Make Way for Designer Babies

First trait-selected baby will be born next year, according to LA clinic

By Leanne Ta
|  Tuesday, Mar 3, 2009  |  Updated 12:22 PM EDT
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Clinic Says They Are Not Designer Babies

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Fertility Institutes has reportedly already received half a dozen requests for the service and expects the first designer baby to be born next year.

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Clinic Says They Are Not Designer Babies

The clinic that says it can select embryos that fit certain criteria defends the ethics of selective reproduction.
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Want a baby with blonde hair and green eyes? No problem.

A Los Angeles fertility clinic is offering a new service that would allow couples to choose their baby's physical traits, including eye and hair color, the BBC reported.

The LA Fertility Institutes said it has already received half a dozen requests for the service and expects the first designer baby to be born next year.

"I would not say this is a dangerous road," Jeff Steinberg, director of the clinic, told the BBC. "It's an uncharted road." 

But as the Wall Street Journal reported in February, the demand is out there:

In a recent U.S. survey of 999 people who sought genetic counseling, a majority said they supported prenatal genetic tests for the elimination of certain serious diseases. The survey found that 56% supported using them to counter blindness and 75% for mental retardation.
More provocatively, about 10% of respondents said they would want genetic testing for athletic ability, while another 10% voted for improved height. Nearly 13% backed the approach to select for superior intelligence, according to the survey conducted by researchers at the New York University School of Medicine.

The new service has sparked debate within the global medical community, raising huge questions about the ethics of genetic enhancement.

Trait-selection will be based on a technique called preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD. The process has long been used for medical purposes, but never for cosmetic purposes.

Fertility clinics around the world already offer sex-selection programs.

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