We’ve made some pretty tremendous strides in the world of science when it comes to having children. There’s fertility treatments, egg freezing, surrogacy- more and more people are able to give birth by using these less traditional procedures. But with great strides comes inevitable controversy.
Dr. John Zhang was the first to perform a procedure that would stop a mother from passing a genetic disorder on to her child, by injecting the maternal chromosomes into the cell of a woman who doesn’t carry that genetic disorder: essentially making her a 3rd parent. Zhang’s company Darwin Life has been marketing the procedure as a fertility treatment to possibly eliminate genetic disorders from the next generation.
Zhang applied to conduct this experimental procedure in the United States, but the FDA declined, as there are rules about allowing making genetic changes to an embryo. Some doctors and scientists have questioned Zhang’s method, and some have even questioned the ethics of the procedure. Many claim it is a form of eugenics. And because it’s such a new procedure, we don’t have much proof of its success rate.
Zhang performed the first procedure this year in Mexico for a mother who carries a mutation for Leigh syndrome (an incurable and fatal neurological disorder), and the baby was born healthy. Is this proof that the procedure works? Maybe. Leigh Syndrome could appear years in the future. But it’s hard to tell. It’s pretty exciting that eliminating genetic mutations is a distinct possibility, but the altering of genetics is some new and scary territory to be in. Some say this is a slippery slope leading to ‘designer babies.’ But let’s just hope Zhang’s claims are accurate, and only good can come from this procedure.