Prenatal medical testing has long been a balance of risk with information. Submit yourself to tests and you can find out about the genetic makeup of your future child, but risk miscarriage and other complications. Omit the tests, and a pregnancy is safer, its outcome uncertain.
That’s how it used to be, anyway. Now, genetic tests are becoming so cheap and non-invasive that they could become as routine as an ultrasound. DNA from the fetus is known to float freely in the mother’s blood and can be drawn in seconds, to be later analyzed for things like Down syndrome.
What will this mean for parents who discover birth defects or diseases in their unborn children? It’s impossible to know precisely who a child will become, but a world in which parents are informed of their baby’s genetics just weeks after conception brings with it a lot of ethical dilemmas.
Erin Biba analyzes this in one of the most interesting medical articles I’ve read in a long time, at Wired Science.
“Biotechnology is getting into some pretty interesting territory these days. The latest breakthrough comes from Kyoto University where research scientists have, for the first time, created a mouse by using eggs produced by stem cells alone. The achievement once again shows the remarkable possibilities presented by regenerative technologies like stem cells — but also the unsettling potential for human births in which parents might not be required.” (via Breakthrough: Researchers can now create an animal entirely from stem cells)
“This adventurous romp into the frontiers of reproductive science will forever change the way you think about sex. Biologist and science writer Aarathi Prasad tackles inconceivable ideas about conception, from the “Jesus Christ” lizard’s ability to self-reproduce (it walks on water, too) to the hunt for a real-life virgin mother in the 1950s. Prasad then transports us to the labs that today are inventing the equivalent of “non-sexual selection”, from egg-fertilizing computer chips to artificial wombs for men.” (via Like A Virgin: How Science is Redesigning the Rules of Sex: Aarathi Prasad: 9781851689118: Amazon.com: Books)
Unusual Dads of the animal kingdom
“A number of years ago we reported on how a “three-person IVF” procedure could be used to stop serious conditions from being passed from mother to child. The prospect caused serious concern among many scientists and ethicists. But now the BBC is reporting that a bioethics council is green-lighting the treatment.”