseases, and usher in an era of ‘designer babies’.
He said: “Re-engineering our children will transform our species even faster.
“It is less a matter of improving our descendants than replacing them with our engineered successors.
“Perhaps we can promulgate our culture and ourselves by putting chips in our brains or simply uploading our brains to the machines.
“But you can be sure that the result will not be Homo sapiens as we’ve known him for 50,000 years.”
The procedure will allow parents to effectively ‘design’ their babies by selecting the one they want from 100 or so embryos created in this way.
The vision sounds like something from science fiction films like Gattaca, where genetic selection is used to produce children with idealised traits.
According to The Times, Professor Greely said: “In 20 to 40 years, when a couple wants a baby, he’ll provide sperm and she’ll provide a punch of skin.
“Parents will get the embryos grouped by categories. One category will very severe, untreatable, nasty diseases.
“This will affect one to two per cent of embryos. Another category will be other diseases. The theird is cosmetic – hair, eyes, shape, whether the hair goes white early.
“We don’t know much about this yet, but we will. A fourth category is behavioural – I think here information will be limited.”
Professor Greely outlines his vision of the future in his book The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction.
He argues that stem cell technology already makes it possible to do much of what he has outlined.
Genetic tests are already used to pinpoint certain conditions in embryos used in In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) procedures and the growing understanding of the genome is extending this all the time.
Scientists have also shown it is possible to grow reproductive cells like eggs and sperm in the laboratory using stem cells.
*Adapted from DailyMailUK Online
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