Today on the 8:45 spot of Good Morning America they spent 5 minutes with Dr Tim Johnson (An Internist with no formal genetics training) discussing "designer babies"
The spot presented a family who was afflicted with colon cancer and how they had their "embryos" (fertilized eggs) tested for this genetic colon cancer. This testing also known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) has been available for a certain type of familial colon cancer since 2003. The technology brings up all sorts of ethical, legal and social issues regarding genetic technology. As a gene sherpa I must tell you that this technology is excellent, however their are some bumps, just like with IVF
- The rate of implantation with an IVF embryo is 20%, better than a single coitus
- The cost of the IVF is up to 30,000 USD/round
- The broth which is used to grow your little embryos is not standardized i.e. the broth can affect the genes.
A more interesting point is that the Internist who was discussing this, if like the others in his field misinterpret the test for familal adenomatoid polyposis (familial colon cancer) 1 in every 3 tests!!!!
Well....what would you do? What if the cancer was 100% guaranteed? What if it was only a 40% risk, but the cancer was fatal?