Stirring the Simmering “Designer Baby” Pot

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Science  14 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6176, pp. 1208-1210
DOI: 10.1126/science.1248080

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In February 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) Cellular, Tissue, and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee met to consider the possibility of future clinical trials that would test mitochondrial manipulation technologies for two purposes: to treat infertility and to prevent the transmission of mitochondrial disease from women to their future children. This meeting focused on scientific, technological, and clinical issues. The FDA acknowledged “ethical and social policy issues related to genetic modification of eggs and embryos” but chose not to engage with them, at least not yet (1). Good ethics begins with good facts, but the effort by the FDA to get the facts straight is just the beginning, not the end, of the conversation we must have on the wisdom of mitochondrial manipulation and other reproductive technologies that potentially provide parents with more of a say about the children they have. Preventing a lethal disease is one thing; choosing the traits we desire is quite another.